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Abu Seesi’s Brother Confirms Ukrainian Security Service Collaborated in Extraordinary Rendition


abu seesi's orphaned children

Dirar and Veronika Abu Seesi's 'orphaned' children (AP/Adel Hana)

I had a long, heartbreaking conversation this morning with Dirar Abu Seesi’s brother, Yousef, who just returned to his home in Holland from a three week stay in Ukraine.  He called his visit there “one of the worst three weeks of my life.”

Yousef had traveled to that country for a reunion with his brother, who he hadn’t seen in 15 years.  In fact, when Dirar was kidnapped, he was on his way by train to meet Yousef at the Kiev airport for their meeting.  Instead of a happy reunion, he spent three weeks running from pillar to post inside the Ukrainian intelligence and police apparatus seeking word of his brother, only to be frustrated at every turn.

The entire Abu Seesi family is heartbroken.  Veronika, Dirar’s wife, remains in her native Ukraine.  Her six children are in Gaza where they are being taken care of by Dirar’s sister Suzanne.  Imagine yourself a wife separated from your children with your husband disappeared into the Israeli gulag.  Yousef half-marvels, half-weeps at the innocence (or naiveté)  of Veronika who he says “remains convinced that she will be reunited with her husband soon in Gaza.

The brother told me he had to tell his own father, who lives in Jordan, that his son had been kidnapped and was in an Israeli prison.  The man, who hadn’t seen his son in twelve years cried for an entire day.

Yousef is convinced (and Yossi Melman covertly confirmed this in his story in yesterday’s Haaretz) that the Ukrainian intelligence services collaborated in his brother’s disappearance.  In this YouTube video he confirms this.  When he and Veronika made the rounds of the various intelligence and police agencies they were given a complete runaround.  It reminded me of a Kafka novel.

The secret police were definitely in on the whole thing.  Sitting in the office of a police general, Yousef half jokingly told him he felt like HE could be kidnapped, to which the commander said point-blank: “You definitely could be.”  Imagine.  Perhaps it’s even worse than Israel (at least for Palestinians).  But truly the Ukrainian secret police & Israeli secret police deserve each other.  A match made in heaven—or hell, as the case may be.

The authorities gave them nothing but the runaround sending them to different offices, none of which helped them.  They even visited one senior intelligence official who promised to help, giving them his phone number.  They returned for an appointment to see him and waited two hours.  He never showed up.  The entire time the other intelligence agency employees peered at them through a window.  Other times they would call the official and no one would know who he was.  Yousef joked that perhaps HE was kidnapped too.  Authorities repeatedly told them not to go public and that if they kept quiet the authorities would find Dirar for them.  They even gave them a date, saying they would bring him back on March 9th.  It was all a ploy so that they could ensure the Mossad rendered him to Israel before the world could wake up to his plight.

The Abu Seesis sent a letter to the Ukrainian prime minister, who is due in Israel for a visit next week, asking his help.  I told Yousef that Veronika should hold a press conference in front of the prime minister’s office and demand he intercede for her with the Israelis.

Israeli government officials, seemingly not hindered by the government gag order which supposedly prohibits the media from using domestic sources to report this story, are bruiting about the notion that Abu Seesi is a senior weapons “engineer” for Hamas, somehow being trained by Iran to develop an indigenous Gaza weapons industry that would be free of reliance on imported weaponry from the outside.

What makes no sense about this theory is why such an arms maker would be applying for Ukrainian citizenship.  Does Israeli intelligence see him as a replacement for Mahmoud al-Mabouh roving the world from his Ukrainian base in order to procure arms deals for Hamas?

A new AP report takes us back to a theory that echoes somewhat my own earlier one that Israel’s secret police were targeting the power plant when they kidnapped its deputy chief engineer:

While the reasons for Mr. Abu Sisi’s detention were unclear, it was widely assumed in Gaza that it was somehow linked to his position at the power plant and the successful efforts of Hamas to reduce the station’s dependency on industrial diesel fuel imported from Israel.

In January, the Hamas authorities said that they had managed to adjust the station’s turbines to run on regular diesel fuel, which is smuggled into Gaza from Egypt, saying that Israel was not letting in sufficient amounts of fuel. Mr. Abu Sisi left Gaza twice last year, for a work conference in Egypt and to perform a pilgrimage to Mecca, according to his relatives.

