The ridiculousness of Netanyahu’s comment aside, a little intersectionality wouldn’t hurt when considering Israel’s various, interlocking forms of oppression. And by the way, cows are no more Israeli than they are Jewish. They have their own social and familial structures, violently suppressed by the intensive farming practices that bring them into existence for the sole purpose of using and killing them.
As a generally thoughtful social justice platform, I would hope that Mondoweiss would be open to thinking not only across nationalities, ethnicities, and religions, but across species too.
Here are a few details on the “Jewish industry” that Netanyahu is praising:
Most dairy products in Israel are produced by Tnuva Food Industries. More than 50% of Tnuva is currently owned by China’s Bright Food (Group) Co., Ltd. Israel consumes a lot of dairy: some 180 liters a year per capita. Cow’s milk and dairy products like cheese and yoghurt account for 10% of Israel’s agricultural production. By speaking of computerized cows, Netanyahu is referring to the dubious fact that dairy cows in Israel are “zero-grazing” and intensively farmed. This means they never leave the enclosed facilities in which they are kept, and are fed on an artificial food mixture called total mixed ration (TMR). This is cost effective and technologically advanced. It is also immensely oppressive for the cows.
Female cows are repeatedly, forcibly, artificially inseminated using seamen forcibly extracted from bulls. Calves are immediately removed from their mothers and either slaughtered for meat, or raised to become dairy cows, perpetuating the interminable cycle of insemination, lactation, milking, and killing. From insemination to slaughter, cows are controlled by the hi-tech feeding, milking, and monitoring systems that Netanyahu is so proud of, systems that collect and transmit data on individual cows, measuring all of the cow’s activities to increase productivity.
Where are the intersections? Although comparing the treatment of animals to the treatment of humans is obviously a delicate affair, it’s important to see the structural similarities between the two. Over the years, Israel has been developing a hi-tech occupation apparatus, monitoring, surveilling, and computerizing the oppression of Palestinians. Gaza is a fine example of the organised manner in which the occupation is “refined” through military, scientific, and political means. Simply dismissing one form of mass oppression over another due to species affiliation won’t do. I’d expect from a conscious and conscientious collection of writers and journalists like Mondoweiss to take these matters seriously. The problem is not that Netanyahu is extending his Jewish exceptionalism to animal agriculture, claiming cows to be Jewish, but that animal agriculture itself is an oppressive illustration of human exceptionalism, identical in structure to the Jewish exceptionalism of the Israeli state.