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October 29 2011

Israel: Netizens Prepare to Take to the Streets in a New Social Justice Protest

After the largest protest in Israel's history, which drew almost half a million of Israelis to the streets in early September, the social justice movement in Israel has taken the backseat as the government successfully shifted the public discourse away from issues of economic inequality. The response of the government in the form of the Trajtenberg Committee failed to appease the majority of protesters, but Gilad Shalit's release from Hamas captivity increased the government's popularity. Israeli media, most of which used to be very supportive of the protest movement, hasn't devoted as much attention to covering (and promoting) this new round of protests. Despite these setbacks, the rallies tonight are planned for Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Rishon LeTzion, Kiryat Shmona, Beer Sheva, Haifa, Modiin and Eilat.

Blogger Goliath, pseudonym of journalist Yair Kaldor, explained in his blog the impetus for returning to the streets:

זהו, חוזרים לרחוב. גלעד שליט כבר בבית, אבל המתמחים עדיין מקבלים שכר מגוחך, ולמרות הורדת המחירים של תנובה ושטראוס, ההוצאה הממשלתית בישראל על מטרות חברתיות – כמו חינוך ורווחה – עדיין נמוכה משמעותית מרמת ההוצאה של מדינות ה-OECD. ולא, אין לממשלה שום כוונה לשנות כיוון בנושא.

זהו, חוזרים לרחוב. דו”ח טרכטנברג פיספס את כל הדרישות החשובות של המחאה, והתמקד בתיקונים קוסמטיים, כמו הגברת התחרותיות בענף גז הבישול והורדת מכסי מגן על תוצרת חקלאית.
That's it! We're returning to the streets. Gilad Shalit is home, but the medical residents are still getting a ridiculous salary, and despite the cut in prices by Tnuva and Strauss [two big Israeli food conglomerates], the government spending on social causes - like education and welfare - is still significantly lower than the spending level of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, and no, the government has no plans to change its course on the issue.

That's it! We're returning to the streets. The Trajtenberg report missed all the main demands of the protest movement, and focused on cosmetic changes, like increasing competitiveness in the cooking gas sector and decreasing protectionist taxes on agricultural goods.

Stav Shafir, one of the leaders of the #j14 protests, tweeted:

אז מתי בפעם האחרונה הפגנתם בכיכר? הערב, 8, נראה להם שאנחנו לא מתכוונים ללכת לשומקום #j14
@Stivvo: So when was the last time you protested in [Rabin] Square? Tonight at 8pm, we'll show them that we don't plan on going anywhere. #J14

Other Israeli bloggers and tweeps also explained their reasons for returning to protest:

כי אם הדבר הזה לא יצליח וסדרת הפגנות של מאות אלפים יוכנעו בכמה ספינים אוטומטים, אני לא באמת יודע מה עוד אפשר לעשות. וזין שאתן לזה לקרות #J14
@ItamarS: Because if this thing doesn't succeed and a series of protests of hundreds of thousands is defeated by a few automatic spins, then I don't know what else we can do [to change the country]. And **** [explicit] if I let that happen. #J14
צאו לרח׳ בשבילי- כי המתמחה שטיפל בסבא שלי בבי״ח צרח עליי שאין לו זמן לטפל בו וככה זה ברפואה הציבורית אז זב״שי. עכשיו אני בשבעה
@Karenlip: Go out into the streets [to protest] for me - because the medical resident who took care of my grandfather in the hospital yelled at me that he has no time to treat him, and this is how public health care works, so that's my problem. Now I'm sitting Shiv'a.
אני יוצא לרחוב כי אם אני לא אצא לרחוב אף אחד לא יצא לרחוב. ואז נחייה בדיקטטורה, שבה אסור לצאת לרחוב #j14
@odaskal: I'm going out into the streets [to protest] because if I don't go out, then no one will, and then we'll live in a dictatorship, where you're not allowed to protest.
לפני כחודשיים הרעדנו את ככר המדינה, וזה הלחיץ את ביבי מספיק בשביל לגרום לו להחזיר את גלעד שליט. שווה לבדוק מה עוד אפשר לגרום לו לעשות. #j14
@ymishory: About two months ago we shook Kikar HaMedina [location of the Tel Aviv protest in early September], and this made Bibi [Netanyahu] nervous enough to return Gilad Shalit. It's worth seeing what else we can make him do. #j14
ראש הממשלה והשרים, החברות הגדולות, המפרסמים הגדולים, בעלי ההון- כל אלה נגדנו. יש עדיין למישהו איזשהו ספק שאנחנו לגמרי בצד הנכון?! מהפכה #J14
@HaimHz: The Prime Minister and the ministers, the big companies, the big advertisers, the rich - all of them are against us. Is anyone still in doubt that we're totally on the right side?! Revolution #J14
Activists in Beer Sheva preparing signs for the rally, September 29

Activists in Beer Sheva prepating signs for the rally, September 29. Photo source: The official Facebook page for the local #j14 movement in the Negev

Blogger Ido Teshner shared his personal story of hardship in a country whose social safety net has been cut over the years. He wrote:

במוצאי שבת אני אצא להפגין אתכם, לא כי חזרתי לרחובות – אני ברחובות כבר 15 שנה. עבדתי לראשונה בחיי בכיתה ח' ולמעשה מאז כמעט שלא הפסקתי, הכל לשם אותה מטרה וצורך שפירטתי למעלה. 15 שנה אני מחפש את הצדק החברתי ולא מוצא אותו. עכשיו, אתכם, אני לפחות לא לבד.
On Saturday night I'll go out to protest with no, not because I returned to the streets - I've been in the streets for 15 years by now. I've been working since the eighth grade and since then, I almost didn't stop, all for the same goal and need I elaborated on above [taking care of his handicapped single mother]. And now, with you, at least I'm not alone.

Blogger Ori Ben Dov wrote about the upcoming protest

אם אתם לא בעניין של המחאה, המצב הכלכלי נראה לכם מעולה, הממשלה מנווטת את העניינים האלה לשביעות רצונכם והעבודה של חברי הכנסת למענכם נראית לכם ראויה – תשארו בבית.
If you're not into protesting, the economic situation seems excellent to you, the government is running things according to your will and the performance of your elected members of Knesset seems fine to you - stay at home.

October 20 2011

Israel: Joy and Anger Continue Over Shalit Deal

Gilad Shalit's return has been one of the biggest events in recent Israeli history. IDF soldier Gilad Shalit was released from Hamas captivity after being held for 1,941 days, in exchange for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners.

The deal was supported by the majority of Israelis, as Shalom Boguslavsky explained in his blog Put Down the Scissors and Let's Talk About It:

אני עם בני בגין, שאמר על עסקת שליט שאין בה שום היגיון, אבל הוא לא יכול להתנגד לה. אני מניח שהתמיכה שלי, ואולי של רוב הציבור, בעסקה הרעה והמבישה הזאת קשורה בעיקר לצורך קולקטיבי ברגע משחרר, חגיגה. אם היינו חיים במדינה שמתנהלת באופן סביר לטובת אזרחיה ולא בבית משוגעים רדוף רוחות, לא היינו חווים את התנודות המאניות-דפרסיביות האלו בהלך הרוח הציבורי והיינו יכולים להתייחס לעניין בפיכחון גדול מעט יותר
I'm with Benny Begin [Likud Minister] on this, who said that the Shalit deal makes no sense, but he still cannot oppose it. I think my support for this bad and shameful deal, and maybe the support of the majority of the public stems mostly from our need for a collective moment of catharsis, a celebration. If we lived in a country that operates somewhat efficiently for the good of its citizens and not in this haunted madhouse, we wouldn't experience these manic-depressive swings in the public mood, and we could have treated this matter [the deal] with greater sobriety.

The news of Shalit's release was almost the only thing discussed in the Israeli twittersphere and blogosphere since the deal was announced. Supermodel Bar Refaeli reflected the popular mood with her tweet:

גלעד שליט בבית. יום היסטורי. מרגש. גאווה להיות ישראלי
@BarRefaeli: Gilad Shalit is home. A historic day. Exciting. I'm proud to be an Israeli

Liron Teeny described the mood in the streets:

ברחוב תל אביבי.צרחות שמחה מדירות.מכשירי טלוויזיה ורדיו צועקים את הבשורה.היסטוריה
@liront: In the streets in Tel Aviv: cries of joy from apartments. TV and radio sets screaming out the news. History.

Before returning to Israel, Shalit was forced to undergo an interview to Egyptian State TV (Nile TV). Israelis on Twitter were furious about the interview, which was conducted in the presence of Hamas operatives and Egyptian intelligence. The translation of the interview from Hebrew misrepresented Shalit's words in Hebrew when he said he was not feeling well, and that he would only support the release of Palestinian prisoners if they do not return to terrorist activity. Some Israelis even opened a Facebook page about the Egyptian journalist who interviewed Shalit, titled Shahira Amin is a shame to journalism in response.

@vandersister:טוב, עד עכשיו הייתי צינית. עכשיו אני כועסת. הראיון הכפוי הזה לטלוויזיה המצרית, כשהוא חיוור, מפוחד, בקושי נושם, זו אכזריות לשמה
Okay, until now I was cynical. Now I'm angry. This forced interview to the Egyptian television, when he's pale, scared and barely breathing is outright cruelty.

Musician Noy Alooshe (who was behind the “Zenga Zenga” remix) reflected the Israeli mood about the interview when he created this poster about Shahira Amin.