If this theory is correct, it would mean that those who maintain Israel’s stranglehold around Gaza would be in such a fit of pique at the prospect that Gaza’s power plant might be able to return to full function by liberating itself from reliance on Israeli fuel sources that they’d be willing to engage in major violations of international law merely in order to punish the mastermind of such self-reliance.  It seems far-fetched.  But I’ve never to underestimate the pettiness of the Israeli military-intelligence juggernaut.  The Wall Street Journal echoes this theory in its own reporting.

An alternate theory crossed my mind: Israel has continuously come up short in its efforts to liberate Gilad Shalit, the IDF soldier captured four years ago by Gaza militants.  Israeli  intelligence services may intend this as a message to Hamas that they can and will go to the ends of the earth to kidnap figures who play critical roles in keeping whatever remains of the enclave’s infrastructure running.  That would make the crime one of vengeance and warning intended for Hamas’ leadership, as if to say: our reach is wide; the idea that anyone anywhere can protect you is laughable.  When you are in a foreign country we will get its authorities to collaborate in apprehending you; and you will disappear into the maw of our security system only to be heard from again when we wish.  If it’s true, it’s a chilling message.  And one that merits the fierce determination of the international human rights community to combat it.

joseph in the pit

Joseph in the pit, Dirar in the Gulag (David Colyn)


If you are an Israeli security hawk, I ask you to put yourself in the shoes of this man and his family.  Even if he is Hamas’ top rocket engineer (a claim I reject), is this the way to treat both him and his family including his six children?  Do you deal with your enemies by disappearing them, by laughing at their family while they traipse from one meeting to another with Ukrainian security officials who are also in on the joke?  Do you turn a father’s old age into ashes by seizing his precious son so that he doesn’t know if he will see him ever again?

This brings to mind perhaps the earliest Jewish act of extraordinary rendition: when Joseph’s brothers grew jealous of him they sold him into Egyptian slavery.  When the brothers told their father, Jacob, of the fictitious death of Joseph, the man wept just as Dirar’s father did.

Joseph, who had meanwhile become the second most powerful figure under Pharaoh, got his comeuppance when the brothers turned to Egypt during a famine in Canaan, seeking food.  Joseph, recognizing his brothers as his supplicants, arranges for a ruse and kidnaps Jacob’s most precious remaining son, Benjamin.  Joseph wishes to punish his brothers both for their earlier treatment of him, and by forcing them to contemplate having to tell their aged patriarch for a second time that they had allowed one of his sons to perish.

To me, Dirar Abu Seesi isn’t that dissimilar from Joseph sold into slavery or Benjamin kidnapped.  Extraordinary rendition, whether in the age of the Bible or 21st century is foul and cruel and wreaks heartbreak on all it touches.  It may yet wreak such havoc on those who thought it was a cracker jack idea to kidnap the Gaza engineer and throw him into the Israeli gulag.

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{ 19 comments… add one }

  • Shmuel March 12, 2011, 1:27 AM

    I assume we’ll all know soon what it’s all about, and even then when the facts are clear we’ll still disagree as to whether it is all justified, worthwhille or fair.

    But meanwhile, food for thought:

    1) Everything you say about Seesi’s father – add also to the anguish Gilad Shalit’s father whose son was kidnapped from foreign territory and has been held ever since for four years with only one video and one letter. Probably held in a hole much worse than any cell in Shikmah prison. War sucks!

    2) If Gaza is under seige how does Seesi get to visit Egypt and Ukraine? Why wasn’t he arrested at BG airport when he left? Why not wait and arrest him on his return?

    3) If he is the new Mabhouh then better to prevent the arms deals or building production of arms than to wait for them to be used. Prevention is better than cure, even if it is a “minor” infraction of International Law. You seem to think that wars should be fought inside a court of law with pleadings from both sides and a judicial decision before any bullet is fired.

    4) I agree with you totally, and congratulate you for breaking the gag order. I agree that as soon as he was in Israel his arrest should be publicised and he should be charged as soon as the investigation is over, or released. The suffering to the family is unecessary, and it is clear that in the modern internet world it is laughable to try and keep this sort of thing secret.

