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May 07, 2008

Comments

rickm

What you and Mr. Holbrooke are forgetting to mention is that, um, Marshall and the rest of the state department were entirely correct in their assessment that forging close ties to Israel would alienate Arabs and push Arab states attempting to modernize (i.e., Egypt) toward the soviet bloc. In addition, US ties to conservative Arab regimes throttled Arab self-determination and exacerbated instability in the region.

Also, recognition of Israel was not tantamount to continued support for Israel. The first Eisenhower administration distanced itself from and refused to arm Israel. Only after Suez, when the American public's anxiety over Nasser's intentions encouraged the US to have a closer relationship with Israel, did the special relationship solidify.

Gavin

I agree with rickm.

Furthermore, I don't think the creation of a specific state for a people/ethnic grouping/religion is anything a liberal champion of secularisation should be celebrating. And the real 'guarantor of Jewish security' would be the securing of full civil rights and protection from anti-semitic intimidation and violence for Jewish people within their states of origin - not the expropriation of their legitimate expectations and aspirations by zionism in isolation.

The liberation of Jewish people from Nazi oppression was not achieved by zionists. Some of the relevant founders of Israel were even busy murdering British personnel or accusing the British administration of Palestine of being Nazis while the British were actually fighting the Nazis. Somehow I find it hard to forget those contradictions, as I suspect others might if we were discussing any other group of radical religious terrorists acting without democratic legitimation.

John-Paul Pagano

"In addition, US ties to conservative Arab regimes throttled Arab self-determination...

So if the US hadn't forged strong ties to Israel and "conservative Arab regimes", the Middle East today would be a giant Scandinavia?

peter bracken

"The liberation of Jewish people from Nazi oppression was not achieved by zionists."

Gavin, that's a gratuitous remark of unpardonable insensitivity.

Gavin

Peter,

>Gavin, that's a gratuitous remark of unpardonable insensitivity.

I'm sorry you think so; but it's also factually correct.

peter bracken

Gavin,

The factual veracity of the comment is irrelevant, as you well know. It is your insouciance towards a people in need (in your casual neglect of the fact that European Jews could not help themselves) that is shameful.

Gil

Actually, Gavin, you are factually incorrect. My father's family left Germany for Palestine in 1935 because no other country would take them in. It was good old Zionism that had laid the foundations for their survival and eventual integration into Palestine. Would you have wanted them to share the fate of those on the St.Louis?

I would also like to remind you that Zionists such as Hanna Senesh/Szenes (executed by the Germans) and others were sent from Palestine and parachuted into occupied Europe to assist the Allies in the war effort. A token effort but perhaps understandable in light of the circumstances.

http://www.hannahsenesh.org.il/documents/frameseteng.html

Please retract your statement, it is shameful.

rickm

John-Paul wrote:

"So if the US hadn't forged strong ties to Israel and "conservative Arab regimes", the Middle East today would be a giant Scandinavia?"

I'm assuming you're being willfully stupid here. Because I find it hard to believe that you could posses the reading comprehension skills to read my post but lack the logical facilities to realize that what you said was complete inanity.

I don't think pointing out what singular cause of why modern Arab regime's failed in any way suggests that if that cause never had an effect, Egypt would be Norway.
Egypt would simply be better off, not best off.

Michel Moore

Gavin, "And the real "guarantor of Jewish security" would be the securing of full civil rights and protection from anti-semitic intimidation and violence for Jewish people within their states of origin." What a novel proposition! But maybe not the best bet to make in 1945, or indeed, the preceding 2000 years. The fact that it never occurred outside of the U.S. or U.K. (and even here, at times less than perfect, I'm sure you'll admit) and that their "states of origin" were less than welcoming requires some acknowledgement of factual recognition from yourself as a ruthless pursuer of truths. By the way, I would appreciate a list of those countries which could have provided these guarantees that you so glibly propose . I'm also sure that you're aware that large Jewish populations also existed in non-European countries that didn't (surprise!) provide these beneficent conditions. Summary dismissal with consequent property loss, violence, etc. became the model throughout the Arab world toward their indigenous and millennia-old Jewish populations. In an ideal world, your suggestion is lovely but where real flesh and blood intrude, something more realistic, albeit messy, might be required.

