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The new center

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Elie Wiesel

Elie Wiesel

This is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.

The Holocaust civil war in major newspapers around the world continues. Last week it was Elie Wiesel’s paid statement that accused Hamas of using children as human shields. Yesterday it was other Holocaust survivors “disgusted and outraged by Elie Wiesel’s abuse of history.”

These Jewish survivors aren’t mincing worlds:

Jewish survivors and descendants of survivors and victims of Nazi genocide unequivocally condemn the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza.

As Jewish survivors and descendants of survivors and victims of the Nazi genocide we unequivocally condemn the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza and the ongoing occupation and colonization of historic Palestine. We further condemn the United States for providing Israel with the funding to carry out the attack, and Western states more generally for using their diplomatic muscle to protect Israel from condemnation. Genocide begins with the silence of the world.

We are alarmed by the extreme, racist dehumanization of Palestinians in Israeli society, which has reached a fever-pitch. In Israel, politicians and pundits in The Times of Israel and The Jerusalem Post have called openly for genocide of Palestinians and right-wing Israelis are adopting Neo-Nazi insignia.

Furthermore, we are disgusted and outraged by Elie Wiesel’s abuse of our history in these pages to justify the unjustifiable: Israel’s wholesale effort to destroy Gaza and the murder of more than 2,000 Palestinians, including many hundreds of children. Nothing can justify bombing UN shelters, homes, hospitals and universities. Nothing can justify depriving people of electricity and water.

We must raise our collective voices and use our collective power to bring about an end to all forms of racism, including the ongoing genocide of Palestinian people. We call for an immediate end to the siege against and blockade of Gaza. We call for the full economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel. “Never again” must mean NEVER AGAIN FOR ANYONE!

Aside from the use of the Holocaust by both sides in the Jewish civil war, is the Holocaust relevant anymore or has the Holocaust become ancient symbolism trotted out for its last curtain call?

While Israel still hasn’t announced its endgame vision, the Gaza war is full of last-ditch efforts. The Holocaust is only one of them. Palestinian statehood might be another.

The liberal Zionist center? The middle-ground of the internationally agreed upon two-state solution? Fewer and fewer people buy that either center is, in fact, a center. Perhaps both have been rearguard for decades. Now with Israel’s continuing escalation of destruction the center looks dubious.

Should we say, with Yeats, the great Irish poet, that the center cannot hold? If not, what takes the place of the failed center?

On one side, the breakdown might seem a plus. Now we can finally get down to the basics, the root of the problem. Yet political gamesmanship is tacking in another direction. Even the possible intervention of the UN Security Council promises more of the same. Sure there’s a tweak here and there, end of the blockade, seaports and alike, but the years of heavy lifting ahead – and further gamesmanship – promise only a truncated autonomy for Palestinians.

A real Palestinian state is an afterthought on the UN table. The new center is an internationally guaranteed, ill-defined, Palestinian autonomy, guaranteed, guarded, and infiltrated by non-Palestinian actors – some of whom (may) have the Palestinian cause at heart.

It seems ironic that the international condemnation of Israel may serve Israel’s ultimate cause of subjugating Palestinians. Nonetheless, Israel’s pushing of the international law envelop has cemented its role in the international nation-state system. After all, no major international actor has suggested any punishment for Israel other than helping it out of the mess it is fully enmeshed in.

After Gaza, the new center for Israel? Israel holds onto what they have taken. The new center for Palestinians? Palestinians are allowed to survive.

That’s a far cry from the Holocaust survivor’s plea – “Genocide begins with the silence of the world.”

It’s even a far cry from the center that did not hold.

Marc H. Ellis
About Marc H. Ellis

Marc H. Ellis is Professor of History and Jewish Studies and Director of the Center for the Study of the Global Prophetic. His latest book is Finding Our Voice: Embodying the Prophetic and Other Misadventures.

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37 Responses

  1. jon s
    jon s on August 24, 2014, 1:14 pm

    Holocaust survivors are not a monolithic public: some are religious, some are secular; in politics some are on the Left, some are on the Right, some in-between.
    The survivors overwhelmingly support Israel , because the Jewish people in general overwhelmingly support Israel.

