For the first time ever, an international animal rights conference is coming to Palestine. Hosted by the Palestinian Animal League (PAL), the three-day conference, called “Defending Palestine: Liberating the People, the Land, and Animals,” will unite activists from throughout Palestine and around the world to introduce ideas, facilitate discussions and brainstorm solutions during these difficult times for the region. The event, happening in May, will be held at the Youth Village and includes tours to three key cities: Bethlehem, Jericho and Ramallah.

The goal of the conference is “to strengthen solidarity of animal rights in Palestine, hand in hand with human rights and the recognition of the Palestinian right to land…[and] to provide an international platform for people active in the animal rights movement and those interested in learning more about animal rights,” PAL spokesperson Danielle Williams, an American living in the West Bank, told Lady Freethinker.

For the last five decades, major conflicts have plagued the West Bank and Gaza strip regions of Palestine, resulting in human rights violations and ongoing violence. In places such as this, where basic human needs are often unmet, PAL faces a huge challenge in introducing the concepts of animal rights and welfare.

“It will be a remarkable and unique experience for the Palestinian, Israeli and international participants as we look at the intersection of animal, human and environmental rights in the context of Palestine,” said Williams.

PAL was launched in 2011 with the mission of improving the lives of both animals and people living in Palestine. The atmosphere of violence and oppression between humans extends to violence and cruelty towards animals, and the organization reports some disturbing animal welfare issues.

“Municipalities openly use horrific tactics to curtail street animal population, most commonly by leaving poison for the street animals to consume and then die slowly and painfully,” said Williams. “Veganism and vegetarianism are not widely understood or popular here, and there is much education to be done related to the internationality of animal welfare, environmental protection, and human rights.”

Since their creation, PAL have undertaken a variety of programs, including free desexing and health care for street dogs, veterinary care for working horses and donkeys, and educational outreach for young people.

They hope that this groundbreaking conference will be a turning point for a troubled country; a chance to bring people together with the common goal of providing compassion and assistance to all beings.

“It will undermine Islamophobia, xenophobia, and anti-Arab racism in the animal rights movement as well as demonstrate that despite border militarization, land theft, displacement, war, and occupation, Palestinians strive to provide proper care for all beings,” said Williams.