Following the interview, Shalit was flown to the Tel Nof military base where he finally met his parents. Prime Minister Netanyahu made sure to exploit the opportunity for a photo-op and a self-congratulatory speech and was harshly and humorously criticized for it by Israelis online.

מאיפה התמונה הזו של ביבי עם גלעד ונועם מוכרת לי? אה, מכרזת הבחירות של 2013
@TzlilAvraham: Why does this photo of Bibi [Netanyahu's nickname] with Gilad and Noam [Shalit's father] seems familiar? Oh right, from [Netanyahu's] election campaign poster of 2013
סנט בנימין, הקדוש הפטרון של השבויים הפדויים
@roee_r:Saint Benjamin, the holy patron of the redeemed captives
אם היו מחזירים את גלעד שליט תמורת ביבי נתניהו, אני בספק אם היו מתנגדים לעסקה.
@adigi: If they would have returned Gilad Shalit in exchange for Bibi Netanyahu, I'm sure no one would've objected to it.

Tamar described the mixed feelings about the way Shalit's return was handled:

בוכה מהדיסוננס שבין המתיקות של הבחור הזה לבין כל מה שקורה מסביבו. הוא מובלעת של תום בתוך ערימה גדולה מאד של כל מה שדפוק במין האנושי
@tamar_tamar: I'm crying because of the dissonance between the sweetness of this guy [Shalit] and everything that happens around him. He's an enclave of innocence in a big pile of what is wrong with the human species.

Others criticized the heavy price of the deal:

הרטוריקה שלכם מוזרה לי קצת. החמאס שחרר את שליט, לא ביבי. ביבי הוא זה ששיחרר טרוריסטים רצחניים עם דם ילדים על הידיים
@dkapuchino: The rhetoric is a little strange. Hamas released Shalit, not Bibi. Bibi is the one who let out murderous terrorists with the blood of children on their hands.

Blogger Yossi Gurevitz expounded on his blog, Orwell's Friends:

בין המחבלים שמשחרר נתניהו, כותב הבוקר אלכס פישמן במוסף לשבת של ידיעות אחרונות, יש 279 אסירי עולם. הם רצחו 599 ישראלים. משוחררי עסקת ג'יבריל רצחו, לשם השוואה, 178 ישראלים “בלבד”. השב”כ מעריך, שוב אליבא דפישמן, שכ-60% מהמחבלים המשוחררים יחזרו לבצע פיגועים. בהנחה שהם יהיו יעילים כמו בעבר, מחיר העסקה צפוי להיות 359 ישראלים הרוגים. אם השב”כ יהיה יעיל באופן קיצוני וימנע את פעילותם של 99% מהם – שיעור בלתי סביר, במיוחד אם היחסים עם הרשות הפלסטינית יקרסו – אז מספר ההרוגים צפוי להיות ארבעה. שהם, בספירה המקובלת, שלושה יותר מאשר אחד. הסתברותית, אנחנו מעלים ארבעה ישראלים לפחות למולך שליט. החמאס, נודע הבוקר, אפילו לא היה מוכן להתחייב להמנע מחטיפת חיילים בעתיד; עד כדי כך היה נתניהו נחוש, תקיף ומנהיגותי.
Among the terrorists Netanyahu is letting out, Alex Fishman writes in Yediot Aharonot's weekend supplement, there are 279 prisoners who've received life sentences. They've murdered 599 Israelis. Those released in the Jibril deal, murdered “only” 178 Israelis by comparison. The Shin Bet assesses, again according to Fishman, that about 60% of the released terrorists will return to terrorist activity. Assuming they'll be as efficient as before, the price of this deal would be 359 dead Israelis. If Shin Bet will be incredibly efficient and stops the activity of 99% of those released - an unlikely ratio, especially if relations with the Palestinian Authority collapse - then the number of killed is expected to be four, which by the traditional count and three more than one [Shalit]. Statistically, we are sacrificing four Israelis for the idol Shalit. Hamas, it was reported this morning, isn't even willing to commit to not kidnapping soldiers in the future; this is how determined, resolute and leader-like Netanyahu has been.

Blogger Haim Har Zahav, who served in the platoon with Udi Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, the soldiers whose kidnapping sparked the 2006 war with Hizbollah, wrote in his blog:

הגיע הזמן שראש הממשלה יתייצב בפני אזרחי ישראל - לא בפני אויבי המדינה אלא בפני הישראלים! - ויודיע להם שגלעד שליט היה האחרון שלגביו יתקיים משא ומתן. שתדע כל אם עבריה שאם בנה או בתה נחטפים לצורכי מיקוח, ממשלת ישראל לא תשחרר יותר מקומץ מחבלים עבורם.
It's time that the Prime Minister stands before the citizens of Israel - not before the enemies of the state but before Israelis! - and announce that Gilad Shalit will be the last [captive] whose release will be negotiated for. Let every Hebrew mother know that if her son or daughter are kidnapped for bargaining, the Israeli government will not release more than a handful of terrorists for their release.

It wouldn't be the Israeli twittersphere without some sarcastic comments.
Rotem Biton described the scene where Shalit, who was kidnapped before the launch of the iPhone, is introduced to Angry Birds on the chopper ride from Egypt:

אתה רואה, אתה צריך למשוך את הציפור ואז לשחרר ולהרוג כמה שיותר חזירים #שיחות.מהמסוק
@rotemism: You see, you need to pull the bird and the release it and kill as many pigs as possible. #talksFromTheChooper
סביב שולחן ארוחת החג, נושא השיחה: מה אם גלעד נדרס מחר.
@Elle_Yav: Around the holiday [Sukkoth] dinner table, topic of conversation: what if Gilad Shalit is killed in a car accident tomorrow.
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October 12 2011

Israel: News of Gilad Shalit's Release Welcomed

On October 11, the Israeli government and top Hamas officials confirmed that a deal has been struck between Israel and Hamas that would lead to the release of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in exchange for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners. Since Shalit's kidnapping in 2006, his parents, Israeli media outlets and celebrities have campaigned for his release. The news about the deal were welcomed by most Israelis, but not all. As Noam Sheizaf and Noa Yachot described on +972 Mag:

Spontaneous celebrations took place at the Shalit family’s protest tent in Jerusalem. Counter-protesters demonstrated outside the tent against the release of Palestinian prisoners “with blood on their hands” – a term denoting those charged with deaths of Israelis.

Israeli tweeps also commented about the identities of some of the Palestinian prisoners set to be released who were convicted of carrying out terror attacks that resulted in the death of Israelis:

מזכירים פה כבר שמות של משוחררים. אין שום ספק שמדובר באוסף נאה של חארות. האלטרנטיבה של להפוך אותו לרון ארד רעה יותר
Names of those who will be released are being mentioned. Undoubtedly, this is a nice collection of assholes. [But] the alternative of making him [Gilad Shalit] into Ron Arad [an Israeli soldier who was kidnapped in the 1980s in Lebanon and is now presumed dead] is even worse

Other tweeps discussed the results of this release of prisoners:

@Dubikan: שמח עבור גלעד שליט, חושש עבור החייל הבא שיחטף כדי לשחרר עוד אלף אסירים, ועבור האנשים שיפגעו בפיגועים אחרי ששוב הוכחנו שרק כח אנחנו מבינים
I'm happy for Gilad Shalit, worried about the next soldier who will be kidnapped to release a thousand other prisoners, and about the people who will be hurt in terror attacks after we once again have proven that we only understand force.
@YGurvitz מה יקרה למצב הרוח הציבורי, אחרי הרצח הראשון שיבצעו משוחררי עסקת שליט?
What will happen to the public's mood after the first murder committed by those who were released in the Shalit deal?

The deal passed the vote in the Israeli government, with only three ministers voting against it. Dahlia Scheindlin explained on +972 Mag the results of the vote:

In my assessment, the government vote is a pretty good indicator of how the public feels at this moment: 10% against the deal, and the rest – 90% for it.

The public mobilization for Shalit has been massive. There has hardly been a single major public forum that has not been leveraged to call for Shalit’s release.

Due to the public support for the deal, it is seen in Israel as a victory for Prime Minister Netanyahu, who used the opportunity to send a celebratory tweet:

@IsraeliPM: I am bringing #Gilad #Shalit home !

The Israeli twittersphere, however, was not impressed.

@adigi: נתניהו: הספין הזה לא יעזור לך. כולם יזכרו שיכולת לאשר את אותה העסקה לשחרור שליט גם לפני שנתיים, ולחסוך לו מאות ימים בשבי
Netanyahu: this spin won't help you. Everyone will remember that you could have approved the same deal to release Shalit two years ago too, and save him hundreds of days in captivity.

Many tweeps saw the Gilat Shalit deal as a ploy to increase Netanyahu's popularity, after it had suffered a significant hit as a result of the #j14 social justice protest movement during the summer.

