War games and settlement excursions: inside a pro-Israel propaganda tour for student activists

ActivismIsrael/Palestine
on 22 Comments
BlueStar
Students on the BlueStar trip to Israel and the occupied West Bank participated in a paintball session at Caliber 3, a privately-owned counter-terrorism training facility in the illegal Israeli settlement bloc of Gush Etzion. (Photo via BlueStar)

“‘TERRORIST! GO! BODY!’ I’m sprinting across the rocky terrain to reach safety…Heart racing, out of breath, I’m trying to remember the instructor’s commands. Muscle memory, no time to aim, hurry, hurry…”

So begins one California college student’s first-hand account of a June 2013 “commando tourism” paintball session at Caliber 3, a privately-owned counter-terrorism training facility in the illegal Israeli settlement bloc of Gush Etzion. The student, identified only as “JJL”, was on a ten-day BlueStar Fellows summer tour of Israel, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights with twenty-three peers from five California universities. The trip was part of a year-long program launched by San Francisco-based Israel advocacy group BlueStar PR with the goal of molding students into “powerful pro-Israel advocates, spokespeople and opinion leaders” on their college campuses.

In over fifty entries on the BlueStar Fellows program blog (penned with the assistance of a writing coach) participants from UC Santa Barbara, UC Santa Cruz, San Francisco State, San Jose State, and Pitzer College reflect on a trip itinerary that often glorifies Israeli state violence while promoting a dehumanized image of Palestinians. The accounts provide insight into the sensational approach to the conflict pushed by some hardline Israel advocacy groups, and raise questions about the impact of their tactics in the battle for the hearts and minds of US college students.

After visiting the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam and flying to Israel, BlueStar participants were first brought to the Museum of Independence in Tel Aviv. Sitting in the flag-swathed hall where the Israeli declaration of independence was signed in 1948, students listened to a tour guide play the national anthem and recount the Zionist narrative of the struggle to create a Jewish state in the land of Palestine, in defiance of hostile neighbors. Absent from accounts of the day is any mention of the 750,000 indigenous Palestinians displaced in the violence leading up to and following the establishment of Israel. In fact, students seem to write Palestinians out of the narrative entirely. After viewing a 1909 picture of the sand dunes part of Tel Aviv would be built on, Qi Li, a Chinese exchange student at SJSU, mused, “isn’t [it] obvious from the barren landscape that [the Palestinians] did not even know or care about this piece of land? How could this land be considered ‘occupied’ when Jewish settlers found this virgin land with no occupants?”

One of the next stops on the trip was the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, which houses a museum and memorial to Israeli intelligence officers killed in the line of duty. There, participants sat through another lecture and viewed rooms full of “weapons and explosives…showing various tactics and techniques that terrorists utilize.” Students also saw videos and pictures of Palestinian youngsters “handed guns and celebrating death.” Deeply unsettled by this imagery, SFSU student Kayla Wold declared that “in the Islamic world children are raised with a mentality for death. Not just death upon Jews, but death to themselves…Coming from a country and culture where I was taught to cherish my life, it’s been a struggle to understand this mentality.” This death-cult image of Palestinian childhood would sharply contrast with the iconic caterpillar-shaped playground bomb shelter participants observed the next day as they toured Sderot, a city heavily impacted by rockets fired by armed groups in neighboring Gaza.

Commando tourism

After visiting the Israeli Holocaust Museum and touring holy sites in East Jerusalem, BlueStar participants journeyed into the occupied West Bank, passing concrete walls and military checkpoints en route to Caliber 3. Located in the Gush Etzion settlement bloc, Caliber 3 Academy provides counter-terrorism training to Israeli combat units, private security companies, and SWAT teams from around the world. The training center also offers a variety of what it calls “commando tourism” activities for civilians, ranging from infantry and urban warfare instruction to paintball games to a Bar Mitzvah package. The Caliber 3 website is blunt about the ideological motivations behind its contentious locale, and boasts of an experience that combines “the values of Zionism with the excitement and enjoyment of shooting.” A June 2013 NPR report on Caliber 3 describes instructors demonstrating firing techniques on targets dressed as Palestinians, and telling tourists that they can “help fight terrorism” by promoting a positive view of Israeli soldiers when they return home.