Gavin

Peter,

'My insouciance towards a people in need', at least as you describe it, still fails to amount to the contradictions inherent in the actions of the Irgun and the Stern gang, and their ex-members who went on to achieve the leadership of Israel. The fact that I may disagree with some of the basic tenets of zionism should not be assumed to be some kind of tolerance of the holocaust.

Gil,

I'm glad your father's family escaped Germany in 1935. However, as I understand it, the majority of Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany did not flee to Palestine (largely because of the British immigration quota imposed after the 1935 White Paper); clearly some other factors need to be explored to explain that, no matter how welcome and badly needed a refuge there may have been for them. However, I believe you are entirely correct to demand some recognition from me of the Hagannah members who actually did fight against the Nazis in WW2; those people deserve great respect. However, the reality of what Begin and Shamir were up to before 1945 was significantly different. I don't see any need to obscure or elide over that.

Michael,

Unless all Jews across the world remove themselves to Israel, which I respectful suggest is never likely to happen, the real guarantor of Jewish rights and security will devolve - as it always has - upon the ability and willingness of all liberal and democratic opinion in their host countries to unite against anti-semitism. That's my civic responsibility, and I don't intend to farm it off to the IDF or the Israeli state. The Europe I live in now has largely (but unfortunately not completely) marginalised anti-semitism. That marginalisaton is not an achievement of zionism or the Israeli state, no matter how sympathetic you or I might be towards them.

Joshua

"The liberation of Jewish people from Nazi oppression was not achieved by zionists."

1) What liberation? Virtually all the Jews that could have been murdered had been.

2) 1.5 million Jews fought in the armies of the Allies and as partisans in the forests and cities of Europe, and many of the latter were Zionists (many of the leaders of the uprisings were Zionists). This is an amazing number given the millions being murdered in the Holocaust.

3) It is a nonsense to talk about Jews as simply victims of the Nazis. The latter could never have achieved what they did in terms of the genocide of the Jews of Europe without the almost complete collaboration of much of occupied Europe and the total insouciance of the Allies. Three examples:

i) The Jews of Holland having been betrayed by their Dutch neighbours were rounded up on Dutch orders by the Dutch police (there were virtually no Gestapo in Holland at the time) and taken to Dutch-run concentration camps. From there they were taken on Dutch trains driven by Dutch drivers to Auschwitz. After the war, the few returning survivors were greeted with hatred and contempt by the Dutch people. Most of their property together with the property of the Jews who did not return had been stolen by Dutch citizens and the Dutch state. Hardly any of it was ever returned. Dutch collaborators got off scot-free (many of the worst collaborators in the police were actually promoted).

ii) Most Jews in Lithuania were murdered not by Nazis but by local "partisans" with the active encouragement of the Roman Catholic Church. Jews were generally dragged out of their homes, stripped naked and machine-gunned into pits.

iii) Britain may have been fighting the Nazis but she was certainly not doing so for the benefit of the Jewish people. At the time, she was an extremely anti-Semitic nation (an opinion poll commissioned by the government on the subject just before the outbreak of the war was so shocking that the results had to be suppressed) and the government was not only unconcerned about the fate of Jews, it was actually desperate to avoid the impression it was doing anything to assist them. Whether we are discussing the 1939 White Paper or the conferences at Evian or on Bermuda, the British did everything in their power to prevent the Jews of Europe finding a refuge. Yes, it allowed a few refugees into the country but that was in the teeth of great political opposition. It gets worse: Churchill handed over all concerns about the Holocaust to a virulently anti-Semitic Foreign Office; Britain not only did not provide even minimal military assistance but also did not raise its voice above a whisper about the atrocities (eventually, when Roosevelt was virtually blackmailed into speaking out, the result was that many thousands of Hungarian Jews were immediately saved).

Britain's role in post-war Palestine was also despicable. From the sending back of Jewish Holocaust survivors to camps in Germany to the actual killing of some of those individuals, and from her direct collaboration in the murder of 78 Jewish doctors and nurses at Mount Scopus to her arming and training of Arab terrorists, her conduct was criminal to the point of amounting to serious war crimes. And it was this terrible conduct which shocked the world into dropping support for the British mandate. You talk about the British being compared to Nazis. That certainly was the impression of many of the Holocaust survivors ("I was at Dachau" screamed one girl as British troops beat Holocaust survivors all around her) and also non-Jewish members of various international organisations.

