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Demotion of NY pol who slurred Palestinians is a wakeup call for Democrats nationwide

Media Analysis
on 41 Comments

People outside New York may not be aware of the big news in the city this week: City Council leaders removed a council member from its immigration committee because he had made anti-Palestinian comments. It is important news because anti-Palestinian racism is finally moving the needle in U.S. politics, and in the biggest Jewish city no less, where expressions of devotion to Israel by politicians are the coin of the realm.

Two days ago, Council member Kalman Yeger, who represents an Orthodox Jewish section of Brooklyn, lost his seat after repeatedly asserting that Palestinians and Palestine don’t exist.

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson demoted Yeger, saying (per the Brooklyn Daily Eagle) the Immigration Committee “is supposed to welcome and support immigrants in our city.”

Just last week Mayor Bill de Blasio had happily teamed up with Yeger at the AIPAC conference– and is under pressure from the progressive base over his fawning to the Israel lobby group. But this week Yeger is roadkill. De Blasio:

Certainly the Immigration Committee is nowhere for someone who can say the things that he said… We have in this city a huge Muslim community, a huge Palestinian committee as well and it’s important for people to understand that everyone is valued.

Palestinian-American leader Linda Sarsour responded with gratitude and recognition of the moment:

I salute [Corey Johnson] for standing up against hate and bigotry. Thank you for removing Kalman Yeger off the immigration committee. Palestinians feel seen and heard. This is not your first time doing what’s right and I know it won’t be your last.

This goes back a year. In March 2018, Yeger responded to news that Palestinian politician Ahmad Tibi hopes one day to lead a democratic, binational state:

More evidence that the ultimate goal of the so-called “Palestinians” is the destruction of the Jewish state and its people. And THAT’S why there will never be peace.

Zainab Iqbal, a reporter at Bklyner, began documenting Yeger’s assertions, and in response, Yeger doubled down last week, on March 27:

Palestine does not exist.
There, I said it again.
Also, Congresswoman Omar is an antisemite. Said that too…

The tweet prompted charges of Islamophobia and bigotry. Corey Johnson called on Yeger to apologize. De Blasio’s first blast at Yeger sought to balance his sympathies:

A two-state solution is the best hope for peace. I challenge anyone who thinks the State of Israel shouldn’t exist. But the same goes for anyone who would deny Palestinians a home.

Yeger held a press conference last Friday where he merely repeated himself and declined to apologize.

“There is no state by that name; there is no place by that name.”

There were protests and counter-protests outside Yeger’s Brooklyn office, and “a diverse coalition of Palestinian, Jewish, immigrant and civil rights groups announced it was planning a protest on City Hall’s steps later this week,” the New York Times reported.

Yeger was demoted on Monday, April 1. The Times’s coverage featured comments from Linda Sarsour.

“This sends a wider message that saying anti-Arab, anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian things comes with consequences,” Ms. Sarsour said.

It also quoted former assemblyman Dov Hikind on the meaning of the moment: “Progressive Democrats, liberals, have unfortunately moved away from the kind of support for Israel that we are used to.”

Yeger backed down somewhat in the end:

I respect the Speaker’s right to run the Council as he sees fit. It’s unfortunate that political correctness takes precedence over objective fact. Of course, there are Palestinians. However, the fact remains there is no Palestinian state.

In sum, this incident was a wakeup call to the Democratic Party nationwide, that the profound political shifts that the left is generating on a host of issues, from sexual harassment to economic inequity, will include Palestine at last. Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer have said that the Democratic Party will always support Israel. The news from New York is that the Dems are going to have to respect the base’s beliefs on Palestinian human rights.

At a time when Israel is trending further and further right, a political breakup seems more and more inevitable; and the day is not far off when progressive Dems will call for democracy from river to sea.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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41 Responses

  1. wondering jew on April 3, 2019, 2:02 pm

    In the photo that is not a Torah scroll, but a scroll of the Megillah or the book of Esther.

    • Mooser on April 3, 2019, 5:55 pm

      “In the photo that is not a Torah scroll, but a scroll of the Megillah or the book of Esther.”

      And it’s not even the whole Megillah, just a four-page summary.