    • Vicky March 12, 2011, 12:09 PM

      1.) It’s rare for somebody this high-profile to be kidnapped, and it’s doubly rare for it to happen overseas, but for everyday people its a common occurrence. Israeli prisons are full of Palestinians who were taken from their beds in the middle of the night and bundled off without a word of explanation. Some of the ex-prisoners I’ve spoken to never found out why and were never even given a release date to sustain them during their time in prison. Their families had to bear with the knowledge that they might not come back. Gilad Shalit is one person. That doesn’t diminish his importance; the one is every bit as important as the ninety-nine. He deserves to be cared about. But it bothers me to see you using him as a way of counterbalancing the kidnap of Abu Seesi. Put Abu Seesi in the context of all the Palestinian prisoners who were snatched from their homes in the dead of night, and Shalit is not much of a counterweight.

      2.) It is possible for some Gazans to get permits to leave and enter Gaza, although it’s a difficult and stressful business. It can take months and months of effort, there’s never any guarantee that you will get one, and most people in the strip haven’t a hope. The fact that some people do manage to get permits does not negate the fact that Gaza is only receiving a fraction of the resources that it needs to keep going, that chronic malnutrition is rampant in consequence, that 90% of water is unfit to drink, that most people can’t go anywhere. This is a siege.

      3.) This is not a war. This is an occupation. One side has an enormous amount of power, the other has very little. You make it sound as though it is two equal sides battling it out. It isn’t. It’s one group of people oppressing another.

      4.) I’m glad you think of his family.

    • SimoHurtta March 12, 2011, 2:07 PM

      Well the main difference between this and the case of Shalit is that Shalit was captured as an uniformed soldier on enemy’s own territory on the common border. Kerem Shalom is not in Ukraine. By kidnapping Palestinians abroad Israel creates also the moral “space” for Palestinians to operate in an equal way. Could we condemn them if they kidnap an Israeli arms trader (alleged naturally) in an European, American or Asian country and throw him in a secret cellar?

      Shmuel how many prisoners taken from Gaza has Israel still in its prisons and concentration camps? Hundreds, so playing victim with the Shalit case is a bit hypocritical. In response of one Israeli Jewish personal nightmare there are hundreds of Palestinian personal nightmares.

      Surely war sucks, but it sucks thousands of times more for Palestinians than it does for Israeli Jews. War begins to really suck for the violent occupier’s soldiers and civil population normally in the end period of the occupation. Until then war does not suck very much for those who can kill, torture and humiliate the occupied people without punishment.

    • Richard Silverstein March 12, 2011, 2:29 PM

      add also to the anguish Gilad Shalit’s father

      What does that have to do with Abu Seesi’s father? Did Abu Seesi capture Shalit? If not, this is a total red herring & I don’t appreciate you attempting to hijack the thread with off topic non sequiturs.

      Why wasn’t he arrested at BG airport when he left?

      He doesn’t live in Israel. He lives in Gaza. He left Gaza via Egypt & so never set foot in Ben Gurion until he was kidnapped & rendered to Israel by Mossad.

      wars should be fought inside a court of law with pleadings from both sides and a judicial decision before any bullet is fired.

      Indeed, if Israel would pursue judicial/legal remedies for its grievances the world (& Israel) & Israel’s victims would be FAR better off than the path it does choose of thumbing its nose at the law, judicial remedies & national boundaries whether they be in Lebanon, Gaza or Ukraine.

  • Deïr Yassin March 12, 2011, 6:39 AM

    @ Shmuel)
    “Gilad Shalit’s father whose son was kidnapped from foreign territory”.
    Do you admit by ‘foreign territory’ that Gilad Shalit was in Gaza when kidnapped ?
    Concerning your third point, I guess it’s also a green light to kidnapping Israeli politicians and military personnel while abroad. “Prevention is better than cure”: why not kill them all while still children. They might grow up to be terrorists.

    • Shmuel March 12, 2011, 7:14 AM

      D Y – Gilad Shalit was kidnapped from Israel by residents of Gaza, thus it was a kidnapping from foreign territory

      Prevention better than cure – obviously it can be taken to extremes, but if a plan to murder or a plan to provide arms is known it would be foolish to wait for the actual plan to come to fruition rather than frustrate it before it happens, even by illegal means if it saves lives.

