December 2004 Archives

Just a tactic


This is hilarious.

Jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti told The Associated Press he was never serious about his presidential bid and that he doubts the current front-runner, Mahmoud Abbas, will be able to end violence.

Barghouti's on-again, off-again candidacy had thrown Palestinian politics into turmoil, with polls indicating he would have posed a serious challenge to Abbas in a Jan. 9 election to replace Yasser Arafat as Palestinian Authority president.

[ . . . ]

Barghouti withdrew from the race after coming under stiff criticism from Fatah activists for splitting the party. At the time, polls showed that Barghouti, running as an independent, was virtually tied with Abbas.

But Barghouti told AP he never intended to follow through.

"My nomination for the election was just a tactic to send a political message," Barghouti said. "From the outset, I did not intent to continue the race until the end."

"Just a tactic." Right. A perfect summation of just about every word we've been hearing out of the mouths of everyone associated with the palestinian "leadership." Something to keep in mind as we head into the new year.

May it be a better one than the last one, free of earthquakes and tsunamis, free of beheadings and suicide bombings, free of baseless hatred and false accusations, a year of peace and prosperity, a year of health and happiness for us all.

Happy New Year.

Shabbat Shalom.

O little town


As Meryl points out, Israel has eased restrictions on travel to Bethlehem for the Christmas holiday. Fox News just showed a rather nasty report by Laurie Dhue (of all people), announcing that, as the palestinians see it, it's all just "too little, too late." Since Israel does this "easing" thing every year at the considerable peril of her own citizens' life and limb, you'd think a little bit of credit would be forthcoming, especially from the likes of Fox News. No can Dhue.

But here's a little observation of interest. For the last few years, as Yasser Arafat has been unable to attend Midnight Mass in Bethlehem due to his confinement in the Mukata, a keffiyeh-draped empty chair has been prepared for him. That's the kind of thing commonly done to honor a deceased person, and I always thought it was overly dramatic and a little bit odd, but there it was. Now that Arafat is actually and officially dead, though, Arafat's chair will no longer be empty, but will be filled with the ample ass of the current PLO Chairman, Mahmoud Abbas. Read into that whatever you will.

May we see true peace on earth speedily and in our days.

Merry Christmas and

Shabbat Shalom.

Blogus interruptus


For some reason, I've found it hard to get much time online this week. Maybe it's partly due to the fact that I finally began reading the first book of Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle. It's hard to put down. And it's not like I'm going to be finished with it any time soon.

Meanwhile, there's a very interesting discussion happening in the comments over at Tal G.'s. It's been going on for close to two months now, in fact. Unfortunately, Tal hasn't been participating, or blogging, either, since he put up the post at which this is taking place (which is on an entirely different subject than the comment thread it's generated). But the squatters don't seem to mind. Strange brew.

Re: catblogging


In what may well turn out to be the catblog photo of the year.

Be sure to read the comments, too (the usual warnings apply -- x2).

The Mythical Martyr

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IMRA just brought this story to my attention. It's also been linked and/or discussed here, here and here, but not too many other places, apparently.

The Mythical Martyr
By Stephane Juffa
1,874 words
26 November 2004
The Wall Street Journal Europe
(Copyright (c) 2004, Dow Jones & Company, Inc.)

The first thing that comes up when you google Mohammed al-Durra's name is a poem written by Sheikh Mohammed of the United Arab Emirates called "To the soul of the child martyr." It gives an idea of the mythical proportions that the young boy has assumed in the Middle East. The images of Mohammed al-Durra hiding from Israeli fire behind his father's back in the early days of the second intifada, only to be struck down by enemy bullets, shocked the whole world. For many Arabs and Muslims, the boy became the symbol of Palestinian suffering under Israeli occupation.

On the Palestinian Authority's TV channel, as well as in Palestinian school books, his example is used to encourage other children to emulate his spirit of sacrifice. Even in the West, the pictures that won so many journalism prizes have become the most recognizable symbol of Israeli aggression. When Ehud Barak, then Israel's prime minister, visited Paris in the same year, French President Jacques Chirac wryly scolded him. "Killing children is no policy."


