Pickup of dead dogs, Tulkarm, West Bank. Locals from this town had plans to pile them up and send them to the Hebron mayor who offered $30 for 5 dogs, or about $6 each.
The first Sunday in November the mayor of Hebron in the West Bank, Palestinian Authority, offered 20 shekels, or about $6 USD to any person who kills a stray dog and who hands it over to the authorities in Hebron. His city is overrun with stray dogs, thousands of them. They get into garbage and run after children, scaring them.
The announcement set off a spree of killings. Some from other municipalities loaded recently shot and poisoned dead dogs into a pickup truck to bring to Hebron. The offer wasn’t dead or alive, but was clearly stated “dead”.
Mayor Tayseer Abu Sneineh’s offer seemed like a practical idea at the time –– and an economical solution to the stray dog problem that grows with every litter. Plus elections were coming up and he wanted favor with his electorate.
The West Bank is rife with stray dogs that are often shot and killed and thrown in dumpsters anyway, if they aren’t run over by cars first, explains Diana Babish who is the founder of Dogs for Bethlehem –– the West Bank’s only dog shelter. As soon as she heard the report on Radio Free Palestine she got into her car and raced 45 minutes to Hebron from Bethlehem that night to meet with the radio station for broadcasting this atrocity, and the head of the government in charge of the municipalities in the West Bank for damage control.
She condemned the mayor’s actions calling on him to publicly apologize for his actions. This action in itself shows courage and bravery on Babish’s side. A Christian Arab woman standing up to a West Bank bully in a predominantly Muslim region overrun by toxic patriarchy. She is known to throw herself in the line of fire and do what it takes to save the lives of those who can’t speak for themselves.
Abu Sneineh is a former member of the Fatah party, and Mayor of Hebron, in the West Bank. He was convicted by Israel for taking part in planning the 1980 Hebron terrorist attack, who caused death to 6 unarmed civilians, one a Canadian. He was elected Mayor of Hebron on 14 May 2017.
Palestinians rising up to bullying and cruelty
This rising up to power in the West Bank is a new movement for Palestinians who have typically been bullied into silence by regime leaders. But with new tools on social media calls for action against leaders in the Arab world are becoming more common. Babish tells Green Prophet that the people in Hebron felt it was safe to criticize the mayor in protest to protect the animals, calling him “a criminal and emotionless mayor”; another wrote: “If the residents of Hebron had mercy and humanity they would fire him.”
The mayor in return denied that any dogs had been shot in response to his call, saying that the images circulating on social media, were old. Babish tells Green Prophet that she had witnesses who had seen the killings just after his bounty was offered, so it’s not true and he was backtracking: “The mayor said I didn’t mean it. Nothing, there were no bodies delivered to us,” Babish recounts.
She said that a majority of the images on social media, including the pickup truck of dead dogs were from the city of Tulkarm. Babish said the locals there were loading them up as a joke to send to Hebron for money after they heard the mayor’s offer.
Later the mayor told Babish that he offered the bounty in order to enlist the help of animal organizations, like hers.
But eventually after pressure from international animal organizations and one funding body from the German government who said they would cut funds, did Abu Sneineh agree to apologize publicly. He posted it in English as well.
The patron saint of puppies
Babish runs an animal shelter in Beit Sahour south of Jerusalem and she also keeps an overrun house with pets. She took 3 dogs right away with her from Hebron that night and has since adopted them out in Israel, one in Haifa and two in the North of Israel. She has 20 cats at home, and 7 dogs, 4 of which are her own. Her parents, especially her dad, don’t love the situation.
Adopting the Hebron dogs out in Israel, where locals are happy to adopt Palestinian dogs is part of the solution, but only a part, says Babish. Israel has its own problem with stray animals, cats and dogs, and some of the dozens of animal organizations in Israel are kill shelters, she says. Babish is appalled by the idea. “If they don’t get adopted they are euthanised.”
That’s not what she envisions for the shelter she wants to build in Bethlehem. The no-kill facility could service the entire West Bank but funds are needed to keep it going. She needs the land, she needs a building and a full time vet. A yearly donation of $100,000 could go far and make it operable and spare Hebron and other Palestinians cities from the stray problem that is a public nuisance. Not everyone, after all, is a dog lover. Meanwhile Jordan, nearby, has a similar problem with stray dogs.
Locals in Hebron are already thinking about what’s next, after the bounty offer was made. Announcements through the city were circulated: “We demand that the killing of the dogs be stopped and that solutions be considered in accordance with human and Islamic values. Enough of killing dogs in Hebron.”
Some locals offered $15 for each resident who would feed and care for a street dog.
Meanwhile Babish, who we featured here, continues her holy work of caring for the stray dogs and cats of the West Bank. She is currently raising funds to build a shelter in the West Bank. With a debt of about $12,000 USD in vet bills, she could certainly use a benefactor who could help her build a no-kill shelter so the dogs of Hebron and the West Bank can be treated with dignity.
If you want to help Babish, all her contacts and more about her organization, and our “Diana dogs” are posted here.