      And yes, I assume if the Palestinians had the capability, they might well try to assassinate Israeli politicians or generals as they did to Rehavam Zeevi. Failing that capability, some do the next best thing and slit the throats of 4 month old babies while they sleep. (see today’s news)

      • Vicky March 12, 2011, 12:24 PM

        Palestinians do have the capability to commit murder. The fact is that most choose not to.

        The occupation detracts from people’s safety rather than adding to it. Brutal settler violence is a daily occurrence in the West Bank, and the IDF frequently collude with the settlers. The children of Tuba and Maghayir al-Abeed alone have been subjected to over 110 attacks by settlers since 2004, which were all documented by the international peacekeepers living in the valley. Serious injury and hospitalisations have resulted from that violence. Just down the road from me in Hebron, there is a twelve-year-old boy who is blind because settlers threw corrosive acid in his face.

        These things don’t make the news, and on the rare occasion when settlers die at Palestinian hands, the story is always about how Palestinians are obviously itching to kill Israelis if they get the chance. When you put the death of that baby into context, the miracle is that such sustained brutality against the Palestinian population doesn’t result in more killings. This is the biggest Israeli civilian tragedy in six years. How many Palestinian civilians have died in that same time span?

        I don’t defend the person who murdered those settlers. I wouldn’t defend him even if his target had been a known violent settler as opposed to a sleeping child. No one has a right to take a human life – any human life. Believing this as I do, it’s quite frustrating to see the inconsistency of Israelis who recognise the murder of a four-month-old Jewish baby for the crime that it is, but who claim that the death of a Palestinian baby in a bombing raid (or in an ambulance that is being held up at the checkpoint, or in an under-resourced hospital…) is a necessary price to pay for security.

      • Deïr Yassin March 12, 2011, 1:25 PM

        @ Shmuel)
        If settlers (particularly extremists such as those in Itamar) might be a legitimate target for the resistance, there is NO justification for killing three children, and I’m deeply repulsed by this.
        And it’s counterproductive for the Palestinian cause: I think it’s better to leave the label of ‘baby killers’ to The-Most-Moral-Army-In-The-World.
        It’s all over the MSM, the same that NEVER mention when Palestinians are killed by settlers.
        And I don’t think it will make the Israelis think twice about getting the settlers back behind the ’67-borders. Bibi is on the warpath, and Yvette wants to bring the Itamar-killing up in UN. Hopefully, he’ll bring the “Cast Lead” file along.

        You just forgot to mention that ‘Gandhi’ – the ‘transferist’ – was killed as a retaliation for the killing of the PFLP leader Ali Abu Mustafa, didn’t you ? And that one of the 4 assassins got sentenced to 125 years of imprisonment, and that Ahmed Sa’adat got 30 years though he had nothing to do with the assassination of Zé’evi. It’s ‘cheaper’ to kill a Palestinian, much cheaper, mostly you even get it for free though I’m sure YOU’ve sentenced tons of Arab-killers to lifetime in prison.

  • iain March 12, 2011, 9:31 AM

    I wonder if it is worth throwing into the mix here that Ukraine is a member of the Council of Europe, and therefore a party to the European Convention on Human Rights. As a result, it must ensure to everyone within its jurisdiction the rights and freedoms defined in Section I of the Convention, which includes Article 5, the right to liberty. People within the jurisdiction of a party to the European Convention can only be deprived of their liberty “in accordance with a procedure prescribed by law”.

    If Richard’s claims are correct, then it looks like Ukraine has a case to answer under the European Convention.

    And, for what it is worth, Israel has observer status at the Council of Europe. I wonder if it might be useful to move the discussion there.

  • Arik Elman March 12, 2011, 9:58 AM

    Wow. You sure are something else. If the Abu Seesi who is in Ashkelon prison is the same Abu Seesi you’re waxing so poetic about, then he has an appointed attorney. Let me assure you, in the Gulag they didn’t have that privilege. And, of course, if he has a lawyer, then he didn’t “vanish”. If Israel had indeed receive the help of the Ukrainian authorities in getting him, perhaps it was because the Ukrainians didn’t want him? If he is a member of Hamas, then he is an Islamofascist who supports and assists murder of Jews and the destruction of their country (as per Hamas charter), and in his spare time he also runs a power plant.
    Now, to the simple point – Hamas had kidnapped an Israeli soldier from Israeli territory. Hamas keeps him incommunicado, ipso facto declaring it’s non-recognition of POW conventions. If your darling is taken only because he’s supposed to be a bargaining chip, that’s good too.
    Sorry, we’re busy here burying real victims. For you, this is probably a very good day.