And yet, it was nothing but a hoax. For those readers who recognize the famous image reproduced here, it might be difficult to believe that the scene was actually staged. (see accompanying illustration -- WSJE Nov. 26, 2004) I will elaborate later how it has been proven that Israeli soldiers could not have killed the boy. Some might ask why it still matters. Haven't too many innocent people on both sides died since then, and is it not time to look ahead now?

There's some relatively new information in this one, particularly regarding the role of French state-owned TV channel France 2 in this hoax, so I suggest you read the whole thing.

For more links and my own previous observations on the subject, see here and here.

Kol HaKavod


Congratulations to Power Line, Time Magazine's Blog of the Year. (Oh, and on the Wizbang award, too.) More on the story from the Power Line crew here.

Congratulations also to Time Magazine for, well, naming a Blog of the Year in the first place. And for this interesting piece: 10 Things we learned about Blogs. My personal favorites are #7:

Most Bloggers Are Women Men may have taken the lead in the early (read: geeky) days of blogging, but that's not the case now. According to a survey of more than 4 million blogs by Perseus Development, 56% were created by women. More bad news for the boys: men are more likely than women to abandon their blog once it's created. Call blogging a 21st century room of one's own.


(heh) and #9:

Pets Have Blogs Too It started as an in-joke among feline-friendly bloggers: why not post pictures of their cats every Friday afternoon? Friday catblogging became a hit, and soon even NASA was playing along by posting pictures of the Cat's Eye nebula.


And so catblogging hits the big Time. Go Lair!

Oy vey!


The title of this post could very well have been the same as the previous one. Only in Israel.

Trying to summarize this situation in any coherent manner was making my head hurt. Ha'aretz does it pretty well:

The Likud-Labor coalition agreement hit a stumbling block Sunday after the chairman of the Knesset Constitution Law and Justice Committee, Likud MK Michael Eitan, refused to rush through legislation to accommodate the deal.
Legislation? What legislation?
According to the agreement reached Saturday night, Labor Chairman Shimon Peres is to become the second deputy prime minister, along with Trade Minister Ehud Olmert, who already holds the title.

Two deputy prime ministers? Well, that could be confusing, but so what?

But the Basic Law: The Government provides for just one deputy prime minister, and therefore must be amended to facilitate Peres' appointment, a move Eitan has indicated he will not make hurriedly.

So the law is inconvenient, you amend it. What's the big deal?

But the Labor Party is demanding that Peres be appointed deputy prime minister at the same time the party's new ministers are sworn in.

"Demanding." Oh, my! Is there no way out?

Likud negotiators suggested that Peres become deputy prime minister for matters related to the peace process - a position that does not currently exist, but would not require an amendment of a basic law. Labor has rejected the offer, however, and is threatening to delay its entry into the government.

Which would probably upset Michael Eitan not at all. As always, though, these minor inconveniences will somehow be ironed out.

Israeli politics. Kind of like a combination soap opera and badly scripted reality show.

Only in Israel


First, a follow-up in re: the Dalia Itzik micro-drama:

On Saturday night, Labor MK Dalia Itzik apologized for comments she made earlier in the week. Itzik said that if Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was offended by what she said, then she didn't mean to offend him. She added that Sharon should be just as sensitive to what people say about Labor as he is about Likud. Itzik tendered the apology at the meeting currently occurring between the Labor and Likud negotiating teams.

Ok. But this is the part I like:

United Torah Judaism (UTJ) cancelled their meeting Saturday night after it was reported that Sharon and Peres talked on the phone Friday night after Shabbat began.

Sharon had made a point until now of not making phone calls on Shabbat.

All's well that ends



After days of heated coalition negotiations, Labor and Likud have reached an agreement on the division of portfolios, and the parties are expected to sign the deal on Sunday, officially bringing the Labor party into a coalition government.

According to the agreement, Labor will be granted eight ministries: the Interior Ministry, Infrastructure, Housing, Tourism, and Communications Ministries, two ministers without portfolios, and three deputy ministers. In addition, Shimon Peres will fill the position of deputy prime minister in the Prime Minister's Office. Peres' position is counted as a ministerial portfolio.

