Tag Archives: Middle East

Zero-sum logic – the existence of a people depends on the nonexistence of the other

A Palestinian scholar from Gaza, Jehad Abu Saleem, shared the following analysis in February 2018:

The collapse of life in Gaza has entered a critical stage. The eleven years of siege, isolation, and destructive wars of aggression are bearing their bitter fruits. What else but collapse will result from more than a decade of intense choking of a population of two million people. The collapse of Gaza manifests itself on every aspect of life there: rising suicide rates, crime, and new levels of poverty and impoverishment at unprecedented scales.

The siege on Gaza has become a forgotten part of the Palestinian experience under occupation. The siege was normalized despite several attempts to put an end to it. At this point, the fact that Gaza is under siege is a given. Gaza and siege became synonyms. The fact that the siege still persists despite all the attempts to end it should make us rethink the way we talk about Gaza, its history, and its place within the larger context of the Israeli occupation and control of Palestinian lives.

three evils

Much has been written and said about the siege from a humanitarian lens/framework. While a humanitarian framework can be useful when responding to urgent situations, sometimes it distracts us from the larger historical, political, and moral questions that need to be asked when we are faced by large-scale man-made crises like the one in Gaza.

The siege on Gaza is not an isolated event in the history of Palestine. It happened as part of the unfolding of a larger and much more complicated history and series of events. The siege on Gaza and its perpetuation to the current level is the logical conclusion of a situation that is inseparable from the logic that defines the relationship between Zionist Jews and Palestinian Arabs in historic Palestine. It’s a zero-sum logic, a mutually exclusive reality in which the existence of a people depends on the nonexistence of the other.

amir-schiby-bakr-boys-cf

The question haunting people in Gaza now is what will become of them in light of any future escalation. No one knows what will this look like, but what we know for sure by now, and it’s a terrifying thing: we know that we are now in a region where people’s wishes for dignity and liberation no longer mean anything. The triumph of counter-revolution backed by regional and international players has normalized acts of mass murder and depopulation of millions of people for the sake of crushing demands for liberation. We know that Palestinians are vulnerable in light of the current alignment of powers in the Middle East. All this nonsense about a so-called “resistance” camp rushing to the rescue of Palestinians is pure nonsense in light of the current geopolitical context. Gaza might end up paying the price of the normalization of what we saw in Syria, Yemen, the Sinai, and Iraq under the pretext of “war on terror.”

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Filed under Gaza, Occupation, People, Politics, Uncategorized

Oil addiction and US foreign policy

Late in life (sadly too late I fear) I’ve learned to question the conventional orthodoxy I was raised on by a western liberal education and western media. Yes, I certainly received an excellent education in Minnesota in the 1950s-1960s, and I was encouraged by family and mentors to think for myself. Only through travel and experiencing the “other” firsthand, however, did I really learn to question many preconceived notions that shaped my understanding of the “truth.”

One example.

If Americans care at all about the turmoils and regime changes that seem to plague the Middle East, we simplistically chalk it up to “their problems” – “their inability to support stable, democratic governments” – “their backwardness” – “their failures to promote progress despite all of our good intentions and interventions to help.”  (Sound familiar?)

I’m now convinced that the editors at the New York Times (Washington Post, etc.), the news managers at CNN (NBC, ABC, etc.), the Big Oil and Arms industry, AND OUR GOVERNMENT have deliberately fostered this skewed worldview among Americans to support (or at least not to oppose) their opportunistic foreign policy agendas.

Decade upon decade of complacency and our unquestioning allegiance to American exceptionalism has neutered the public’s ability to grasp what’s really going on in the Middle East. We remain oblivious to our peril.

We have a chance now to correct our misconceptions. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. has written a thorough but digestible history of U.S. interventions and covert actions in the Middle East leading up to the current debacle in Syria.  Syria: Another Pipeline War, February 25, 2016 published online at Ecowatch. He connects the dots with names, dates, facts and resources to make this a MUST READ for Americans and anyone else who wishes to grasp the current realities on the ground today.

syriapipelinewar750

Many people in the Middle East understand this history all too well, and they view current events through this lens. If Americans don’t wake up and grasp this reality, we’ll pay the price in lost lives, treasure and our own moral compass (to say nothing of the dead and wreckage we leave behind in these countries).

