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Home arrow Blog arrow July 2009 arrow July 16, 2009

July 16, 2009
July 16, 2009: eileenfleming has shared two videos with you UPDATED July 17-reflections and lies


1974, and when





Last night ZZ Top opened for the aged but still great fun band.

I send both these clips to all the sharp dressed soldiers I met while passing through Atlanta last two days.

Obama is sending them ALL back to Iraq and Afghanistan and all they got was a two week R+R.

When I asked one of them, "How do you stand it.?"

He shrugged and replied, "It's my job."

After this dance, I will get back to mine:






PS: ZZ Top is the BEST thing that has ever has ever come out of Texas-and back to Bush tomorrow.

Compassion: sorrow for the suffering of others accompanied by the urge to do something to help
A reflection on Iraq I wrote shortly after the USA bombed Baghdad


Excerpted from KEEP HOPE ALIVE
Chapter 13: CATS AND COMPASSION


Terese absentmindedly caressed the pristine one hundred sheet Official Mead Composition notebook during breakfast. Terese had been writing poetry for years, but refused to let anyone read any of it. She even refused Jake and had a secret ritual. The first full moon after she completed a book, she would light a fire at 1 a.m. in the fire pit where Jake barbequed. She would read her words one last time by the light of the moon, then toss in the Official Mead Composition notebook. She would walk in circles as it burned, and only after the embers died did her ritual circular walk.

After breakfast, she brushed her teeth, grabbed her backpack, and set off into the woods, pondering, “I have been wrestling with this idea for a book for too long. Will this try end up in the fire, too?  As always, I do not know; I never know anything before I begin, and as long as I stay open to learn as I go, it will be okay, okay. Christ have mercy on me and help me, please! How do I explain concrete walls to little children, and why men choose violence? How do you explain irrational adult behavior to little ones? Why do men choose hatred, injury, discord, error, and darkness to love, pardon, unity, truth, and light? Why is that? Christ have mercy on us all!”

Terese sighed deeply and immediately became aware of the sun’s rays filtered through the thickly canopied trail, and sensed the scurrying of small creatures around her, who were camouflaged beneath the thick carpet of leaves she tread upon. At the end of the trail, a gazebo had been erected in memory of a fallen soldier in a long ago war. Terese blessed herself as she entered, then opened her backpack, removed three gel pens and the one hundred sheet Official Mead Composition notebook, and groaned, “Okay, okay.”
 
Terese stared at the upper left corner of the virgin leaf of paper in her Official Mead Composition notebook and sighed as she chewed the end of a gel pen. After a few deep breathes, she set the tip down at the uppermost intersection of the red vertical line and the first of twenty-four horizontal blue lines, and watched in amazement as words filled the page:

I am an old crone now, but I once was your age.

I remember, when I saw a picture in the newspaper of a little naked girl running in terror from a mushroom cloud, and I wondered, why did that girl have to run for her life in her hometown, when in mine, everyone was safe and happy?

That girl in the picture wasn’t safe, and she was not happy. I wondered about her, and me, and my hometown, and America.

I am an old crone now and I still wonder...

When images from Vietnam were on the TV screen, I was a mom of three and seven months pregnant with twins.

I went into early labor on the day a shot rang out in my hometown, and America’s prophet bled on the concrete of Memphis.

 
Terese sighed, flipped to a clean page, and wondered, “I am getting nowhere. I want to explain why there is war to children, but I don’t know how to go about it.”

She chewed the end of her gel pen and stared into the pistil and stamen of a white and violet day lily that grew next to the gazebo. A gunfire round of riveting from the redheaded woodpecker above her head brought Terese back to her empty page, and she sighed, “Christ, have mercy on me. What’s the deal with me? How could I think I could write a story to explain war to children, when I don’t understand why war has to be?”

She bit her lip and sighed a few more times, before putting the gel pen back to the paper. She lit up like a Christmas tree as the words flew from her fingers:

Have you heard the one about Dorothy and her cats?
 
