Arab MK Seeks to ‘Liberate’ Goats and Sheep

YERUSHALAYIM -
Shepherds walk with their flock of sheep in the Jordan Valley.(AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

Goats and sheep will soon be allowed to roam freely throughout Israel, if United Arab List MK Jamal Zahalka has his way. The Knesset unanimously approved a law he sponsored that removes limitations on where sheep and goats can graze, with 44 MKs from across the political spectrum voting for it.

The law is actually a reversal of another one that has been on the books since 1950, which limited grazing of sheep and goats to specific areas. The law was implemented, according to its original sponsors, to “protect Mediterranean grasslands,” since sheep and goats graze and pull up plants by the roots — unlike cows, who eat the tops of grasses and leave the roots intact.

But according to Zahalka, the real reason for implementation of the law was racism, an attempt to prevent Bedouins from pursuing their traditional occupation.

“The law was passed over claims that grazing would harm the environment, but we believe that the motivations were racist and political in nature,” Zahalka said in a codicil to the legislation. “Scientific studies have proven that black goats not only do not harm the environment, but they actually help it.

“This law was legislated in 1950, and since then scientific studies have contradicted its claims,” Zahalka said. “If anything, the government should be paying shepherds to raise black goats, such is their benefit to the environment. This is the practice in many countries around the world,” he added.

With its passage, the law will now be sent to the Knesset Economics Committee for preparation for its second and third reading.