New law holds owners of camels causing road accidents criminally responsible

New law holds owners of camels causing road accidents criminally responsible

Animals must now be electronically tagged and supervised, in bid to stop fatal road collisions — 15 over 10 years; Arab MKs say state should allocate grazing areas instead

Sign warning drivers of camels on a Negev highway seen on August 26, 2007. (Rebecca Zeffert/Flash90)
Sign warning drivers of camels on a Negev highway seen on August 26, 2007. (Rebecca Zeffert/Flash90)

Camels are to be tagged like dogs with an under-the-skin digital ID chip and their owners held criminally responsible if their animals are involved in road accidents, according to a law passed by the Knesset on Monday.

The Law for the Marking and Supervision of Animals, which passed by 42 votes to 10, obliges owners to register their camels on a yet-to-be established registry, and to fulfill a number of criteria in keeping the desert livestock, in an attempt to cut traffic deaths and injuries caused by camels walking on roads in Israel’s south.

According the preamble to the law, police receive around 1,000 annual complaints of camels wandering on the roads and that in all but one of 7,151 incidents reported between 2008 and 2015, police were unable to identify the camel’s owner.

“Camel owners sometimes deny ownership, and there’s no way to prove it,” the appendix to the law complains. “Owners choose to graze their animals in open areas, near roads and even in IDF firing zones.”

Untended camels rounded up in the south of Israel on July 9, 2017. (Agriculture Ministry)

But Arab MKs criticized the law as an attack on Bedouin Arabs and their way of life.

Joint (Arab) List MK Abd al-Hakim Hajj Yahya reacts during a vote in the Knesset, April 5, 2017. (Hadas Parush/FLASH90)

MK Abd al-Hakim Hajj Yahya of the Joint (Arab) List said the law was “part of the war on Bedouin Arabs in the Negev.

“You can grow camels and allow people to build pens for them but when you don’t allow camels space for grazing and water, obviously they’ll look for places in areas close to roads. I haven’t seen anybody talking about a problem with cows,” he said during the Knesset debate before the vote.

Saeed Alkharumi, also of the Joint List, said the problem could have been solved if the government had recognized the Negev’s 4,000 camels as grazing animals and allocated them grazing land.

The law, he charged, was a disguised attempt to destroy Bedouin camel-farming.

Over the past decade, 15 people have been killed and 350 have been injured — 50 of them seriously — when their vehicles collided with animals, mainly camels, in the Negev desert.

In January, a 13-year-old boy was killed and eight people were injured in a double collision with a camel.

התרענו, זעקנו אבל לצערנו הרב שוב צדקנו: הקטל ממשיך^^ברגעים אלו ממש פועלים כוחות הכיבוי והחילוץ באירוע תאונת דרכים קשה…

Posted by ‎תנועת רגבים‎ on Tuesday, 16 January 2018

The Elmakiass family from the Negev desert city of Mitzpe Ramon was on the way to a family event in the northern city of Haifa, when their car apparently collided with a camel on Route 40, not far from their home, killing Liel, 13, seriously injuring his mother, and leaving his father and two siblings, 9 and 14, with moderate injuries.

Four soldiers were lightly hurt when their car hit the same camel and overturned.

Meir Deutsch of the right-wing Regavim NGO, who pushed for the law, said, “The danger of wandering camels harmed everyone who lives in the Negev without connection to their background… I’m happy that the journey has reached its destination and now we have to check that it’s put into practice in the field in a full and systematic manner.”

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