It’s time to let Israel be a country

The assumptions behind the United States’ Israel policy are obsolete, and many were never realistic. It’s time to go back to Square One and rethink.


Since its founding seventy years ago, Israel has consistently been more of a symbol or a fantasy to Americans than a real place. I can’t pretend to grasp the full significance it has for American Jews, but for the rest of us Israel has meant the Holy Land, a way to make right the collective guilt we felt for doing so little to avert the Holocaust, the heroic Sabras of Leon Uris’ Exodus, a demonstration of the West’s superiority to the decaying Orient, a Cold War destination for talented Jews abandoning the Soviet Union, a David-and-Goliath story of one tiny country standing up to larger ones, and many other things that have been (at best) tangentially related to a real country of real people.

For Evangelical Christians, the founding of Israel started a prophetic clock ticking down to the End Times, when all the Jews who don’t convert will be sadly wiped out, but the rest of us will get to live in Jesus’ Millennial Kingdom. Socialists have idealized the kibbutzim. The alt-Right sees Israel simultaneously as the place they will someday deport American Jews to, and as a model for the ethno-religious state white Christians could make here and in Europe. For globalists, the peace we will someday broker among Israel, its indigenous Palestinians, and its Arab neighbors will prove the righteousness of American power in a unipolar world. For neo-cons, Israel represents a no-nonsense approach to the terrorist threat, unclouded by the hazy illusions of political correctness.

All these constructions are built on a foundation of stereotypes, both positive and negative, about Jews. They are God’s chosen people, the invisible and infinitely manipulative Elders of Zion, both the relatives and the accusers of Jesus, the fast talkers who can sell anything, the source of inexplicably many of the West’s foundational thinkers, or the bankers who always win because they have backed both sides. You can hear echoes of these ancient, quasi-supernatural Jewish powers whenever a conversation turns to Mossad or AIPAC or the Rothschilds or that nebulous collection of “Jews who control the media”. Ordinary notions of possibility and impossibility melt away; they’re Jews, who knows what they can do?

From the beginning, Israel has been both the beneficiary and the victim of the fantasies we project onto them. The benefits have been tangible: billions in American aid every year, American military technology, and the protection of both the American nuclear umbrella and the US veto in the UN Security Council. But our illusions have also been freighted with expectations: Israel should be better than other countries, and should be condemned and even punished when it isn’t.

During the 1948 war that established Israel as a country, Arabs terrified by both real and imagined Jewish atrocities fled the war zone, creating a refugee population that under international law has a right to return home. Since the 1967 war created the Occupied Territories, Israel has ruled a subject population that it treats badly.

But lots of countries are in violation of some international law or another, and lots have subject populations that they treat badly. (Some countries treat all their people badly.) Try being Shia in a Sunni country like Saudi Arabia, or Sunni in a Shia country like Iraq. Hindus and Muslims oppress each other in India and Pakistan. In Myanmar, the Buddhist majority is pushing Muslim Rohingya out of the country, even though they have nowhere to go. Americans, if we bother to inform ourselves about these situations at all, wring our hands helplessly. We don’t organize boycotts or insist that our church or university’s endowment divest holdings tainted by association.

In recent years, Israel’s internal politics have taken a disturbing rightward turn, with growing intolerance and disregard for abstract principles of justice. But so have Hungary’s and Poland’s and (let’s be honest) our own. What fault can you find in Netanyahu that isn’t also present in Trump?

Recent events have been hard to square with American illusions about Israel. Two weeks ago, the United States dedicated a new embassy in Jerusalem, abandoning a long-held bipartisan policy that such a move should wait for a peace treaty putting the status of Jerusalem on a firm international foundation. While this was happening, Palestinian protesters rushed the fence that keeps them trapped in Gaza, and Israeli snipers shot them down by the dozens.

Viewed through one lens, the shooting was entirely justified: The protesters — all hostile, some armed, all attempting to cross an international border — constituted an invading army, or at least an invading mob. Viewed through another, it was a gross overreaction: The Israelis had ample warning and held all the cards; surely they could have devised some less lethal method of crowd control without endangering their soldiers or citizens. Gazan lives, it seems, don’t matter.

For decades, the United States has tried to restrain Israel’s more extreme tendencies. We have discouraged building settlements on disputed territory, pushed for cease-fires, and sometimes even brokered treaties like the Camp David Accords. We have styled ourselves as the holders of the vision of peace, and so we have consistently urged Israel not to do things that can never be undone.

We don’t do that any more. UN Ambassador Nikki Haley was full-throated supporter of the Israeli snipers. “No country in this chamber would act with more restraint than Israel has,” she told the Security Council. If the Trump administration believes this, it is chilling. It suggests that’s Trump’s wall might someday be manned by snipers indiscriminately gunning down Mexicans because some of them might be MS-13 gangsters.

Increasingly, it is clear that there isn’t going to be a negotiated peace. Gaza is the new model of resolution: Israel will dictate terms. It will set boundaries for zones of Palestinian autonomy, and will decide what that autonomy consists of. Like the reservations the US created for Native Americans, the Palestinian zones will not be economically viable, at least not for the number of people assigned to live there. The best land and the water rights will be reserved for Israeli settlements. As with the Native American reservations, non-viability will be a feature. America hoped its Indians would eventually assimilate into second-class citizenship in white society; Israel hopes that Palestinians will self-deport to Jordan or Egypt or anywhere Israel doesn’t have to deal with them.

All of these developments should raise a question: What is the US role going forward? For decades, Americans have believed that our aid gave us leverage, which we could use to nudge all parties towards a peace agreement. But if we’re not nudging and there isn’t going to be an agreement, what is our aid for? What are we buying? What are we supporting? Why?

I am not proposing answers to those questions. But I am urging all Americans, whether you think of yourself as pro-Israel or anti-Israel or neutral, to rethink your view from first principles. What if we all stopped thinking about Israel in mythic or symbolic terms and instead just thought of it as a country like any other country? In some ways it is like us and in some ways not. In some ways we share its interests and in other ways we don’t. It does things that deserve our support and things that deserve our condemnation.

Like any other country.

When we let go of all the fears and fantasies that we have projected onto Israel, what is left? How should we respond to the reality of Israel as country like any other country?