    • Accentitude
      Accentitude on August 25, 2014, 6:45 am

      That’s a misconception and to my knowledge there has never been a poll of all world Jewry nor living Holocaust Survivors to measure whether they “overwhelmingly” support Israel. I think you are saying that based on your own opinion but you don’t have any hard evidence to back it up. On the other hand there is concrete evidence that Israel claims to speak on behalf of the world’s Jewish population and all survivors of the Holocaust. Yet it has been repeatedly shot down by various groups of Jews over the years who do not accept Israel speaking on their behalf nor representing them. This is the equivalent of saying that the Monarchy of Saudi Arabia represents all Arabs of the world and speaks on their behalf. Nothing could be further than the truth. It is also ridiculous that Israel consistently capitalizes on (exploits) the memory of the Holocaust and the horrific events perpetrated against European Jews for its own purpose. “Never again” Netanyahu boldly claims. Yet, when has it ever been that Palestinians perpetrated the Holocaust in Europe? They didn’t.

    • eljay
      eljay on August 25, 2014, 7:59 am

      >> jon seee: The survivors overwhelmingly support Israel , because the Jewish people in general overwhelmingly support Israel.

      If this is true, it is disappointing that most Holocaust survivors and most Jews support an overtly oppressive, colonialist, expansionist and supremacist state that has spent over 60 years stealing, occupying and colonizing Palestinian land and oppressing, torturing and killing Palestinians.

    • Shingo
      Shingo on August 25, 2014, 5:52 pm

      The survivors overwhelmingly support Israel , because the Jewish people in general overwhelmingly support Israel.

      That’s changing and for the better.

      Israel is bad for Jews and more and beginning to wake up to that fact. Hopefully so will you one day Jon.

  2. Kay24
    Kay24 on August 24, 2014, 1:23 pm

    Interesting article. It is obvious that more and more people are horrified at what Israel is doing, and these wonderful Holocaust survivors, must have felt very strongly to condemn Israel’s brutality, and the ugly calls for genocide from extreme right wingers in Israel, those who have absolutely no regard for Palestinian lives, nor care that they call for unspeakable crimes against helpless people.

    The following article shows an Israeli general calling for Israel to starve the Palestinians by cutting all food and water – this is typical of the inhumane treatment meted out to the Palestinians by Israel. It seems they are trying to outdo each other over there, trying hard to beat each other by calling for sadistic treatment of Palestinians in gaza. This must remind the holocaust survivors of what their families have suffered from, and it must make them realize it is eerily similar.
    I agree when they say “never again” means for EVERY ONE.

    From bombing Gaza to the stone ages, calls for concentration camps, and now an Israeli general hell bent of starving these civilians – it seems zionists have become even more evil and blood thirsty. Despicable lot.

    • Marnie
      Marnie on August 24, 2014, 1:39 pm

      When your actions are horrifying holocaust survivors I think that should make one stop and consider before doing another “aktion”. Since what they like to do is use survivors as their totems, they should pay attention when they scream “STOP”.

      • Kay24
        Kay24 on August 24, 2014, 10:46 pm

        Good point it says a lot when the holocaust survivors are horrified about what their own people do, and totally sympathize with the victims.
        Good for them to condemn the violence.

  3. Citizen
    Citizen on August 24, 2014, 1:56 pm

    At one time I was naive enough to think that the phrase “Never Again!” always referenced a universal principle learned from all the industrialized murder of innocents in WW2.

  4. eGuard
    eGuard on August 24, 2014, 2:06 pm

    Hajo Meyer, the first name in the list, died last Saturday at the age of 90 years. That is, when the New York Times was preparing this text for print. Given current NYT standards, I prefer his statement to an obituary.

  5. Gien
    Gien on August 24, 2014, 2:15 pm

    Hajo Meyer, number 1 on this list, died yesterday.
    I will miss him

  6. LanceThruster
    LanceThruster on August 24, 2014, 3:11 pm


    — ISRAEL apologizes for the lies discovered inherent throughout its pernicious Hasbara! —

    “So sorry we were caught on this lie to the point that we had to fess up. We will try to make sure it never happens again (i.e. being caught in a lie).”