      • CigarGod on April 3, 2019, 9:34 pm

        Someday…
        Parents will tell their doctor they’d like to have a Mooser Baby.
        He’ll get out his gene screwdriver, make a couple twists and 9 months later baby will ask if it’s okay if he smokes.

      • Marnie on April 4, 2019, 12:05 am

        When will this end? Release the whole damn Megillah oblongata without redactions ASAP!

      • Mooser on April 5, 2019, 12:50 pm

        “He’ll get out his gene screwdriver…”

        He’ll have to do a lot of tinkering. They broke the mold before they made me.

      • Mooser on May 5, 2019, 2:15 pm

        “Release the whole damn Megillah oblongata without redactions ASAP!”

        Exactly! No more Megillah’s in the mist.

  2. wondering jew on April 3, 2019, 4:16 pm

    The statehood of Palestine is not the real issue here, but a type of mutual recognition of the Palestinian people, which the assemblyman is denying.
    “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” can be heard as anti Jewish rhetoric, “from the river to the sea, everyone will be free,” is a much clearer slogan. Which one do you favor?
    From the river to the sea there will be democracy is parallel to the second slogan.
    The free crossing of land between Gaza and Jerusalem and between Nablus and Tel Aviv is something to aspire to. It is not near and which slogan will bring it closer?

    • Rooster on April 3, 2019, 5:41 pm

      I prefer, “From the river to the sea, PALESTINIAN EQUALITY.”

    • pabelmont on April 3, 2019, 5:54 pm

      WJ — good points! And democracy, multi-ethnic, multi-confessional, w/o discrimination is what BDS asks for. And what Israel and AIPAC-et-al denounce as antisemitism and so forth.

    • JWalters on April 3, 2019, 8:35 pm

      “mutual recognition of the Palestinian people, which the assemblyman is denying.”

      The Balfour letter to Baron Rothschild called for a mutual recognition of Jews and non-Jews in a non-sectarian democratic state of Palestine. The Zionists unilaterally trampled on that mutual recognition with their illegal invasion of Palestine, in violation of the Balfour declaration stipulations and in violation of UN policy at that time, and ever since. (The partition had not yet been decided, and a UN protectorate was looking likely).

      So Yeger is being perfectly consistent with the founders of Israel in his denial of the Palestinian people.

      • Misterioso on April 4, 2019, 9:47 am

        @JWalters, et al

        More grist for the mill:

        When the Paris Peace Conference was convened on January 18, 1919, the majority of American Jews were non-Zionist. As a result, thirty-one prominent Jewish Americans presented a petition to President Wilson, which he brought to the Peace Conference. The signers included among others, Henry Morgenthau Sr., former U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, Simon Rosendale, ex-Attorney General of New York, E.M. Baker, President of the Stock Exchange, New York Times publisher, Adlolph S. Ochs and Congressman Julius Kahn. These learned Jews feared that Zionist influence at the peace conference might lay the foundation for the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine which they utterly opposed. The petitioners warned against any commitment “now or in the future to Jewish territorial sovereignty in Palestine” and predicted that given the Arab presence in Palestine, Zionist objectives would inevitably lead to a violent struggle between the two groups. In conclusion, they asked the president to argue at the Peace Conference that “…Palestine be constituted as a free and independent state, to be governed under a democratic form of government, recognizing no distinctions of creed or race or ethnic descent….” (Dr. Alfred Lilienthal, The Zionist Connection, pp. 739-746)

        Ambassador Morgenthau left no doubt as to where he stood on Zionism: “Zionism is the most stupendous fallacy in Jewish history…. The very fervour of my feeling for the oppressed of every race and every land, especially for the Jews, those of my own blood and faith, to whom I am bound by every tender tie, impels me to fight with all the greater force against this scheme, which my intelligence tells me can only lead them deeper into the mire of the past, while it professes to be leading them to the heights. Zionism is… a retrogression into the blackest error, and not progress toward the light.” (Quoted by Frank Epp, Whose Land is Palestine? p. 261)

        On August 28, 1919, the King-Crane Commission presented its findings to the Allies. The commission’s report stated that while its members were initially in favour of Zionism, they had no choice but to change their minds when they learned of the situation in Palestine and the nature of commitments the Allies had already made to the Arabs, (e.g., the 1916 Hussein-McMahon correspondence.) The Commission concluded that the Anglo-French Declaration of 9 November 1918 unequivocally provided for “the complete and definite freeing of the peoples so long oppressed by the Turks and the establishment of national governments and administrations deriving their authority from the initiative and the free choice of the native populations.” The report also asserted that the resolution of the Council of Four declared at the Paris Peace Conference on 30 January 1919, which provided that the principle “that the well-being and development [of the peoples involved formed] a sacred trust of civilization and that securities for the performance of this trust shall be embodied in the constitution of the League of Nations” was to be applied. (Quoted by Sami Hadawi, Bitter Harvest, pp. 16-17.)