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Comments

  • Robert C. Wortman  On May 28, 2018 at 12:22 pm

    In your oh-so-proper efforts to remain ecumenical, non-partisan, or unbiased, you have succeeded only in getting your head stuck up your ass. As an American Jew, I take note of the fact that you have managed to ignore the ideology of Zionism, which is as close to being as pernicious and atrocious as Nazism was to Germany. Israel has ignored and subverted International law with impunity solely because of the blind support of the USA in its desire to support the special interests of the Congressional/military/industrial complex and its unlimited greed. Israel is not just a country; it is a festering, pernicious sore that has contaminated the entire Middle East and much of the world beyond.

    • Larry Benjamin  On May 28, 2018 at 6:05 pm

      That’s a little over the top, isn’t it? It’s not like Israel’s goal is to kill every Arab in the world.

      Putting aside the atrocities committed by both sides, why don’t Israeli Jews have the right to live where they do under their own self-determination? As an American Jew, I assume you’re living on land that used to belong to Native Americans; if one of them shows up and demands that you hand over your house, isn’t it a reasonable argument to point out that despite past and current injustices, you have a right to keep living where you are?

      What’s straight out of Nazi Germany isn’t Zionism, but the idea that Jews in the Middle East are invaders who don’t belong there, while the other side are blameless victims who are only defending themselves.

  • Kosti Jokinen  On May 28, 2018 at 2:47 pm

    I’d like to note that the title of this post can be understood in multiple ways. After reading the article I think I agree with what I understood the message to be – that we should judge Israel as a country with its own (abysmal) track record, without the mythological baggage. I was very concerned after my initial, almost opposite interpretation seeing just the title – that Israel is now a country, Palestine is not, and we’ll just have to deal with it.

    • weeklysift  On May 30, 2018 at 10:05 am

      I’m glad you read the artlcle, even though the headline turned you off. I always argue with myself about headlines: Short ones are punchier, but lend themselves to misinterpretations that I often don’t foresee. (I have anti-clickbait rules for myself. I don’t intentionally mis-title an article to draw people in.) A longer headline for this article might have been “It’s time to let Israel be just another country.”

  • philipfinn  On May 28, 2018 at 4:16 pm

    “It suggests that’s Trump’s wall might someday be manned by snipers indiscriminately gunning down Mexicans because some of them might be MS-13 gangsters.”

    There’s more than a suggestion, and if it isn’t, it will be. Single fences are symbolic at best. The Trump model (or at least the model he must build to accomplish his apparent vision) is the East German model, which was actually two walls separated by a no-man’s land. The only factor keeping this vision from becoming an equation is, the East Germans didn’t have to wall from the North Sea to the Mediterranean, which is the sort of project Trump is really looking at here.

  • Joyce Jamie Jackson  On May 28, 2018 at 6:27 pm

    Since its founding seventy years ago, Israel has consistently been more of a symbol or a fantasy to Americans than a real place. I can’t pretend to grasp the full significance it has for American Jews, but for the rest of us Israel has meant the Holy Land, a way to make right the collective guilt we felt for doing so little to avert the Holocaust, the heroic Sabras of Leon Uris’ Exodus,

    [a biased view that totally left out the perspective of Palestinians who had inhabited the land for millenia]

    a demonstration of the West’s superiority to the decaying Orient [that superiority complex was part of the problem even a century ago], a Cold War destination for talented Jews abandoning the Soviet Union, a David-and-Goliath story of one tiny country standing up to larger ones

    [even 70 years ago the Jews were way better organized, their military plans solid whereas the Arab countries were even in opposition to one another — for example, Jordan coveted the West Bank and wanted Israel to prevail], and many other things that have been (at best) tangentially related to a real country of real people [yes, many, many other misconceptions].

    For Evangelical Christians, the founding of Israel started a prophetic clock ticking down to the End Times, when all the Jews who don’t convert will be sadly wiped out, but the rest of us will get to live in Jesus’ Millennial Kingdom. Socialists have idealized the kibbutzim. The alt-Right sees Israel simultaneously as the place they will someday deport American Jews to, and as a model for the ethno-religious state white Christians could make here and in Europe. For globalists, the peace we will someday broker among Israel, its indigenous Palestinians, and its Arab neighbors will prove the righteousness of American power in a unipolar world. For neo-cons, Israel represents a no-nonsense approach to the terrorist threat, unclouded by the hazy illusions of political correctness.

    All these constructions are built on a foundation of stereotypes [and falsehoods], both positive and negative, about Jews. They are God’s chosen people, the invisible and infinitely manipulative Elders of Zion, both the relatives and the accusers of Jesus, the fast talkers who can sell anything, the source of inexplicably many of the West’s foundational thinkers, or the bankers who always win because they have backed both sides. You can hear echoes of these ancient, quasi-supernatural Jewish powers whenever a conversation turns to Mossad or AIPAC or the Rothschilds or that nebulous collection of “Jews who control the media”. Ordinary notions of possibility and impossibility melt away; they’re Jews, who knows what they can do?

    [Without a doubt there are as many misguided misconceptions about Jews as there are about Arabs, Mexicans, African Americans]

    From the beginning, Israel has been both the beneficiary and the victim of the fantasies we project onto them. The benefits have been tangible: billions in American aid every year, American military technology, and the protection of both the American nuclear umbrella and the US veto in the UN Security Council. But our illusions have also been freighted with expectations: Israel should be better than other countries, and should be condemned and even punished when it isn’t.

    [This is an especially galling conclusion. Yes there are many countries with poor human rights. But there is no other country that has penned up 1.5 million people into what amounts to an open-air prison. People in Gazan cannot get out — not through Israel nor through Gaza. People are unable to accept student scholarships overseas, medical attention, award ceremonies, life with a married partner in the West Bank. Gazans now have polluted water to drink and at most 4 hours/day electricity. Let’s try to think of another country with such oppression]

    During the 1948 war that established Israel as a country, Arabs terrified by both real and imagined [Even well-respected Israeli historians have documented that Arabs were killed and raped and intentionally terrorized so that 750,000 of them fled, and at least one of those historians, Benny Morris, has lamented that Israel did not go far enough in 1948, it should have rid the country of ALL the Palestinians] Jewish atrocities fled the war zone, creating a refugee population that under international law has a right to return home

    [but of course, the military quickly emptied Arab villages and either razed the whole village or moved in Jews in an effort to counteract the right of return].