    PLEASE NOTE: Proof of previous and ongoing lies does not allow you to dismiss our others lies, as that would weaken our credibility and hamper our attempts at promoting even more blatant and outrageous lies. Also note, flipping what we say to actually ascertain the truth is decidedly not allowed. Know that we are trying to criminalize this as rapidly and uniformly possible for your ‘safety.’ We appreciate your total compliance whether voluntarily through use of propaganda saturation, or force, through any number of methods of coercion, whether by psychological warfare, bribing/blackmailing your leadership, smearing of reputations and associations, kidnapping, torture, murder, assassinations (whether outright or covertly), etc. ad infinitum (not that it makes a whiff of difference to us *how* we maintain control – in time you’ll see that ‘it’s all good’ – either on your own, or through our generous application of re-education camp ‘learning’ techniques. Penalty for failure to grasp these ‘unarguable’ precepts will be severe. Know that we are watching you at all times. Know also that lack of proof of crimes will in no way be considered lack of proof of your undeniable crimes.)


    CARRY ON (or else)!

    Love ,

    Chosanistan – Home of the Fightin’ Chosenites!

    • Shingo
      Shingo on August 25, 2014, 5:53 pm

      Yes Israel has been forced to confess to another lie.

      Israeli military retracts claim that fatal mortar bomb was fired from UN school

      But don’t expect Jon S to admit to it.

      • annie
        annie on August 25, 2014, 6:23 pm

        shingo, did you read

        Former Israeli AG: Our government staged the assassination of Al-Daif

        In the biggest blow to Israeli propaganda, which claimed that Hamas broke the ceasefire, former Israeli Attorney General Michael Ben Yair has said that “it was Israel who staged the alleged Hamas breach of the ceasefire in order to create the conditions for assassinating Muhammad Al-Daif, Commander-in-Chief of Hamas’s military wing, Al-Qassam Brigades.

        The website of Makor Rishon newspaper said that Ben Yair, who also worked as a judge in the Israeli supreme court, tweeted on his twitter account the following: “There is no agreement and hostilities have been renewed, but who is the culprit? Hamas who wants an agreement with accomplishments or Israel who staged the breach of the ceasefire in order to justify the assassination of Muhammad Al-Daif?”

  7. seafoid
    seafoid on August 24, 2014, 4:27 pm

    I was talking to a friend who visited a psychologist about a work problem with a bully. The behavior really got to my friend and he had trouble sleeping.

    The psychologist said 4 things

    1. It’s not your fault
    2 you are right
    3 it’s very hard to deal with disturbed people
    4 you need to get away from that person if you can

    And I was thinking about this for the people of Gaza after I read the following article by Gideon Levy

    “We must admit the truth: Palestinian children in Israel are considered like insects. This is a horrific statement, but there is no other way to describe the mood in Israel in the summer of 2014. When for six weeks hundreds of children are destroyed; their bodies buried in rubble, piling up on morgues, sometimes even in vegetable refrigeration rooms for lack of other space; when their horrified parents carry the bodies of their toddlers as a matter of course; their funerals coming and going, 478 times – even the most unfeeling of Israelis would not allow themselves to be so uncaring.

    Something here has to rise up and scream: Enough. All the excuses and all the explanations will not help – there is no such thing as a child that is allowed to be killed and a child that is not. There are only children killed for nothing, hundreds of children whose fate touches no one in Israel, and one child, just one, around whose death the people unite in mourning”

    1 Gazan kids are right- they are entitled to live
    2. It’s not their fault that Israel kills them
    3 Israel is deeply damaged and an impossible neighbour

    I posted this today already but I think it’s worth another airing

    Israel is a manufacturer of trauma for the people of Gaza
    ” Hassan, who has worked at the mental health center since 1991, spoke a lot in our conversation about the meaning of psychological treatment during periods of unrelenting and continuing trauma. “I came to the conclusion that such treatment is not ethical,” he said. “For 23 years, I have been trying to help children living in trauma, but there is no guarantee that they will not be affected again. It’s as if I am just preparing them to deal with something worse. You cannot provide true psychological treatment when the patients have no protection, no guarantee that it won’t happen again and soon, when what causes trauma never ends,” he said.
    “What is at issue here is a lot more than individual, separate cases,” he continued. “Even when there is no war, there is no stability in the Gaza Strip, and in a situation like this, how can psychological treatment help? One political decision on Israel’s part — lifting the blockade — could do a lot more good than all of the psychological treatment performed in Gaza and all of the quantities of money invested in them. The long-standing blockade limits our field of vision, our broader outlook, our creativity. The occupation is not only of land. The blockade is not just of goods, objects. The occupation is also cognitive, of one’s will, of feelings and thoughts. The siege is also over the ability to hope.” ”