Best of all, obnoxious grandstanding twit schoolteacher MK Dalia Itzik was locked out of the room.

Needless to say, I'm not real happy about this (I know, who cares?). But I do hope it will somehow turn out for the best.

Shabbat Shalom.



Meryl points out some extremely interesting differences between two analyses of the Israeli-Egyptian trade agreement: politics vs. economics.

And Charles exposes a totally bogus distinction awkwardly attempted by Reuters: terrorists "militants" vs. "traders."

Ashrawi speaks


Another interview by Ruthie Blum in today's Jerusalem Post (original link defunct). This one is with Hanan Ashrawi, who manages to squeeze more falsehood and misdirection into this exchange than even I would have thought possible.

On the well-documented persecution of Christians in the territories:

There is a diminishing number of Christians, but this has nothing to do with persecution. This is totally false. There was quite a bit of emigration from Palestine, as a result of conditions. Conditions under occupation aren't easy.

Also, many Christians have more family outside Palestine than others. ...

On incitement in palestinian textbooks* :

There are all kinds of ways to attack the Palestinians. At one point it was the textbooks. Now, even if you point to objective studies showing that Palestinian textbooks in many ways are better than Israeli textbooks when it comes to "the other" - and way ahead of Jordanian and Egyptian textbooks - nobody acknowledges that. They'll say that the Palestinians incite and are anti-Israeli, anti-Semitic - which isn't true. There's not a single anti-Semitic word in the textbooks. But anyway, there are fads of accusations. And these take on a life of their own when they keep being repeated.

(*see also the reports here)

On "the neocon agenda:"

Listen, before President Bush decided that he had a mission to transform the Arabs into a democracy and to adopt the neocon agenda, there were movements here to democratize, not just Palestine but the Arab world. Look, the point is that we are not as ignorant as people seem to think. The Palestinians' problem is not absence of democracy - it's absence of freedom.

On the so-called "intifada:"

It is inherently morally reprehensible. I have always opposed the taking of innocent lives. At the same time, I do not deal only with one side. I do not deal only with symptoms, I deal with causes. So, that's why I find it sick when you take something out of context and keep bashing the Palestinians for it.

Let's look at the whole situation. When you legitimize violence, when you make innocent lives fair game, when you use collective measures - then you have venerated an object which is lethal for both sides. I don't believe that bombing and shelling is moral or justifiable - particularly when you have a captive population.

Then again, there's this bit of refreshing honesty:

[Q:] If the right of return of Palestinian refugees is recognized and implemented, isn't it true that there can't be a two-state solution? That, due to demography, there will end up being only one state, and that will be Palestinian?

[A:] Yes, it would be non-Jewish.

Block the money


There's a long but very interesting interview in the JPost ("Block the money, stop the killing") with Rachel Ehrenfeld, director of the American Center for Democracy. It covers a wide range of topics, from palestinian corruption to narco-terror. One excerpt:

Last fall I testified before the European Parliament about the PA's corruption and its connection to terrorism. The animosity during the hearing was incredible. I've never encountered such naked hatred before. When I pointed out that reform of the Palestinian Authority also means that its own maps should include the State of Israel, Hannes Swoboda, a member of parliament for the Social Democratic Party of Austria, seemed to want to deny Israel's existence, too. He yelled, "Indeed, it should be Palestine." Supported by others, he also insisted that "there is no proof that any terrorist acts they committed were ordered by the PA – they may have been acting alone. Only if the DNA of the suicide bombers matches the DNA of those who received euros, will we accept it as evidence."

Read it all.



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The Jerusalem Post has an odd way of updating its pages. Last night, when I first read it, this link led to a headline reading something like "Labor storms out of coalition talks." (And I have a feeling that's what it still said when Omri linked to it in this post.)

Now it's a comletely different article entitled "Likud, UTJ negotiators meet." You can find something closer to the original story here.

Labor Party negotiators stormed out of coalition talks with Likud at midnight last night, charging that Likud is "unwilling to make any changes in [Finance Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu's ruthless economic program in order to introduce even a drop of humanity and consideration for the citizens of Israel."