"I don't think the creation of a specific state for a people/ethnic grouping/religion is anything a liberal champion of secularisation should be celebrating."

OK, but which country should go first, Poland, France, Saudi Arabia, Latvia or Ireland?

And of course this also means that the creation of Palestine is totally out of the question.

"And the real 'guarantor of Jewish security' would be the securing of full civil rights and protection from anti-semitic intimidation and violence for Jewish people within their states of origin"

In Arab countries, where in many cases Jews had lived for countless centuries, they were treated, at best, as third-class citizens; that was before being stripped of all their property and ethnically cleansed. I have outlined a little of Europe's shameful record here (a record of course made much worse after the Holocaust given the protection afforded to virtually all war criminals and the failure to return most stolen property; in Poland, returning Jews were actually murdered and later subjected to anti-Jewish pogroms and riots). Today, anti-Semitism is again sweeping Europe, and in many nations, like Greece, Poland, Hungary, Spain, Portugal, Lithuania, Latvia etc, etc., where anti-Semitism is deeply embedded in the culture, it never went away. Do you seriously believe given all this that these nations, Muslim and Christian, could or would ever change? Do you imagine we could ever trust any of them again? It's really not so much a case of being once bitten, twice shy, but of a thousand times being bitten, and more – much more.

Beyond that, Jews want a homeland not just in order to feel secure, but also like all peoples to celebrate their heritage and culture. In Britain, a Jew, as the Israeli writer, A. B. Yehoshua, has pointed out is only a small part of a person, but in Israel he is whole. In Israel, our eternal homeland, we can live according to our own rhythms, our own mores, our own seasons and holidays, and all that within the context of our own history.

John-Paul Pagano

Rickm,

Clearly I was being reductive, but that's because I was paraphrasing your reduction. I was seeking confirmation of my suspicion that, yet again, and with cesium-clock punctuality on the occasion of Israel's 60th, I was watching the carney-like contortions of a professional apologist, for whom any externality is always the preferred explanation of the anointed victim's misery. Your reply, its unlettered syntax and style, and the colicky paean to Edward Said on your web site certify I was right.

An analyst rather than partisan would look first in the Arab societies for the source of throttled Arab self-determination. But since you're a partisan and that will never happen, your assignment is to explain the failure of democracy to flourish in today's Iraq without scuttling your exonerative framework.

The moral hygiene of your response will be adumbrated by your complaint that the US was more concerned with aiding Jews fleeing the Holocaust than ensuring that, one day, Egypt might be "better off".

Quentin George

Arguing that one should not support Israel because it "antagonizes Arabs" is rather like saying forget about Tibet or Taiwan because it annoys the Chinese, or not intervening in Kosovo because it might upset Serbians, or a 19th century European refusing to criticize slavery on the grounds that it "antagonizes Americans".

Either something is the correct and moral decision to make or it isn't. Whether it offends some person's feelings is "irrelevant".

Gavin

This response runs the risk of the debate over my opinions entirely appropriating the comments section of this blog. I'll respond to Joshua as concisely as I can in my last response.

The fact that there were any Jewish survivors of Nazi rule at all (bar a small number of escapees) was down the to the military forces which defeated Germany and liberated the remaining camps at the end of WW2. Those forces were not zionist. As for Jewish resisters, they deserve great credit for their bravery; however partisan resistance to the Germans was not predicated upon a Jewish identity. Plenty of other religious, political and nationalist affliations were involved. Collaboration was not contingent upon anti-semitism alone, either, and incorporated various particular nationalisms and anti-bolshevism which the Nazis exploited. However the primary motive force behind the policies of the Hungarians, Dutch, Italians and Vichy French remained their submission to Nazi authority; the moral responsibility can't be assigned exclusively to local collaborators.