The BlueStar Fellows’ dramatic accounts of their tactical training and paintball session at Caliber 3 resemble a live action version of a first person shooter video game. SJSU student Jaspreet Kaur describes the thrill of learning “how to clear a house of an enemy and…snap into combat mode in less than three seconds.” This creates a chilling image when placed in the context of the frequent night raids the Israeli military leads into the homes of Palestinian families. “JJL” recalls hearing a lecture on the IDF code of ethics the night before the excursion, but admits to being so enthralled that “I did not once think while I was firing at the enemy team whether or not my stray ‘bullets’ might hit an innocent.” While the paintball game was far removed from the human impact of the conflict it mimicked, students felt their experience was authentic, and at times very real. Kaur vividly recalls being shot by a fellow student, saying, “[t]o me that wasn’t a paintball shot by a member of the other team but an actual bullet by a terrorist.”

When the training session was done, students headed north to the settlement of Psagot for wine tasting and a lecture on Israeli agriculture.

Arabs from another planet

Despite the notable absence of Palestinian voices on the tour, over and over again participants cited the region’s diversity as a testament to Israeli democracy. After a day spent touring the holy sites of East Jerusalem, a city whose Palestinian residents lack citizenship and often basic services, UCSB student Melissa Vega gushed,  “I was amazed that so many different places of worship exist within even the city of Jerusalem…Israel seems to be able to maintain a high population of diverse religious practices while in a sense also integrating them all into one living space.” While students certainly saw some Palestinians on their trip, their actual contact with them was extremely limited. The only scheduled visit to an Arab community recorded in the blog posts is an excursion to the Galilee village of Peki’in (known in Arabic as Al Buqai’a) to meet with the community’s Jewish residents and eat lunch at a Druze restaurant.

This dearth of alternative perspectives was not without consequence. The BlueStar fellows’ accounts of their trip reveal confusion about even the most widely accepted historical events and facts on the ground. Reflecting the rhetoric of Israel’s hard right politicians, participants almost universally refer to both the occupied West Bank and Golan Heights as part of Israel, treating the internationally recognized 1967 borders as a historical afterthought. Students also grossly underestimate the number of Palestinians living in the West Bank by over a million, parroting a figure refuted by the Israeli military but pushed by hardline pro-settler figures, like Habayit Hayehudi chairman Naftali Bennet.

One of the only references to the Palestinians displaced in 1948 eschews any mention of the role Zionist forces and Israeli land laws played in driving refugees from their homeland and later keeping them out, simply stating that “Arabs fled the region due to their leadership’s commands and when they were unable to return, became refugees.” This selective presentation of the violence surrounding Israel’s establishment renders the history and experiences of the Palestinian people invisible. The Palestinian term for their own displacement, Al Nakba, the catastrophe in Arabic, is never mentioned in the blog posts. Also absent is any informed reflection on the impact of Israeli military occupation on Palestinian civilians, or the efforts of Palestinian communities to protest human rights abuses nonviolently. Trip participants are instead left with a view of Palestinians that presents them as overwhelmingly hostile, faceless, and even alien in their own homeland.

After driving past impoverished Bedouin communities on the way out of the West Bank, one student remarked, “My mind skipped immediately to sci-fi Star Wars desert tribes on Tatooine.” When viewed through the lens of BlueStar’s itinerary, it is not surprising that trip participants might have seen Palestinians as something akin to the Tusken Raiders: a masked and marauding tribal species, not-so-affectionately referred to as “sand-people.”

Following the money

Far from creating any financial problems for the organization, BlueStar’s hardline programming seems to have thus far been a potential draw for financial support.

Much of the organization’s funding comes from charitable foundations that support an unlikely mixture of generally uncontroversial civic projects, Israel advocacy groups, and known funders of illegal settlement activity. Between 2009 and 2010 BlueStar PR received $110,000 in grants from the Koret Foundation, an organization best known for its large grants to California schools, hospitals, and community centers, but that also contributes to fundraising groups for Birthright, AIPAC, and Commentary Magazine, as well as the infamously Islamophobic David Horowitz Freedom Center and admitted settlement financier Central Fund of Israel. An even greater contributor to BlueStar’s efforts is the Avi Chai Foundation, which between 2010 and 2011 awarded the group $272,763, while also supporting the David Project, the Central Fund of Israel, and American Friends of Bnei Akiva Yeshivas in Israel, which has several West Bank settlement locations. In 2010 yet another major BlueStar PR funder, the Irving and Helen Bitz Foundation, awarded a $161,000 grant to the pro-settler Israel Independence Fund, stipulating that the money should go to Hashomer Hachadash (the New Guardians in English), a Zionist militia group that ostensibly operates in the Negev and Galilee but has been recorded leading settler incursions into private Palestinian land in the south Hebron hills.