Please suspend your disbelief and read Robert F. Kennedy’s article. Then share it far and wide.

 

 

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Filed under Media, People, Politics, Uncategorized, US Policy

#GoingtoGaza – April 2015

 

My journey to return to Gaza began more than 200 days ago in September 2014. Every day I’ve jotted down a note about my progress (or lack of progress) and I’ve compiled these notes by month on my blog.  This post includes my notes from April 2015 when I traveled to Minneapolis and Rochester, Minnesota and then to Baltimore, Maryland.

 

Day #213 – In my email inbox was a note recommending that I buy burial insurance. Since I’m traveling today — getting on an airplane in a few hours headed to Minneapolis — I hope that email was only Spam.  I deleted it.   #GoingtoGaza

 

Day #214 – Yesterday in Minneapolis, the high of 83 F broke record from 1880s.  Today, the expected high is 63 F. And tomorrow, the expected high will be 43 F.  Thank you, Fossil Fuels.  #GoingtoGaza

 

Day #215 – A 90-year-old friend asked me today how she could keep in touch with me when I’m in Gaza. She doesn’t have a computer. And I told her snail mail delivery to Gaza is impossible. So we decided that her son or daughter could help her send and receive emails.  My friend seemed shocked that there was no mail delivery in Gaza. #GoingtoGaza

 

Day #216 – I think today is the first day in this long 200+ days journey that I haven’t talked with someone about Gaza. I focused my entire day on my 8 year old nephew. His Serpentine Lego fighter protected us all day … at the library, riding the bus around Rochester, and chasing squirrels. When I showed him the school building where I went to 2nd grade, I think he was amazed that I was ever that young. I love this little guy.  #GoingtoGaza

 

Day #217 – Easter Sunday. I attended Easter services in the same small church I attended as a child in Rochester, where I sang in the choir, and taught Sunday School to the young children when I was a teenager.  This was my first time back in nearly 45 years!  I looked around and saw “my tribe” and thought how good it feels to be part of a tribe.

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Mayo Clinic in background; Calvary Episcopal Church in foreground. Rochester, Minnesota

 

Hopefully, everyone begins life in a tribe that grounds the individual in the mores and traditions of the tribe, but as we mature, we learn the important lesson that we’re all connected. We are one. My tribe and your tribe and his tribe are all one.  Unfortunately, many people cannot lift their heads or hearts up above their tribal affiliations. #GoingtoGaza

 

Days #218-219 – Yesterday I reached out to one of the organizers who is pulling together the next flotilla to Gaza.  Since entry to Gaza from Israel and Egypt is so difficult, maybe I can get a seat on a boat.  Haven’t heard any response yet but keeping my fingers crossed for good luck. #GoingtoGaza

 

Day #220 – Learned a new factoid today. Thomas Jefferson had purchased a copy of the Qu’ran 11 years before he wrote the Declaration of Independence. If nothing else, it indicates that he was interested in learning about “others”.

 

On NPR this morning, I listened to a program about the religion of Scientology and how its leaders discourage members from reading any critique of Scientology. Thomas Jefferson would never have been a good Scientologist. His mind was too open to new ideas and ways of looking at the world. Netanyahu, on the other hand, would make a good Scientologist. #GoingtoGaza

 

Day #221 – On this pilgrimage I meet old friends and new. Yesterday I saw an old friend at the Rochester library whom I haven’t seen in 10+ years. She’s a librarian. I was surprised to learn that she knew about my travel to Gaza in 2012-2013 (I think my cousin must have shared my story with her) and she’s very interested in my future travel to Gaza. We agreed to connect on Facebook so that we can follow each other. The younger generation may be leaving Facebook, but the older 60+ generation is finding each other there. Yeah!  #GoingtoGaza

 

Day #222 – Listening to a family member tell me with certitude that “Hamas are terrorists who want to destroy Israel”. He believes I met the “happy Hamas” during my visit to Gaza — those people who perform social welfare actions.  Maybe the “bad Hamas terrorists” were hiding behind children or in schools.