Yeah, well. No one seems to be taking this too seriously. Storming out of negotiations in a huff is sort of a mandatory part of the script.



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Barghouti drops out


No, really. This time he means it.

Facing stiff criticism, jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti announced on Sunday night that he was pulling out of the race for the January 9 election for the presidency of the Palestinian Authority, clearing the way for PLO chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) to win the ballot.

See? So why are you laughing?



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Breaking news


There's been a terrorist attack near the Rafah terminal crossing in the southern Gaza Strip. No deaths reported so far. Maybe 13 wounded IDF soldiers. (Update: at least 5 deaths now reported, all members of a Bedouin reconnaissance unit)

Two items of note about this incident. First, it appears that it was the result of cooperation between Hamas and what's being called an extremist wing of Arafat's Abu Mazen's Fatah organization. And then there's this:

A Palestinian militant giving his name only as Abu Majad said the blast in the 250-meter tunnel was retaliation for what he called "the assassination" of Yasser Arafat, who died on November 11.

Nasser al-Kidwa, Arafat's nephew and the Palestinian envoy to the United Nations, has refused to rule out that the Palestinian leader was poisoned by Israel, despite a statement from the French hospital that there was no evidence to support the claim.

(Update: this story has been changing throughout the day and the articles linked above revised accordingly)

Kudos to Somerville

After a month-long campaign of education and community outreach, the Somerville Board of Aldermen unanimously voted to accept the recommendation of their Legislative Matters Committee to oppose divesting from Israel.

Thanks to Solomon, who has been staying very much on top of this story, for this good news. And it gets better.



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and Shavua tov.

Lots of light


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Happy Hannuka and Shabbat Shalom.

Links to stuff


Because I'm feeling lazy and relatively uninspired at the moment but there's lots of interesting stuff going on out there that may not have otherwise come across your radar screen, here are a few links to check out.

From Herb Keinon in the JP, " 'Disengagement' out, 'leaving Gaza' in"
or "Arik has a brand new meme."

In "A stark Palestinian choice," the Chicago Tribune says "Barghouti is no Mandela." Well, they got that right. But:

Abbas is running as a moderate and practical politician who will avoid repeating the abject failures of the Yasser Arafat years. Although a close confidant of Arafat, Abbas nonetheless has courageously and publicly condemned the violent methods of the second intifada, calling it "the total destruction of all we have built and all that had been built before that." In recent days, he has ordered a halt to anti-Israel incitement in government-controlled media, a key Israeli demand and a sign of goodwill.


Meanwhile, Steven Plaut tries to put the lie, once more with feeling, to "The Anti-Zionist Claim that Jews Are Usurpers of Palestine". Good job.

And last but certainly not least, the Supreme Court finally heard the interstate wine shipping cases this week. I say "finally," because for wine geeks like me, it's been far too long in coming. And from the reports I've read, it looks like the dormant commerce clause is going to trump the leash in the 21st amendment, which is to say that the Justices appeared to be less than comfortable with the state bans on direct shipping that were at issue.

Unfortunately, most of those states that are hell bent on committed to preventing their residents from having an occasional case of their favorite boutique chardonnay delivered to their door have an easy out. They can just stop allowing in-state wineries to ship, as well, thus eliminating discrimination and protectionism from the picture. The only state likely to have a problem with that would be New York (can you guess why?). Anyway, more on this anon.



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Oh, and, um, XX more candles for, well . . .. (Sigh.) Another year older already.

Now this is interesting


Lebanon's English language Daily Star has an article today with this enticing title:

Abbas says armed struggle is over

Of course, the subtitle is more problematic:

Palestinian presidential candidate insists right of return is paramount

Ah, but what exactly does he mean by "right of return?"

Speaking during his historic visit to Lebanon Wednesday Abbas also reiterated that all Palestinian refugees must have the right to return to the Occupied Palestinian Territories in line with UN Resolution 194.

Not so problematic, then, assuming an ultimate peaceful settlement, of course. Because everyone knows that "Occupied Palestinian Territories" means the West Bank and Gaza only, right? Ah, but wait:

Nada Bakri [co-author of the above story] told IMRA this afternoon that Abbas actually said in Arabic that all Palestinian refugees must have the right to return to "Palestine". They made the editorial interpretation into English that "Palestine" meant the "Occupied Palestinian Territories".