Dorothy was about your age when her tiny orange and calico cat named Peachez met with an early demise. You see, little Peachez, barely a year old, got too big for her breeches, and snuck out Dorothy’s front door. Nobody knew except Rikki, the deer dog who lived next door.

Rikki could not resist his nature to hunt, and Peachez was most exotic fare, for in this neighborhood, cats lived inside. Little defenseless Peachez never had a chance, for Rikki bit right through the neck of that tiny orange and calico cat.

Oh, how Dorothy mourned; oh, how she grieved; after a week, her mother could take it no more, and told her, “Girl, you need a new kitty!”

Dorothy agreed.

“Then, I will call the cat league and see what they have in stock, okay, Dorothy?”

“Okay, okay, do it for me, please.”

“Happily,” her mom replied, as she dialed the animal league.

Dorothy could not believe it when she heard her mother say, “Hi, have you got any kitties that need a home?”

Dorothy exploded, “No, not just any kitty, I know exactly what I want. I want a pure white cat with blue eyes the color of the summer sky, and I’ll call him Bob.”

“Okay, okay. Did you hear all that, lady from the animal league?”

“Yes, I did, and, ah--good luck with it. I have a lot of cats that could be Bob; some have pure white fur, but not a one has blue eyes.”

“Okay, thanks, we will continue on,” Dorothy’s mom sighed, as she hung up the phone.

 “Girl, I have to pick up the dry cleaning next to the veterinarian’s office. Come with me now, and maybe someone there will be able to help you find your Bob with blue eyes and white fur on.”
 
For the first time since Peachez demise, Dorothy smiled when she said, “Okay, okay.”

Dorothy and her mom stood in line at the vet’s office for an interminable time before a doe-eyed brunette, as thin as a French-cut string bean, noticed them and inquired, “Hi, can I help you?”

Dorothy replied, “I am looking for the cat of my dreams; he has pure white fur and eyes the color of the summer sky, and his name is Bob.”

“Well, this is most numinous. You see, I have a five-year-old cat back in storage that needs a home. He is very sad, for he has been in a cage for almost seven months. He has licked off all his hair, and he pouts a lot.

“You see, it was Thanksgiving week when his first family dropped him off. They didn’t love him. They tossed him away. They wanted the doctor to give him a shot, to put him to sleep. But I said, ‘No way! I’ll put that cat in storage, and one day, someone will come in here and take him away.”’

Dorothy’s mom interrupted. “There must be a reason that family tossed that cat away.”
 
The doe-eyed string bean replied, “Sister, let me tell you, this cat is no more neurotic than any other cat I have known. I will not lie to you, for he is indeed one neurotic cat, who never was a beauty. But he did have white fur when he came in here, and his eyes are still as blue as a summer sky. He is most definitely OC; you see, he licks himself a lot, and so, is now as bald as a bat.

“Oh, by the way, he whines like a banshee and paces about. You see, after his upsetting Thanksgiving holiday, the vet fixed him for Christmas, and no doubt you can imagine why he is naturally still quite upset about that. Oh, by the way, he has claws, and since he is too old for surgery, they must stay. But, sister, I assure you, he’s no more or less neurotic than any other cat around. Follow me into the back room, and you will see that he really is a cool cat; you should take him away.”

“I think Dorothy wants a blue-eyed baby kitty, not one so worn-out,” Dorothy’s mother pleaded, looking hopefully at her daughter.

“I don’t care how old he is, as long as he is my Bob,”  Dorothy shouted over the cacophony of barking and yelping, as the doe-eyed string bean stopped in front of the center cage and announced,

“Surely, I told you--this cat has always been called Bob.”
 
And with that, she turned, and with one smooth motion, unlatched the cage and pulled out a long scrawny cat, with a few patches of white fur, but mostly skin showing. His enormous blue eyes, the color of the summer sky, looked into Dorothy’s, and he moaned like a baby in pain; Dorothy proclaimed, “He’s the one!”

Dorothy took him home on her shoulder as her mom drove the Crossfire, and Bob never moved a muscle, nor made a sound. Dorothy’s mom thought, This won’t be so bad, right?
 