        In their report the commissioners also pointed out that the Balfour Declaration did not call for a Jewish state in Palestine and it could not be achieved without denying the “civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities….” The commissioners also found “…that the Zionists looked forward to a practically complete dispossession of the present non-Jewish inhabitants…by various forms of purchase…” and recommended that “Jewish immigration should be definitely limited”, that “the project for making Palestine a Jewish commonwealth should be given up” and Palestine should be “included in a united Syrian state, just as other portions of the country…” (Howard, Harry N., The King Crane Commission, Beirut: Khayats, 1963; quoted by Sami Hadawi, Bitter Harvest, pp. 17-18.)

    • CigarGod on April 3, 2019, 9:44 pm

      So, WJ,
      You mean before the Zionist Commission opened for business in 1918?
      Yeah, I can get behind that.

    • Tonja on April 4, 2019, 7:38 am

      I love how WJ keeps presenting things, watering down everything; a zionist trying to masquerade as barely a non-zionist.
      “The statehood of Palestine is not the real issue here, but a type of mutual recognition of the Palestinian people, which the assemblyman is denying.”
      It’s all linked ! how can palestinian have a statehood without mutual recognition ??
      And why pointing at Mr assemblyman Yeger like he’s the bad apple ?
      He is just in line with the zionist propaganda (either brainwashed or brainwashing)
      You can track this myth at least from Prime Minister Golda Meir during a Knesset speech in 1961 :
      [There were no such thing as Palestinians. …It was not as though there was a Palestinian people in Palestine considering itself as a Palestinian people and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them. They did not exist.]
      But you’re right on one point : As long as zionists don’t recognize palestinians right to exist “from the river to the sea, not everyone will be free”

    • eljay on April 4, 2019, 8:19 am

      || wondering jew: … “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” can be heard as anti Jewish rhetoric, “from the river to the sea, everyone will be free,” is a much clearer slogan. Which one do you favor? … ||

      “Free” – like “peace” – doesn’t address the problem of a religion-supremacist “Jewish State” (or any other type of supremacist state).

      This would be better…
      Equality – from the river to the sea.

      …but something like this, although wordier (and less “snappy”), would be better still as it is more comprehensive:
      No Islamic or Jewish State
      No injustice, no more hate
      Just human rights and equality
      For all, from river to the sea

      • wondering jew on April 4, 2019, 11:46 pm

        I was in Israel for 5 days this past week.
        I mention this because my reactions to the city and the situation are of a different order of magnitude of seriousness as a result of direct contact with the city and its people. In fact the right to vote, although the most basic right in terms of democracy, is a less immediate need than the right to travel and the traveling from gaza to jerusalem, which is severely limited is most obvious. in fact in part because of the experience of bombers of various sorts, the limitations placed on travel are “sensible” as a means of self defense, yet ideally there is no way that you can stop a man from traveling from gaza to jerusalem and call it ideal or even good, it may be a necessary evil, but it is an evil. what i wish could be done is remove the necessity.
        there are palestinians overseas and next door in lebanon in camps and i do not begin to talk about them, but about the palestinians in gaza that live less than 100 miles from jerusalem, but cannot visit there, for a lover of jerusalem like myself, such a deprivation is horrible.
        i am aware of the suicide bombings killing an old acquaintance on emek refaim street in 2003, the sbarro pizzeria of 2001 is burnt into my memory, but it seems to me that since the goal of 2 states has stalled out, that the unified control of the territory means that if one would focus on one change at a time that it would be the focus of free flow of people.
        all humans who deal with the issue of palestine may have different conceptions of the ideal outcome and because your ideas are as far from reality as my idea is, then you feel why aim for small potatoes, why not aim for the whole pinata, since you’re going to be in the realm of ideas rather than practicality, but if i deny my inclination towards practicality, then what is the practical outcome of walking the streets of jerusalem? so i must assert my own practicality and it is travel that is on my mind.