"Editorial interpretation," my tuchas.

Back to the Daily Star article itself, though, what are we to make of this?

Palestine Liberation Organization chief Mahmoud Abbas said the armed struggle for the Palestinian people is over and it is now time for the "democratic route to liberation."

His comments came as he warned that the Palestinian Authority "would not able to take control of Gaza if Israel withdraws" adding "it would lead to a civil war ... we are not ready - security wise - to take over."

Not surprisingly, there's no elaboration of this remark in the rest of the article. So here's my own "editorial interpretation": "There's not a snowball's chance in hell that the PA can be expected to restrain Hamas et al. after disengagement so don't even think of blaming us for whatever happens -- it'll be your own fault."

Close enough?

Good question


An editorial in the Jerusalem Post the other day asks: Where's the new Peres? It's a really good question.

Shimon Peres was and is the architect and primary advocate of the Oslo project. Is it too much to ask that he show evidence of having learned something from this experience?

That the public expects such basic political hygiene is demonstrated by the collapse of Labor at the polls to a party of just 19 seats. But now there is a much more concrete reason some degree of mea culpa is necessary: to assure the public that the Sharon-Peres partnership will not repeat the same costly mistakes.

Some say the mistake of Oslo was the idea behind it, others blame only the bet on Yasser Arafat as a partner. Without resolving this debate, there should be no obstacle to agreeing that it was a mistake, once it became clear that Arafat was not complying, to make excuses for him and accuse anyone who blew the whistle of "weakening Arafat" and threatening peace.

We would like to hear – not just from Sharon, but from Peres – that that mistake will not be made again, that he will not say that demanding an end to terror and incitement "weakens Abu Mazen." We would like to hear Peres argue the opposite: that the way to help the Palestinian leadership confront violence is to hold them to high standards, and that low standards actually fan the flames of radicalism. We have a new Sharon. Will we have a new Peres?

The answer, of course, is "no." But it appears unlikely that that's going to derail Sharon's unity government imperative. In fact, it appears unlikely that anything, including the improbable event of a defeat in today's Likud party vote, will derail that imperative.

"There are historic opportunities before us now, and a clear opportunity to improve Israel's situation," Sharon told reporters in the Knesset Wednesday evening. "We can achieve goals that were never before possible. This is why I will not allow anyone to thwart the possibility of fulfilling these opportunities. I simply do not intend to allow it, and I will not allow a departure from the goals that the State of Israel can achieve in the year 2005."

The "historic opportunities," of course, centering on withdrawal from and the forcible eviction of the Jewish residents of the Gaza Strip. And Ariel Sharon will "not allow" disagreement, distraction, departure or dissent. Hmmm.

I'm trying to be honest with myself. Would I approve of Sharon's megalomaniacal storm trooper attitude if I agreed with his ultimate goal? Would I at least be embarrassed? I'd like to think that while applauding the ends, I'd still have the fortitude to condemn the means.

For those unfamiliar with Israel's political system, it may come as a surprise that Sharon wasn't actually elected Prime Minister of Israel in the 2003 elections (though he was in 2001 under a different system). He was elected head of the Likud party, which won a plurality of seats in the Knesset -- on the basis of a platform directly opposing many of the "historic opportunities" he now insists he will "not allow" to be lost. Many in his party still vocally oppose those "opportunities." Many others oppose them quietly but prefer to retain their jobs. In the meantime, Sharon is now inviting into his ruling coalition two parties who the voters "punished" for their views in the last election by reducing their representation substantially (Labor and Shas) and purportedly preparing to share power with the unapologetic architect of Oslo.

Something's very wrong with this picture.

Yes, I find the new noises emanating from Egypt to be positive, if somewhat puzzling. Sure, I realize that they are most certainly a by-product of the disengagement plan. Is that enough to excuse what could almost be characterized as a mini-coup d'etat by a sitting Prime Minister? All hyperbole aside, I guess we won't know the answer to that question for some time.


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Yes, no, yes,


Maybe not.