 

I had absolutely no words and no energy to respond. Sitting there I thought “where does he get his information?”  “Doesn’t he realize that the Israeli occupation has continued for 67 years but Hamas has existed only about 1/2 that time?”  So many Americans are living in a bubble and I’m sad because I don’t know how to burst it. #GoingtoGaza

 

Day #223 – Last month a good friend was trying to warn me about my Facebook posts which focus on the Holy Land.  By way of example, she told me that her adult daughter doesn’t like my posts. Was that meant to help me “tone down” my messages? I’m not sure, but I immediately responded: “I don’t care what your daughter thinks about my FB posts on Israel and Palestine.” That ended the discussion right away.

 

In hindsight, I think my response was too curt. But do people really think I am interested in pleasing 3300+ friends on Facebook?  The beauty of FB is that anyone can “unfriend” or “unfollow” anyone else.  I highly recommend it. #GoingtoGaza

 

Day #224 – Friday morning in Minneapolis I grabbed my camera to capture a picture of the snow falling. This morning, I’m watching many friends in Gaza posting their pictures of the snow falling. Thankful for the beautiful white stuff from heaven that captures the imagination of so many. #GoingtoGaza

 

Day #225 – Hillary Clinton has visited Palestine, and specifically the Gaza Strip. But is she capable of speaking the truth? Apparently she has some harsh words about the occupation in her new book. I’m going to read it. #GoingtoGaza

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Deir Yassin Memorial in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

Day #226 – The Massacre at Deir Yassin has not been forgotten in Minneapolis, Minnesota. On April 9, 1948, Zionist terrorists killed more than 100 Palestinian men, women and children in the village of Deir Yassin. Today I rode my bicycle along the Midtown Greenway, an old abandoned railroad line, and was surprised to find a memorial to Deir Yassin. I don’t know who was responsible for erecting the memorial. I wonder how many cyclists understand its significance.  Surprise on the Midtown Greenway | لماذا غزة؟ Why Gaza? #GoingtoGaza

 

Day #227 – Arrived in Baltimore last night, the next leg of my pilgrimage.  My friend and I went walking along the Inner Harbor today — his pedometer measured about 5 miles — when I took a tumble and landed on my . . . face!  Except for a swollen lip, I don’t seem to be worse for wear. Very lucky I didn’t break my nose or chip a tooth. Just the thought makes me cringe! 😦   #GoingtoGaza

 

Day #228 – A good friend said he was looking seriously at Rand Paul for President because, among other reasons, Rand Paul supports “right to life.” I shared with him the candidate’s position on Israel and Palestine.  I’m pleased that he decided it was a deal breaker and he can’t support Rand Paul now. Rand Paul – “I’m proud to support Israel, America’s longtime friend and ally in the Middle East. Israeli cafés and buses are bombed, towns are victimized by hundreds of rockets, and its citizens are attacked by Palestinian terrorists.”  Currently, Rand Paul has introduced a bill to defund Palestine as long as they continue to seek justice at the International Criminal Court.  #GoingtoGaza

 

Day #229 – Life and death. When I was younger, those two seemed like black & white. Here & there. Over the past 18 months, I’ve had the honor to watch life passing to death in slow motion. Now they seem more like a continuum — a journey — a gentle breeze between a fluid membrane. Thank you my friend.  #GoingtoGaza

 

Day #230 – Contacted the Israeli Embassy in Washington DC via email to ask about the procedure for getting permission to cross Erez into Gaza. Was surprised to receive a response in about 30 minutes that said they don’t handle such matters. I should check with http://www.cogat.idf.il/894-en/Matpash.aspx Going to check this website tomorrow.  #GoingtoGaza

 

Day #231 – Today a friend told me that he was on “auto-pilot” most of his life (he’s 72) but he’s now really living and engaged with life. I think about where and what I was doing 10 years ago, compared to where and what I’m doing today — and I’m so thankful this path opened up for me. But I don’t feel I was ever on auto-pilot.  Just on another path.  #GoingtoGaza

 