      • eljay on April 5, 2019, 9:43 am

        || wondering jew: … in fact in part because of the experience of bombers of various sorts, the limitations placed on travel are “sensible” as a means of self defense, yet ideally there is no way that you can stop a man from traveling from gaza to jerusalem and call it ideal or even good, it may be a necessary evil, but it is an evil. what i wish could be done is remove the necessity. there are palestinians overseas and next door in lebanon in camps and i do not begin to talk about them, but about the palestinians in gaza that live less than 100 miles from jerusalem, but cannot visit there, for a lover of jerusalem like myself, such a deprivation is horrible. … ||

        It’s so cute how you make a show of beating your breast and agonizing over the “sensibility” of keeping Gazans imprisoned and the “necessity” of Zionist evil and how you wish something could be done to remedy all this horrible deprivation…but gawd forbid you should ever want to:
        – end the evil of Jewish / “Jewish State” supremacism (Zionism); and/or
        – demand that Israel respect Partition borders; and/or
        – liberate the Free City of Jerusalem; and/or
        – unify all of geographic Palestine and its people* into a single secular and democractic state.
        _________________________
        (*”its people” being those living in or up to n-generations removed from the region.)

      • Mooser on April 6, 2019, 11:18 am

        “It’s so cute how you make a show of beating your breast…”

        “Yonah’s” all-you-can-swallow Hasbara Pharmacy, home of the bottomless pilpul vile. No prescription needed.

    • brent on April 5, 2019, 12:09 am

      ” RIVER TO THE SEA,
      ALL EQUAL AND FREE”

  3. wondering jew on April 3, 2019, 4:25 pm

    Calling Ilhan Omar an antisemite, though i myself have withdrawn such an equation and instead placed a question mark there next to the A/S appelation instead, is by no means Islamophobic. Stating that Ilhan Omar shows us that we are too lax in our immigration policy is Islamophobic. Wildly accusing anyone who views Ilhan Omar as an opponent as an Islamophobe is dangerous nonsense and b.s. It is tactics and tactics should be fought with tactics.

  4. hophmi on April 3, 2019, 4:44 pm

    What is says to me is that when young Muslim representatives make antisemitic comments, progressives make heroes out of them, but if a young Jewish representative says something offensive, no one will bother to “call him in” or try to educate him. Religious Muslims are children to be endlessly celebrated and apologized for; religious Jews are evil and don’t deserve to sit in government. Quite consistent with how people at Mondoweiss think, actually, given how many how posted excerpts from Israel Shahak about how bad religious Judaism is; I mean, YoniFalic, who was banned from Twitter for antisemitic posting, is free to post here.

    One day, Phil, you’ll reflect on how you helped encourage antisemitism, which is rising all over the world. Today, a new poll in France came out indicating that 1 in 5 French Jewish university students have been the victim of a violent antisemitic attack. https://www.jta.org/quick-reads/9-in-10-french-jewish-students-report-suffering-campus-anti-semitism-poll-finds

    If Kalman Yeger can’t be on an immigration committee because he doesn’t believe that Palestine exists, Ilhan Omar should not be on the House Foreign Affairs committee if she believes that Jews can’t support a strong US-Israel relationship without being dually loyal.

    • Mooser on April 3, 2019, 5:50 pm

      “One day, Phil, you’ll reflect on how you helped encourage antisemitism, which is rising all over the world.”

      Oh, “Hophmi”, I’m glad you dropped by. Somebody was asking just the other day how to be a parody of a parody.

      • Maximus Decimus Meridius on April 5, 2019, 10:28 am

        It’s shocking isn’t it? I mean, if I were to think of a discriminated, marginalised population anywhere in the world, the first that would come into my head would be New York Jews.

        Definitely.

      • hophmi on April 5, 2019, 11:04 am

        “Oh, “Hophmi”, I’m glad you dropped by. Somebody was asking just the other day how to be a parody of a parody.”