Intervening in student democracy

So what will the students do with the perspectives they gained on the trip? An April 18 BlueStar PR fundraising email titled “Draw the Line at UC Berkeley” positions the BlueStar Fellows program as an answer to the wave of Israel divestment resolutions presented by Palestine solidarity groups at UC campuses that year. Sent the same morning as the passage of the divestment bill, the message urged donors to help BlueStar “prepare students at other campuses to fight against future resolutions before it is too late.”

Several trip participants are RAs at their universities or hold leadership positions in their student governments, placing them in potential positions of influence during future divestment debates on their campuses.

Both the trip and such direct intervention in student affairs appear to be a relatively new tactic for BlueStar PR, which prior to 2012 limited its activities to distributing propaganda materials online, running billboard campaigns, and coordinating the San Francisco version of the “Write on for Israel” program. However, BlueStar is far from the only pro-Israel group seeking to stem the tide of divestment from the Israeli occupation on college campuses. Organizations like StandWithUs, Hasbara Fellowships, and the ADL provide programs that also seek to utilize student voices to influence how Israel is discussed in academic settings. The Jewish Agency is also working on a plan to spend $300 million dollars over five years on similar projects.

While the BlueStar Fellows trip was certainly successful in shaping a hardline pro-Israel narrative for participants to bring back to their respective institutions, the wider impact of doing so in this fashion remains unclear.

After being exposed to such a hostile and cartoonish view of Palestinians, it is hard to imagine these students seeing their Arab, Muslim, and pro-Palestinian peers as anything other than enemies of Israel and supporters of terrorism. One also has to question the efficacy of a program that leaves participants with such a limited view of the conflict, even in terms of achieving BlueStar’s own stated goals. If students believe the West Bank is part of Israel, how will they explain the 2.5 million Palestinians who live there under varying levels of military rule with no Israeli citizenship or right to vote in Israeli elections? Further, how will they defend Israeli policy towards these same people when they don’t even know what it entails? Perhaps one of the strongest critiques of BlueStar’s methodology lies in the skepticism of its own fellows. Self-described “right-wing” participant Sachar Ben-David bemoaned the obfuscation of many of the trip’s speakers, asking “If we don’t let ourselves hear every side of the truth, even the ugly parts, how can we truly advocate for Israel?”

About Rebecca Pierce

Rebecca Pierce is a recent graduate of the University of California Santa Cruz where she studied film production and was active in student media and Palestine solidarity organizing.

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22 Responses

  1. amigo
    August 21, 2013, 11:34 am

    Wouldn,t this be classic incitement.

  2. Bumblebye
    August 21, 2013, 11:38 am

    From the Caliber 3 website
    “The main facility is located in the heart of the State of Israel, Gush Etzion. The Academy has chosen to build the main facility in this particular area because of its significant history. We have learned from our past how important it is that the Jewish people will be able to protect themselves. That is the importance of what we do here “teaching Bnei Yehuda the bow” (2 Samuel 1:18).”

    No longer is the remnant of Palestine referred to as the “Land” of Israel, it has become the “State” of Israel, without any illegal annexation by GoI!

    • RoHa
      August 21, 2013, 10:41 pm

      Worst of all is the bad English.

      “We have learned from our past how important it is that the Jewish people will be able to protect themselves”

      should be

      “We have learned from our past how important it is for the Jewish people to be able to protect themselves.”

      • Taxi
        August 22, 2013, 12:08 pm

        LOL RoHa! You remind me of my late grandfather (professor of Latin at CambridgeUni/UK), who used to give me Latin Grammar lessons (ugh!) when I was dumped on him for a month every summer throughout my childhood. He too was very attached to the correct use of language, correcting my Americanism every five minutes and mumbling under his breath how the world was falling apart every time he heard me say the word ‘water’ with a lazy twang. “You must always stress your T’s and roll your R’s, child”, he often said. It wasn’t just grammar he was fixated on, it was prrrronunciation too. Really, I appreciate his vigilant ear and linguistic sensibility, as I’m beginning to appreciate yours too.