Days #232-233 – Propaganda is alive and well inside the DC Beltway metro stations.  http://sayyestopeace.org  I wonder if our elected leaders are getting much truth in their diet.  #GoingtoGaza

 

Day #234 – Received some cold, hard reality news today that has forced me to stop and reassess the journey I’m on. #GoingtoGaza

 

Day #235 – Learned yesterday that the Palestinian Youth in Gaza are planning a day of protest at home and around the world on Wednesday, April 29. I contacted one of the organizers and now I’m planning to protest in front of the Israeli Embassy. Might be a protest of one. I wonder if anyone will join me. #GoingtoGaza

 

Day #236 – At the grocery store in Baltimore, a sign over the door as I left  — “Thank you” “Merci” “Gracias” and the Arabic letters for Shukran.  I was really pleased that I could read it. I should pick up my Arabic vocabulary cards and start practicing again. #GoingtoGaza

 

Day #237 – What can we get for $2 trillion per year? Answer: A world beyond war.     #GoingtoGaza

 

Day #238 – A friend told me today that my strength is talking one-on-one or with small groups because people trust me and I’m a good listener. He said I should use that skill when I get to the Middle East. Maybe I should use that skill with the officials at the Egyptian Embassy and Israeli Embassy.  My yelling and kicking and screaming don’t seem to work. LOL #GoingtoGaza

 

Day #239 – “Diversity” and “Pluralism” — the first is a census factoid and the second is an achievement of building an inclusive community. It takes hard work to achieve pluralism.  “Sacred Ground” – by Eboo Patel. Israel’s occupation has created the opposite. A Jews-only state is neither diverse nor an example of pluralism. Israel supporters would feel great sadness if they understood their lost.  #GoingtoGaza

 

Day #240 – I’m in Baltimore when rioting breaks out after young black man died in police custody. FB friends draw parallels between Baltimore and Gaza. They see “good” guys and “bad” guys — so simplistic!  I wonder if they (and others) misunderstand my advocacy about Palestine. I don’t see Palestine-Israel as “good” vs “bad”. #GoingtoGaza

 

Day #241 – I’m feeling very grateful this morning. I’m walking the 5K for Gaza in middle of May to raise $$ for UNRWA. The resources are needed to help the children suffering from trauma in Gaza. Thank you! Merci! Gracias! Shukran!  #GoingtoGaza

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Filed under Gaza, Israel, Nakba, People, Uncategorized, US Policy, Video

Day #40 – August 15, 2014 – Forgiveness in an Unforgiving World

Arrived in Albuquerque today.

This day a year ago, I was watching Israel’s bombardment of Gaza while sitting in Gilroy, CA.  My eyes glued to CNN. My heart very heavy. No one knew when the killing might end.  Forty days and forty nights seemed endless. I felt hopeless. There was nothing I could do for my friends in Gaza but call, email and write Obama, Kerry and members of Congress.  I also wrote letters to the newspapers. Never sure if any of my letters made any difference.

Book event at the Center for Spiritual Living in Albuquerque, NM

Book event at the Center for Spiritual Living in Albuquerque, NM

Today, I attended a book event for a new author, Megan Feldman Bettencourt. Her book — Triumph of the Heart: Forgiveness in an Unforgiving World (Hudson Street Press, 2015) — has a pretty sappy title actually. My reading list is too long already. I didn’t need to add another title.

But I did.  An hour later, I purchased the book and the author signed it. How can a successful pilgrim carry so many books on her journey?

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FORGIVENESS = GIVING UP RESENTMENT

Bettencourt talked about her journey to figure out the contours of forgiveness from the individual to the collective. She connected forgiveness to the practice of mindfulness, something my friend in Baltimore has been teaching me. She shared stories of some of the people she’s met along her journey, but when she mentioned Israel & Palestine, my ears really perked up.

The take away message for me —- forgiveness is a process, a continuum, that can benefit both sides (the person forgiving and the person who is being forgiven). You can be angry and forgive.  Self-forgiveness and self-compassion are just as important as forgiving another.