    • Deïr Yassin March 12, 2011, 1:32 PM

      If Abu Seesi is a Islamofascist, then I guess you’re a Judeofascist, aren’t you ?

    • Richard Silverstein March 12, 2011, 2:38 PM

      If he is a member of Hamas, then he is an Islamofascist who supports and assists murder of Jews and the destruction of their country

      MAJOR comment rule violation. Read those rules CAREFULLY before commenting here again & do NOT violate them in future. Do NOT propagandize, use slogans or spout rhetorical terms like “Islamofascist” and the like. If you want to post a thoughtful comment even one that disagrees w. my views or those of other, you are welcome. But you are NOT allowed to grandstand or publish your unsupported prejudices as if declared, proven fact.

      Your next violation of the rules will cause further restriction of comment privileges.

      Hamas had kidnapped an Israeli soldier from Israeli territory

      No, Shalit was an Israeli soldier fighting what Israel claims is a war against Hamas. Therefore, he was not “kidnapped” but captured as part of a military conflict. Abu Seesi is not a combatant armed or otherwise & he was kidnapped in Ukraine, not even Israeli territory or that of a front line state in Israel’s so called war on its neighboring “enemies.”

      If your darling is taken only because he’s supposed to be a bargaining chip, that’s good too.

      Justifying violations of international law & doing so gleefully as you have done has earned you moderation for another comment rule violation. Test me again & you’re done.

      For you, this is probably a very good day.

      That is a vile, disgusting, & unacceptable comment & you are done here. You are a piece of rubbish. Nothing more. Your sorrow or anger at this terror attack does NOT earn you the privilege to make despicable, unfounded comments about me or my views about things you know nothing about.

  • y March 12, 2011, 10:40 AM

    A forth or a fith post about Mr Abo Seesi, combined with claims you “know better” than others here what happened and why he was kidnapped, though so far u’ve provided 3 or 4 different possible explanations (im still waiting for my two responses on the plant-destruction-theory post to get published, as both were very pretty short and didnt violate any of ur blog rules).

    Do you deal with your enemies by disappearing them

    Yes, and sometimes by also killing them, or bombing them from the air, and they deal with us by slaughtering a whole family while its asleep, or by firing qassams, or by blowing buses (when they could at least). Makes us even, doesnt it?

    Its nice to see ur poetical skills coming to life when talking about Abu Seesis father. Too bad i will probably never find similar poetry when talking about Gilad Shalits father, or the 3 soilders who have been missing from the Sulta-Yaakov battle.

    • Richard Silverstein March 12, 2011, 2:45 PM

      Makes us even, doesnt it?

      Not by ANY STRETCH of the imagination since for every horrific, grisly killing by a Palestinian terrorist, Israel kills 10 Palestinian civilians as proven by numerous casualty counts developed by B’Tselem & other such NGOs.

      Too bad i will probably never find similar poetry when talking about Gilad Shalits father, or the 3 soilders who have been missing from the Sulta-Yaakov battle.

      I can give you a list of 100 blogs & media outlets that will do precisely this for you. I can’t list 100 blogs or media outlets speaking out for Abu Seesi’s father. And in case you hadn’t noticed you’re not the editor of this blog & don’t determine what subjects I write about. Now, if someone wants me to write about a subject because they truly believe I have something to say about it that might be valuable or that they wish to hear there is a proper civil way to do this & in fact Edward Doks, who published Yediot’s first story about Abu Seesi did ask me to do so. But he did it as I said respectfully & in such a way that challenged me to do so. Your statement was rude, disrespectful & designed to provoke, grandstand & score pts. You should learn how to speak respectfully & influence people.

      • y March 13, 2011, 6:26 AM

        Not by ANY STRETCH of the imagination since for every horrific, grisly killing by a Palestinian terrorist, Israel kills 10 Palestinian

        The number of victims has nothing to do with what i said. When hamas could – they captured Shalit, and bombed busses and malls. Theres a higher number of civilian palestinian victims simply because israel has more power, and not any other reason, although its used often to show how israel uses its power in an “improper” way

        The conflict as a whole should be resolved via negotiations and not via arms, . No one forced the terrorist yesterday to kill a whole family, or gazans to fire rockets, especially when they know israels way to deasl with that is to bomb the s*** out of them.