Britain may not have initiated fighting the Nazis for the benefit of the Jewish people of Europe; nonetheless, between 1939 and 1945 the British did more to fight the Nazis than the zionists did. Your statements about British foreign policy are wildly overstated and indicate the problems generated by any debate on the subject. As an example, I'll take your statement that Britain "..did everything in their power to prevent the Jews of Europe finding a refuge." If this really was correct, there would have been no Jewish immigration to Britain, transit through Britain, nor any Jewish immigration to British-controlled Palestine *at all*. Your criticism is therefore clearly hyperbolic. Your accusations about the massacre at Mount Scopus are unproven and fail to take into account the Israeli escort for the convoy in question leaving it, driving off of a senior British commander by machine-gun fire on their withdrawl route, and the actions of a British officer who tried to rescue the vehicles involved without the co-operation of the people involved. If you want to demonstrate British collaboration with the Arabs in that incident, I suggest you provide some incontravertable evidence to do so, instead of accepting the partisan accounts of one side in the incident. And arming and training Arab terrorists? The British also armed and trained the Hagganah and Palmach; it is interesting to see how quickly that gets airbrushed out of the equation. Your commentary on the status of the Jewish populations of Arab countries is also historically inaccurate, at least in the early modern and medieval periods which I know something about.

>OK, but which country should go first, Poland, France, Saudi Arabia, Latvia or Ireland?

Why shouldn't the fight for Jewish rights and protection under the law *start* in those European countries? Those are issues that anybody who shares the goals of post-enlightenment liberal secularisation should be concerned with; not the creation of isolated 'special places' for a specific religion, race or ethnic grouping. The whole concept of that seems to defeat the arguments Oliver Kamm advances elsewhere on his blog, and I think that deserves debate far more than arguing over politicised litanies of atrocity adopted by pro- or anti-Israeli propaganda.

>And of course this also means that the creation of Palestine is totally out of the question.

Let me now offend any Palestinians who may be reading this in the name of equality: their best hope for a democratic liberal, westernised secular state might well have been to have accepted and been accepted by Israel. That's clearly politically out of the question, but it should focus some attention on the failings of the Palestinian leadership since the 1930's. Your commentary about your mystical need for a religious/racial/ethnic homeland wouldn't have sounded out of place in that decade either.

rickm

Quentin,

Of course, if one of the things that Israel does to 'antagonize Arabs' is to bulldoze their homes, murder their children, and starve their people...then I think the appropriate moral position does become clear.

Brian Henry


rickm of Philadelphia writes: "if one of the things that Israel does to 'antagonize Arabs' is ... murder their children"

Interesting (and appalling) to see the return of the blood libel

How long before they're said to murder children to use the blood for matza?

Fabian from Israel

"Those forces were not zionist. As for Jewish resisters, they deserve great credit for their bravery; however partisan resistance to the Germans was not predicated upon a Jewish identity. Plenty of other religious, political and nationalist affliations were involved"

Nonsense. Jews enlisted in larger quantities than non-Jews relative to the population of each country in every army of every state where Jews lived.

Gavin is saying this: as long as Jews fight as non-Jews, they are to be lauded, but of course, they have to be reminded that they fought mostly with non-Jews, so they don't raise their heads in pride for what the Jews have done.
And whenever Jews fought as Jews they have to be reminded of how few they were among all the combatants.
you are scum. You are on of the reasons I live in Israel.
The other, is of course that here my calendar is not lived according to "Easter" or "Christmas" but according to פסח and ראש השנה

Fabian from Israel

At the Museum of the Jewish Soldier in Latrun, Israel. Some important data that I learned there:

In the Second World War Jews fought in a higher proportion than the rest of the population of their countries.
1.5 million Jews fought as regular soldiers in the allied armies, most of them in the American army (550.000) and in the Soviet army (500.000). The rest, distributed in the armies of the rest of the allied countries.
Tens of thousands more fought as partisans.
About 250.000 Jews gave their lives in the struggle. (not to be confused with the six million who were murdered in the Holocaust).
40.000 Zionist Jews of Palestine volunteered for service with the British forces. 688 gave their lives.
In Sept. 1944 The Jewish Brigade was formed, and fought in North Africa and Italy. This experienced combatants came back to Palestine after the war to fight against the British in the Jewish underground.
http://fabitas.blogspot.com/2007/03/viaje-latrun-iii-trip-to-latrun-iii.html

Peter T

"Clearly I was being reductive, but that's because I was paraphrasing your reduction. I was seeking confirmation of my suspicion that, yet again, and with cesium-clock punctuality on the occasion of Israel's 60th, I was watching the carney-like contortions of a professional apologist, for whom any externality is always the preferred explanation of the anointed victim's misery. Your reply, its unlettered syntax and style, and the colicky paean to Edward Said on your web site certify I was right."