@nitayp: איזה רגע ישראלי מזוקק: התפטרות המתמחים והמחאה החברתית שנוגעות ישירות למיליונים יורדות מסדר היום בגלל חייל אחד שאנחנו בעצם לא מכירים.
What a typical Israeli moment: the quitting of medial residents [in protest of low wages and long working hours] and the social protest that affect millions lose public attention because of one soldier we don't actually know.
@Zivpug: מה שחשוב עכשיו זה לא לתת לשקרניהו להפוך את שליט לנצחון שלו. כי זה לא. המסיבה צריכה להיות ברוטשילד, לא בקריה #J14 #shalit
What's important now is to not let Shekernyahu [a combination of the words liar and the Prime Minister's last name, a common critical nickname for the PM] make Shalit his victory. Because it is not. The celebration should be in Rothschild [where the tent cities of the social justice movement started], not in the Kirya [government and military complex in Tel Aviv]. #j14 #Shalit
מקווה שגלעד יחזור בריא, כי אין רופאים
I hope Gilad returns home healthy, since there are no doctors [due to the mass-quitting by medical residents]

In a twittersphere known for its cynicism and dark sense of humor, a few Israelis used the news as an opportunity to crack jokes:

@tsooff: גלעד שליט בראיון ראשון: החלום על האייפד 2 החזיק אותי
Gilad Shalit in his first interview: dreaming about the iPad 2 kept me going.
@davidohayon אביבה שליט: “גלעד לא יחזור אותו ילד ששלחנו” , מגדירה מחדש את המושג Buyer's remorse
Aviva Shalit [Gilad's mother]: “Gilad won't return as the same kid we sent”, redefining the term Buyer's remorse.

Others used the prisoner swap deal to criticize the Israeli government's policies with regards to the Palestinians:

@vandersister: רק מזכירה לכולם שלא רק שחרור מחבלים הוא הסכנה לפיגועים, אלא גם העובדה שאין שום הידברות מדינית וכאלה. ג'אסט סיינג
I'm just reminding everyone that releasing terrorists isn't the only thing that increases the chances for terror attacks, but also the lack of any negotiations and such. Just saying.

Eyal Niv wrote a critical post on his Blog, Truth from the Land of Israel about Israel's policy with regards to Gaza:

רק דבר אחד לא ניסו. לעצור לרגע ולחשוב, למה בכלל מחזיקים אלפי אסירים פלסטינים בישראל, אם רובם אינם טרוריסטים, וכמה זה עולה למשלם המיסים, והאם זה לא מזמין אלימות בתביעה לצדק. …

ועכשיו שישוחרר, בשעה טובה, יש להוסיף ולשאול עוד – מה הלאה: האם עכשיו יוסרו ההגבלות? יפסיקו את הפגיעה בכלואים הפלסטינים בישראל? המצור? הבידוד מהגדה? הגבלות השיט? החקלאות? הייצוא והייבוא? היתרים לנסוע לחו”ל? לטיפול רפואי? ללימודים? הלוא שליט היה העילה כביכול. אולי צריך לחשוב מחדש: את מי משרת המצור – אותנו או את חמאס?

Only one thing they didn't try. To stop for a minute and think, why are we holding thousands of Palestinians prisoners in Israel, if most of them aren't terrorists, and how much this costs the taxpayers, and does it invite violence [kidnappings] in a demand for justice [release of prisoners]. …

And now that he'll be released, finally, we must also ask - what's next? Will now the restrictions [on Gaza] be lifted? Will now they stop punishing the Palestinians incarcerated in Israel? The siege [of Gaza]? The isolation [of Gaza] from the West Bank? The fishing limitations? The agriculture? The export and import? The permission to travel abroad? [The permission] to get medical treatment? [The permission] to study [abroad]? Shalit, after, was the excuse for this. Maybe we need to rethink, whom does the siege serve -us or Hamas?

September 23 2011

Israel: Beyond ‘us' and ‘them,' Lihi Yona is an Arab Jew

Israeli woman Lihi Yona, a Moroccan Jew descendent, reclaims her Arab roots and complicates local identity politics on a bus ride to Jordan to attend a Lebanese band performance. The Hebrew version is followed by an English one: I am an Arab Jew.

August 11 2011

Israel: J14hackers build SMS-Twitter Gateway for Protests

The hacker collective J14hackers put together an SMS-Twitter gateway which enables easy content publishing from a local phone to Twitter. Users in Israel can send an SMS from their phones to 052-5635053, and the content of their message will be posted on the @J14Mobile Twitter account.

Reposted bykrekklotterleben

February 14 2011

Israel: A Music Video Celebrating Egypt's New Freedom

Written by Carmel L. Vaisman

A group of Israeli indie musicians have gathered to create a song, entitled Children of Liberty, expressing their support of the Egyptian people's newly acquired freedom, and have a “toast” to new neighbors, human rights and equality in both countries.

January 31 2011

Israel: Social Media Offers Alternative Egypt Commentary

Written by Carmel L. Vaisman

For the last 48 hours, “revolution in Egypt” is set as the “hot” topic on the front page of Israblog, the largest Israeli blogger community; however, as little as 12 bloggers posted on this topic to date. Along with the conversations on Twitter and Facebook, Israelis express mixed feelings: intuitive support of the demand for freedom, alongside echoing of Western media fears of Islamic fundamentalism under the guise of democracy.

Ofri Ilani, Haaretz technology correspondent, offers one of the best descriptions of these mixed feelings on his personal blog:

What is happening in Egypt is so exciting and seminal that it is even hard to judge if it's good or bad in familiar terms. We can say the revolution is good news and it should be happening, for better or worse. But we should also remember that Kemp David agreements or the possibility to go to Cairo and have coffee in Zamalek, is part of Mubarak's rule too…. if you think you and your very existence here aren't part of the American empire in the Middle East, raise your hand.

One could say that the fall of Mubarak's government is vital and joyful and at the same time, admit its possible outcome could mean war that might result in our defeat and the fall of Zionism in its current form. In short, we can jump like flees on the back of a sneezing elephant. Personally, I sum up my feelings towards the images from Egypt: fear and trembling. Meanwhile, congratulations and respect to the Egyptian people.

Blogger and artist Roy Arad wrote  a personal column on Haaretz in which he confessed being glued to Twitter during the last few days. Arad explains what hypnotized him about the revolution while criticizing Israeli youth and media commentators:

I quarreled like a fool on Twitter with people who listened to Middle East commentators' fear of Muslim Brothers' rise, should Egypt become truly democratic. Islam is indeed a powerful factor, but I thought of my personal friends in Egypt: the shy translator, the provocative film artist with the nose ring, the girl from Mansura who asked me to send her socialist poetry and uses images of Hollywood stars as her facebook profile pictures…. I look at the faces of the youth dancing on top of the police cars and these are not the people who will let Egypt become an Islamic dictatorship. But who knows.

Israelis like myself, who were born into a democracy where everything can be said, can never experience courage like the Egyptians who risk their lives for it. If they lose they will be jailed and tortured. Revolution in Tel Aviv? Students in the cafes here are busier with pitiful critical theories… we who think twice before going to a demonstration cannot comprehend this kind of courage. While Egyptians risk their necks for the right to demonstrate, we prefer to stare at the dwarf from the Big Brother reality TV show and wait for something to happen.

Solidarity demonstrations with the Egyptian people took place both in front of the Egyptian embassy in Tel Aviv and in Jaffa over the weekend. @osnatita tweets:

The policeman at the entrance to the demonstration in Jaffa suggested we wait and not go into the city right now. When we said we came to join the demonstration he was shocked. Are you sure? He asked, surprised.

Many tweeps wondered about the ramifications of the revolution for Israel. @glachs writes:

Meanwhile, philadelphi route is neglected. Hamas will arm itself marvelously, IDF will enter Gaza to guard Rafah crossing, and now we will see the true effect of the Palestine papers.

@Itamars tweets:

Israel is like the weak kid in class who stuck with the bully for protection, and one day, the bully is kicked out of school.

@dubikan replies to the worries expressed on Israeli and American media that Egyptians may not be ready for democracy:

If a nation organizes a successful grassroots upraising against a dictator, demanding democracy, than the people are ready for democracy

In another tweet he adds:

Robespierre and the French people weren't exactly ready for democracy or knew what it is either, when performing the French revolution.

A large portion of the tweets and blogs criticized the Middle East experts and commentators on Israeli media. @yuval_v tweets:

Let's agree on a rule: if you didn't predict the intensity of the demonstrations and the revolution in Egypt, please do not predict with “high probability” the type of government they will have after the revolution.

@aradaki targets channel 2's veteran Expert of the Arab world:

Ehud Yaari, you're dumb. If you take your head out of your butt you'll find a world you're not familiar with.

Such harsh words reflect the tension between media analysis and the live Twitter feed from Egypt. In the course of the Twitter conversation @aradki adds:

These experts better read Twitter rather than analyze on the basis of their old connections that narrow their perspective. People who've been in the field all their lives cannot see the world has changed.

Israeli bloggers are offering alternative commentaries and asking the truly harsh questions based on social media attentiveness and personal connections with Egyptian bloggers. As the rumors on Twitter arrived this morning of an Egyptian army entrance into Sinai peninsula, blogger Lisa Goldman seemed to have surprised the ministry of foreign affairs' spokesman with the news, on which he apologized that he cannot comment since “they have strict orders to refrain from any comment on Egypt till the outcome of the uprising is clear.” Yossi Gurevich reports this story in Hebrew and comments:

It's hard to believe IDF isn't aware of this act, which technically is an invasion that defers the peace agreement. If this was indeed uncoordinated, it is very troubling security-wise, after all, that's how the 1969 war started. If it was coordinated then someone in the government should be able to explain on whose authority it was done, since such a change in the peace agreement requires the parliament's consent. Furthermore, the question arises if Israel is aiding Mubarak against his people.