      • RoHa
        August 22, 2013, 8:08 pm

        I like the sound of your grandfather.

        “who used to give me Latin Grammar lessons”

        Good thing, too. Builds character.

        “mumbling under his breath how the world was falling apart every time he heard me say the word ‘water’ with a lazy twang.”

        He was right, of course. You see how the world is falling apart! Obviously it’s all the fault of people who do not pay attention to correct use of language. (Especially those who put a comma after a subject clause.)

        I seem to recall that you learned Arabic from a Lebanese lady. I hope she insisted on correct Arabic grammar.

      • Taxi
        August 23, 2013, 12:35 pm

        LOL, RoHa! Builds “character”, indeed.
        (I gotta tell you now I’m really self-conscious of my punctuation around you! You got me on the straight and narrow, just like my pops did!)

        I actually learned a bit of Arabic when I lived in Lebanon as a kid. I took lessons on and off throughout my adulthood. But, living in Lebanon for the past two years, I realized how bad I am at it. It’s really a very difficult and vast language. One has to learn the local vernacular as well as the classic to fit in with everybody’s standard. I’m okay at the vernacular but terrible on the classic. But I’m trying to improve all the time. I only speak English to my dog. I force myself to speak Arabic with everyone else, even though most of the people I hang with speak pretty good English. I’m constantly being corrected, but I don’t mind it one bit.

  3. North Cascadian
    August 21, 2013, 11:58 am

    “While the BlueStar Fellows trip was certainly successful in shaping a hardline pro-Israel narrative for participants to bring back to their respective institutions, the wider impact of doing so in this fashion remains unclear.”
    Well here in Oregon the effect seems quite clear; Palestinian Solidarity has been completely smothered, the Palestinians in Diaspora have been intimidated or worse, “turned”, to keep the illegitimate nightmare alive in Palestine. All of the colleges and universities now have giant posters promoting “birthright(wrong)” tours, and all who speak up are quickly identified and smeared by the hasbots who lurk especially in the “left” groups.

  4. amigo
    August 21, 2013, 11:58 am

    “The main facility is located in the heart of the State of Israel, Gush Etzion. ” c3

    So Calibre 3 supports equal rights for “all” in the heart of the state of Israel.

    Oh I forgot, those terroreeeests are needed for target practice.

    These caliber 3 people are about as ugly as humans can get.

  5. eGuard
    August 21, 2013, 12:17 pm

    They learned a culture of hate and violence. What is a country worth when it teaches by installing fear in the young ones?

  6. Citizen
    August 21, 2013, 12:44 pm

    Hey, the BluesStar Fellowship has counterparts of sorts, e.g., in South Africa: link to vice.com

    Get a load of the similarities. A caveat is that the US media has not said anything about the enormous number of white farmer families attacked, murdered, and robbed since S Africa was freed of the apartheid regime.

    And, btw, there’s similar war games and indoctrination going on in rural fields in the USA–by both white supremacists concerned about ZOG, and by Jewish organizations concerned about neoNazism.

  7. irishmoses
    August 21, 2013, 6:23 pm

    “… students listened to a tour guide play the national anthem…”

    Well, at least the played our national anthem at the start of the tour so they could all bond together as loyal Americans visiting the foreign nation of Israel, our greatest strategic ally. It was our national anthem wasn’t it? Or do they have two national anthems? Do they have two flags too? I’m confused.

    Here’s a fun fact: The number of Jews in Palestine grew from about 24,000 in 1882 to about 143,000 in 1929. About 200,000 immigrated to Palestine during that period but about one fourth soon left for more promising climes. During the same period, about 3 million Jews, mostly from Eastern Europe and Russia, immigrated to the US. For every Jew escaping the pogroms of Eastern Europe, only about one out of thirty chose Palestine, the ancient homeland of the Jews, as their new home. The other 29 preferred the US. Hundreds of thousands of others preferred Great Britain, the Commonwealth countries, and South America. It seems the ancient Jewish homeland was not much of a draw even for Jews suffering the horrors of Eastern European and Russian pogroms.

    • xanadou
      August 21, 2013, 9:54 pm

      “the horrors of Eastern European and Russian pogroms”
      What horrors of Eastern European (sic) would that be?