"I can asure you ... that this is a most lively corner for pseudo-intellectual poseurs." - Oliver Kamm, 20/2/08

rickm

Peter-

Thanks. Its hard to fathom how anyone thought I was being reductive by mentioning one terribly important effect that ignoring the advice of George Marshall had on the middle east.

But then its equally hard to fathom why someone would spend to much time paging through a thesaurus in order to deliberately obfuscate their message.

Another Danny

rickm, some tiny problems with your claims.

1) Whether Britain did or didn't do "more" to fight Nazism than Zionists did, is entirely debatable. The British made exactly two contributions to the war; they acted as a base for the Americans to open a second front and stopover point for lend-lease aid to the USSR and they also were a conduit for the Polish breaking of enigma to the Americans. This is not to minimise the importance of the base, without which we probably all be speaking Russian but to claim that in any the British contribution in WW2 was definitive is to simply distort the facts.

2) The liberators of the death camps were the Russians. There were NO death camps in the areas liberated by Western troops. Due to British capitulation to Arab violence from 1936-1939, those camps were significantly busier than otherwise they might have been.

3) Jews were massively overrepresented relative to their proportion of the populations in every single one of the armies that fought the Germans.

4) Virtually all of the immigration of Jews to Britain and transit through Britain from the late 30s until 1945 was illegal or done by low/middle-level officials in defiance of their country's official policy.

5) The British didn't "arm and train" the Hagannah or Palmach, SOME of the people who made up the Hagannah and Palmach SERVED in the British army, fighting the Nazis. The Arab leaders, however, fought on the side of the Nazis. When the War of Independence came three out of the five arab armies were British-financed, armed and trained. The Jordanian army - the most effective one - was officered by Brits. The evidence of a virulently anti-zionist foreign policy under Bevin is pretty conclusive. Again there may have been the odd low/mid-level official but again it was in defiance of official policy.

6) IZL members prior to 1945 served in the British army. It's original leader was the first casualty of the British recapture of Iraq after a pro-Nazi revolt. It was AFTER the war that the IZL and it's offshoots attacked the British.

7) If you know so much about modern and medieval history, care to mention a single arab state were Jews were first-class citizens with full equality and rights with Muslims?

8) Care to name some Palestinians who are "starving" because of Israel?

Another Danny

Rickm, the turn of (some) of the arab states to the Soviet Block is a result of the Soviet's blank cheque approach to support - rather like the support the Chinese are giving now.

In terms of the instability in the Middle East, that has absolutely nothing to do with the existence or otherwise of Israel. Most of the wars in the Modern Middle East and most of the casualties are in conflicts that have zero to do with Israel. One war alone - the Algerian civil war in the 90s - caused more arab deaths than all the arab-israeli wars put together.

Even if we look at your example of Egypt - without Israel, Farouk still would have fallen. Nasser still would have exported Pan-arabism - causing fights in Yemen and Iraq and Algeria. It still would have fought Sudan - which Egyptians claim is part of Egypt, it probably would have fought Syria over the land that is now Israel and it still would be a brutal dictatorship whose citizens would probably still want to fly planes into buildings.

The only arabs who can claim that Israel significantly altered their path are the Palestinians - and to a lesser extent the Lebanese but they would probably be fighting anyway.

John-Paul Pagano

Another Danny,

Don't expect a reply from rickm. He anxiously waits for random passersby to answer his critics.

Culture War Watch

It is far too convenient to view the opposition of Truman-era State department officials, particularly Secretary of State Marshall, to the partition of Palestine as having been validated by sixty years of conflict. Truman walked a strategic high-wire before opting to support the U.N. partition, and criticisms of his foreign policy nous are not hard to find. Or as one biographer told it straight up

A simplistic, provincial, at times amazingly ignorant president, highly controversial, toiling arduously to keep the high office he attained because of an accident of history. By his side, a secretary of state who was a renowned general in the last war, and an intelligence agency whose doubts prior to a crisis are swept aside - not least because of political considerations, the president's critics will say.

However, to speculate how things might have turned out had Truman decided otherwise, “if only Israel had not been created,” is to miss the point. What needs to be re-iterated in letters ten feet high is that the state of Israel was not created by the U.N. let alone given to the Jews: rather, the UN recognised and the international community accepted a functioning and prosperous nation-state that the Jews had built and defended.