In the same post Gurevich also criticizes Israeli chief intelligence officer who said on January 25 that there is no threat to Egypt's stability at this time:

now that we've seen the real value of army intelligence, it's time to dismantle this institution and replace it with a national evaluation unit that's free of army generals and is able to consider the civil society as well.

January 27 2011

Israel: Bloggers Eye Gaza as Egypt Unrest Spreads through Sinai

Written by Gilad Lotan

This post is part of our special coverage of Egypt Protests 2011.

This is a summary of Israeli perspectives, blog posts, and media shared online over the last two days, in reaction to the unrest in Egypt. Referenced by Israeli sources as the ‘Egypt Intifada', bloggers are looking closely at the spread of the violence into Sinai and the possibility of igniting violence in the Gaza Strip or the West Bank.

The recent JCPA post by Zvi Mazael describes Tunisia's domino effect and its spread in the region:

Egypt has a strong and stable government. Every political analyst starts with those words. This is true until the circumstances change, and they have. We are seeing a wholly new condition in Egypt and the Arab world. Tunisia's domino effect is alive and kicking. Tunisia's people's revolution is spreading like fire in a thorn field through the region.

Tzvi continues, describing the hesitant Egyptian opposition:

The large opposition parties have not called out to join the demonstrations and have not backed them. The Muslim Brotherhood announced that “a few of their leaders” will participate in riots in a symbolic way. It is known that the Egyptian security forces have warned the Brotherhood's leaders around the country from calling their supporters to join the riots. However it seems like the Muslim Brotherhood leadership is motivated by a different set of considerations, and estimate that it is not yet time to confront the leadership.

How does all this affect Israel and the US? Tzvi writes:

What does this mean for Israel and the USA, who have been worriedly following the turn of events, and are fearing for the stability of Egypt? It is still difficult to predict.
With that, it is important to state that up until now, neither Israel nor the USA have been mentioned in the demonstrations. Egyptians took the streets for democracy, human rights and to improve their living conditions. A new gov't will need to make economic and social reforms. American support will be more necessary than ever.
Additionally, there's no reason for Egypt to harm the existing peace agreement with Israel. I may be wrong, but it is without a doubt that the Tunisian revolution changed the Arab world. We will see the outcomes in the upcoming months.

The popular forum site,, has been hosting a number of discussions about the events in Egypt.
As the fighting in the Sinai Peninsula spreads, an unconfirmed post claims protesters have taken over gov't facilities in Northern Sinai:

The link mentioned in the Tweet above, hosts a conversation describing the possibility that riots may fuel an uprising in Gaza:

Spread of the riots into sinai can bring the fire of demonstrations into the Gaza strip. Hamas might be tempted to think that it can help the people in their resistance towards the central gov't. It is also possible that terrorists operating under Al-Quaeda will try to send armed forces to operate in Sinai to add to the chaos in Egypt. I have no doubt that in this case, the Egyptians will react mercilessly. It it clear to them and to Hamas.
Hamas will allow itself to operate only if it is sure that the Egyptian wheel has turned, and that the gov't is dying.

In that same forum thread, a number of users portray their thoughts:

If he'd use even a little bit of the force that his army is capable of, the demonstrations would have stopped. I'm not trying to discount the riots, but only when the army switches to the opposition, will it be the beginning of the end of Egypt's current regime.
We're not there yet.

Another post describes recent actions the Egyptian religion ministry has taken in preparation for tomorrow's planned demonstrations:

- the religion ministry will postpone the Friday prayers to Sunday
- the Egyptian gov't is planning to disconnect internet connectivity in the whole of Egypt if the situation deteriorates tomorrow
- unverified information states Mubarak has taken command over the Egyptian security forces. In preparation for tomorrow he commanded that the army is ready to replace police forces across cities in Egypt.
- Egyptian gov't ordered media blackout tomorrow. Communications, water and electricity will be shut off.

Video footage posted on the Israeli video sharing site flix:

Two Israelis on holiday in Egypt who were caught in the heat of events reported by +972 Magazine:

When we suggested to an Egyptian friend affected by teargas that he buy onions and use it to diminish the affect of the gas, as we do in Israel and the Occupied Territories, he laughed. He then explained his salary is about 300 Egyptian pounds, and one kilo of onions is three pounds.
We got back to our hotel after being at the demonstrations all through the day. During the night, we could hear the protest continuing – people screaming and police vehicles driving through the streets.
This morning we woke up to find  the streets were quiet and full of policemen, but the Facebook page of the anti-government movement was very much alive.

We would be lying if we said we did not envy the Egyptian people: Seeing masses of people out on the streets to protest for what they believe in is something we, as Israelis, can only dream of now. And it is truly frightening to think that similar masses of Israelis will act only when have experienced the levels of oppression and rage that people are experiencing here.

This post is part of our special coverage of Egypt Protests 2011.

October 25 2010

Israel: Controversial Loyalty Oath Undermines Democracy

By Gilad Lotan

In the past week, the Israeli cabinet approved by a 22-8 vote the proposed amendment to Israel's Citizenship Law, which would require all those seeking citizenship to pledge allegiance to Israel as a “Jewish and democratic state.” To become law, it must pass three Knesset votes in the upcoming months.

Attempts to enforce recognition of Israel as uniquely Jewish have been deeply controversial, particularly among Israel's Arab citizens, who make up a fifth of the country's population. Some claim Bibi Netanyahu is playing straight into the hands of Avigdor Lieberman's nationalist party doctrine. Other logic seems to be “we must demand from ourselves what Israel is asking others to recognize”, referencing Israel's request from the Palestinians to recognize it as a Jewish nation-state. Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni condemned the cabinet's approval, describing it as “politics at its worst” and “political horse-trading”.

In a blog post about the topic, Orit Kamir reminds us that such laws were previously banned:

There are Democratic countries that request a loyalty oath from new citizens; immigrants asking to receive citizenship. There are countries that request new citizens to study their culture, history and language. These are fair and desired requests. The State of Israel does not do this, because it provides automatic citizenship to Jews, not asking them for anything except their religion.

Historic reminder: In the 80's, Meir Kahana called against the declaration of the state, requesting to cancel the section boasting equality ('a State for all its citizens'), to leave only a zionist, religious and non-democratic declaration. His party was outlawed, and he was publically condemned. What happened that 20 years later we don't see the latent danger in precisely this move?

The following Facebook group has been gathering Israelis to rally against the law. Following is an excerpt of a conversation between Israeli group members and Israeli opponents:

Dean Michaely writes:

You guys don't accept Israel as a Jewish and democratic state? You don't accept the Israeli declaration of independence? So leave this place.
Because all we're doing, like every country in the world, especially a country in such critical state as ours, is requesting a loyalty oath from our citizens. The reason is simple - people receive citizenship here and then blow themselves up or shoot in public, and claim that they don't accept this country's right to exist. We we can do here is initial filtering, for the benefit of accepting our country and its nature - Jewish and democratic.

Barak Granot adds a sarcastic response:

When was the last time that you saw someone blow up or shoot here? Baruch Goldstein was a long time ago. Also the Rabbi Uzi Meshulam. Maybe you mean the underground crime organizations that blow up cars? Or maybe you're talking about Eden Natan Zadeh who started shooting in an Arab-Israeli town? But wait… these are all wholly Israeli citizens. So what exactly are you claiming?

Daniel Oz adds:

Its Bibi & Lieberman who don't accept Israel as Jewish and Democratic, otherwise they wouldn't propose this fascist law, that conveys a lack of confidence in Israel's Jewish nature and is, in effect, an attempt to cancel the democracy in order to support a national-racial Jewish population.

Ziv Gur-arye writes:

We have a country with many people (not only Arabs) who do not recognize it and are loyal to those who are currently enemies of the State (although we'd be thrilled if in the future they will change their ways, even though the chances are tiny given the complete control of Hamas in Gaza).
Only those who see themselves as Israeli should live here. The State of Palestine will rise in the future, and there all those who see themselves as Palestinians will live. In the USA and other countries people must declare their loyalty to the state. Why are there extremists that are against this proposal?
If you are really devoted to preserving the democracy, you need to respect the oath and request to apply it to every Israeli citizen, regardless of sex or race.

Dean posts an additional response:

Barak you are wrong about many things. Israel was given to the Jews and Palestine to the Palestinians. The reason that Arabs stay here is the fact that government stipends are excellent, much more than they'd receive in any other Arab state.

Daniel Oz - this is not a fascist law proposal. It exists in many other countries that are not fascist. This is a democratic, Jewish country - not democratic muslim. This is the nature of the country if we like it or not.

And by the way, the proposal passed a democratic vote, just like the cancellation of the Turkish constitution… Please welcome Bibi for the democratic nature of this proposal.

Following are two posts from Twitter:

assiazar writes:

Without loyalty, there's no citizenship. We will pay for this sentence.

Irwunsch retweets a post by sethacohen33:

Bradley Burston compiles a list of things you can do to help prevent the law:

The law must have the support of the Likud [27 seats] and Labor [13] in order to pass. Write to Prime Minister and Likud Chair Benjamin Netanyahu and to Defense Minister and Labor Chair Ehud Barak to urge them to bar the bill from passage. The individual e-mail addresses of all Likud MKs may be found by clicking their names on the Knesset website. Senior Likud MKs Benny Begin, Dan Meridor and Michael Eitan, as well as Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin have already spoken out strongly against the Loyalty Oath. Others are believed to have serious reservations, and may be persuaded to abstain or work to keep the bill from reaching the Knesset floor.