    Since the 1967 war created the Occupied Territories, Israel has ruled a subject population that it treats badly.[

    The UN has said Gaza will be UNLIVABLE by 2020 — two years from now]

    But lots of countries are in violation of some international law or another, and lots have subject populations that they treat badly.

    [See above. Which country has locked up a whole population and crowded them into a tiny, unlivable space with no option to leave?]

    (Some countries treat all their people badly.) Try being Shia in a Sunni country like Saudi Arabia [no comparison], or Sunni in a Shia country like Iraq. Hindus and Muslims oppress each other in India and Pakistan

    [But neither India nor Pakistan is locking up a people with no option to leave].

    In Myanmar, the Buddhist majority is pushing Muslim Rohingya out of the country, even though they have nowhere to go. Americans, if we bother to inform ourselves about these situations at all, wring our hands helplessly. We don’t organize boycotts

    [the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement — BDS — was a grassroots movement organized by hundreds of Palestinian organizations. Also, you might not have supported a similar boycott that helped end apartheid in South Africa, but many Americans eventually did join the boycott — even though there were other countries with behavior just as problematic]

    or insist that our church or university’s endowment divest holdings tainted by association.

    [the grape boycott is just another example of how people reached out to Americans to help right a wrong. The word “tainted” is rather flippant]

    In recent years, Israel’s internal politics have taken a disturbing rightward turn, with growing intolerance and disregard for abstract principles of justice. But so have Hungary’s and Poland’s and (let’s be honest) our own. What fault can you find in Netanyahu that isn’t also present in Trump?

    [With just a little bit of looking we can find huge injustices against Palestinians that does not exist here, before or after Trump]

    Recent events have been hard to square with American illusions about Israel. Two weeks ago, the United States dedicated a new embassy in Jerusalem, abandoning a long-held bipartisan policy that such a move should wait for a peace treaty putting the status of Jerusalem on a firm international foundation. While this was happening, Palestinian protesters rushed the fence that keeps them trapped in Gaza

    [exactly, they are TRAPPED],

    and Israeli snipers shot them down by the dozens.
    Viewed through one lens, the shooting was entirely justified: The protesters — all hostile, some armed, all attempting to cross an international border

    [Border is a misnomer. The Gazans have no control over movement out of Gaza — Israel likes to call it a border, but it is a fence that traps people inside]–

    constituted an invading army, or at least an invading mob

    [Most of the people killed were standing well back from the fence, including journalists with well-marked Press jackets and emergency medical personnel, also with identifying clothing. Children were killed. And for the 1000 plus Gazans who were not killed they were shot with special bullets that exploded inside their bodies, maiming them for life].

    Viewed through another, it was a gross overreaction: The Israelis had ample warning and held all the cards; surely they could have devised some less lethal method of crowd control without endangering their soldiers or citizens.

    [Israelis SEEM to be intent on convincing Gazans that even non-violent protests will be met with deadly force]

    Gazan lives, it seems, don’t matter.
    For decades, the United States has tried to restrain Israel’s more extreme tendencies. We have discouraged building settlements on disputed territory,

    [we say we don’t want them to build illegal settlements but then we keep giving them millions in military aid — like telling a child not to bully his brother but then handing him a BB gun]

    pushed for cease-fires, and sometimes even brokered treaties like the Camp David Accords. We have styled ourselves as the holders of the vision of peace, and so we have consistently urged Israel not to do things that can never be undone.
    We don’t do that any more. UN Ambassador Nikki Haley was full-throated supporter of the Israeli snipers. “No country in this chamber would act with more restraint than Israel has,” she told the Security Council. If the Trump administration believes this, it is chilling. It suggests that’s Trump’s wall might someday be manned by snipers indiscriminately gunning down Mexicans because some of them might be MS-13 gangsters.

    [At last we can agree]

    Increasingly, it is clear that there isn’t going to be a negotiated peace. Gaza is the new model of resolution: Israel will dictate terms. It will set boundaries for zones of Palestinian autonomy, and will decide what that autonomy consists of. Like the reservations the US created for Native Americans, the Palestinian zones will not be economically viable, at least not for the number of people assigned to live there. The best land and the water rights will be reserved for Israeli settlements. As with the Native American reservations, non-viability will be a feature. America hoped its Indians would eventually assimilate into second-class citizenship in white society; Israel hopes that Palestinians will self-deport to Jordan or Egypt or anywhere Israel doesn’t have to deal with them.

    [Palestinians are not going away, and some of us in the world are working for justice]

    All of these developments should raise a question: What is the US role going forward? For decades, Americans have believed that our aid gave us leverage, which we could use to nudge all parties towards a peace agreement.

    [Would that we used aid to nudge. We never have.]

    But if we’re not nudging and there isn’t going to be an agreement, what is our aid for? What are we buying? What are we supporting? Why?
    I am not proposing answers to those questions. But I am urging all Americans, whether you think of yourself as pro-Israel or anti-Israel or neutral, to rethink your view from first principles. What if we all stopped thinking about Israel in mythic or symbolic terms and instead just thought of it as a country like any other country? In some ways it is like us and in some ways not. In some ways we share its interests and in other ways we don’t. It does things that deserve our support and things that deserve our condemnation.
    Like any other country.

    [If you read the history of Zionism from 1882 on, there were always leaders who admitted publicly and/or privately that the Arabs would have to be “transfered” out. Nowadays we call that “ethnic cleansing.” There were a few Jews who tried to get the Zionist leaders to work out a cooperative arrangement with the Arabs even back in the 1930’s — Martin Buber one of the more famous advocate of cooperative living arrangements — but early on Zionists bought Arab land through trickery and forbade employing Arab labor in an effort to get Arabs to leave.]

    When we let go of all the fears and fantasies that we have projected onto Israel, what is left? How should we respond to the reality of Israel as country like any other country?

    [At the very least we should join with those seeking justice for Palestinians, educate ourselves about the current situation and join organizations that support BDS]

    Jamie Jackson
    joycejamie211@gmail.com
    member All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church, KCMO

    • Larry Benjamin  On May 28, 2018 at 7:18 pm

      When Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2006, they forcibly removed all of the Jews living there. There was also no blockade. That came later when it became apparent that Hamas was only interested in using Gaza as a staging area for attacks on Israel. If the Gaza experiment had gone better, it’s possible that the West Bank would be independent today. As it stands, it would be suicidal for Israel to allow that.

