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The Who’s Won’t Get Fooled Again is a repository of truth and wisdom about political reality in our time.  The lyrics: “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss” resonate far beyond the time in which they were written.  They’re suitably cynical, while upholding a virtue that somehow transcends the cynicism.

Such a perspective is perfectly suited for Israel’s relationship with the Palestinians and the new ceasefire purportedly agreed to by Israel and Hamas under Egyptian auspices.  If Israel is to be believed, Hamas has ceded all of its demands. The former also claims this was precisely the same agreement to which Israeli agreed on July 15th and which Hamas rejected.  In truth, I don’t recall the earlier proposal including any provision for opening borders or lifting the siege, even partially.

The Guardian portrays the latest agreement slightly differently.  The paper says the ceasefire provides for partially lifting the siege to permit humanitarian aid and reconstruction material to enter.  The Israeli and Egyptian crossings will be opened.  These are almost the same provisions of the 2012 truce that ended Operation Pillar of Cloud.

In actuality, the siege of 2012 wasn’t even partially lifted.  The borders remained open for a time and then closed.  We know how this song goes: Israel promises under duress.  Then after the pressure eases it returns to the usual obduracy.

Israel is delighted with this outcome.  It enables it to paint Hamas as defeated.  As a national movement that failed its people.  That promised victories and gains that never materialized.  That sacrificed 2,100 lives with little to show for it.  Israel knows that whatever gains Hamas makes can and will be taken away shortly.  Bibi may ride these claims to victory in the next elections.

There are Israeli reports that Netanyahu has finally and overtly renounced the two-state solution.  Instead he will propose a bi-national state in which a small portion of the West Bank would be independent.  The rest would become Israeli.  But the way the far-right will finesse the demographic threat question is that they will only allow a small percentage of those absorbed into Israel to become full-fledged citizens (the number 50,000 has been bandied about).  The rest would lie in some sort of legal limbo: not quite stateless, not quite citizens).  In fact, the majority of those offered citizenship will likely, like East Jerusalem’s Palestinian population, refuse it since it will be offered under Israeli terms.

The world will not accept such a plan.  And it goes without saying Palestinians won’t either.  But Bibi must feel empowered to ignore the international consensus.  He will do what Israeli governments have done since 1967, if not earlier: create facts on the ground which cannot be undone.

On the other side, Hamas has already agreed to join with the PA to file for membership in the International Court.  It is doing so in full knowledge that some of its leaders may be swept up in the surge or prosecutions that may result.  It would do so knowing that Israeli generals and politicians will be far more likely to be swept up in this net.  So any sense of Israeli triumphalism is sorely misplaced.

The BDS movement will only surge in popularity as a result of Israel’s disastrous massacre in Gaza.  An Israeli publication today published a story saying that the chugging economic engine otherwise known as the Startup Nation, is beginning to see cracks in the edifice.  Further international moves to restrict Israeli economic activity abroad could begin to crimp the export economy on which Israel’s economic success has been built.

al omari mosque gaza destroyed

10th century al-Omari mosque levelled by Israeli bombs

Over the past few days, my attitude toward Israel has shifted.  Readers will know that I’ve always been critical of Israeli Occupation policy.  But I’ve always tried to distinguish my view of these policies from my underlying sense of solidarity with Israel as a nation.

But as my Twitter feed filled with images of a 10th century Gaza mosque leveled to the ground, and six high-rise apartment buildings also toppled by U.S.-made F-16s for no other reason than to persuade Hamas that Israel, like Samson, was willing to topple the walls of the temple and take everyone with it.

One of my Israeli friends told me about a journalist he knows who told him that Hamas reminds him of the Black Knight in Monty Python’s Holy Grail.  In the film, he is the character who fights battles for no apparent reason and refuses to give up after losing most of his limbs in combat.  Even as his opponent walks over the bridge he was guarding and over which he’d prohibited him from walking, the Knight throws curses and taunts.

Such an Israeli attitude held, in this case, by a well-known journalist, represents the total obtuseness of Israeli society to their Palestinian neighbors.  They see steadfastness as self-destruction; self-sacrifice as suicide.  This allows them to view Palestinians as psychopaths willing to destroy everything for the sake of a principle only Palestinians can see.