September 07 2010

Israel: Israeli scientists claim proof that Arabic is “hard for brain”

By Gabriel Nada

A recent study reported in the BBC and other online media, as well as having been published in the American Psychological Association's journal is entitled Nuerosychology: University of Haifa (2010, August 31) Reading Arabic isn't easy, brain study suggests. (No online edition available). It claims to have proved its hypothesis that reading Arabic is harder for the brain than reading Hebrew or English. The team of researchers state “the detail of Arabic characters means students should use only the left side of their brain” and that using the right brain when learning to read Arabic “is wasting effort.”

The study only involved 40 subjects and rather than asking whether or not Arabic is actually harder to read set out to prove the assumption that Arabic is harder to read.

Wide Ranging Sources of Commentary

The article was picked up and became an interestingly debated subject on MyAnimeList, a forum for discussing Japanese animated films.

User RedSuisei, from Indonesia, comments:

it all depends on whether you are accustomed with the letters or not. I have no problem reading arabic letters at all. I can read quite fast to. It seems that what the researchers says also applies to other languages like Japanese, Koreans, etc. where we also have to look for details in the writing.

User Yammin from London says:

Arabic reading is easy. It's actually pretty simple. Just learn the letters and the vowels; a few rules and you'll get it down. I learnt how to read it in a week. But I was 8 when I learnt it, and I suppose children pick things up faster.

Building on comments from users about what these “findings” would mean with regard to Asian languages, MorningGlory offers:

鬮䯂龞麤 It look like electric circuit!!!

Adding to MorningGlory's example, KyuuAL from the US cites this example:

I remember as a child. My uncle taught me the numbers/numerals. I had ‘em down pat too… but ultimately, I forgot ‘em.

Anyways, being an adult, I'm still struggling remembering the difference between:
shi - シ
tsu - ツ
That's just two characters in Japanese (katakana).

Further down RedSuisei returns with this comparison:

Believe it or not, I can say the same to our alphabets as well. i and j looks similar. I and l looks very very similar, especially in handwriting. d is reverse b. n is like r with longer line continuing down. F and E only differ by one line. In Japanese they got a lot more of similar looking characters whether it's hiragana, katakana, or kanji. Even same characters may be read differently. Even character size also reads differently (つ is tsu while っ is mark for double consonant, for example).

In a comical entry Confucius quips:

Read my Math work, we'll see which is harder…

Heika weighs in with:

I don't think learning to read Arabic is any harder than learning to read any other language, specially when I think of the trouble I have reading Japanese. There are only 28 letters in the Arabic abjad, learning it isn't all that difficult. As stated before, the most challenging part can be remembering the contextual shapes of every letter (isolated, initial, medial or final). The standard writing is simple and easy to read, if some letters look very similar, their pronunciation is pretty different, so it becomes easy to distinguish them with practice.

Writing on a different forum page, PSPISO, Alepman contributes:

LOL……the study done by an Israeli university,who knows they may find learning Arabic can make you suicidal.Yes Arabic isn't a simple language but it's not that difficult and one of the most speakable language in the world.

Musing on the Fortean Times forum reacting to the article, Cultjunky (no link available) posts:

My concern here is that there are some very sensitive areas in the world, where Hebrew and Arabic are ‘neighbours' (I mean that in the loosest possible way, not the cheery nostalgic way) If the further research suggested in the article supports the theory that Hewbrew is easier than Arabic, then it's not too great a leap of faith to see a time when in Hewbrew is taught to the exclusion of Arabic. I guess the premise would be that children would become competant readers earlier, and so be able to develop quicker, blah, blah, and so become better educated, and become a Radiohead song - ‘fitter happier more productive' [sic]

When you said, ‘who would believe the Isrealis', it's not believing them I have a problem with, it's trusting the motives of this kind of research.

In another debate on Free Republic, gogogodzilla states:

The whole lack of vowels as well as the right-to-left writing is also found in Hebrew as well.

And it is a real pain in the butt for newcomers to learn without vowels. Which is why I gave it up and learned Korean.

Which has it’s own problems (like frequently dropping the subject in sentences, so you don’t know who their talking/writing about).

Yet another forum debate on the issue at brings this note from CaucusWolf

Studies aren't correct for every person. I find reading Arabic to be fairly easy. I can read it fairly quickly as long as I know the Vocabulary. Obviously not as quickly as English but it's also not my native language.
Honestly, the dots that distinguish certain Arabic letters make them that much easier to identify. This can be said especially when comparing it to the seemingly more complex Latin Alphabet.

On a separate branch at the same site, Doitsujin observes:

IMHO, learning to read Arabic is no more complicated than learning a non-Latin alphabet, for example Cyrillic. (After all Arabic has only 28 letters.) Learning to read Arabic is the least of the problems that most Arabic learners face.

And Arekkusu notes:

Of course, learning the alphabet is only a very, very minor part of learning a language, so it doesn't necessarily make Arabic harder to learn than Hebrew.

Links to the Alphabets

The Arabic العربية, Hebrew עברית, and other alphabets can be found at these links.

*Note of Disclaimer*: The author reads Arabic fluently, Mandarin Chinese competently, Hebrew at a basic level, and the Roman alphabet (English, Spanish, German, etc.) natively. No discernible difference can be perceived between the difficulty of learning Hebrew or Arabic.

August 21 2010

MENA: The Bigger Picture Behind Eden Abergil's Facebook Photos

By Katharine Ganly

Ex-Israeli soldier Eden Abergil's Facebook photo album entitled “IDF- The best days of my life” has caused outrage since it was revealed on Monday that the album contained photos of the soldier posing mockingly with handcuffed and blindfolded Palestinian detainees.

The photo album was available for public viewing until Abergil changed her Facebook privacy settings after the scandal arose. The story, which has made news worldwide, has been met by angry reactions on local and international blogs and on Twitter.

The album not only contained photos of the detainees, with the soldier posing alongside them, but was also annotated with mocking commentary. Jordanian-Palestinian blogger Haitham Sabbah, at the Sabbah Report provides a translation for some of the comments:

On Thursday Abergil responded to the controversy by saying she did not understand what was wrong with the photos. She said:

“There’s no violence or intention to humiliate anyone in the pictures. I just had my picture taken with them in the background. I did it out of excitement, to remember the experience. It wasn’t a political statement or any kind of statement. It was about remembering my experiences in the army and that’s it.”

Since the publicity around the photographs, the IDF has denounced Abergil's actions, insisting that she does not represent the IDF and pointing out that she was discharged last year. Some, such as Zeinobia at Egyptian Chronicles suggest that this is merely as an image-saving exercise. One commenter on Zenobia's post however points out that despite what many bloggers think, Abergil has been equally as criticised from within Israel as she has been elsewhere:

Regardless of IDF's public statements and actions to be taken against Eden Abergil, the majority of Israeli people comments and opinions posted in their news media criticized her and called her various names ranging from ‘idiot' to @%#*& and demanded for her punishment.

While Abergil has been singled out, Sabbah on the other hand states that these pictures are just part of a wider phenomenon, an opines that this is the norm for the IDF:

All of these pictures really speak for themselves and what to expect from Israel Army, and worse. ‬Pictures of this kind reflect the norms accepted among Israeli soldiers at checkpoint, and the treatment meted out to innocent Palestinians. This sick girl is no better than all Israeli soldiers serving the occupation of Palestine. In fact these “best times of my life” pictures are only humble memories when compared to the bloody memories that other Israeli terrorist soldiers carry with them

Progressive Jewish blog Mondoweiss posts a similar view, as detailed in the post Eden Abergil, The Product of a Blindfolded Society, where a militarized society is blamed for such actions, suggesting while Abergil's behaviour is reprehensible, it is also commonplace and is something she may later regret:

Is there anything shocking about the Facebook photos showing the Israeli female soldier Eden Abergil posing in mocking positions next to bound and blindfolded Palestinian men? …
…You don't have to go to the West Bank or into an Israeli prison to recognize that Abergil is a typical product of Israel’s comprehensively militarized society. Just watch the documentary,“To See When I’m Smiling.”In the film, which tells the soul-crushing stories of four young women conscripted into the Israeli Army, one of the characters recounts posing for a photo beside a dead Palestinian man who had an erection. She was smiling from ear to ear in the photo. However, at the end of the film, when she is compelled to look at the picture for the first time in two years, she does not recognize the monster who bears her image. Her contorted facial expression seems to ask, “Who was I?”

And Dimi Reider, who works from within Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, at Dimi's notes makes the point that:

Abergil is no better or worse than thousands of other Israeli soldiers… Abergil by no means should be scapegoated for all excesses of the IDF

The Black Iris of Jordan, expresses some confusion as to why the photos have caused such a stir, as they are by no means unique, in this post, stating:

What is perhaps…interesting about this controversy is that the international media is deeming it a controversy at all. In the context of this conflict, and with all the well documented barbaric acts of the Israeli occupational force, why is a girl take a picture next to bound prisoners all that important? I’m essentially re-framing the very idiotic question Abergil posted in her own defense, but merely contextually. A simple Google search will yield unending results of Israeli acts on Palestinian lives, images that are simply haunting. And yet, this is what gets the media machine talking? It would definitely be interesting to analyze simply why this is so appealing to mass media? Is it the Facebook element? The digital, viral element? Is it a “caught red-handed” moment?