As soon as Dorothy put Bob down in her room, he wailed and moaned, and Dorothy did not know what to do, until her mom told her, “He’s just like a baby, and you may have to walk the floors holding him all night. Welcome to motherhood.”

Dorothy gleefully picked Bob back up and carried him around on her shoulder, just like you would a little baby. Every single time she put Bob down, he would whine, kvetch, and pace all around, and would stare at her with his blue eyes the color of a summer sky. Dorothy swore she heard him say, “Sister, I’ve got the blues bad, and I can’t  calm down unless you carry me around.”

The very next night, the bombs hit Baghdad.

All night, Dorothy walked the floors with Bob, the blue-eyed cat on her shoulder, and a heart breaking, breaking, breaking for all the innocents caught up in the crossfire. She knew she was connected. You are too.

In the 11th century, Hildegard of Bingen knew:

God responds speedily whenever the blood of innocence is being shed. Of this the angel choirs are singing and re-echoing their praise. And yet at the loss of innocence clouds are weeping.

Bob, the blue eyed cat, has now calmed down. He doesn’t want to be held, and he never makes a sound. His hair has grown back, pure white and coarse as grit. Into his summer sky blue eyes, clouds of cataracts have moved in. He moves slowly, slowly, slowly. Bob tucks his front legs under his chest and gently bows as he gets down. What a contemplative Bob has become, for deliberate movement is prayer.

A new kitty has moved into Dorothy’s house, too. A black and white long–haired, green-eyed feline named Oreo. Dorothy found her when she was only a week old and abandoned by her cat mom, who left the litter and never returned. Dorothy fed the baby kitty every three hours for three weeks with an eyedropper, and kept her warm.

Oreo has now grown big and strong, and likes to play, but sometimes can be a pain. Bob always treats her gently, even when she bites his tail; he either plays or he walks away.

Terese stretched and moaned, “That’s as far as I can go today."


Everything That Happens in Afghanistan Is Based on Lies or Illusions

A Film That Captures Some Edgy, Fearful Truths
Published on Thursday, July 16, 2009 by TomDispatch.com
by Ann Jones

KABUL, Afghanistan, July 2009 -- I've come back to the Afghan capital again, after an absence of two years, to find it ruined in a new way. Not by bombs this time, but by security.

The heart of the city is now hidden behind piles of Hescos [1] -- giant, grey sandbags produced somewhere in Great Britain. They're stacked against the walls of government buildings, U.N. agencies, embassies, NGO offices, and army camps (of which there are a lot) -- and they only seem to grow and multiply. A friend called just the other day from a U.N. building, distressed that the view from her office window was vanishing behind yet another row of Hescos. Urban life as Kabulis knew it in this once graceful city has been lost to the security needs of strangers.

The creation of Hescostan in the middle of Kabul is both an effect of, and a cause of, war: an effect because it seems to arise in response to devious enemy tactics that are still relatively new to Afghanistan, such as the use of roadside bombs (IEDs) and suicide bombers (though there has actually been no attack in Kabul for six months now); a cause because it is so clearly a projection, an externalization of the fears of men out of their depth. It is a paradox of such "force protection" that the more you have, the more you feel you need. What's called security generates fear. Now comes a documentary that projects that fear onto the screen.

It is 2006, late in the year. A reporter stands on a rocky hillside near the city of Kandahar in southern Afghanistan and points a wobbly camera at dark-clad gunmen ranged at a distance before him. They've wrapped the tails of their turbans to mask their faces. They carry their Kalashnikovs at the ready. The reporter shouts a question: "Does the Taliban receive support from Pakistan?"

As the camera jumps about to find the Talib who is speaking, a translator voices his answer: "Yes, Pakistan stands with us. On the other side of the border, we have our offices there. Some people in Pakistan is supporting us and the government of Pakistan does not say anything to us. They provide us with everything."