Yes, the UN General Assembly voted for a Partition. But the UN did nothing to effect that Partition. Indeed, as we shall see, events took over, and it was only after the dust settled that Israel was a reality. It is also the failure of the nations and citizens of the broader Muslim world to accept this reality that is at the root of their own dissolution: to state the reality bluntly, a rag-tag of lowly dhimmi, and to add insult to injury Jews, won.

So the question of Truman’s wisdom or counter-factual “what ifs” miss the point. The ongoing misery of the Palestinians is not the fault of U.S. miscalculation, much less perfidy. It is overwhelmingly the fault of the Palestinians themselves and their Arab brethren. Further, there has never really existed anything remotely approaching a consensus of what “problem solved” would entail or look like: the geostrategic threats and ambitions of all the parties - Israel, the various Arab states, and the refugees have all ebb and flowed constantly; and never in-sync.

Another Danny

Culture war watch, a few points:

1) Israel was nowhere near "prosperous" in 1948, having fought a vicious war claiming more than 1% of the population dead and a further two percent wounded in one year. That is an intensity that Germans reached on the Eastern front in WW2.

2) Due to british pressure, Israel was not recognised until nearly the end of 1949 or over a year after independence and long after the end of the war.

3) Not only did the UN NOT "create" Israel, it systematically tried via "mediators" to cripple Israel and hive parts off as "compromise".

4) What is also forgotten is that the US offered de facto recognition and far from helping the nascent Israel, imposed an arms embargo that would not be lifted for another 15 years.

Gavin

Another Danny, you seem to be responding to me, not Rickm. Now for some tiny problems with your claims.

1) Whether Britain did or didn't do "more" to fight Nazism than Zionists did, is entirely debatable.

Actually, no; it isn't. You totally dismiss the scale of the historical British commitment to fighting Germany, which was materially greater than that of zionism. Nobody claimed that the British contribution to WW2 was definitive - that's your straw man.

2) The liberators of the death camps were the Russians.

Indeed.

>There were NO death camps in the areas liberated by Western troops.

If you think that's relevant, tell me how many were liberated by zionists? Which nationality was in the right geographical area to liberate the death camps located in eastern Europe is an attempt to deny the historical importance of the western allies in the defeat of Germany and the ending of Nazi anti-semitic genocide.

3) Jews were massively overrepresented relative to their proportion of the populations in every single one of the armies that fought the Germans.

I'd like to see some reliable evidence of that. Then I'd like to know if you're claiming that all those Jews were zionists.

4) Virtually all of the immigration of Jews to Britain and transit through Britain from the late 30s until 1945 was illegal or done by low/middle-level officials in defiance of their country's official policy.

As I understand it, the 1939 British quota on Jewish immigration to Palestine was 75,000 people over the next five years. You can certainly argue with some force that it was completely inadequate to address the need for refuge from Nazi oppression, but you can't argue that it didn't exist.

5) The British didn't "arm and train" the Hagannah or Palmach...

No, the Palmach _was_ trained and equipped by the British army between 1941 and 1943. This is quite seperate from the enlistment of Jews and Zionists in British and allied forces. Before WW2 Orde Wingate was involved in the training of Haganah Special Night Squads, at a time of tacit and covert co-operation between the British and Haganah during the Arab Revolt.

6) IZL members prior to 1945 served in the British army.

There seems to be a strange contradiction with Begin, an ex-member of Ander's Polish army, declaring war on the British at about the same time his ex-comrades actually were about to fight German forces at Monte Cassino. Which of them did more to hasten the defeat of the Nazis?

7) If you know so much about modern and medieval history, care to mention a single arab state were Jews were first-class citizens with full equality and rights with Muslims?

No; but if you're prepared to forgo that straw man, I can point out that accounts of moslem treatment of jewish minorities in crusade-era Palestine can contrast favourably with the kind of brutality and oppression meted out by the Christian westerners of that time. It can certainly be said with justification that the Jews in that place and time were treated as second-class citizens by Arab culture; it is hyperbolic to claim that they were treated as third-class citizens before being stripped of all their property and ethnically cleansed, as the poster I was responding to claimed.

8) Care to name some Palestinians who are "starving" because of Israel?

Care to tell me where I ever made such a claim?

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