    Gaza had nothing to do with the Shoah. It’s not Gaza’s fault that Zionism never dealt with that uber trauma. It’s not Gaza’s fault that Israel’s leaders don’t want to educate the Jewish kids of Israel.

    And it is insane to think that Israel can continue the status quo without suffering a collective mental breakdown. It may have already started.

    • just
      just on August 24, 2014, 4:34 pm

      Two of the best articles on the collective trauma that Israel is and has been inflicting on the indigenous Palestinians.

      PTSD comes later– this constant trauma needs to STOP!

      “Something here has to rise up and scream: Enough.” Gideon Levy is right. Something has to rise up all over the world. Are all of our ‘leaders’ lacking a soul and any shred of decency? I surely seems so.

      (Looking at that photo of the former humanist turned humorist and opportunist, makes me sad.

      From wiki: “When Wiesel was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986, the Norwegian Nobel Committee called him a “messenger to mankind”, stating that through his struggle to come to terms with “his own personal experience of total humiliation and of the utter contempt for humanity shown in Hitler’s death camps”, as well as his “practical work in the cause of peace”. Wiesel had delivered a powerful message “of peace, atonement and human dignity” to humanity.[4]”

      He turned away from all of that.)

      • seafoid
        seafoid on August 24, 2014, 5:13 pm

        I’m sick of the lot of them. Zionism is follow the lowest scumbag. And they call decent people self hating. What a joke.

      • just
        just on August 24, 2014, 5:30 pm

        Israel and the Zionists need to go into a permanent state of atonement and repentance.

        wiki: “According to Jewish tradition, God inscribes each person’s fate for the coming year into a book, the Book of Life, on Rosh Hashanah, and waits until Yom Kippur to “seal” the verdict. During the Days of Awe, a Jew tries to amend his or her behavior and seek forgiveness for wrongs done against God (bein adam leMakom) and against other human beings (bein adam lechavero). The evening and day of Yom Kippur are set aside for public and private petitions and confessions of guilt (Vidui). At the end of Yom Kippur, one hopes that they have been forgiven by God”

        They’ve lost their way! How long must the world wait?

      • seafoid
        seafoid on August 24, 2014, 5:44 pm

        Yom Kippur this year should be a festival of repentance but is more likely to be an orgy of hypocrisy.

      • Kay24
        Kay24 on August 24, 2014, 5:57 pm

        They do have plenty to atone for. They seem clearly without a conscience.

      • seafoid
        seafoid on August 24, 2014, 6:11 pm

        MJ (Mike) Rosenberg @MJayRosenberg · 4h

        Netanyahu is a fucking barbarian and so is everyone in his government.

        “I quit my synagogue when High Holidays rabbi announced “now is a time for hate” a few years ago.This year’s services will be INSANE.”

      • Mooser
        Mooser on August 24, 2014, 9:38 pm

        “I quit my synagogue when High Holidays rabbi announced “now is a time for hate” a few years ago.This year’s services will be INSANE.”

        People are not going to hang around and see their kids get religious instruction from people like that.

      • Citizen
        Citizen on August 24, 2014, 6:31 pm

        @ just
        Interesting, do we have a joinder of mental sickness, PTSD for Palestinians & PTSS (Atzmon: pre-traumatic stress syndrome) for Jews?

        Interestingly, Hitler’s last political will and testament posits the eternal threat from the Jew, which non-Jews must always be on guard against, while Zionists posit the eternal threat from the Gentile, who lurks awaiting the right time to pounce on the Jew. No solo dancing on the dance floor of wordily life.