      What do you think the US response would be to Native Americans bombing New York or Los Angeles because they want to enlarge the Standing Rock reservation? Look how we treated them when they only wanted to prevent an oil pipeline from passing by where they live. And the Lakota have a much better claim to their land than the Palestinians do to theirs.

      This doesn’t excuse Israeli overreaction, but it’s not like they’re the British dealing with Gandhi.

      • Robert C. Wortman  On May 28, 2018 at 8:57 pm

        Mr. Benjamin, get your facts straight. The Palestinians have every right to Gaza and the West Bank, by dint of the United Nations ruling in 1947/8. I suggest that you google some presentations by Norman Finkelstein, Gideon Levy, Miko Peled, Uri Avnery, Phillip Weiss, Shir Hever and other Israeli scholars on the subject. Your cerebral cobwebs are a product of Goebels-like hasbara as instituted by AIPAC and its satelite operations. As for Hamas rockets, they were little more than fireworks,against the illicit use by Israelis of white phosphorus, cluster bombs, and the world’s most sophisticated weaponry, all condemned by the Hague as crimes against humanity and in contravention of International Law. Are you aware of the Israeli expression, “mowing the lawn”?

      • Larry Benjamin  On May 28, 2018 at 9:31 pm

        Where do you get that I think the Palestinians don’t have a right to the West Bank and Gaza? If they’re ever going to have their own country, that’s where it’s going to be. What they don’t have a right to is a Jew-free Israel in between that belongs to them alone.

        If the Hamas rockets were “just fireworks,” what do they expect to accomplish with them, other than to provoke Israel into a response so people like you can point a finger at the evil Zionists? One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result. One more rocket, one more tunnel, and maybe Israel will be theirs? These people need to try a different tactic. And if Israel allies itself closer with China, which is what they’ve been doing for decades, do you think the Chinese will be more or less concerned with the Palestinians’ situation than Americans are? Or you weren’t aware that was happening?

        I’m familiar with “mowing the lawn.” Just because there are some racist shitheads on the Israeli side doesn’t make Hamas into saints. Your refusal to condemn the shitheads on both sides tells me all I need to know about your position.

        “Hasbara” – thanks. Do you have George Soros’ number so I can call and ask for my check? I must be a sap for doing this for free.

  • Joyce Jamie Jackson  On May 28, 2018 at 6:28 pm

    Like you, I urge people to rethink their misconceptions about Israel and Palestine.

  • Douglas Frankenberger  On May 29, 2018 at 3:14 am

    Clever, not exactly a plan though.

  • Bolling Lowrey  On May 29, 2018 at 1:48 pm

    This Must Be a Joke on Muder’s part. NOT FUNNY.

  • Joyce Jamie Jackson  On May 30, 2018 at 10:49 am

    I am reposting my response in a more readable form. My apologies for the misguided format above.

    Leon Uris’ Exodus is a biased view about Zionists’ efforts to gain advantage in their effort to colonize Palestine. It totally left out the perspective of Palestinians who had inhabited the land for millenia. As for the supposed superiority of the West, it is the claim to superiority a century ago that continues to be part of the problem today. As to the David-and-Goliath myth of one tiny country standing up to larger ones, even 70 years ago the Jews were way better organized, their military plans solid whereas the Arab countries were even in opposition to one another — for example, Jordan coveted the West Bank and wanted Israel to prevail. As to the stereotypes [and falsehoods], both positive and negative, about Jews, without a doubt there are as many misguided misconceptions about Jews as there are about Arabs, Mexicans, African Americans. And many, many other misconceptions.

    No one is asking Israel to “be better than other countries” –an especially galling criticism Yes there are many countries with poor human rights. But there is no other country that has penned up 1.5 million people into what amounts to an open-air prison. People in Gaza cannot get out — not through Israel nor through Egypt. People are unable to accept student scholarships overseas, medical attention, award ceremonies, life with a married partner in the West Bank. Gazans now have polluted water to drink and at most 4 hours/day electricity. Let’s try to think of another country with such oppression (perhaps war-torn Syria, Yemen or Myannmar).

    Even well-respected Israeli historians have documented that Israel deliberately inflicted terror on Arab communities in 1948. Arabs were killed and raped and intentionally terrorized so that 750,000 of them fled, and at least one of those Israeli historians, Benny Morris, has lamented that Israel did not go far enough in 1948, it should have rid the country of ALL the Palestinians. After Jewish atrocities caused Palestinians to flee, creating a refugee population that under international law has a right to return home, the military immediately either razed the whole village or moved in Jews in an effort to counteract the right of return. Since the 1967 war created the Occupied Territories, it is more than “Israel ruling a subject population that it treats badly.” The UN has said Gaza will be UNLIVABLE by 2020 — two years from now]

    Yes, lots of countries are in violation of some international law or another, and lots have subject populations that they treat badly. But which country has locked up a whole population and crowded them into a tiny, unlivable space with no option to leave? The treatment of Shia in a Sunni country like Saudi Arabia or Sunni in a Shia country like Iraq, etc. does not compare. Neither India nor Pakistan is locking up a people with no option to leave. Your characterization of the boycott is misinformed. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement — BDS — was a grassroots movement organized by hundreds of Palestinian organizations. Thirty years ago many Americans eventually did join the boycott of South Africa in opposition to apartheid — even while there were certainly other countries with behavior just as problematic. The grape boycott is just another example of how people reached out to Americans to help right a wrong. The word “tainted” to describe Israel’s human rights violations iis rather flippant

    “What fault can you find in Netanyahu that isn’t also present in Trump?” With just a little bit of looking we can find huge injustices against Palestinians that do not exist here, before or after Trump.

    Some Palestinian protesters did “rush the fence that keeps them trapped in Gaza.” Yes, they are TRAPPED, and Israeli snipers shot them down by the dozens.

    Border is a misnomer. The Gazans have no control over movement out of Gaza — Israel likes to call it a border, but it is a fence that traps people inside. Most of the people killed were standing well back from the fence, including journalists with well-marked Press jackets and emergency medical personnel, also with identifying clothing. Children were killed. And for the 1000 plus Gazans who survived being shot, they were shot with special bullets that exploded inside their bodies, maiming them for life. Yes, there was a much less lethal method of crowd control without endangering their soldiers or citizens. Israelis SEEM to be intent on convincing Gazans that even non-violent protests will be met with deadly force Yes, Gazan lives, it seems, don’t matter.