The reporter -- Christian Parenti of the Nation magazine -- has his story. For years, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has charged Pakistan with backing the Taliban, while Pakistan's then-President Musharraf denied it, and officials of the Bush administration looked the other way. Now, Parenti has the word of armed Taliban. This is the kind of story a foreign correspondent can't get without a fixer; that is, a local guy who knows the language, the local politics, the protocols of custom -- and how to arrange a meeting like this in the middle of nowhere with men who might kill you.

A Talib warns of an approaching reconnaissance plane. "We should go," the scared reporter says. The camera spins wildly across a vast empty expanse of rock and pale sky. "We should go." Moments later, safely back in a car speeding away, Parenti turns the camera on his own grinning face: "This is the most relieved American reporter in Afghanistan," he says, and describes the man sitting beside him -- Ajmal Nashqbandi, a 24-year-old Pashtun from Kabul -- as "the best fixer in Afghanistan." But we already know what Parenti doesn't (because filmmaker Ian Olds has told us up front before the titles even hit the screen): soon the fixer will be dead, murdered by the Taliban. We will be witnesses.

If this sounds harrowing, it is. Fixer [2] is the best documentary I've seen on Afghanistan -- so good it's hard to imagine a better one. It's all jagged edges, blurs, and disconnects, catching as it does both the forbidding emptiness of the land and the edginess of war-weary Afghans. One long segment, apparently showing the inside of Parenti's shawl as he conceals a camera from potentially hostile villagers, seems the visual correlative of the feeling that unsettles all outsiders from time to time in this country: the sense of being completely in the dark. In 2006-2007, as the Taliban surged back with kidnappings, murders, bombs, and jihadi suicide attacks, this is how Afghanistan felt. It's the feeling that still drives Hesco sales in the capital.

Full disclosure: both Parenti and I have written about Afghanistan for the Nation for several years. I write mostly about women, Parenti mostly about the war [3], and I admire his work. We met for the first time only a couple of months ago, after both of us were invited to take part in a conference on Afghanistan. He told me about Fixer, then playing at the Tribeca Film Festival. I went to see it, and when it ended I could hardly get out of my seat. Watching it again on DVD in Kabul made me weep.

By refusing to exploit Ajmal's murder for the sake of suspense -- by revealing it at the start -- Olds has chosen to make a film full of the kind of fear that seems to inhabit international centers of power in Afghanistan today. The film's nervous visual style is strikingly different from the clean-cut look of Occupation: Dreamland, his earlier documentary about American soldiers in Iraq. Critics will surely have much more to say about Fixer's importance as a film. It has already won a raft of prizes, including firsts at Documenta Madrid and the Pesaro (Italy) Film Festival, and Olds [4] took home a Tribeca award this year as the best new documentary filmmaker.

How Lies Begat Illusions Begat Lies

What I want to focus on, though, is the way the film resonates with conditions in Afghanistan today. Olds has the good sense to insert a quick history lesson in this film, on the grounds that you can't understand the Taliban without knowing about America's covert operations [5] in the region in the 1980s. Back then, President Ronald Reagan's administration, mainly through the CIA, used the Pakistani Intelligence services to fund, arm, and train Afghan and foreign Islamist jihadis to defeat the Soviet army in Afghanistan. Pakistan subsequently used "channels built with U.S. money" to install in Afghanistan a friendly government -- the Taliban.

Later, after the George W. Bush administration invaded the country and the U.S. ousted the Taliban, it installed Hamid Karzai as president and returned many of the old Islamist jihadis to power in his government. Thus, this peculiar, well-established fact underlies the current war in Afghanistan: the United States sponsored both sides.

[6]Some analysts say the U.S. "invented" all the "enemies" involved; others, that the U.S. (and Saudi Arabia) merely paid the bills, while Pakistan directed the action to its own advantage. Either way, this history -- much of it still secret or repeatedly re-spun -- leaves all parties to the current conflict in an intellectual sweat. They must plan for the future on the basis of a past they can't acknowledge. With national elections set for August 20th, the United States is planning for an Afghan future that still includes the jihadi buddies its officials know they should long ago have left behind.

