Dog Bites Man
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
In journalism, they are called “evergreens.”
Evergreens are pieces that can be run into the paper at any time and always be fresh. When Israel is at war, its critics are sure to levy their share of evergreens: Israel is guilty of using excessive force; Israel’s response to violence is disproportionate; the world community must put a stop to the violence; Israel is to blame.
The current war in Lebanon has brought many of the same comments and complaints toward Israel. Yesterday, however, one missive came across the transom that was truly unique. The Israeli response to Hezbollah’s attack earlier this month was endangering a new faction in Lebanon. Not Shiite Moslems, not Maronite Christians, not even the minority Druze community.This time Israel’s bombs were putting into peril Lebanon’s dogs and cats. That’s right. Now Israel is going after Lebanon’s pets. And the animal lovers are rallying to rescue them.
Fred O’Regan, the president and CEO of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, places his name at the end of an e-mail alert, which, while it did not mention Israel by name, put the plight of the Levantine pets into sharp relief. “At this very moment, brave men and women are risking their lives to feed and transport hundreds of dogs and cats trapped in animal shelters being destroyed by the bombing in Lebanon,” Mr. O’Regan writes. Mr. O’Regan urges readers of the e-mail to donate to a fund to help Beirut for the Ethical Treatment of Animals transport the pets out of the country. The message is also on the group’s homepage, www.ifaw.org.
In the midst of his emergency dispatch, Mr. O’Regan manages to invoke the dog shelter “located on the border of Dahye, a suburb where many of the attacks are taking place” and a bombing 400 meters from the shelter which left “many of the dogs visibly suffering due to the ongoing noise and destruction.”
Given the mission of the IFAW, founded some 30 years ago to help protect baby seals from the bludgeoning of fur hunters, it’s understandable that the group would dance around levying blame at one of the major causes of the current conflict — the Iranian-backed Lebanese terror group known as Hezbollah, which has just happened to have encamped itself in many parts of Lebanon also inhabited by dogs and cats and kidnapped two actual Israeli human beings.
The director of public affairs for the IFAW, Patrick Ramage, says his group was contacted for help by BETA and complied with a $19,000 grant as part of the organization’s mission of finding “practical approaches that benefit both animals or people.” The operative model was Hurricane Katrina, where evacuees who had lost everything rejoiced when reunited with their pets.
Even so, the group’s e-mail is somewhat remarkable by its own cat-and-dog loving standards. After all, doesn’t Israel too have dogs and cats? Who is out there advocating for the cats of Kiryat Shmona? Who will speak for the hounds of Haifa, target of far-range missiles?
Mr. Ramage says his group hasn’t been asked for help by any Israeli animal help organizations, adding “we’d be inclined to support them.” He further praised Israel for a key swing vote on the International Whaling Commission, which preserved North Atlantic whaling restrictions.
Nevertheless, the e-mail signals the instinctive do-gooder lurch to weigh in on the side of the perceived under-dog (or, as in this case, the real dog) without attention to those victimized in Israel.
Beyond the IAFW, almost every quarter has been heard from castigating Israel’s actions vis-à-vis Hezbollah. All but a few of the talking heads and news outlets have been silent about another group of people who have been the terror group’s victims – Americans. The corollary to taking Israel to task for its current campaign seems to be minimizing Hezbollah’s bad acts.
One is unlikely, for example, to come across word of the 220 U.S. Marines dead at the hands of a Hezbollah suicide bomber in 1983 (241 Americans total) in the press. Even less is heard of Lt. Col. William Buckley, kidnapped (much like the Israeli soldiers of present day) and murdered by Hezbollah terrorists in 1985. (A public park is named for Buckley in Stoneham, Mass., and the Boston chapter of the Special Forces Association is named in his honor.) While America forgets its former foes, one can be reasonably certain that Hezbollah remembers that more than two decades have transpired from the time it inflicted the most grievous loss of life on the Marines Corps since Iwo Jima — and Hezbollah has received nary a scratch because of it.
It is customary in today’s press world for routine animal stories to garner more attention than the murder of human beings. Whether it’s a slain pet or an endangered pooch, it is no longer uncommon for a local television station to send its cameras to capture b-roll of the animal in question. Now that mentality is apparently moving into the international world as well — although no one has of yet bitten into this story. It says something that the subject of animals in danger could well be considered — in journalism parlance — man-bites-dog, and the terrorist murder of Americans is deemed dog-bites-man and unworthy of coverage.
Mr. Gitell is a contributing editor of The New York Sun.