      The Russian pogroms were not state sanctioned. These were drunken sorties aimed at anyone who happened upon charging Cossacks, the tsars’ elite units returning from their drunken sorties. Anyone, i.e., Jews and Christians, Russian, Belorussian, Ukranian, etc. They were tolerated just as the US military courts tolerate the murder and mayhem perpetrated (by sober) with machine guns, not sabres, US soldiers on a rampage in invaded countries, or the Israeli courts who dismiss the gross abuses of their own soldiers, and classified at Nurenberg and Geneva as crimes against humanity, i.e., uses of human shields, mass murders (during the Naqba), the use of forbidden weapons, e.g., white phosphorus, etc., ad nauseam. The more things change, the more they stay the same, no? (rhetorical)
      The Cossacks were reigned in only when the raids began to impact the tsars ‘reputation’. In his book, “Jewish History, Jewish Religion”, prof. Israel Shahak quotes 40 Jews killed. Now consider the current number of, and ongoing, wanton killings, outside state-sanctioned murders. Sanctimonious preaching about the past, while forgetting the present is not helpful to anyone, especially the communities and families of the dead. Let alone the Jews living in unfounded fear of humanity.

      By 1939, the largest Jewish population in the world was found along what is now Poland’s southern border. One of the centuries old “horrors” visited on those Jews was the right to create and live in ghettos and shtetls; the latter were small towns populated, like the ghettos in the rest of the world, exclusively by Jews. The local, non-Jewish populations, with a purpose to go to those those shtetls, e.g., to trade, had to apply for, and receive, a permit to do so. Jews, however, required no such permission if they wanted to travel. There were no shtetls anywhere beyond Eastern Europe.

      The zionists have a vested interest in propagating nonsense or corrupted history that paint Jews as the world’s sole eternal victims. For a good reason. It makes it possible to bind the naifs in fear of persecution away from humanity. The wealthy Jews (who lived away from the poverty infested ghettos) have used their poor co-religionists just as the rich Christians used their serfs to serve and further their own interests.

      The zionists’ biggest fear is the assimilation of Jews into the world population, while retaining their traditions and faith.

  8. DICKERSON3870
    August 21, 2013, 6:26 pm

    AS TO THE DUDETTE IN THE PHOTO WHO IS ALL GEARED UP FOR PAINTBALL: ¡Muy Macho!

  9. W.Jones
    August 21, 2013, 10:46 pm

    I am not sure what to make of this. The New York Post has an article online with 6 photos of female soldiers, including possibly slides or videos. On the surface, the message might be critical and suggesting that the soldiers are out of hand. But perhaps another hidden message is to make the army appear attractive to new male recruits? After all, why show so many of the photos in the article?

    Israeli soldiers post more cheeky pics
    By SELIM ALGAR and MICHAEL BLAUSTEIN, June 3, 2013

    Earlier this year, another Israeli soldier was busted for posing naked* with a gun and tweeting ant-Palestinian slogans. The Israeli Army’s social media chief was slammed as a racist last year after tweeting a picture of himself slathered in mud* with a caption reading “Obama style.”
    (article online)

    • W.Jones
      August 22, 2013, 3:17 pm

      Seemingly liberal articles or newspapers are full of this stuff.

      I just saw on the supposed liberal “Haaretz” an article called “How did a Palestinian prisoner father a child without seeing his wife?”

    • john_manyjars
      August 23, 2013, 1:52 am

      Funny how they bite the hand that feeds them, ex. the Obama slur- yet ‘somehow’ get away with it.

      Can’t blame the hubris- after all, Americans endure the insults, the ‘Liberty’, etc. and STILL write the checks for the ‘sole ME democracy’.

  10. seafoid
    August 22, 2013, 11:41 am

    I hope the kids were instructed about the appropriate use of hasbara in Japan

    link to theguardian.com
    “Israel has been forced to issue a formal apology to Japan over offensive comments posted on Facebook by its head of online public diplomacy.

    The apology followed a complaint by the Japanese ambassador to Israel, Hideo Sato, after senior government official Daniel Seaman disparaged commemorations for the victims of the 1945 atomic bombs, causing a wave of protests in Japan.

    “I am sick of the Japanese, ‘Human Rights’ and ‘Peace’ groups the world over holding their annual self-righteous commemorations for the Hiroshima and Nagasaki victims,” Seaman wrote on his Facebook page. “Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the consequence of Japanese aggression. You reap what you sow …”

    According to Haaretz, Israel’s ambassador in Tokyo, Nissim Ben-Shitrit, was forced to embark on a damage control exercise. “The incident is very slowly subsiding, but it’s too early to assess the damage to Israel’s image that it caused,” the Israeli embassy in Tokyo wrote in a cable to the foreign ministry in Jerusalem.