    We say we don’t want them to build illegal settlements but then we keep giving them millions in military aid — like telling a child not to bully his brother but then handing him a BB gun. “Trump’s wall might someday be manned by snipers indiscriminately gunning down Mexicans because some of them might be MS-13 gangsters.” Already there are killings at the border. At last we can agree

    Palestinians are not going away, and some of us across the globe are working for justice. As US citizens (and taxpayers) we could demand our government actually use aid to nudge Israel to stop the illegal settlements. We never have.
    If you read the history of Zionism from 1882 on, there were always leaders who admitted publicly and/or privately that the Arabs would have to be “transferred” out. Nowadays we call that “ethnic cleansing.” There were a few Jews who tried to get the Zionist leaders to work out a cooperative arrangement with the Arabs even back in the 1930’s — Martin Buber one of the more famous advocate of cooperative living arrangements — but early on Zionists bought Arab land through trickery and forbade employing Arab labor in an effort to get Arabs to leave.

    How should we respond? At the very least we should join with those seeking justice for Palestinians, educate ourselves about the current situation and join organizations that support BDS.

    • Larry Benjamin  On May 30, 2018 at 1:37 pm

      If Egypt has its own blockade of Gaza, why aren’t they partly responsible for the situation? They could alleviate it overnight by simply opening the border. And strangely, Gazans don’t seem to have a problem with Egypt, only Israel.

      While I agree that justice is an important goal, that will require the cooperation of the Palestinians and the other Arab countries in the area, not just Israel. Acting as if the Palestinians are just helpless victims is just as bad as casting Jews as evil bankers bent on world domination. And the fact that one side is the underdog doesn’t automatically confer virtue onto them. And dwelling on past injustices is one reason why a solution to the conflict is so difficult.

      • Robert C. Wortman  On May 30, 2018 at 1:59 pm

        It’s past time for you to stop rationalizing and equivocating about Israel’s behavior. Ms Jackson has thoughtfully and gracefully laid out the appropriate facts and conditions involved. Just focus on Israel’s inhumanity, moral values and ethos. Every nation on earth creates its own legacy. Much as the US’ record is becoming increasingly sullied and soiled by its actions/non-actions, so other nations must bear the fruit of their own misdeeds. No propaganda campaign can set things right! No pointing the finger at ‘the other guy’ will resolve the issues, or make the Likud tolerable to thoughtful people!

      • Larry Benjamin  On May 30, 2018 at 2:50 pm

        Got it. The Israelis are irredeemably evil, and the Palestinians are blameless.

        It’s this attitude along with its opposite on the other side that will prevent a workable solution and will keep the Palestinian people in their current situation for much longer than necessary.

  • Ruth Palatnik  On May 31, 2018 at 6:27 pm

    Interesting that you leave out the fact that all the aid dollars poured into Gaza have not been used to help the Palestinians, but to build terror tunnels.

    You write “The Israelis had ample warning and held all the cards; surely they could have devised some less lethal method of crowd control without endangering their soldiers or citizens. Gazan lives, it seems, don’t matter.” Why do you think that they didn’t try less lethal means.? They did. But at some point those methods were not working.

    • Robert C. Wortman  On May 31, 2018 at 7:57 pm

      “Why do you think that they didn’t try less lethal means.? They did. But at some point those methods were not working”
      If the US and other sympathetic countries could have provided aid to those Jewish people walled up in the Warsaw Ghetto, how do you suppose the aid would have been used? Mah Jongg games?.Card parties and or Bingo get-togethers? In our own Revolutionary War, the Americans took on the lethal resources of the mighty British Empire by conducting relentless, continuing attacks over slight taxation on goods and services. Where do you derive your sense of moral equivalency in regard to human rights and the God-given right to resist tyranny? As an American citizen do you feel any twinges of regret over Israel’s vicious attack on the USS Liberty in international waters, where the Israeli commander called out directions (caught on tape): “No survivors!”

      • Larry Benjamin  On May 31, 2018 at 8:09 pm

        Do you think it’s a winning strategy for Hamas to keep digging tunnels and lobbing “fireworks” at Israel? How has that worked out for them so far? Comparing them to the American Revolutionaries is ridiculous. In 2006, Israel effectively gave Gaza its independence; the blockade and fence came later. If the British had done that with the 13 colonies, there wouldn’t have been a Revolutionary war.

        They have a nice stretch of Mediterranean beachfront – imagine the result if they instead built hotels and resorts, and marketed Gaza as a tourist destination. And if they made peace with Israel, they wouldn’t even need their own airport.

        What keeps this from happening is Hamas’ stated goal of taking Israel over and killing every Jew who lives there, and their inability to realize that this isn’t something they’re capable of accomplishing. But they’ll keep trying as long as outside groups continue to pour money in for this purpose.

      • Larry Benjamin  On May 31, 2018 at 8:17 pm

        The belief that Israel deliberately attacked the Liberty is tinfoil-hat conspiracy theory. There was no need to bring the US into the Six-Day War on Israel’s side by blaming the attack on Egypt; Israel was doing just fine without us, and had captured the Sinai the same day. And the theory that Israel wanted to sink the Liberty because it would have confirmed the existence of Israeli nukes is beyond ridiculous, as if the ship could have detected any nukes from that distance.

        If you’re looking for a conspiracy, try Johnson and McNamara. Johnson called back two separate air support groups that went to assist the Liberty. I believe that it was Johnson who was looking for an excuse for the US to enter the war on Israel’s side, not the Israelis. Israel was fooled by the US into attacking the Liberty on Johnson’s orders. If this had come out, Johnson would have been impeached and probably executed for treason, so to maintain cordial relations with the US, Israel took the blame and said they hadn’t noticed that the ship was flying a US flag. Of course they noticed the flag; they had been told that it was an Egyptian ship flying a false flag.

        You people need to give up on the USS Liberty conspiracy theory – it’s beloved of neo-Nazis and their ilk, who love to bring it up as “proof” that those evil jooz really hate the US.