I haven’t read the book yet, and I’m not sure if there’s relevance to Israel/Palestine. Honestly, I found the author’s answer to a question about forgiveness in the context of the Middle East a bit unsatisfying.

However, she’s clearly given alot of time and thought to forgiveness, and so I’m going to read her book.

Her 10-minute TedTalk summarizes what she shared today at the Center for Spiritual Living in Albuquerque.

 

 

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Day #2 – July 8, 2014

I’m convinced that Israel and the United States, with the complicity of the mainstream media, have neatly packaged death and destruction into their version of the sanitized “facts” so that the public is lulled into believing these military operations are “normal” – “justified” – and “humane”.

Israel prides itself on its high-tech capabilities, militarily and in every other way. It has its “Iron Dome” (thanks to the American taxpayers), its drones, and its well-honed public relations team. So it should come as no surprise that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) used Twitter to announce its launch of Operation Protective Edge in Gaza on July 7, 2014.

IDF @IDFSpokesperson

#IDF has commenced Operation Protective Edge in #Gaza against #Hamas, in order to stop the terror #Israel’s citizens face on a daily basis

3:22 PM – 7 JUL 2014

An American tweeted approvingly in reply.

Brad Weaver @CBWGaTiger Jul 7

@IDFSpokesperson Good luck, IDF, from a christian living in the USA. Obama may hate the jewish people but I still love them. Happy hunting.

Others disagreed.

How much longer? ‏@RiosJose559 Jul 7

@CBWGaTiger @IDFSpokesperson sorry but no “Christian” would ever say “happy hunting”…you need to read your motherfucking bible more….

ฉันไม่เข้าใจ ‏@1888MYRE Jul 7
@RiosJose559 @CBWGaTiger @IDFSpokesperson exactly what Israel is doing genocide . Plain and simple

America and Israel flags

America and Israel flags

From the very beginning, Israel’s military assault was as much a battle for public opinion as it was about “restoring quiet” to the south and eliminating the “terror tunnels.”

Unlike Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in 2008-09, Twitter and Social Media were strategic weapons in 2014. The Guardian began a live blog dedicated to the assault featuring Tweets and live reporting from the ground.

The #IDF released its propaganda (aka Hasbara) on YouTube with nearly Disney-quality cinematography.

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Filed under Gaza, Hamas, Israel, Israel Defense Forces, Media, Video

Congress: Invite Jimmy Carter to the Capitol!

April Fool’s Day came early to the U.S. Capitol this year. March 3 to be exact. That’s the day that Netanyahu spoke to a joint session of Congress, denouncing Obama’s nuke talks with Iran. Without even consulting the White House or following proper protocol, Speaker Boehner had the audacity to invite Israel’s Prime Minister to the Capitol only days before Israeli elections were held, making good campaign material for Bibi back home.

By many accounts, Netanyahu didn’t do himself any favors with his American benefactors, but he won reelection, and that’s all that really mattered.

After promising Israeli voters that there would be no Palestinian state established under his watch, he proceeded to form “an extreme right-wing coalition that represents a danger for the Arabs of Israel and the entire region”, said Ayman Odeh, head of the predominantly Arab Joint List in the Knesset.

Maybe Congress will forget the egg on their faces, and move beyond this embarrassment, but I think it’s the perfect time to remind them that what’s good for the goose, is good for the gander.

I started an online petition to Congress urging them to invite former President Jimmy Carter to speak to a joint session about the Middle East.  In less than a week, more than 400 letters have been generated and sent to Congress, in support of the petition.  Check it out here and add your name if you agree.  If you wish to remain anonymous, you have that option.

Speaker John Boehner invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress. Netanyahu’s talk focused on the current negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 (the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia, and China, facilitated by the European Union).

Security and peace for all people in the region appears to be more elusive than ever before.

No other American leader has more experience in the Middle East than former President Jimmy Carter, who has spent decades working for peace and security in the region.

In early May 2015, President Carter visited Israel and the West Bank and spoke with Israelis and Palestinians about the current situation. Members of Congress would benefit greatly from Carter’s vast experience and insights about the Middle East.