This is an Israel I renounce.  It is a nation steeped in willful moral blindness.  A nation willing to murder babies for the sake of “quiet.”  A nation that gorges on the suffering of its enemies.  A nation that cannot see that its fate is bound up with that of another nation sharing the same land.  Israel and Palestine are like Siamese twins who somehow believe they are not connected to each other.  They each view the other as an enemy.  Someone taking up precious space and resources which the other could use.  There is no such thing as co-existence.  There is only absolute victory, winner take all.  When one cries, the other laughs for joy.

It reminds me of the old Jewish midrash (a reader will remind me of the source), which pictures both heaven and Hell as a place in which people may not feed themselves because their arms are locked in place.  The difference between heaven and Hell is that in the former place people feed each other and in Hell they think only of themselves and starve.

Today, Israel and Palestine is Hell.  Israelis’ arms are locked in place and rather than feed their Palestinian neighbors or accept food from them in return, Israelis would rather starve.  And so they will unless the world decides it has had enough and intervenes in this madness.

So as this Israel came into clearer focus my views have subtly changed.  Israel is no longer a wayward country, a black sheep of the world community.  Instead it has become a wanton criminal among the nations.  It destroys for the sake of destruction.  It kills out of vengeance.  There is no longer strategy to its assaults.  They are driven by blood lust.

There are readers opposed to my views who will seize on the above paragraphs to argue that I’ve finally become whatever demon they choose to invoke: anti-Israel, self-hater, etc.  But this is not so.  I remind them that Judaism’s most cherished prophetic voices cried out alarms about the sins of their countrymen and warned of destruction if Israel didn’t change its path.  No one today dares call Jeremiah or Isaiah anti-Israel or self-hating.  Even the farthest of right-wing Orthodox Jews accord the prophets respect.

But what these far-right Israelis would never do is admit that prophetic Judaism would accord as much humanity to non-Jews as Jews.  But if they were alive today Amos and his peers would rail as much as I against the corruption and evil wrought by Israel as led by its current wanton killers, Bibi Netanyahu and his Likud brethren.

My view, held more strongly then ever, is that Israel as it currently defines itself, is unsustainable.  Israel as a brutal tyrant of the region, stalking the land and laying waste to enemies like Sherman in his March to the Sea, cannot last.  But there is hope for a different Israel.  A country with the same demographic and ethnic composition (so no, the State will not be destroyed and no one thrust into the sea) as currently.  But one governed by radically different laws that embrace equal rights for all whether Jewish or Palestinian.

The only way for this Israel to emerge is through outside pressure and intervention.  That’s why BDS is so important.  That’s why movements to recognize Palestine in UN and other international forums are so important.  It’s why the UN Human Rights Council inquiry into Operation Protective Edge is so critical.  To create radical change we need radical pressure.

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Yesterday, I reported about an Azeri drone manufactured by Israel which Iran shot down.  The Iranians claimed it was shot down over Natanz.  That would be a distance of 600 miles from Azerbaijan.  The Hermes 450 drone which Iran downed has a range of 180 miles.  So it’s unlikely it was anywhere near Natanz (as a commenter pointed out in the comment thread yesterday) when it crashed.

My Israeli source tells me that the site the drone was spying on was a secret site much closer to the Azeri border (probably no more than 180 miles from it).  I do not yet know the location or nature of the site.  But it appears to be one Israel believes is connected to the nuclear program, and not one that is publicly known such as the plants at Natanz, Bushehr and Arak.

What’s interesting about this story is that Israel is tight-lipped because shooting down its drone is bad for military export business and also complicates U.S.-led efforts to negotiate a nuclear deal with Iran.  Iran has disseminated false information about the downing because it doesn’t want the world to get any closer to identifying this secret site.  But from Israel’s point of view, any development (even shooting down one of its drones) that brings this site any closer to exposure would be a good thing because it would embarrass the Iranians.

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Iran announced a few days ago that it had shot down an Israeli Hermes 450 drone near its Natanz nuclear site. At first, Israeli officials were tight-lipped. They refused to offer any comment to Yossi Melman’s or my own Israeli source.

israel made azeri drone

Israeli-made drone featured in Azeri military parade

That led some Israeli analysts to be skeptical of the Iranian claim, because a Hermes drone does not have the range to fly from Israel to Iran. Either it would have to have been refueled in flight, been based in a country neighboring Iran, or flown by such a country itself.