      • Robert C. Wortman  On June 1, 2018 at 9:15 am

        USS Liberty incident – Wikipedia
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Liberty_incident
        The USS Liberty incident was an attack on a United States Navy technical research ship, USS Liberty, by Israeli Air Force jet fighter aircraft and Israeli Navy motor torpedo boats, on …

        Location: Mediterranean Sea near Sinai Peninsula
        Date: 8 June 1967
        Agtr-5 · William Mcgonagle · Iftach Spector · Nord Noratlas · Technical Research Ship

        And please don’t conflate “Jooz” with Israelis; thoughtful American Jews are worlds apart from belligerant, hateful, Zionist Israelis!

      • Larry Benjamin  On June 1, 2018 at 11:11 am

        Israel did not attack the Liberty in an evil plot to draw the US into the war or hide their nuclear capabilities. They attacked it because Johnson told them that it was an Egyptian ship flying a false US flag, and once it was sunk, he would have been able to blame Egypt for sinking a US vessel and entered the war on that pretext. Otherwise, why would he have ordered two separate air support groups to turn back instead of assisting the Liberty?

        No one is disputing that Israel attacked the Liberty or that it was displaying a US flag. I’m saying that the standard reasons given for the attack by Israel-haters (some of whom are, in fact, neo-Nazis and others who hate Jews in general) don’t make any sense.

        I’m not implying that you’re a neo-Nazi or anti-semite, but those groups definitely love to bring up the Liberty incident as an example of how evil Israelis or Jews are in general.

      • Robert C. Wortman  On June 1, 2018 at 4:30 pm

        Fine! The gentlemen will return to their respective corners, however, I would suggest that your read the Work of Professor Richard Falk, Professor Emeritus @ Princeton for over 40 years, and special rapporteur on Palestinian affairs (and a practicing Jew), Miko Peled, son of one of Israel’s greatest generals, and himself a former officer in the IDF, Gideon Levy of Haaretz, who lives under constant threat of bodily harm, Uri Avnery, who lives and teaches in the UK, in exile. I would also recommend subscribing to the online resource, Mondoweiss by Phillip Weiss and a host of other correspondents, as well as Ali Abunimah of The Electronic Intifada. You might also search out the bios of Chaim Weissman, Menachem Begin, Ariel Sharon – terrorists all – in drawing your conclusions about the morality and ethos of the Zionist project in Israel. Shalom, luftmensh!

      • Larry Benjamin  On June 1, 2018 at 6:08 pm

        I never said that Israel is blameless or a paragon of virtue, the way you view the Palestinians and Hamas. I’m only responding to your bringing up the USS Liberty as an example of Israeli perfidy. The Lydda Death March would be a better example, since the facts aren’t in dispute.

        You may also want to reread your copy of Rosten’s Joys of Yiddish. “Luftmensh” refers to someone who is unconcerned with making a living, literally meaning “air man;” someone who makes a living out of thin air. That wouldn’t describe me, unfortunately.

        So shalom to you too, maven!

      • Robert C. Wortman  On June 1, 2018 at 10:00 pm

        It strikes me that our back and forth should best be removed from a public forum.
        If that’s of interest to you, I can be reached at rcwortman250@comcast.net. Incidentally, your Leo Rosten comment prompted me to go to the garage where I have a careworn old copy of his Joys of Yiddish, held together by rubber-bands.
        First definition of luftmensh is 1.) Someone with his head in the clouds..
        Sincerely,
        Maven

      • Larry Benjamin  On June 1, 2018 at 10:56 pm

        I have no interest in continuing this pointless argument with you. You’ve decided that Israel is the epitome of evil, and the Palestinians are virtuous martyrs who are incapable of doing anything wrong.

        That other definition of luftmensh doesn’t apply to me, either. And by “maven” I meant someone whose lack of knowledge is inversely proportional to their confidence in the little they do know.

      • weeklysift  On June 5, 2018 at 6:15 am

        Larry, I don’t mean to stir this argument back up, but I hadn’t heard your theory of the Liberty incident before and I was wondering where it comes from. Could you share a link or a reference?

      • Larry Benjamin  On June 5, 2018 at 7:15 am

        It’s just my own analysis of the events. The Wikipedia page describes Johnson’s calling back the two air support groups; I can’t imagine why he would have done that unless he wanted the Liberty sunk. And since the survivors all stated that the US flag was clearly visible, the Israelis must have seen it. So the only thing that makes sense to me is that Johnson lied to the Israelis, telling them that it was an Egyptian vessel flying a US flag, and to go ahead and sink it. Egypt would then have been blamed for sinking an American vessel, and the Israelis would have kept quiet.

        It also makes more sense that Johnson wanted a pretext to involve the US in the war, than Israel wanted to involve us, since they clearly didn’t need our help at that point. The other theory, that Israel wanted to sink the Liberty to prevent it from detecting Israel’s nuclear capabilities, is ludicrous.

        The only problem with this theory is like with every conspiracy theory – keeping it secret. However, if only a few people knew the truth, that might have been easier, especially since Johnson would undoubtedly have been impeached and tried for treason if this had come out. Maybe in a few years when Johnson’s papers are declassified, we’ll find out, although I can’t imagine something like this being made public.

      • Robert C. Wortman  On June 5, 2018 at 10:32 am

        As a an American Jew and a US veteran, I cannot help but take umbrage at your assigning greater probity and moral authority to Menachim Begin, a self-acknowledged terrorist, than to Lyndon Johnson who fought fiercely to give this country the Civil Rights bill (at great political cost to himself). Perhaps this link to an article at Consortium News by Ray McGovern, a founder of VIPS (Veteran Intelligence Personnel for Sanity), with 27 years as a CIA analyst will clear your mind of silly conspiracy theories: https://consortiumnews.com/2017/05/21/not-remembering-the-uss-liberty/

      • Larry Benjamin  On June 5, 2018 at 3:15 pm

        Why would Johnson call back not one, but two separate air groups sent to assist the Liberty? And Golda Meir was prime minister at the time, not Begin.

        So the theory is that Johnson didn’t want to “embarrass” the Israelis. If that was the case, why were hearings on the incident held at all?

      • Robert C. Wortman  On June 5, 2018 at 7:27 pm

        While you stroke your chin and theorize and rationalize, check this story out: What’s the difference between murder and massacre? Also to be found at Consortium News. American citizen or member of the knesset?

      • Larry Benjamin  On June 7, 2018 at 7:34 pm

        A URL would help.

        None of the standard stories about the Liberty incident make sense, unless you’re convinced that evil jooz are evil. Johnson proved himself capable of expanding and continuing the Vietnam War for his own purposes; sacrificing the Liberty would have meant no more to him than swatting a fly.