Only the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission [7] has called, year after year, for a moral accounting. Its surveys of Afghan citizens consistently find that the people want lasting peace, and to attain it, they would prefer some sort of truth and reconciliation procedure, like the one that took place in South Africa, to cleanse the country and set it on an honest intellectual and moral footing.

For obvious reasons, the United States wants no part of the truth that would emerge from such a process. Just this week, the Obama administration first claimed [8] it had no grounds to investigate General Abdul Rashid Dostum's infamous 2001 massacre of Taliban prisoners, even though Dostum seems to have been on the CIA payroll at the time, and his troops were backed by U.S. military operatives. Later, the president reversed course, ordering [9] national security officials to "look into" the matter. In the end, President Obama may prefer to "move on." As does Dostum, who recently rejoined the Karzai administration.

I've elaborated here on Olds's quick history lesson to more fully explain why you may be finding it hard these days to understand how we got into what's already being called "Obama's War" -- and how to get out. Think of it this way: everything that happens in Afghanistan is based on (1) a lie, (2) an illusion, or (3) both. Then throw in mass illusion as well, carefully constructed so that each person tells others only what they want to hear.

Which brings us back to Fixer, a film steeped in stories of duplicity and self-delusion that are the personal and political currency of Afghanistan today. In one telling incident, Parenti pushes to observe the famously corrupt Afghan judiciary in action. He's rewarded with a front row seat at a murder trial, only to learn that it has been staged for his edification.

In fact, a court official admits, the production Parenti witnessed didn't depict the way the court really works, but the way "it should work" according to international standards. The judiciary knows those international standards very well, since NGOs and private contractors supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development and other aid agencies have offered them training, and what's called "capacity building," for years. The trainers report success, which of course is what the aid agencies want to hear; and the trainees may be encouraged (as in this case) to perform for the public. If Parenti had played the part assigned to him in this exercise in mass illusion, he'd have reported a glowing story about the success of Afghanistan's new rule of law. (He didn't.)

Afghans have an expression -- "pesh pa been" -- referring to people who move relentlessly ahead by watching their own feet. Parenti, at least, could see when he was being tripped up. But the incident leaves you wondering: if officials of the Karzai government go this far for a single American reporter, what extravagant performances have they mounted all along for junketing Senators and cabinet members, and the likes of Donald Rumsfeld and Laura Bush, not to mention the recent rounds of Obama era visitors?

Even Ajmal the fixer repeatedly misjudges situations and his own people; and in the end, he proves to have been more of an innocent than Parenti. In an eerie moment captured on screen, Parenti predicts that one day the Taliban will kidnap a Western journalist. No way, says Ajmal, assuming that he and his clients are protected by Pashtunwali, his (and the Taliban's) tribal code of honor. Later, working for the Italian journalist Daniele Mastrogiacomo, Ajmal fixes a fatal appointment with Taliban commander Mullah Dadullah. Taken hostage, Ajmal reassures his family in a Taliban video: "These are Muslims. We are in the hands of Islam."

Behind the Hescos Where History Is Being Re-Spun

Illusion and duplicity entrap the fixer, too, and spin his personal story into a political event. The Italians, who notoriously negotiate with hostage takers, persuade Karzai to exchange five Taliban prisoners for Mastrogiacomo and Ajmal. In the excitement of being freed, however, Mastrogiacomo fails to keep track of his fixer. The Taliban see an opportunity to recapture Ajmal and demand the release of two more prisoners. Karzai and his foreign minister, having freed the foreigner, then scramble to the moral high ground, refusing to negotiate with terrorists. Orders come down from Pakistan to kill Ajmal -- on April 8, 2007 -- to make Karzai look bad in the eyes of his own people. Mullah Dadullah sends a video of the beheading.

Ajmal's stricken father asks, "What kind of government doesn't protect its own citizens?" The answer is: a government that's bought, paid for, and answerable to outsiders, a government that has neither the need nor the inclination to care for its citizens. As Karzai explains the matter, "The Italians built us a road."

