© February 6, 2003
Every so often, I violate my own policy against giving PETA -- People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals -- the publicity it desperately desires and doesn't deserve.
I do this whenever the Norfolk-based animal rights group does something so astonishing, it simply can't be ignored.
This is one of those times.
But our story doesn't begin in Norfolk. It begins in Israel.
On Jan. 26, a bomb exploded on the road between Jerusalem and the West Bank settlement of Gush Etzion.
As terror attacks go, this one was minor. Most of us didn't hear about it because, with the exception of one bus passenger treated for shock, no one was injured.
Palestinian terrorists delivered the bomb to its destination by donkey. They strapped explosives and a remote device to the animal and detonated the bomb by cell phone as an Israeli bus passed by.
The donkey, of course, was killed.
You know where this is going, don't you?
That's right. PETA, the group that never before expressed concern about the carnage in Israel, is suddenly outraged.
All because a donkey died.
Never mind that, according to the Israeli embassy, which keeps track of such grim statistics, 729 Israelis have perished in terrorist attacks since September 2000.
It took the death of a donkey for PETA to find its voice.
Leave the animals out of it, they cry.
Determined to make Hampton Roads look like a breeding ground for wackos to the rest of the world, PETA President Ingrid Newkirk this week fired off a fax to Yasser Arafat.
She began the letter with a polite salutation: ``Your Excellency.''
I can think of lots of titles for Arafat. Excellency isn't among them.
But I digress.
``. . . We have received many calls and letters from people shocked at the bombing . . . in which a live donkey, laden with explosives, was intentionally blown up.
``All nations behave abominably in many ways when they are fighting their enemies, and animals are always caught in the crossfire. The U.S. Army abandoned thousands of loyal service dogs in Vietnam. (Odd. No mention of our dead soldiers, MIAs, POWs or even loyal South Vietnamese allies who were left behind, but again, I digress.)
``Al-Qaeda and the British government have both used animals in hideously cruel biological weaponry tests.''
Brace yourselves. It gets worse.
``We watched on television as stray cats in your own compound fled as best they could from Israeli bulldozers''
Fleeing cats! PETA confronts the horror of war.
``Animals claim no nation. They are in perpetual involuntary servitude to all humankind, and, although they pose no threat and own no weapons, human beings always win the undeclared war against them. . . .
``If you have the opportunity,'' Newkirk beseeched Arafat, ``will you please add to your burdens my request that you appeal to all those who listen to you to leave the animals out of this conflict?'' In other words, Newkirk seems to be begging the Palestinians not to stop the slaughter, but rather to find a different delivery system for their bombs.
Perhaps Ms. Newkirk would prefer that the Palestinians used suicide bombers instead of burros. Oh, that's right, they usually do.
Lisa Lange, PETA's vice president of communications, told me yesterday that Newkirk's letter was written after their offices had been bombarded with calls from PETA members who had learned of the donkey bomb.
Lange said it's PETA's philosophy that human cruelty often begins with animal cruelty.
The Washington Post this week asked Ms. Newkirk if she had ``considered asking Arafat to persuade those who listen to him to stop blowing up people as well'' as animals.
Her response should be required reading for all would-be members of PETA:
``It's not my business to inject myself into human wars,'' Newkirk told the Post.
How does one respond to such moral ambiguity?
How about a body count of human bodies?
In January 2003 -- the month in which the donkey died -- 21 Israelis and eight foreign nationals were killed by terrorists in Israel, and 127 others were injured.
Yet PETA weeps for the ass.
Radio talk show host Tony Macrini got it right when he remarked recently that ``PETA'' was an acronym for ``People Embarrassing the Tidewater Area.''
One can only hope that Newkirk left off her Norfolk return address on that asinine letter to Arafat.
Reach Kerry at 446-2306 or at firstname.lastname@example.org