      • Larry Benjamin  On June 10, 2018 at 11:03 am

        Proves my theory. Johnson and McNamara wanted the Liberty sunk, and engaged in a cover-up afterwards to protect themselves.

        You’re blaming the wrong people. There are plenty of reasons to criticize Israel; the Liberty incident isn’t one of them. Unless, of course, you believe that Israel is inherently evil, so therefore anything they do is evil while their victims are automatically saints. If Netanyahu punched Trump in the nose, you’d probably become a Trump supporter.

      • Robert C. Wortman  On June 10, 2018 at 12:40 pm

        I sincerely believe that Israel, which is overwhelmingly dominated by the Likud government, is the closest thing to the Nazis that the world has ever seen. The slaughter of Gazans is only the most recent evidence of that. They are murderous barbarians, and deserve the universal contempt of the world. I could produce scores of citations for this, which this format of correspondence does not permit. You are selective in your reading/viewing of what is presented to you, and opt only to extract information which certifies your pre-drawn conclusions. You do not have the guts to have an E-mail exchange with me, which would allow for a full amount of footnotes and urls to prove my point. As an American Jew, I hold Israel and its nefarious, oligarchal supporters in complete and abject contempt. Fortunately the tide of American Jews is rapidly turning from the brutality, hubris, and impunity of the Israeli government. It is rapidly coming clear to the world (most particularly its youth) that Israel is succeeding only in isolating itself from humanity.https://therealnews.com/stories/israeli-police-brutality-reaches-new-extremes-against-israeli-palestinian-protesters-pt-1-2

        rcwortman250@comcast.net

      • Larry Benjamin  On June 11, 2018 at 7:16 pm

        And Hamas consists of saints who make Gandhi look like Charles Manson in comparison.

        So what’s the solution? Nuke Tel Aviv? If Israelis are the equivalent of Nazis, isn’t it our duty to annihilate them?

        I don’t want an email exchange with you; I’ve already seen all of the tendentious garbage you’ve discovered and can’t wait to share.

        It’s people like you on both sides who demonize the opposition, that will make a solution impossible.

      • Robert C. Wortman  On June 11, 2018 at 8:08 pm

        https://richardfalk.wordpress.com/2018/06/10/the-great-march-of-return-the-gaza-sniper-massacre/
        You make me mindful of the apocryphal “good German”, who after WWII had no idea that anything so awful was going on! All you want to do is mind your own business and fervently hope bad things will go away. Well, read the posting from Professor Richard Falk, a practicing Jew, and Professor Emeritus of International Diplomacy of 40 years tenure at Princeton University, who then went on to teach at one of UCLA’s smaller campus sites, and had time to serve as Special UN rapporteur on Palestinian affairs. Of course, he and Judge Goldstone must be tendentious traitors in your eyes, also. Luxuriate in your ignorance!

      • Larry Benjamin  On June 12, 2018 at 6:22 am

        And you remind me of the Jewish collaborators who sent their neighbors to the ovens for a loaf of bread or a sausage. What you’re getting out of this is a sense of your own superiority, because unlike everyone else, you “understand” what’s going on while everyone else is either being willfully ignorant, or is a Jewish supremacist.

        The truth is, you don’t want a solution, because that would take away your opportunity to look down your nose at everyone who disagrees with you. I have a solution, by the way. Let everyone else get the hell out and allow the Israelis and the Palestinians to work this out to their mutual satisfaction, without interference from anyone else. If we end US military aid (which is really just a giveaway to American defense contractors), then no outsiders can provide any military aid to Hamas. Let the moralizers on both sides, the Christian Zionists, the neo-Nazis, the conspiracy theorists of all stripes, STFU.

        Of course that will never happen, because all of the outside meddlers have their own conflicting agendas, and don’t trust either side to solve this on their own, because God forbid their solution isn’t the one YOU want to impose on them.

        I’ll let you have the last word. I’ll only leave you with the observation that the problem isn’t Israelis or Palestinians – it’s you and people like you on all sides of the issue, who see this tragedy as nothing more than an allegory of your own personal demons.

      • Robert C. Wortman  On June 12, 2018 at 7:25 am

        I see that you read the posting of Richard Falk very closely, along with the enclosed comments of Israeli writer Uri Uvarney. Combine these with published works of Norman Finkelstein, Miko Peled, Gideon Levy of Haaretz, Shir Hever of The Real News, Max Blumenthal, Abbey Martin of Empire Files. I say my goodbyes to you with: What you are shouts so loud, I do not hear what you say!

      • Larry Benjamin  On June 12, 2018 at 7:28 am

        I’m aware that there are pro-Palestinian Israelis. That’s a sign of a healthy national debate, where all views are tolerated. Now please cite their pro-Israeli counterparts on the Palestinian side, including Hamas members.

      • Robert C. Wortman  On June 12, 2018 at 9:45 am

        I have a feeling that the prior message that I sent you contained an incomplete link. This should be correct: http://mondoweiss.net/2018/06/response-schools-silence/?utm_source=Mondoweiss+List&utm_campaign=d7c60ba0d2-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_b86bace129-d7c60ba0d2-398423969&mc_cid=d7c60ba0d2&mc_eid=185d39e02e

        As for Palestinian thinkers to whom you can connect, I would recommend Professor Salaita, who was recruited by the University of Illinois, offered a tenured position, and subsequently was cut loose under pressure from Zionist alumni. You might also want to read some of the articles from Ali Abunimah of Electronic Intifada (whom I had previously given you as an excellent resource). The American mainstream press offers virtually no coverage of Palestinian intellects.

      • Larry Benjamin  On June 12, 2018 at 10:30 am

        Any who live in Gaza?

      • Robert C. Wortman  On June 12, 2018 at 11:08 am

        Odd! I have not received my telephone book for Gaza as yet. There seems to be something of a delay; something about corpses and amputations keeping them busy! Your query seems somewhat out of context for me as well. In our previous interactions, I don’t believe I have asked you whether your family roots are Ashkenazic, Sephardic or Mizrahi. Indeed, I’ve never felt the need to know whether you’re from Brooklyn, Rego Park, the Bronx, or Long Island? As opposed to conditions in Israel, in the US it doesn’t seem to matter. I’m really trying to figure you out – what your desire is to continue this conversation? You frequently confront me with vitriol, and then go about ameliorating your position to acknowledge that Israel isn’t Simon-pure. I feel somewhat more animated about Israel and its leadership, because I sincerely feel that they violate the essential Jewish ethos that I have always felt was an inherent part of my culture, despite being totally irreligious..