Indeed, the internet is rife with similar photos, which can not only be found through Google but are also being posted on Facebook, as can be seen here highlighted on Israeli blogger Eyal Niv’s blog [HB], in Palestinian Pundit's post entitled Rotten Apples, huh?, and in the Facebook group The norm Avi Benayahu denies, - named in reference to the Israeli military spokesman who described the release of photographs of soldiers next to detainees as exceptional,- set up by Israeli activist group Breaking the Silence in response to the controversy.

Nevertheless, most of the attention has been on Abergil herself, with the creation of a Fake Eden Abergil on Twitter, a sarcastic Twibbon, an “Eden Aberjil Sucks” Facebook page , and a meme sweeping the internet that includes mock ups of the photos from Abergil's album, many of which, such as the following, can be viewed on Ido Kenan’s blog Room 404:

Abergil has reacted to the meme by starting a debate with one of the contributors: extracts of the argument in which she does not do herself any favours can be seen on Dimi's notes here. While the statements Abergil makes in this argument are abhorrent ( “There are no laws in war!” “I hate Arabs and wish them the worst” “It would be fun for me to kill them” ), Dimi offers us the following comments on the matter:

I really don’t think Abergil is a monster. She speaks and acts like someone from a conflict area, who had well-grounded fears of Palestinian political violence nourished and grown into a full-fledged paranoia by a society built around the idea of existential fear. Comments similar to hers are posted in their hundreds on Israeli news sites every day; and frankly, some of the pro-Palestinian comments I’ve been trashing from this blog over the past couple of days are no better; the worrying thing is not Abergil’s uniqueness but her complete commonality, the fact that mind-numbing fear is taking hold of more and more young Israelis, grinding on whatever little intolerance we have left for abuses of state power against minority.

As for Abergil, like I said earlier, life is long and there’s hope she’ll feel differently in years to come; I’d strongly suggest you watch “To see if I’m smiling” before you wish her ill.

Meanwhile, at The Young Diplomat, Israeli blogger Ilan Ben Zion supports this notion that maybe Eden Abergil is just a young, inmpressionable, and yes, insensitive and senseless child in the post O Aberjil Saint of Silly:

What is surprising (aside from the fact that there is one group, 1,500 or so strong in support of the woman) is that no one, not even the Israeli Army, has simply dismissed her immoral actions as those of an immature dolt whose scope of foresight is limited to what she can put up on her Facebook page for the amusement of friends. She is undoubtedly and undeniably a complete ignoramus. Her statements on Facebook annunciate a primitive, brutish outlook (”I would gladly kill Arabs– even slaughter them”) typical of football hooligans and stultified post-lobotomy patients. Any conscience she was meant to possess must have been tossed out with her frontal lobes…

He writes a scathing piece before finishing:

Ms. Abergil, I hope you've learned a lesson: don't post incriminating pictures on Facebook that make you– and more importantly your whole country– look bad, and take a minute to weigh the consequences of your actions. Everyone else out there, I wish I could say she is a wholly isolated incident, but she is not. Nevertheless, know that Eden Abergil is not representative of Israel, the IDF, or Israelis. She is, in fact, the Israeli patron saint of bad taste, myopia, and tactlessness.

A commenter on Dimi's notespost, regarding the photos, states simply:

Ceux qui rient dans ces circonstances ont perdu conscience de ce qu’ils font.

Those who laugh under such circumstances have lost any conscience about what they do.

But maybe, after looking at the opinions above, it turns out that she never had a developed conscience about the reality of what she was doing in the first place? In any case, one thing is certain: We have not heard the end of the Eden Abergil story. While her actions are deplorable, let's hope that the focus moves away from the individual and onto the larger issues that it involves.

July 28 2010

Israel: Rape by Deceit or Racism?

By Gilad Lotan

The recent conviction of rape by deceit of an Arab posing as a Jew to seduce a Jewish woman to engage in sexual intercourse has sparked conversations across the Hebrew blogosphere about the dire inequality between Jews and Arabs living in Israel. Many contemplate the meaning of Israeli democracy under racially biased laws. Others remind that it is still illegal for a Jew to marry any non-Jew within the State of Israel. And many add hateful comments, showing support for the conviction. In this post, I will highlight some of the meaningful comments and posts written in the past couple of days.

First, some context:
According to media reports, Saber Kushour introduced himself to a Jewish woman as a Jewish bachelor seeking a serious relationship. The couple then went to a nearby building and had consensual sexual intercourse, after which Kushour left the building. When the woman realised Kushour was an Arab, she filed a complaint against him.
Saber Kushour was sentenced to 18 months in prison under charges of rape by deception.

Below is a comment written in response to an article posted on the popular news portal,

Saber Kushour wanted to be a human being, just a person, like us all. But he wasn't so lucky and was born Palestinian. Happens. His chances to be accepted as a human being in Israel are zero. Married and a father of two, he wanted to work in Jerusalem, his city, and maybe even have a little affair or quicky on the side. This also happens. And then he decided to rape a Jewish girl… happens!

The court took a hard line with his punishment, not because he raped a Jewish girl, but because he is Arab and raped a Jewish girl.

The majority of comments seen on the popular news site nrg were strongly opposing the court's decision:

I support the right wing, but I think that in this case, they should've sentenced her for racism.
What if he would've told her that he was rich? He'd also get a year and a half because she had sex with him when she thought he was wealthy?

The ruling in this case really lost proportion - he did not use force, and she was not subject to his authority in any way. There needs to be a clear separation between lies and rape!


And if he had pretended to be Mormon or Buddhist or an atheist? Would he still sit in jail for a year and a half? This verdict comes straight from the Jewish theory of master race. A ruling for the purity of a race by the judges. How many Jews bring in women to their beds by presenting false facts and sweet lips? Thousands! I am ashamed and shocked. This is the beginning of the end of the racial country… what have we reached?


Before she sleeps with someone in a building's stairwell… she should check who he is. This is not the judge's job. And to the Arab issue, this is really racist!

4. Avi wrote:

Tomorrow I'll lie to someone that I'm Ashkenazi and not Yemenite… and this will be rape by deceit??
This is racism! There's nothing else here. This is a shame for the State of Israel, that hosts racist legislation! Scary to live in this country… Cancel the charges!

5. Raffi added a snarky comment:

She dyed her hair, and I thought it was real… Oh, and she also wore a black piece of clothing which made her look skinnier than she really is. She totally tricked me! Had I know, I wouldn't have slept with her - she totally neutralized my ability to resist… RAPE!!!!

On the other hand, an anonymous post supported the case:

She wanted a romantic connection only with Jews, and had intercourse with a non Jew by deception.
She has all the rights to choose with whom she can have a connection and a relationship, just like a Muslim woman can choose to have a relationship only with another Muslim. He lied about his ethnic origin in order to sleep with her.
This is certainly rape - because she knew exactly what she wanted, and also knew exactly what she didn't want.
To lie callously in order to take advantage of a woman and receive personal pleasure is an incredibly despicable act.

In a blog post referencing a news article from ynet, a blogger added the following image,

Translation: Arab! Don't even dare to think about a Jewish woman!

and sparked an extremely active and hateful discussion in the comments section. The following post came against the hateful messages proceeding it:

Its not right what he did, but why do you all think you're better than the Arabs? All this racism is ruining the country. He is just a man with a bad heart, his origin is not relevant. If he'd been Jewish he would've been ok? NO!
There's no right to curse Arabs, because this is precisely what leads them to curse us! If we act this way, how are we different?
We're all human beings.

Orit Kamir writes about Saber Kushour, Rape by Deception:“the Arab who Pretended to be a Man”:

A man and a woman met up in the street. After a few minutes chat, they were on their way to have sex. The woman agreed that the man take off her clothing in an elevator in a building in the middle of the city - agreeing to have sex on the rooftop. This is a wholly legal development, legitimate and legal. However, is this indicating that the woman truly asked for a romantic connection that will lead, perhaps, to marriage?
This represents a women who asked for a sexual encounter with a stranger whom she met in the street.
He did not hit her nor did he steal her money.

Under the circumstances of this case, it is unreasonable to charge this man for rape under criminal law, nor to convict him of rape, or give him 18 months in jail.

Would he have been accused had he been a married Jewish man who wasn't interesting in a long lasting relationship? We don't know. Possibly. But Kushour reached an agreement, and the court simply approved it. We should certainly point the blame at the legislative body. The Israeli law does not allow a Jewish woman to marry a Muslim man. This is why it is “natural” and “logical” for Israelis that a Jewish Israeli woman will not want to have an “affair” with an Israeli Arab - because such a connection cannot lead to marriage. This is why his deception on this point is fundamental to the argument. Here, the fix needs to come by means of legislation. In Israel, like other civilized country, we need to support civil marriage. We need to allow any person to marry another person. Then there will be no logic supporting the claim that since a person is from another nationality, he is “off limits” for any connection that might lead to marriage.

July 21 2010

Israel: Conviction of “rape by deceit”

By Katharine Ganly

An Arab resident of Jerusalem has been convicted of rape after posing as a Jew to seduce a woman.
According to media reports, Sabbar Kashur introduced himself to a Jewish woman as a Jewish bachelor seeking a serious relationship. The couple then went to a nearby building and had consensual sexual intercourse, after which Kashur left the building.
When the woman realised Kashur was an Arab, she filed a complaint against him.
While the judge conceded it was not a “classic act of rape”, it was nevertheless stated that “the Court must protect the public interest against sophisticated criminals with a smooth tongue and sweet talking, who can lead astray innocent victims at the unbearable price of the sanctity of their bodies and souls.”
And added “If she hadn't thought the accused was a Jewish bachelor interested in a serious romantic relationship, she would not have cooperated” (full details can be seen here [HE] and here [EN])

Sabar Kashur was sentenced to 18 months in prison under charges of rape by deception.