Then in the past 24 hours, Walla wrote that an Israeli source conceded that the drone was Israeli-made.  But that it was operated by a “foreign country.”  Now, after lips have been loosened, my Israeli source reports that the drone was one purchased by Azerbaijan from Israel. Haaretz published (Hebrew) a similar story shortly after my source passed his information to me. Turns out, the skeptics were wrong.

This is a highly plausible scenario since Azerbaijan signed a multi-billion dollar arms deal with Israel, of which this drone was part. It’s also entirely conceivable that though the Azeris owned the drone, Israelis personnel were either operating it or closely coordinating the intelligence data it collected with the Azeris. It’s well-known that both Israeli and Iranian agents operate almost openly inside the country in an almost Wild-West environment.

This is the third enemy drone Iran downed within its airspace. It shot one down and America’s most sophisticated Predator drone crashed inside the country due to a technical error (or Iranian jamming).

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Targeted Killing as a Silver Bullet

avraham stern

Avraham Stern, one of Israel’s first targeted killings

Today in Haaretz, one of Israel’s best columnists, B. Michael, penned a brilliant piece of satire based on a major event in the history of Mandatory Palestine.  In 1942, the rightist Zionist militias Etzel and the Stern Gang had been engaging in a massive terror campaign.  The British authorities decided to strike decisively in order to decapitate them.  They’d been tracking the most wanted Jewish terrorist in Palestine, Avraham Stern.  He’d eluded them every time.  But his luck ran out in a little house at 28 Mizrahi Street in Tel Aviv.  There a British detective, Geoffrey Morton, cornered his prey.  When Stern came out of a closet of the bedroom, Morton shot him twice and he died.  The announcement said Stern had been apprehended and shot in the process of attempting to flee.  Anyone who reads IDF accounts of its murder of cornered Palestinian fugitives will recognize the script.

This was perhaps the first targeted killing in the history of Israel.  But certainly not the last.  One of the latest was the assassination attempt on Mohammed Deif.  It’s in this context that Michael wants us to view the Stern murder.

He portrays a distraught Morton tossing and turning in his bed, unable to sleep because of the enormity of taking Stern’s life in cold blood:

But the days after the [Stern] killing eased Morton’s mind considerably.  They proved to him how effective and blessed was his act [of murder].  The very next day Lehi dissolved itself completely.  Its members gave themselves up to the police and scattered everywhere.  Even Etzel and the Haganah hurried to give up their weapons to the police and they swore allegiance to the British crown.  Within a month all the institutions of the Yishuv were closed.  The Jewish people gave up their aspiration for an independent state.  Even the words of HaTikvah were changed to mark this: “The hope of thousands of years to be a colony in our own land, the Land of Albion and Jerusalem.”

So, the rest is well-known: by dint of that wise targeted assassination on Mizrahi Street the British Mandate continues to rule in Israel-Palestine to this very day.

These are precisely the sentiments I’ve expressed here after almost every Israeli assassination.  But satire brings home the point even more powerfully.  If the assassination of Avraham Stern failed to stem the movement for national independence in Mandatory Palestine, why will the murder of Deif turn back the movement for Palestine?  Of course it won’t.  In fact, Palestine will win just as the campaign for Israeli independence reached fruition in 1948.  The only question is how many bodies will it take before the inevitable is realized?  How many murdered Sterns and Deifs before Israel’s leaders are, like those of apartheid-era South Africa, forced to accept destiny?

Similarly, the U.S. counter-terror policy of drone strikes in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Syria, and Somalia will not address the root causes of the success of jihadism.  They are a band-aid placed on a fatal wound.  To fight jihadism you must engage in serious and constructive ways with the Muslim-Arab world.  You cannot send planes by remote control to kill people and believe this is a real policy.  It is policy built on quicksand.

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You’ll recall a few days ago I posted a tantalizing clue from Haaretz’ Amir Oren which noted that thirty years ago Israel fabricated an alleged terror provocation which it used to launch a military attack (or assassination) of its own.  While I haven’t been able to isolate which historical event he’s referring to, given Oren’s track record and journalistic style, I had a strong hunch he was trying to tell his readers something specific about the Deif assassination.