        I’m used to your silly insults, Mooser, but I’m surprised to see you describe Phil Weiss as a parody.

    • eljay on April 4, 2019, 8:00 am

      || hophmi: … One day, Phil, you’ll reflect on how you helped encourage antisemitism … ||

      But you Zionists won’t even though you should.

      Neither will you reflect on the injustices – what you Zionists charmingly refer to as “necessary evil” – you have been advocating, committing, supporting and/or defending for decades (and counting) in and against the non-Jews of geographic Palestine.

      • Citizen on April 10, 2019, 1:55 pm

        It’s tough to do your duty as a true believer–that’s what Himmler told his SS officers.

    • Misterioso on April 4, 2019, 9:56 am

      @hophmi

      You neglected to note that Palestinian Muslims (and Christians) are the brutally occupied, the dispossessed, the ethnically cleansed, the oppressed and Zionist Jews are their victimizers.

      • hophmi on April 5, 2019, 11:04 am

        “But you Zionists won’t even though you should.”

        Well, Eljay, although antisemitism is ticking upwards, it has experienced a precipitous decline since 1948. So I’m not following you on this one. Seems like you want to blame the victims here.

      • eljay on April 5, 2019, 3:24 pm

        || hophmi: … Well, Eljay, although antisemitism is ticking upwards, it has experienced a precipitous decline since 1948. So I’m not following you on this one. Seems like you want to blame the victims here. ||

        It only seems that way because you are deliberately experiencing reading and/or comprehension issues.

        I didn’t expect you to reflect…
        – on “how you helped encourage antisemitism”; or
        – on the “necessary evil” you and your co-collectivists have been committing in Palestine for decades,
        …and you didn’t disappoint.

  5. JWalters on April 3, 2019, 8:11 pm

    “repeatedly asserting that Palestinians and Palestine don’t exist.”

    While Council member Yeger may have recanted on the Palestinian people existing, he may be saying that for political expediency. Because that’s what the Israeli government does. They say they want peace with the Palestinians, and then they govern like the Palestinians are not people. Their planned POLICIES treat the Palestinians as vermin to be exterminated, to the degree they can get away with it politically.

    “the destruction of the Jewish state and its people”

    Amidst all the complaints about the criminality of the Jewish state there are virtually NO calls to destroy the Jewish people. Yeger’s LIE here is essential in his justifying the 70 year Zionist campaign of terrorism, mass murder, and robbery against the innocent indigenous people of Palestine. Which he will NEVER mention, as per AIPAC’s “No Debate” tactic revealed in The Lobby. (Instead, get indignant and walk away, says AIPAC.)

  6. RoHa on April 3, 2019, 11:02 pm

    “repeatedly asserting that Palestinians and Palestine don’t exist.”

    What does he mean by this assertion?

    He can hardly be denying that the territory called Palestine exists. He might mean that it shouldn’t be called “Palestine” any more, but he cannnot deny that it used to be called by that name.
    He might mean that the State of Palestine does not exist. That claim, at least, would make some sense, even if it is not true.

    And he can hardly be denying that there are people who call themselves Palestinians. Is he suggesting that they are all actually Canadian actors who are only pretending to have a history in Palestine? Or is he saying that, since the territory shouldn’t be called Palestine, they shouldn’t be called Palestinians?

    • Kay24 on April 4, 2019, 9:28 am

      They think that diminishing the Palestinians, and making them look insignificant, will justify their occupation and land grabs. I have seen these ridiculous claims coming from the Hasbara trolls. Imagine how the thin skinned apologists would react if anyone stated that Israelis and Israel does not exist. As we know, they can dish out, but cannot take it.

      • Citizen on April 10, 2019, 2:01 pm

        “Imagine how the thin skinned apologists would react if anyone stated that Israelis and Israel does not exist”

        Israel’s highest court decided this when it ruled Israeli nationals can only be Jewish citizens, not non-Jewish citizens of Israel?