    • Kay24
      Kay24 on August 24, 2014, 5:35 pm

      Perhaps that is what they want. There is no word to describe the people in this nation. Yes, there are many who are doing good work, to help the Palestinians, but it seems the majority are a vicious and heartless bunch of scumbags, who overwhelmingly want this massacre to keep going.
      No one seems to be addressing the consequences of this slaughter, the long term results of children seeing their family members being blown up, losing limbs, and being bombed incessantly, the fear and trauma are never an issue, certainly not by the butchers of telaviv, nor by the US government or other nations. There were many reports by the UN and other bodies, that the children of Gaza were already traumatized and suffer severe depression before this slaughter, one can only imagine how it is right now. The sad thing is, no one defends the true victims of Israel’s onslaught and violence, no one cares.

      • seafoid
        seafoid on August 24, 2014, 6:08 pm

      • Kay24
        Kay24 on August 24, 2014, 6:21 pm

        I enjoy hearing Norm Finkelstein speak. He makes so much sense, and asks the right question. I saw him personally speak at a rally for Gaza last week in Princeton. In case you are interested, here is his wonderful speech:

      • I couldn’t agree more.

        Thank you for the link.

      • Citizen
        Citizen on August 24, 2014, 7:12 pm

        Thanks for sharing this video Kay24. Great “mowing the grass” speech. His closing analogy to Browning’s
        cult classic movie Freaks from the 1930s is insightful and self-explanatory.

      • just
        just on August 24, 2014, 7:25 pm

        many thanks for that Kay24. a wonderful speech by a wonderful man.

      • annie
        annie on August 24, 2014, 9:50 pm

        wow, wonderful speech norm

  8. Israel has prostituted the Jewish holocaust – as if the victims’ dehumanization and suffering is a commodity to exploit for political leverage and as if that commodity belongs to Israel, rather than the victims – and it has done so in furtherance of a malevolent agenda.

    Seeing so many holocaust survivors, and descendants of survivors, make this public plea for humanity is very powerful.

    Public decency is very powerful.

    Thank you, to the hundreds of decent people involved, for making your decency public.

  9. DICKERSON3870
    DICKERSON3870 on August 24, 2014, 6:58 pm

    RE: “As Jewish survivors and descendants of survivors and victims of the Nazi genocide we unequivocally condemn the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza and the ongoing occupation and colonization of historic Palestine. We further condemn the United States for providing Israel with the funding to carry out the attack, and Western states more generally for using their diplomatic muscle to protect Israel from condemnation. Genocide begins with the silence of the world.”

    EVA STERN: “If ordinary Germans living under total oppression can be held responsible for the crimes committed by the Nazis – because they did not speak out – how much more responsible are we who live in a country where we have the freedom to speak out?” ~ from The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East, by Robert Fisk

    FOR CONTEXT, SEE: “Why a Manhattan secretary won’t let Israel forget the massacre at Qana”, by Robert Fisk,, 14 June 1997

    [EXCERPTS] When Eva Stern’s grandfather Aaron Hersh climbed off the transport at Auschwitz extermination camp in June 1944, along with her mother Hannah and two aunts from their ultra-orthodox Jewish family, he was still holding his prayer shawl. “A Polish prisoner warned him he’d die if he didn’t hand it over, but he refused,” Eva Stern says. “Then a German officer ordered my grandfather to give the shawl to him while he was waiting in line for selection for the gas chambers. He again refused. So he shot my grandfather in the head. That’s how he died.” . . .

    . . . With scarcely suppressed anger, she opens a thick file on the seat beside her. Entitled “Israel’s Operation `Grapes of Wrath’ and the Qana Massacre”, it is her own work, a compilation of photographs and news reports – some from The Independent – of Israel’s bombardment of southern Lebanon a year ago, in which more that 170 civilians were slaughtered. Ms Stern flicks her finger in fury at one of the pictures which shows Israeli soldiers standing in front of their battle tanks on the Lebanese border. The newspaper caption reads: “Israeli soldiers briefly halt their shelling to commemorate Holocaust Day.” And Ms Stern looks at me to see if I understand why she is enraged at the picture.

    “What would my grandfather say of this? What were those Israelis thinking as they were putting on their prayer shawls? Were they praying, `Father who art in heaven, help me to kill as many ‘Arabushim’ as possible’? Do they now have a right to kill without any guilt?”