My guess is that he was saying that Israel fabricated the rocket fire which it claimed violated the truce agreement.  After it informed the world about Hamas’ violation, it was emboldened to launch the attack on the al Dalou home, where Deif and his family were sheltering.  That bombing, which used American-made GBU28 bunker buster bombs delivered by U.S.-made war planes, killed 12 civilians including Deif’s wife and two children.  It may’ve also killed Deif, though no one knows for sure.

This false flag operation was clumsily mounted and will easily be exposed.  It will further erode what little credibility Israel has in the world community.  You remember when Israel cloned passports of citizens of allied nations as part of an assassination plot against Mahmoud al-Mabouh?  In doing so, it endangered them and violated the trust and sovereignty of friends (and leading to the expulsion of a number of Mossad station chiefs)?  In terms of the effect this will have on Israel’s already tarnished reputation, it’s a similar exercise in chicanery.

michael ben yair

Former Israeli attorney general, Michael Ben Yair, confirms IDF false flag operation leading to Deif assassination

Now comes further speculation from Michael Ben Yair, a former Israeli attorney general under both Yitzhak Rabin and Bibi Netanyahu, and former Supreme Court justice, that the IDF did indeed fabricate the truce violation.  Under normal circumstances, I might be skeptical of the source.  But in this case, Ben Yair is an insider and his views merit attention.  He posted on Facebook:

There is no ceasefire [agreement].  There are only renewed acts of hatred.  Who’s at fault?  Good question–Hamas which wants a deal more or Israel which faked a violation in order to assassinate Mohammed Deif.

This theory, which I believe is solid, makes a mockery of Jodi Rudoren’s reporting in the NY Times:

Hamas is the party that keeps extending this summer’s bloody battle in the Gaza Strip, repeatedly breaking temporary truces…

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There have been several important developments regarding Israel’s Mohammed Deif assassination plot.  Two Arab publications published stories (English language report in Times of Israel) indicating that during the Cairo ceasefire talks Khaled Meshal determined it was necessary to speak with Mohammed Deif.  He called him by phone.  In doing so, Israeli intelligence intercepted it and was able to pinpoint Deif’s location.  This information was forwarded to the IDF, which planned and executed the assassination plot which ended in the death of 12 Gaza civilians, including Deif’s pregnant wife, a son and daughter and members of the al Dalou family which owned the house.

Jodi Rudoren seems to have overlooked that fact in writing this bit of treacle in the NY Times:

Israel this week deployed its extensive intelligence capabilities and overwhelming firepower in targeted bombings with limited civilian casualties less likely to raise the world’s ire.

Are 12 dead “limited?”  I suppose if you compare 12 dead with the 160 Israel massacred after the Rafah tunnel attack, then it is more limited.  But is this an ‘acceptable’ number of civilian dead for anyone but the IDF and Jodi Rudoren?

Israel organized the attack as it was supposedly negotiating a ceasefire with Hamas.  The go-ahead was given to execute the plan within minutes of rogue elements in Gaza firing three rockets which caused no injuries or damage inside Israel.  This broke the ceasefire and enabled Israel to attack.  As I noted in a previous post, Amir Oren even hints in his Haaretz article that Israel in the past has orchestrated provocations which it’s exploited to carry out similar such attacks.  So there is a distinct possibility that Israel either covertly arranged for the missile attack or manipulated Palestinian forces into firing them.

At any rate, such conniving and deceit on Israel’s part makes a mockery of this Rudoren hasbara-passing-for-journalism:

Hamas is the party that keeps extending this summer’s bloody battle in the Gaza Strip, repeatedly breaking temporary truces…

Let’s look at the record: Israel ransacked the West Bank thus provoking the initial missile barrage.  Then Israel produced a fake ceasefire agreement which it wrote and presented to Egypt.  The latter lied, claiming Hamas had been consulted and agreed to it, when it hadn’t.  Now, Israel exploited ceasefire talks to enable it to try to murder Hamas’ military chief.  So who’s “breaking temporary truces?”

I should point out that both Arabic language articles say that when Meshal called Deif, he violated longstanding Hamas security protocols.  The reports say that Deif’s bodyguards grew suspicious and hustled him out of his hiding place.  Thus his life was spared.  There has been no confirmation of his death or survival.  Though I reported my Israeli source saying there was a 90% chance Deif had been killed, I wonder why a devout Islamist movement wouldn’t have held a funeral as is required under Islamic (and Jewish) law?