    The apology was issued by Ya’akov Amidror, national security advisor to prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. A government official said the incident was “one of the least comfortable moments for Israel in Japan”.

    Seaman, a former director of the government press office who has a reputation for being abrasive, recently took up a new post to promote positive images of Israel on social media networks. He has since been suspended and is under orders not to speak to the media.”

  11. john_manyjars
    August 23, 2013, 1:46 am

    I’d like to see the ‘settlers’ being called what they are- terrorists and thieves.

  12. irishmoses
    August 24, 2013, 5:44 pm

    Xanadou,
    While the number of Jews killed in the 1880-81 pogroms were relatively low, the numbers were much higher in the later pogroms. link to en.wikipedia.org. My reading shows Russian government participation and increased restrictions on where Jews could live and what professions they could engage in. Your characterization is unusual, to say the least. It would be helpful if you provided some references. You cite the Shahak book only for the number of Jews killed (40) but don’t mention what pogroms were involved.

    • Annie Robbins
      August 25, 2013, 11:16 pm

      irish, it appears you may not have used the reply function properly. not sure if Xanadou will see your comment. perhaps the next time you see her/him you can ask. sorry so late in seeing/moderating your comment.

      • irishmoses
        August 26, 2013, 9:59 am

        Annie,
        I’m not sure what you mean by “you may not have used the reply function properly”. My reply was posted (although very late), so why won’t Xanadou necessarily see my my comment.

        More importantly, there are apparently new rules or deadlines to post comments on threads. Could you explain what these are? I think the process is really being abused by the Has-bots. Perfect example:
        This morning I noticed a highly inflamatory comment by “Doris” on the following thread:
        link to mondoweiss.net

        It appeared to be posted about 3am EDT. When I tried to reply, the comments were closed. “Doris'” unopposed comment is now part of the permanent MW record. “She” cleverly got in the last word. Do you really want this kind of nonsense going on? Here’s the comment:

        ///”The audience was thrilled to hear Steve Goldberg’s description of Kahane and his plan to complete the mutual exchange of populations that started in 1948 between Israel and the surrounding Arab states. History shows that transfer is often the humane option and saves lives, as with India and Pakistan. Most Jews are too cowed by political correctness to admit it, but there is widespread admiration for Kahane among the Jewish people and a profound need for someone to pick up where Kahane left off. And yes, I am confident that the entire land of Israel, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, belongs to the Jewish State according to the international law, including the British Mandate of Palestine adopted by the League of Nations in 1922 and incorporated into the United Nations Charter under article 80.”///

        Looking at the thread, it appears she posted her reply on 8/19 but it apparently wasn’t approved until last night about midnight PDT, at least that’s when I received the email notice of it.

        I imagine the task of monitoring MW comments is daunting. Still, you need some consistency to make the process fair. The long delays in comment approval coupled with the new thread comment closing policy seem to have created a bit of a mess.

        Late posted and highly controversial comments, like Doris’ above, should have an opportunity for response by a knowledgeable MW contributor like Hostage or many others. MW is a viewpoint blog that allows some exchange of ideas. The last word on controversial postings should be consistent with the MW viewpoint, not that of the Has-bots.

      • Annie Robbins
        August 26, 2013, 11:09 am

        I’m not sure what you mean by “you may not have used the reply function properly”. My reply was posted (although very late), so why won’t Xanadou necessarily see my my comment.

        Xanadou may come back and check the thread irish and may see your comment. he/she won’t get an email alert about it tho. when i went to the link i saw some other uncleared comments there i just cleared, so someone else got the last word on doris, who will not be able to respond: link to mondoweiss.net

        we’ve had an abundance of conversation about the comment policy lately, which almost always happens when i take some time off from moderating, because others around here do very little of it. and because they do little of it, they don’t take the brunt of it either. yes, comment threads here are now closed on the 5th day. there was no official announcement, no warning, no official explanation, and no unofficial explanation and it was a unilateral action. so your guess is as good as mine.

        i cleared over 300 comments yesterday. when i take days off it doesn’t mean i won’t come back to hours and days of uncleared comments and fed up people. i don’t know what else to say but write adam and phil.

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