If an invitation to address Congress can be extended to a foreign leader without Presidential consent, then surely a former U.S. President, a Nobel Laureate, and one of the most respected humanitarians in the world, should receive Congress’ warmest welcome.

We ask Speaker Boehner to coordinate with other leaders in Congress and with the White House to extend an invitation to President Carter to speak to a joint session of Congress on the topic of peace and security in the Middle East. We also ask that Carter’s speech be televised for the public.

Lets tell Congress loud and clear, “INVITE PRESIDENT CARTER and hear from a wise elder with considerable experience in the Middle East.”  Check out the petition here.

Gro Harlem Brundtland & Jimmy Carter visit a kibbutz next to the Gaza border.

Gro Harlem Brundtland & Jimmy Carter visit a kibbutz next to the Gaza border May 2015

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Abbas wants what?!?

Mahmoud Abbas (Palestinian Authority)

Mahmoud Abbas (Palestinian Authority)

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says he wants NATO troops in Palestine. For a very long time. Yes! He really said that. Read it here and here.

Abbas is responding to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s concerns about security. Netanyahu says he only trusts his own military, not a third party like NATO. So this proposal is probably going nowhere, just like Secretary Kerry’s framework.

No Palestinians I’ve talked with in Gaza, the West Bank or the Diaspora believe these current talks between Abbas, Netanyahu and Kerry are going to result in anything good. They are just a smokescreen for continued Israeli settlement expansion in the occupied Palestinian territories. Nothing more.

Maybe my Palestinian “contacts” are limited, representing only the fringe element. Perhaps there are thousands of Palestinians somewhere cheering Abbas on and expecting a successful end to these talks.  I haven’t found them, and they haven’t shared their opinions in any publication that I’m aware of, but maybe they’re out there somewhere.

I think Kerry, Abbas and Netanyahu are all blowing smoke. Here’s why.

Although Netanyahu is the duly elected representative of Israelis, Abbas can’t make any such claim to legitimacy on behalf of Palestinians. He was originally elected to a 4 year term in 2005. His term ended in 2009 and there haven’t been any elections in Palestine since. Why?

Maybe because the US likes a compliant leader who does what US leaders instruct him to do.  Just sayin’

Maybe because the discord between Fatah and Hamas prevent elections. Maybe the US and Israel have a vested interest in maintaining that discord. Just sayin’

Maybe because if  elections were held in Palestine, the outcome could not be predicted (aka manipulated) because there are just too many young, new voters. Just sayin’

No one has asked me for my opinion (no one has asked the opinion of Palestinians for whom Abbas says he speaks) but I think this farce is going to blow up in their faces …… in the faces of Kerry, Netanyahu and Abbas …… big time!

They will do everything possible to extend, extend, extend the talks, a strategy which only works in Israel’s favor. Then, after squeezing the last drop of PR value from this effort to negotiate, each side will point fingers at the other and the blame game will commence.

This is all so predictable.

So, what might work?  No one has asked me this question either, but it’s plain to see for anyone looking clearly and dispassionately at the Middle East conflict.

Palestinians must go to the International Criminal Court. John Dugard, Professor of Law, thinks so too.

Abbas says he doesn’t like courts, but the status quo hasn’t worked for Palestinians for decades. He needs to shake things up.

A senior Middle East researcher at Human Rights Watch notes:

Why isn’t Palestine playing ball in The Hague? Those responsible for rocket launches from Gaza targeting Israeli population centers could be held criminally responsible at the ICC, but that should not deter the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah from seeking the court’s jurisdiction, since it has stated that it is against such attacks.

The main reason, current and former Palestinian officials say, is that Israel has threatened unspecified retaliation if it seeks the court’s jurisdiction, and the US has reinforced the threat. As a former Palestinian legal adviser told me, “The US said to us clearly, conveying Israel’s position, ‘Don’t touch it.'” US Secretary of State John Kerry said during his Senate confirmation hearings that the US was “very, very strongly against” any “effort to take Israel for instance … to the ICC.”

Enough is enough! Time for Abbas to head to the ICC. If he won’t, maybe Palestinians need to show him to the door and hold long overdue elections.

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Filed under Elections, Israel, People, Politics, US Policy