That's the government the international community is now spending more than $500 million to reelect. (Most of that money comes from the U.S.) International election officials, of course, are neutral -- so neutral that they look the other way as Karzai makes deals with rival warlords to ensure his reelection. One by one they come over to his side, and word leaks out about which ministries they've been promised.

International agencies responsible for mounting the election have already abandoned the goal of a "free and fair" vote. They're aiming for "credible," which is to say, an election that looks pretty good, even if it's not. In the context of accumulated illusions, this goal is called "realistic," and perhaps it is. As the fixer's grieving father says, "Our government is a puppet of foreigners. That is why we expect nothing from it."

As I write, 4,000 newly arrived U.S. Marines are trudging [10] through the blistering heat of Helmand Province to push back the Taliban so local Pashtuns can turn out to vote next month for Karzai, their fellow Pashtun. What's wrong with this new Obama strategy? For one thing, in some areas the local Pashtun population has instead turned out to fight against the foreign invaders, side by side with the Taliban (who, it should be remembered, are mostly local Pashtuns). They're as fed up as anybody with the puppet Karzai. Like millions of other Afghans, they say Karzai has done nothing for the people. But saddled with history, Karzai remains the horse the U.S. rode in on.

Let me make it clear that Olds and Parenti don't draw these comparisons to current affairs in Afghanistan. Fixer is simply and appropriately subtitled The Taking of Ajmal Nashqbandi. It's a tribute to a trusted colleague. But watch the film yourself and you'll be immersed in duplicity: officials manipulate the truth, citizens fear to tell it, Americans can't bear to look it in the face. Watch the film and maybe you'll understand how hard it has become, here behind the Hescos where history is being re-spun, to size anything up, pin anything down, recognize an enemy, or help a friend.

[Note: Fixer will first be shown on HBO [2] on Monday night, August 17th. It will be re-aired on August 20th, 23rd, 25th, 29th, and 31st. Check your local listings for the exact times.]

© 2009 Ann Jones
 

Ann Jones wrote at length about the failure of American aid in Kabul in Winter [11] (Metropolitan Books), a book about American meddling in Afghanistan as well as her experience as a humanitarian aid worker there from 2002 to 2006. For more information, visit her website [12]. For a concise report on many of the defects in international aid mentioned here, check out Real Aid (pdf file) [13], a report issued in 2005 by the South African NGO Action Aid.


A few more reflections:

A Revolution of Love + Reflection on the 63rd Anniversary of USA Terrorism

It's a God Thing about Trees, Doors, Day and Vanunu

WWDDS? What Would Dorothy Day Say?


   
 
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"HOPE has two children.The first is ANGER at the way things are. The second is COURAGE to DO SOMETHING about it."-St. Augustine

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BEYOND NUCLEAR: Mordechai Vanunu's Freedom of Speech Trial

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UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.


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The Paradoxical Commandments
by Dr. Kent M. Keith

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.

© 1968, 2001 Kent M. Keith

" In the final analysis, it is between you and God.  It was never between you and them anyway."-Mother Teresa


“You cannot talk like sane men around a peace table while the atomic bomb itself is ticking beneath it. Do not treat the atomic bomb as a weapon of offense; do not treat it as an instrument of the police. Treat the bomb for what it is: the visible insanity of a civilization that has ceased...to obey the laws of life.”- Lewis Mumford, 1946



The age of warrior kings and of warrior presidents has passed. The nuclear age calls for a different kind of leadership....a leadership of intellect, judgment, tolerance and rationality, a leadership committed to human values, to world peace, and to the improvement of the human condition. The attributes upon which we must draw are the human attributes of compassion and common sense, of intellect and creative imagination, and of empathy and understanding between cultures."  - William Fulbright



“Any nation that year after year continues to raise the Defense budget while cutting social programs to the neediest is a nation approaching spiritual death.” - Rev. MLK
Establishment of Israel
"On the day of the termination of the British mandate and on the strength of the United Nations General Assembly declare The State of Israel will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel: it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion it will guarantee freedom of religion [and] conscience and will be faithful to the Charter of the United Nations." - May 14, 1948. The Declaration of the Establishment of Israel
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posted 3/25/2009

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