The judge's decision has caused a stir amongst the region's blogosphere. Many are outraged by the conviction.

An Israeli-American blogger at Hybrid States writes:

Did he force himself on his “victim”? No.
Was she incapacitated through substance abuse and he took advantage of her? No.
Was she underage, a minor who was taken advantage of by someone of greater size/age/authority? No.
Did the girl want to have sex with him? Yes.
Did she get so horrified when she learned that she just had consensual sex with an Arab that she decided to charge him with rape? Yes.
Was an Arab convicted for the crime of pretending he was a Jew? Yes.
Unbelievable! I cannot even believe I have to write this.

And others on Twitter echo this sentiment:

Some are even cynical as to the woman's claim she was in search of a relationship:

While at xymphora the sentiment is the following:

The ‘victim' thought she was having sex with a human being, but she was really having sex with an Arab. There is no possible way to make rational sense of this decision without understanding that the court, and thus Israeli society, is profoundly racist.

Others echo this feeling of racism as can be seen here:

and in the title of Promised Land blog's post regarding the matter:

Apartheid justice: Brown man impersonates white overlord in name of romance, gets convicted of rape.

A commenter on Promsied Land's above post states:

If the law were being applied equally to all persons, you could sort of make the case that lying for the purpose of obtaining “sexual favors” is a criminal offense.
However, knowing what the dating scene in Israel was like a decade and a bit ago, I don’t think you could make that case.
Also, and this has been bugging me since I first read the article: how exactly will the man’s “rehabilitation” be measurable? The only answer I see (no more sex with Jewish women) is almost the worst part of this whole story.

While the post itself concludes:

Many men lie to get sex. Now we know which lies are forbidden in Israel.

However, there are some that argue the conviction is merited. A guest commenter at Palestinian Pundit states:

Zarathustra, I don't care if the guy is Hindu, Atheist, Sufi or Brazilian. Sabbar Kashur sounds like one hell of a jerk.

Not defending the woman, but this Kashar needs a good kick in the butt. Just imagine if that woman were your/our sister

While Elizabeth, commenting at Promised Land clarifies that the judges were merely applying the legal principle:

ALL lies to women to get sex are illegal in Israel. Please look at Israel’s Criminal Code Paragraph 345(a)(2) that defines rape:
הבועל אשה –
בהסכמת האשה, שהושגה במרמה לגבי מיהות העושה או מהות המעשה;
(My translation): “A male who has sex with a woman with her consent, which was elicited with deceit about the essence of the perpetrator or essence of the act”.

And Noam W, commenting on the same post brings up some interesting points, that are certainly food for thought:

This is a bit more complex. I agree that there are of course disgusting racial undertones, but the prohibition against rape in Israel (and in many other places) includes getting a woman to have sex by deceit.
So, for me, this is what you might call a hard case.

I don’t know if half the men in Israel lie to have sex. I don’t what lies they tell and either way I don’t know if that is alright. What I am worried about is the development of discourse regarding rape similar to the discourse regarding sexual harassment – remember “everybody does it”
and “now we won’t be able to say anything without worrying about offending somebody”.
I don’t want to be come out all moralist on this, but I want to think about the criminal prohibition – lying in order to achieve sex – and see if it is so off-putting that this man should not have been found guilty even if there were no racial overtones.

In light of the above comments, is the issue more complicated than it originally appears? What are your thoughts on the matter? Make them heard here!

Reposted byn0g n0g

June 08 2010

Israel: Pixies Pull Show Stopper

By Nicole Hyman

In the wake of mounting international criticism and condemnation of Israel’s clash with activists intent on breaking the blockade on Gaza, the Pixies, a veteran rock band, have canceled their concert in Israel. This comes hot on the heels of performance cancellations by the Klaxons, Gorillaz Sound System as well as Elvis Costello. However, it was news of the Pixies no show that hotted up the Twitosphere and got many finding the link between music and politics.

The Pixies did not specify the reason behind the last minute cancellatio. Shuki Weiss, the band’s Tel Aviv promoter, released this statement:

בצער רב אנו מודיעים היום על החלטת הפיקסיז לבטל הופעתם בישראל
It is with great regret that we announce today The Pixies' decision to cancel their appearance

This sparked mixed reactions and brought both pro and anti Israel sentiment to the fore.
There were those, like @ismpalestine, who thanked the Pixies for not supporting an apartheid state:

Pixies cancel Israel show. Thank @
pixies for rejecting apartheid! #flotilla #israel #pixies

Others, like @SMaher85, commended the Pixies for upholding justice and promoting peace:

Another victory for #BDS! #Pixies cancel #Israel concert! Thank you for standing with justice & peace: #Palestine

From Israeli Pixie fans, there were strong, vitriolic reactions with some using the band’s own lyrics to make a point. @Dachniella asked :

where is your mind, pixies? why mix art and politics??? #pixiessuck

Many fans, like @OrTheDude, also accused the band of having a weak understanding of the Israel’s political situation:

The #Pixies are COWARDLY yielding to biased politics, shame on you for not getting to the bottom of things! #pixiessuck #israel #music

@photomiky added :

Pixies do-little to understand Israel's security needs. #pixiessuck

But it’s not just on Twitter that people have been reacting. The Pixie’s Facebook fan page was bombarded with fan’s comments about the cancellation. At the time of writing, there were 242 comments, most of them in response to the bands decision not to play in Tel Aviv. These comments give interesting insight into a conflict that is older than the Pixies and far darker than their lyrics could ever be.
Some like Riky Cohen, accuse the band of being anti-Semitic, terrorist collaborators:

Hypocrisy, hypocrisy and disgusting. Will you stop running in countries like America, England, and others who fought in Iraq? You are collaborators with an anti-Semitic terrorist

But there are also comments on the Facebook fan page, like those by like Pamela Hardyment, which applaud the Pixie’s decision:


Elton John and Rod Stewart are still scheduled to play in Israel this summer. There is, however, pressure on the artists to reconsider and cancel. On Twitter, @bataleh writes:

4gt itRT @DiamantChehadeh: EltonJohn,im sure Israel wl roll u out redcarpet covered in innocent blood.Do it Cancel your show #Flotilla

Another Twitter user, @DANALTWEETS, also advocates that artists not play in Israel :

snoop dogg,klaxons,gorillaz,santana, and elvis costello have all cancelled concerts in israel, finally, whose next? #bds #flotilla #freepali

June 07 2010

Brazil: Brazilian President in Israeli TV Video-Joke

By Raphael Tsavkko Garcia

Brazillian netcitizens react to Israeli Latma TV video mocking President Lula da Silva. Hellington from Full ideas blog believes [pt] that the video only shows the ignorance of the world concerning Brazil, though he agrees with the idea that the Brazilian President shouldn't meddle with Iran and other sensitive issues. Maria Frô also repudiates the video while stating [pt] that the “President keeps showing the world that we are not servants and do not feel some nostalgia from the days of servitude towards Western empires”.

June 06 2010

Israel: Demonstrations Outside Prison Where Flotilla Passengers Held

By Maya Norton

Joseph Dana posts a video of demonstrators waving Turkish and Palestinian flags in front of the prison in Beer-Sheva, Israel, where the passengers of the flotilla were being housed until deportation. Video is in Arabic and Hebrew with no subtitles, but you can still get a sense of the action.

June 01 2010

May 28 2010

Israel: The Freedom Flotilla - PR Stunt or Humanitarian Act?

By Gilad Lotan

Nine ships sailing from various destinations, including Ireland, Turkey and Greece, are headed towards the Gaza Strip with the goal of breaking the Israeli maritime blockade on the Gaza Strip. The so-called Freedom Flotilla is carrying around 750 activists, including diplomats and journalists, as well as about 10,000 tons of supplies. If they don't turn back, IDF navy commandos plan to block the ships. Israel has vowed to prevent the ships from docking in Gaza, offering instead to send the aid through its own crossings after carrying-out security checks.

Carlos Latuff's cartoon on Israel's blockade of Gaza

I will attempt to break down the reactions and posts I've seen coming from the Hebrew blogosphere into what seem to be three main arguments:

  • 1. There is no humanitarian problem in the Gaza Strip
  • 2. The flotilla is a provocative trick to capture media around the world
  • 3. The flotilla includes questionable participants (”terrorists”?)
  • I will also describe some of Israel's formal and informal reactions to this event. As the matter is complex from many angles, if you have more insight to offer, please don't hesitate to add it to the comments section at the bottom of this post.

    “There is no humanitarian problem in Gaza”

    In a recent interview Col. Moshe Levy (IDF) said “the humanitarian situation in Gaza is stable - there is no lack in food or any other items, except those that fuel the terrorist movement and strengthens Hamas.” Since the beginning of the year, Israel transferred 260,000 tons of humanitarian aid - Every day some 100 trucks enter Gaza with vital materials. Israel let some 6,000 Palestinians into Israel to receive medical treatments in Israel and Jordan. There is no taxation on food or medicine. Additionally, Israel is enabling the UNRWA bring in cement for construction projects that they oversee.

    Here is some information on humanitarian aid to Gaza over the past year and a half, posted by the MFA. And from the IDF blog, an overview of the regulations on what is allowed in and out of the Gaza strip.