      • Anonymous  On June 12, 2018 at 3:51 pm

        Very funny. I was asking about pro-Israel Palestinians who live in Gaza. Israel tolerates pro-Palestinian Israelis, both Jewish and Arab, so I was wondering if they had any counterparts in Gaza and how tolerant Hamas is of dissenting opinions.

        Part of the “Jewish ethos” is survival; apparently that’s only acceptable if Jews are helpless victims, but not if they’re doing too well against their adversaries.

      • Robert C. Wortman  On June 12, 2018 at 5:17 pm

        There are about two million people (human beings) living in Gaza in what Conservative former PM David Cameron called the largest, open air concentration camp/prison he has ever seen. Most of them are children! They are living with insufficient food and clean water, in rubble and without proper sanitation. They are blockaded on all sides, and sewage is floating into their waterfront. They get electricity for possibly an hour or two each day, These are refugees from Palestine (what you may know as Judea and Sumeria) who are denied the right of return to the land that was given them in 1948. They are unable to till their soil, and have their olive groves destroyed by illegal settlers, who have taken oven their lands without compensation, and they have their children arrested, beaten and tortured under Israeli martial law. And you want me to find you some pro-Israeli Palestinians? You do not even have your facts straight about Israel’s tolerance and treatment of Israeli Arabs. They are not permitted to drive on Israeli freeways, no less have the rights of Israeli citizens. They are walled off, by walls that D. J. Trump has come to admire, with snipers on huge towers, and checkpoints cutting them off from their mosques in East Jerusalem. Your ignorance is repulsive, and it is clear that you have no sense whatsoever of conditions in Gaza or the West Bank or Israel. You feel that that part of the Jewish ethos is survival? You might have said compassion, empathy or hospitality, but survival is not a component of any Jewish ethos with which I am familiar. No, Anonymous, you are distinctly your own Jew, and one with whom I want no further interaction. You are trafe!

      • Larry Benjamin  On June 12, 2018 at 6:07 pm

        I’m not sure why I’m suddenly “anonymous.” I’m the same Larry Benjamin you were arguing with earlier.

        Gaza wasn’t always the way you describe. When Israel forcibly evicted the settlers in 2006 (there are no “illegal settlers” in Gaza today), Gaza became Jew-free, and there was no blockade until later. When Hamas took over, instead of developing their seashore or engaging in anything productive, they converted it into a staging area for attacks on Israel, deliberately locating military installations in civilian areas, which is considered a war crime. Any other country would have reacted the way Israel did – or worse. Israel actually provides electricity to Gaza, probably a unique situation not found anywhere else in the world, where a country supplies power to another country in open conflict with it.

        As for “their land,” many Palestinians are no more native to the area than Ashkenazi Jews are, their ancestors having emigrated from the surrounding Arab countries around the same time European Jews began arriving early in the last century. After Israel was established, those same Arab countries expelled their Mizrahi Jewish populations, and those people had nowhere to go but Israel. This is why the Jewish population is 70% Mizrahi. Do they get to return to their homes that were stolen from them?

        Romanticizing the Palestinian people as the Lakota of the Middle East does them no favors, and only prolongs their suffering. I don’t think you care one whit about Palestinian welfare – you’re like the governments of the Arab countries that use them as a convenient pawn to demonize Jews; you just have a different objective than they do.

        Unlike you, I believe that people should be allowed to stay where they are, regardless of past injustices, as long as they are willing to live in peace with their neighbors. Your attitude, like that of your counterparts, makes that impossible. Well done.

      • Robert C. Wortman  On June 12, 2018 at 7:55 pm

        Our host blog identified you as Anonymous. I know who and what you are. Here’s a history lesson from Ilan Pappe, Israeli historian and professor at Exeter College: http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/49617.htm

        I will no longer respond to you. You are a fund of misinformation

      • weeklysift  On June 11, 2018 at 7:52 am

        Robert Wortman: “closest thing to the Nazis the world has ever seen” seems over the top to me. You realize that at this moment there is at least one actual genocide going on (in Myanmar), right? https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/03/04/obama-rohingya-genocide-myanmar-burma-muslim-syu-kii-217214

  • Robert C. Wortman  On June 11, 2018 at 9:48 am

    Fortunately, the horrific situation in Myanmar (as in Yemen) has not been going on for 70+ years, nor is it occurring in a sphere in which the US has direct control, and in which it is complicit. The US is arming Israel (and historically has been) with weaponry which is against international law, i.e white phosphorus, cluster bombs, et al. If you accept the Zionist credo that the state is of greater signicance than individual, human rights, and that Orthodoxy is supreme over all other sects of Jewry than we have nothing further to discuss!

    • weeklysift  On June 12, 2018 at 8:45 am

      I’m just trying to keep the discussion tethered to reality. There’s a lot to criticize about Israel, and even situations where I might compare something they did to something the Nazis used to do. (I’ve also been known to compare Trump to the Nazis on occasion.) But I don’t see the case for equating Israel-as-a-whole with Nazi-Germany-as-a-whole.

      • Robert C. Wortman  On June 12, 2018 at 9:30 am

        Your thoughts seem to come in bursts. This is the second time you have sent comments to me this morning. It’s obvious from your first commentary that you never bothered to read the posting of Professor Falk, an internationally admired paragon of diplomacy. In your second commentary, you indicate that you “want to keep the discussion tethered to reality” and yet you have suggested unleashing the Gazans against the Israelis and letting them have a go at it. Do you propose arming the Gazans with F-35s, unlimited ammunition and the unlimited funding that the US has previously given the Israelis (and continues to give)? Yes, there is a great deal to criticize about Israel and its behavior under Zionist authority. Surely, you don’t see Netanyahu and his “pragmatic” alliances with the Saudis, Qatar, and Egypt as a path to diplomatic solutions? I’m going to share a link to an article from Mondoweiss that will give you an insight as to how the US is being riven by the arrogant and ruthless behavior of Zionists and their “all or nothing” behavior. You might even begin to develop a sense of blowback for American Jews in the not-so-distant future. https://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=550986

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