Let’s look at another problematic element of the assassination plot.  An Israeli twitter user claiming access to inside security sources,  was one of the first (early on August 20th) to tweet with specific information about the weaponry used:

gbu28 mohammed deif hamas

U.S.-made GBU28 bunker buster bomb which may’ve been used by Israel in assassination attempt on Mohammed Deif

Palestinians followed.  I read media sources who said Hamas made the same claim.  My own Israeli inside source confirmed that U.S. bunker busters were used, but he would not confirm the specific type.

Both Jodi Rudoren and Amos Harel reported, no doubt based on IDF or other Israeli official sources, that Israel used five “one-ton” bombs to destroy the home.  The reason this is important is that the GBU28 is a 5,000 lb. (or 2.5 ton) bomb.  Claiming a one-ton bomb was used would enable the IDF to claim the weapon was Israeli made since it does produce such a munition (which is itself based on a U.S. design).  This is the sort of confusion and diversionary tactic in which Israel specializes.  My strong sense is that what Rudoren and Harel were told was a lie.

Further, no matter what bomb was used, the aircraft that delivered the bomb to its target was for certain U.S.-made.  So the Obama administration, which recently made a point of suspending Israeli access to Hellfire missiles in protest against the ongoing carnage in Gaza, has yet again gotten a finger in the eye from the Israelis.  Netanyahu, someone who minutely calibrates his status vis a vis his political rivals and enemies, would relish the opportunity to assassinate a Hamas leader with a U.S.-made weapon, thus further implicating us in his war.

In other words, the Deif assassination (attempt) has U.S. fingerprints all over it.  We bought and paid for it.  We enabled it.  We are hardly less guilty than the Israeli generals and intelligence agents who planned it or the pilot who dropped it.

In case anyone claims I’m criticizing this act because I have a soft spot for Hamas or Deif: not true.  I have little doubt the sort of person he is.  Nor do I have much doubt Israel helped make him that way.  But the truth is that assassinations are short-cuts that enable you not to have a real policy or approach to your enemy.  They enable you to hold him at bay for a time.  But they are a dead-end in terms of solving real problems using real solutions.  Not to mention that they are extra-judicial executions and state-sponsored terrorism, a violation of international law.

Ironically, the U.S. has little to complain about since we’ve aped Israel’s own counter-terror policy with our drone assassinations.  A tactic that Pres. Obama has embraced because he too has no constructive policy of engagement regarding the Arab-Muslim world.

I’ve tried for the past two days to get anyone at the State or Defense Departments to comment on this story, without success.  The State Dept. press officer pointed me to a useless transcript of the last media briefing which contained no reference to this subject.  When I pointed that out, the PR flack forwarded me to the Political-Military Affaris unit of State, which I e-mailed without success.  If anyone from the Pentagon is reading this, Commander Bill Speaks, I left you a message today and didn’t hear back.  I’d love to.

I wonder why the U.S. government isn’t taking my calls?

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It’s nothing new that Israel sends good-will ambassadors and hasbara operatives to tout Brand Israel to an American audience.  But the case of Ohad Elhelo takes this phenomenon to an entirely new level.  He’s an IDF intelligence officer who served with the Egoz special forces anti-guerilla combat unit.  Two years ago, he came to Boston to study at Brandeis University.  He’s now a sophomore.  His LinkedIn account says he’s majoring in Economics and plans to develop a “packaging solution” for which he has a patent pending.

ohad elhelo

Ohad Elhelo, undercover in Israel, a rock-star in Boston, here at an August 7th pro-Israel rally at City Hall (Elan Kawesh/Time of Israel)

Elhelo doesn’t spend his nights hitting the books or writing dull economics papers.  Instead, he’s in high demand by the New England pro-Israel community giving speeches and media interviews about his experiences as a combat officer in the IDF.  Essentially, his goal is to lie for his country (the ancient definition of the job of a diplomat) and for his army.  In the YouTube video featured here, he tells his audience that the Israeli army is the most moral in the world; that it avoids targeting civilians; and even aborts combat missions if they’re endangered. “No other would’ve done a better job” of avoiding civilian deaths.  “We were taught at home and in school that every life is precious.  There is no Jewish heart that wasn’t broken by the death of each Palestinian child,” he intones.  There isn’t terribly much nuance in his views about Gaza: “we say Hamas is the main [sic] responsible for the deaths of innocent civilians and WE ARE RIGHT!”