    Alternatively, here's a snarky piece by Larry Derfner focusing on the Israeli Foreign Ministry statements about the nonexistent humanitarian crisis in Gaza and questions the idyllic image that they have been trying to paint.

    The Gaza Gateway blog questions the Israeli claim about the “magnificent” situation in Gaza:

    if there is such prosperity, then how exactly is the closure policy promoting Israel’s goal to weaken the Hamas government? For example, if the economic situation in Gaza is so magnificent, as stated in the cynical message distributed by the Government Press Office yesterday – why does another public statement by the State of Israel proudly declare that 738,000 tons of humanitarian aid were transferred to the Gaza Strip last year? How, the reader might also ask, are these statements of prosperity compatible with the contradictory information frequently released by international organizations ?

    Is it not true that 80% of Gaza’s population is supported by international aid organizations? Is it not true that the unemployment rate in Gaza is around 35%? And, how is the decisive statement that “Israel has taken measures to support trade and commerce” consistent with the sweeping ban imposed by Israel for the past three years on the entry of raw materials to industrial plants and factories in the Gaza Strip? Indeed, the ban is perpetuating a situation in which over 90% of industrial establishments are closed or are operating at less than 10% of capacity. Does the fact that Israel prevents the entry of margarine in large containers designed for the production of foodstuffs in Gaza, while it allows the entry of margarine in small packages (made in Israel) promote the economy in Gaza?

    In a recent blog post, Ido Landau wonders if there are still Israelis who truly believe that the siege will help release Gilad Shalit:

    I'd like to know if there exists an Israeli citizen that doesn't know a three year old piece of information - that the price to release Gilad Shalit is the price that was initially set; a price that will not change even after the fourth, fifth or sixth year? That the solution against qassam missiles and the terrorist attack attempts is, simply, opening the borders?

    The Israeli siege on Gaza, caused a 60% deterioration in nutritional insecurity for senior homes. Almost half of the agricultural land in the Gaza strip cannot be used as a result from the destruction of operation “cast lead” or from being within the security belt. The fishing industry is paralyzed due to the ban on entering deep sea (the Gazans smuggle fish via tunnels). This means the collapse of the agricultural sector in the Gaza strip.
    If you're interested to read about the humanitarian situation, I recommend you read the following report (published by OCHA). Otherwise, all that we know comes from IDF via ynet.

    A video interview posted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs outlines the reasons why a naval blockade exists, and claims its legitimacy under international law:

    The reason why there is a naval blockade is the Hamas regime - weapons are smuggled into Gaza by various means. One of these routes is the sea. Under international law, a maritime blockade is recognized as a legitimate tool be used at a time of international conflict. Israel is in a state of arms conflict with Hamas. Israel has hoped that the disengagement plan would form as a springboard to the creation of a dialog. Unfortunately we know that hasn't been the case. In response to attacks on its civilians, Israel imposed economic sanctions on the regime

    under international humanitarian laws a state that is imposing economic sanctions does not need to provide non vital goods; goods that will give Hamas military or economic advantage are not transferred. For example, concrete is no allowed to be transferred. Israel supplies on a daily basis vital humanitarian goods - baby formula, meat, dairy products. Million tons of goods have been transferred to the Gaza strip.

    Israeli supreme court constantly reviews the transport of humanitarian goods into Gaza and makes sure that Israel is meeting its obligations under international law.

    The flotilla is carrying goods including cement. The building materials are meant to be used for the construction of some 20 homes which were destroyed in the war Israel-Gaza war of January 2009. The “free gaza” movement argues that even though many countries agreed to help rebuild and can provide 4 billion dollars, this hasn't happened since Israel is set on blocking the entrance of building materials into the Gaza strip.

    the flotilla is a provocative PR stunt

    The notion that the “freedom flotilla” is a publicity stunt is widely adopted within Israeli media (and probably even within the activists themselves). An interesting perspective is Turkey's role in the evolution of this story. Turkey, whose relations with Israel have soured since the Gaza invasion in 2008-2009, has played a key role in the flotilla campaign, organized by IHH, a Turkish humanitarian organization, among others.

    In his post, Ze'ev Kam claims that Palestinian aid that doesn't include a public humiliation of Israel doesn't interest anyone, and is especially angered at the Turkish government for supporting this move:

    אתם יודעים מה, אמרו בישראל. יאללה. ניגש מתאם הפעולות בשטחים לשגריר הטורקי בישראל והציע לו שישראל תעביר בעצמה את כל הציוד ההומניטרי לרצועה. רק בלי משט. בדרך הרגילה. במילים אחרות, בואו נשאיר בצד את מסע היח”צנות ואת מנועי הקיטור של האוניות ופשוט נדאג שהסיוע יגיע לעזה. ואפילו בדרך מהירה יותר. הטורקים אמרו לא.

    You know what? Israel said - Yalla. The Israel chief coordinator for operations in the territories approached the Turkish ambassador to Israel and proposed that Israel will transfer all the humanitarian materials into the Gaza strip. Just not through water. In the usual route. In other words, leaving the PR-ified journey and the steam engines aside, and simply making sure that the goods reach Gaza. Even faster.
    The Turkish said no.

    The flotilla is connected to radical entities (links to potential terrorists?)

    On their public facing blog, Israeli Defense Forces claim that top level Islamic extremists are linked to the Gaza flotilla:

    According to a report by the Intelligence & Terrorism Information Center, senior Islamic extremists attended the launching ceremony in Istanbul of a boat participating in the flotilla. Among the participants were Mahmad Tzoalha and Sahar Albirawi, both top Hamas terrorists who today operate in Great Britain, and Hamam Said, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan.

    Bolant Yilderim, the chairman of the IHH, a Turkish based pro-Palestinian organization that is spearheading the Gaza flotilla, delivered a radical speech at the ceremony to the applause of Turkish politicians and radical Islamic activists. “Israel behaves like Hitler did towards the Jews. Hitler built concentration camps in Germany, and today the Zionist entity is building concentration camps in Palestine,” said Chairman Yilderim.

    Here's an excerpt from a post published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs titled “Maritime Huzpa in Memory of Rachel Corrie” about the ISM's (International Solidarity Movement) operation:

    ISM is an organization that approves the Palestinian right for “legitimate armed resistance”. Their “successes” include the prevention of IDF from destroying factories that produce bombs, and tunnels used for smuggling weapons, in addition to helping, encouraging and protecting terrorists. In addition to their support of terrorists, ISM encourages uncautious confrontational resistance for its international crew of volunteers. In 2002, in the midst of a violent takeover on the church of the Nativity in Bethlehem by Palestinian terrorists, ISM members joined in as human shields. In the same year, Rachel Corrie found her death, and Mike's place - a popular Tel Aviv bar - was bombed by two suicide attackers who “sipped tea” with ISM members just 5 days prior to the attack.

    ISM's behavior is typical to that of such extreme activists. While they claim that they support human rights, they often show little to no sensitivity to human life. ISM was more interested in protecting illegal structures than the lives of its international volunteers. The volunteers on the boats are all political instruments, in FGM's (Free Gaza Movement) control. How can we provide legitimacy to NGO's that do not respect their volunteer's lives?

    I'm still trying to find out more information on Mahmad Tzoalha and Saha Albirawi. If you see something out there, please post here.

    Israelis reactions and public outreach

    1. Apparently a large group of Israelis led by Guy Bechor are set to embark on a counter-journey to intercept the Flotilla crew. Following is an extract from Moti Sagron's post describing of what their agenda should be:

    Even with Hamas's actions, we were offering peace. Israel's problem is not with the Gaza residents, but with Hamas. Therefore, if you identify with the residents, and not Hamas, we will help you transport all wanted humanitarian material. Israel already does this routinely. The residents of Gaza receive hundreds of supply trucks every week, in addition to fuel and electricity. However, as long as Hamas is a racist organization, fascist and antisemite, resisting peace and calling for a Jihad towards building an Islamist dictatorship, and as long as Hamas controls the Gaza strip, there is no solution other than fighting them.

    2. Gilad Shalit's family offered to support the international flotilla to Gaza if its participants would demand that Hamas permit various organizations to visit the kidnapped Israeli soldier and allow him to receive packages. Members of the campaign for Shalit's release said the organizers of the international aid mission to Gaza declined the offer.

    3. The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been apparently hounding people on Twitter, says Sherine Tadros:

    The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been spreading the fact that the Flotilla is invited to unload its cargo in the Ashdod port:

    Again, this is a complex story, with a whole slew of perspectives. I tried to represent some of the Israeli opinions which you would typically not see or hear. Please let me know if there are any important or unique voices that I've missed.

    We'll certainly be watching the events as they unfold here at Global Voices Online.

    March 24 2010

    Design Diary From Tel Aviv: Lucy Brown, Entry 4
    Lucy Brown's stop-frame experiment with my fan font catalogue, as featured in her
    design diary's 4th entry on Jotta mag.

    February 20 2010

    Palestine/West Bank: Peace Protesters use Avatar Movie Visuals

    Recent protest against land appropriation of the West Bank village of Bil'in included Palestinian and Israeli activists masked as Na'vi characters from the controversial Avatar movie, which they consider anti-imperialist. Video clips posted by NGO “Friends of Freedom and Justice - Bilin” show Israeli Defense Forces using tear gas and sound bombs to protect the barriers. Comments to the blog post by Susan Stark reflect diverse stereotypes held by many American readers.

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