    ‘Arabushim’ – a racist term for Arabs in the Hebrew language – was later used in an Israeli newspaper interview by one of the artillerymen who fired into the United Nations base at Qana last year. At least 109 civilians sheltering in the camp were killed, 55 of them children. Ms Stern has included an English translation of the interview from Kol Ha’ir in her file, a set of documents which she has sent to the UN, to the Lebanese delegation to the UN, and to prominent American journalists in New York.

    She hoped to persuade the latter to mark the first anniversary of the Qana massacre on 18 April.

    Ms Stern’s sense of outrage is as brave as it is lonely; although many American Jews are troubled by the behaviour of Israel’s right-wing government and the bloody adventures in which Israel has been involved in Lebanon over the past 20 years, most will not take kindly to Eva Stern’s concern for the truth to be told.

    “My feelings started slowly,” she says. “I always had a problem with unquestioned obedience to authority. And when I thought about the atrocities committed by the Israelis, I felt that as an American taxpayer and an American Jew, I had an obligation to speak out. If ordinary Germans living under total oppression can be held responsible for the crimes committed by the Nazis – because they did not speak out – how much more responsible are we who live in a country where we have the freedom to speak out? If ordinary Germans were guilty for not speaking out, then surely we are also guilty in remaining silent about Qana. Because we don’t live in fear of death squads. What I am doing is not courageous – it is the decent thing to do.

    “If enough decent Germans had spoken out at the time, perhaps the Holocaust would not have happened.”

    Ms Stern does not draw false parallels between the Nazis and the Israeli army. “I’m not saying that the level of atrocities committed by the Israelis is on the same scale or in any way comparable to those of the Nazis. Of course not. But I know that I have paid as a taxpayer for the shells that rained down on Qana. And therefore if I’m silent, I’m no better than those Germans. Israel claims to be the representative of the Jewish people. It’s important for people to know that they clearly do not speak for world Jewry. They clearly do not speak for me. So I have a duty to speak out.” . . .

    SOURCE –

    P.S. Clémenceau once said about America: “It’s the only country where barbarism has crossed over to decadence without passing civilization.”

  10. Citizen
    Citizen on August 24, 2014, 7:28 pm

    This is a good one by Mr. Ellis. Where’s Goldhagan on Gaza? He’s the one who wrote a book specifically blaming every German for what the Nazi party did to the Jews. “Hitler’s Willing Executioners” he called them. In this day and age, where American Jews and Israeli Jews live in democracies fully applicable to them and accessible by them, and considering the alter net news and the social platforms for spreading the news on the internet, not just the main media press, are those who do not speak up Netanyahu’s willing executioners?

  11. Les
    Les on August 24, 2014, 8:20 pm

    Here a few of the comments about today’s NY Times op-ed by Antony Lerman, “The End of Liberal Zionism.”

    nyc 2 days ago

    American Jews made a mistake with Communism. They supported the Soviet Union even after the evidence of Stalin’s brutality became overwhelming.

    Now we’re doing it with Zionism. To prove your loyalty, how much Israeli brutality are you willing to accept? The murders of 5-year-old children? Blowing up entire families? Blowing up entire city blocks?

    How imaginative can you be in making up excuses for this behavior?

    Yonkers 2 days ago

    “The first war Israel ever loses will be its last”. Well that can’t be true. Israel was driven out of southern Lebanon by Hezbollah. They didn’t leave because they wanted to. They had their brutal Christian allies in the SLA and they helped run a torture and interrogation center at Khiam, but they finally left.

    Iced Teaparty
    NY Yesterday

    You place too much emphasis on the leadership, Hamas. The Palestinian people are not maximalists; they want their land and peace back and will settle for that; but they are maximalists of this moderate cause. If you don’t give them back their land and their peace, they’ll take up with Hamas or whoever will fight for them.

  12. Citizen
    Citizen on August 25, 2014, 6:17 am

    Long List of Hollywood machers and stars who have just blasted Hamas in a hasbara-filled
    memo to the world:

  13. seafoid
    seafoid on August 25, 2014, 5:38 pm

    Picture of children playing ‘funeral’ in Gaza. They mirror what they see. So heartbreaking

    • just
      just on August 25, 2014, 7:34 pm

      That’s their “normal” now.

      Israel is without a soul.

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