The real chiddush in Elhelo’s approach, the real innovation is that he doesn’t speak narrowly of Hamas as evil personified.  He argues that the enemy isn’t just Hamas, but also poverty and the lack of political rights.  He says after tearing down the “infrastructure of terror” Israel must rebuild the rebuild the “infrastructure of hope.”  And not just Israel, but “Jews, Arabs, Americans.”

The piece de la resistance is this final affirmation:

As an Israeli, as a Jew, as a soldier, and as a citizen of the world, I will do all that is in my power to prevent mothers, Israeli and Palestinian alike, from crying.

What a fine speech!  Let’s just spread the love.  Like an optimistic version of Rodney King, “we can get along.”  Except for one small problem: he doesn’t believe a word of it.  It’s like a catchy riff in a pop song which is otherwise banal bubble-gum music.

In his LinkedIn profile, Elhelo portrays his hasbara campaigning in terms that are fanciful, if not fraudulent:

 Ohad administers a collaborative project of Brandeis University and the Consulate General of Israel to New England, whereby Jewish and Arab Israeli students lecture on Israeli coexistence throughout New England. He represents the Brandeis Endowment at alumni and fundraising events and speaks for several Jewish organizations, as well as for the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

All of us know what StandWithUs does and how it works.  In the video above, he’s speaking to an SWU audience.  SWU arranges for Israeli Jews and “Arabs” to speak to audiences about the wonders of Brand Israel.  So an Israeli Palestinian, Ashraf Hussein from the village of  Sha’ab, becomes his partner in this charade, better known as normalization.  The notion that this involves “lecturing on Israeli coexistence” is ludicrous.  The only co-existence they tout is Israel as a Jewish state in which Palestinian citizens are happy and content like the “darkies” represented in early 20th century minstrel shows.

All of this might just be a footnote in the history of pro-Israel hasbara, except that Elhelo has been given rock star status (Hebrew) by the Israeli media for his exploits on behalf of his country.  The strange thing is that the IDF censor has censored any identification of Elhelo in the linked article.  So in the article he is only reserve intelligence officer “O.”  But it’s allowed Ynet to include this video in which he is prominently named.  If you ever looked to censorship to make any sense, forget it.   This guy is not just a public figure in America, the only reason he’s being profiled is because of the supposed bang-up hasbara job he’s doing over here.  All this requires grasping the limelight and embracing it.  All of which Elhelo is doing with gusto.

So what is the censor afraid of?  The only thing I can think of is that possibly they fear Hamas or Hezbollah may read the Israeli papers and put two and two together.  This guy lives in Boston.  His security won’t be as air-tight as it would in Israel.  We’ll take him out in Boston.

What’s nuts about this is that the censor believes Hamas reads Yediot, but that it doesn’t look at YouTube or LinkedIn or any of the thousands of other places touting Elhelo’s hasbara charm.

Finally, Elhelo overwhelms the audience with his ardor, telling them he returned to Israel during Operation Protective Edge even though he had no obligation to do so.  He paid for the airfare out of his own pocket till a pro-Israel NGO was able to reimburse him.  When he arrived in Israel he went directly to Gaza, where he was assigned to monitor drone surveillance cameras.  The Ynet article says he was tasked with preventing Israel from bombing innocent civilians.  But that’s not what drone pilots do.  They identify targets to kill.  Just like an IDF drone today killed five children who were watering their garden.  That’s what Elhelo’s real job was.  Everything he tells you about himself is a fraud as are all Israel’s justifications for this ongoing massacre.

Ynet describes worshipfully the magical effect Elhelo has on his American audiences including a dentist who approached him after his speech and offered free dental care for life!  I swear, it’s like  you’re a script reader in a Hollywood agents office and your job is too read every single piece of crap that crosses the transom.  This reads like a really bad script.  Though the old Bill Murray and Dan Ackroyd might’ve made something out of it using their satirical skills.

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