    • aloeste on April 5, 2019, 3:42 pm

      what is meant is
      1] palestine is a ‘slur’ conceived of by the Romans to de-judaize eretz yisrael

      2]there is no legitimate claim to any biblical land other than the jewish people

      3]arabs who live in that area are arabs, not a ‘people’. they are part of the umma , but not recognized as something else

      4]there was never a State of Arabs in that area. there was the Ottoman empire. but that’s not arab

      • eljay on April 5, 2019, 5:25 pm

        || aloeste: … 1] palestine is a ‘slur’ conceived of by the Romans to de-judaize eretz yisrael … ||

        Going by that “logic”, “eretz yisrael” is a ‘slur’ conceived by people of the Jewish faith to delegitize all that came before it.

        Neither what they did nor what the Romans did has any bearing on the past and on-going acts of injustice and immorality committed by Jewish supremacists (Zionists) in geographic Palestine.

        || 2]there is no legitimate claim to any biblical land other than the jewish people … ||

        There is no “biblical land”, there is geographic Palestine and “the jewish people” have no legitimate claim to it.

        || … 3]arabs who live in that area are arabs, not a ‘people’. … ||

        The people living in and up to n-generations removed from geographic Palestine were and still are the indigenous people of geographic Palestine.

        The religion-based identity of Jewish does not magically transform people into indigenous geographic Palestinians.

        || … 4]there was never a State of Arabs in that area. there was the Ottoman empire. but that’s not arab ||

        Doesn’t change the facts of who is and who is not indigenous to the region.

      • RoHa on April 5, 2019, 11:11 pm

        Thanks, aloeste. He does pack a lot of meaning into a few words.

        Of course, it’s all nonsense.

        1. Not true.
        2. Just crazy talk. *
        3. Irrelevant.**
        4. Irrelevant.***

        * Can you set out an argument for the claim, starting from basic moral principles?
        **Why does it matter that they are not a ‘people”? (Not true, either.)
        ***And not true. See following comment.

      • RoHa on April 5, 2019, 11:45 pm

        Never an Arab state in the area?

        Conquered by the Umayyads – Arabs – in 636 CE. Muawiyah I founded the Umayyad Caliphate in Jerusalem in 661 CE.

        The Abbasids – Arabs – replaced them in 750.

        The Tulunids – Turkic – 878

        The Ikhshidids – Turkic- 935

        The Fatimids – Arabs – 969

        Seljuq Empire – Turko-Persian – 1073

        The Fatimids – still Arabs – 1098

        Crusaders established the Kingdom of Jerusalem -1099

        Saladin, the founder of the Ayyubid Sultanate – Kurdish – 1187 (Except for Acre)

        Mongols invade – Mongol, suprisingly – 1258

        Mamluk Sultanate – mixed bag of Kurds, Turks, and oddments -1260

        Ottomans – upholstered Turks – 1561.

        Egyptians – Arabs (though Muhammad Ali was Albanian!) – 1832

        Ottomans again – 1840

        So, by my count, Palestine has been part of four Arab states. Of course, most of the others spoke Arabic and followed Arabic culture.

        Suprisingly, none of these people have any legitimate claim to the land. Nor do the Greeks and Romans who preceded the Umayyads. Nor do the people (Arabs) who were actually living there rather than conquering it.

        Do not ask why. This is a secret.

      • MHughes976 on April 6, 2019, 7:17 am

        ‘Palestine’ is the only pre-Roman name properly attested for ancient Palestine, as I think I showed in my article in Mondoweiss for June 23, 2013. It’s mot a dishonourable name or ‘slur’. The Romans favoured ‘Judaea’ as part of their policy towards their Hasmonean and Herodian allies.
        I don’t see how it can be denied that the Palestinians are a group of people that exist and have the same basic rights as other people or other human beings. They are not fictional characters.

  7. DaBakr on April 4, 2019, 1:09 am

    “National wake up call…” Because there are so many orthodox Jews in city councils nationwide. Lol

  8. eljay on April 4, 2019, 10:19 am

    … Yeger … :

    I respect the Speaker’s right to run the Council as he sees fit. It’s unfortunate that political correctness takes precedence over objective fact. …

    He should be thankful that it’s just political correctness – and not the destructive smears of anti-Semitism employed by Zionists – taking precedence over objective fact.

  9. eljay on April 4, 2019, 2:44 pm
  10. caladan on April 8, 2019, 9:56 am

    “The Palestinians are an invented people” Golda Meir.
    “Fakestinians”

    etc, etc

    Genocide by conceptual means.

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