Palestinian Authority Minister of State Kadoura Fares said on Tuesday that jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti may abandon his plan to run in the January 9 lection for the presidency of the PA.

MK Talab al-Sana, who visited Barghouti in prison, confirmed that Barghouti was considering dropping his candidacy in order to prevent a split in Fatah, which unanimously chose PLO chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) as its candidate.

For now. But then again ...

On the up side


The next installment, in which Aluf Benn gets blindsided

Sharon did not, however, raise the subject of Azzam Azzam, an Israeli jailed by Egypt in 1997 for spying.

and Ariel Sharon pulls off a major coup:

Bearded, full of blisters and gaunt from eight years in Egyptian prison, Israeli businessman and convicted spy Azzam Azzam returned to Israel Sunday in exchange for six Egyptian terrorists in a deal reflecting the warming relations with Egypt.

Seriously, this is very good news. Wonderful news. Although I'm not generally a fan of these "prisoner swaps," this exchange wasn't nearly as lopsided as it could have been. (And so much for this nonsense.)

Sad commentary


This story makes me totally nuts. I'd like to think it was a mistake. I'd like to think that these imbiciles will find a way to return the stolen property, intact, to its rightful owner.

The home of Rona Ramon, widow of Israeli astronaut Col. Ilan Ramon, was broken into overnight Friday and a laptop computer, together with other personal effects belonging to her late husband were taken by assailants.

[ . . . ]

Ramon's widow Rona called on the thieves to return the items, as they hold sentimental value to the family.

"The computer contains files and documents that Ilan wrote and composed for us. There were also correspondences with NASA on the computer. I am sure that the people who broke into our home were not aware of the contents of that computer, nor whose home they had broken into," Rona Ramon told Israel Radio.

Here's another item that has me shaking my head in disbelief. I rather liked Alon Pinkas when he was consul general. But if this is his true nature, it's a wonder he didn't manage to get himself eased out of the diplomatic corps sooner. Regardless of whether or not there's any truth behind his remarks, he really should learn to STFU consider his choice of words more carefully.

Less than four months after stepping down as consul-general of Israel in New York, Alon Pinkas is rankling some American Jews with comments he made to The Jerusalem Post about the failed priorities and mistreatment of Israel by American Jewish organizations.

In a story that appeared in last Sunday's Post, Pinkas said American Jews treat Israel like a "goddamn synagogue," all Jewish communities outside of America and Israel are "insignificant suburbs" and the behavior of American Jewish organizational officials reads like a chapter out of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

And this from the man who's been asked to become the CEO of the American Jewish Congress, no less. Even more bizarre, the AJC is standing behind him on this one. You gotta wonder...

And, finally, there's this abominable example of religious coercion.

A kosher credit card and a promise by two of Israel's largest retail chains not to work on Shabbat are two of Rabbi Raphael Halpern's biggest achievements so far, as part of a nationwide campaign to muster a 500,000-strong pro-Shabbat consumer boycott.

Don't get me wrong. I think the preservation of the character of Shabbat in Israel is extremely important and I'm all in favor of measures that encourage it. But this isn't encouragement, it's extortion. It's heavy handed arm twisting. And it's disgusting.

Gee. And I was in a pretty good mood before I "opened the paper" tonight. Honest.

Under the weather


Nasty headache all day, nothing to say (or, rather, no energy to say it). See you next week.

Shabbat Shalom.

Day by Day is back!


If this is the only blog you read, you may not already know that Chris and his gang have returned.


Call him Flipper


First he was, then he wasn't. Now he is again.

According to sources close to imprisoned Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, the Palestinian leader has changed his mind again and decided to run in the upcoming Palestinian Authority elections scheduled for January 9.

Barghouti will run as an independent rather than as a candidate for the Fatah party, Israel Radio reported.

Never mind that he's going to be spending the next gazillion years in an Israeli jail. Or until Israel decides to let him out, which given past history could be at any time, actually.

So it's back to, as Omri said, a race between the Holocaust denier and the murderer. Putting aside the wonderful character references for a moment, though, it'll be interesting to see how the palestinians handle having to make an actual choice, for a change.

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