        . You should learn how to speak respectfully & influence people

        Im not trying to influence you nor anyone. You, on the other hand, apparently would like to influence israelis, and that is very unlikely when u write posts like this, but im really not ur editor.

  • Miriam March 12, 2011, 6:20 PM

    Stunning amount of blather today by those who seem to miss pertinent issues again and again…thus we must believe they are on their ‘talking points memo” of the day. No end to framing a trained infantry soldier as a ‘kidnapping victim’, rather than prisoner.
    that another presumes that Abu Seesi travelled in or out of BG is more than stunning, and reveals feigned or real ignorance of how anyone (i.e.non-Jew)…but especially anyone who is Arab, Muslim, brown-skinned or whose name appears on a warning list…like US anti war/peace activists…all of whom would be harassed, delayed, strip-searched, detained, treated like crap…[any or all of these behaviors]…which have been going on for YEARS. Why would any rational non Jew even consider going to BG??
    Perhaps another action which people of conscience can take..boycott travel to Israel, dont enter via BG and never use El Al. Only when there is enough economic pain felt thru-out the occupier’s state will change come. Let us do what ever we can to speed that day, since reason, logic, common sense and documentation do not suffice.

    It always amazes the extent of convoluted thinking that some will create to avoid taking the obvious route to understanding human behavior. Continue to abuse, humiliate and oppress then expect that growing numbers of people will hate you for it. Dont hide behind archaic explanations….be willing to face facts & accept blame for the vile racist abusive treatment dispensed liberally & regularly to ‘the other.”
    As for the UKRAINIAN/ISRAELI ‘partnership’.. watch Yoav Shamir’s superb film: DEFAMATION…you can see just how embedded they are.

    Finally, a huge thank you and appreciation for reminding readers of the poignant story of Joseph…marvelous analogy, Richard.

    oh…and 1 last thing….the guy who claims that because he has an ‘appointed lawyer’ being rendered to Shikma prison cannot constitute being in a gulag. Thanks for reminding readers that’s all it would take is assigning a lawyer to remove that onus.. but gulag’s description from an online source really reinforces Gulag concept…here:large numbers were convicted by simplified procedures, such as -3 man panels/ troikas & other instruments of extrajudicial punishment.”
    that’s a GULAG.

  • Shmuel March 13, 2011, 9:36 AM

    Miriam – you state that the Joseph story is a marvelous analogy? (“Finally, a huge thank you and appreciation for reminding readers of the poignant story of Joseph…marvelous analogy, Richard.”)

    So let’s see – the biblical Joseph brought his kidnapping upon himself by “snitching” on his brothers and parading without shame his father’s favouritism. Is Abu Seesi also a “snitch” and deserves to be kidnapped?
    The biblical Jacob (Joseph’s father) was punished with grief over his “dead” son because he favoured him over his brothers and did not show honour to his own father and ran away for 20 years after deceiving his father Isaac. Similarity?
    Joseph was made Viceroy of Egypt later only beacause of god’s will and not his own merit as Joseph himself declares.

    Basically the only similarity is that his father grieves just as every Jewish, Muslim or Christian parent grieves if his son is missing, incarcerated or killed.

    Leave the bible out of it!!

    • Richard Silverstein March 13, 2011, 9:11 PM

      Shmuel, where did you learn yr Tanach. The Joseph story is far more nuanced that you recognize. Joseph, when he was a boy, was an incorrigible spoiled brat. The attack by his brothers was in some sense payback. But Joseph as he grew up became wiser, more mature & humbler. By the time he met his brothers again in Egypt, he was a wise, but still complicated man. He returned the favor upon his brothers by arranging for Benjamin to be arrested. By the end of the story everyone has become wiser & more humbled by their actions. It’s one of the great stories of the Tanach.

      Joseph was made viceroy of Egypt because he was a wise, shrewd man. I don’t know if God had anything to do with it.

      Don’t tell me or anyone else to leave the Bible out of anything. If you don’t like the analogies go elsewhere or write your own blog.

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