Dorothy Online Newsletter

NOVANEWS

Dear Friends,

If you just haven’t time to read more than one or two items, then please read items 3 and 5, and if you can just possibly squeeze in one more, then add item 4.  Of course I have no objections to you reading all 6 items below.

Item 1 Is Aluf Benn’s take on a specific proposed affirmative action measure.

Item 2 says that Palestinians gear for Sunday’s march on Israel’s borders, (or what are thought to be them where there are none).  I only hope that it goes without a massacre of unarmed people trying to tell the world that they are tired of being refugees and want to go home, that is, to Palestine.

Item 3 talks about turning the ROR (Right of Return) into reality.  I’m all for it.

Item 4 tells us that Israel’s PR victory shames news broadcasters.

Item 5 argues (and I agree) that the situation here is ‘all process and no progress’.

And item 6 closes with remarks about Jerusalem on today’s celebrations of Jerusalem Day,  which the writer (Yossi Sarid) feels were superfluous.

Good reading,

Dorothy

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1.  Haaretz,

June 01, 2011


Israel’s Affirmative Action bill is reminiscent of Hungary’s anti-Jewish laws

The spirit of the proposed bill is more important than the language, and everyone is clear on its purpose: to get rid of the ultra-Orthodox and the Arabs.

http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/opinion/israel-s-affirmative-action-bill-is-reminiscent-of-hungary-s-anti-jewish-laws-1.365249

By Aluf Benn

On July 22, the parliament in Budapest met to vote on Law Number 25 which established the entry requirements to universities in Hungary. The bill stated that for higher learning only those of “unblemished ethical standard, who have demonstrated loyalty to the Hungarian nation,” would be let in, and that the university student body must reflect the nations and ethnic groups in the country in accordance to their relative numbers in the overall population.

On the face of it, the bill was meant to ensure fair and equitable representation but everyone realized its real purpose: to dwindle the number of Jews among the student body. Only six percent of the Hungarian population was Jewish at the time, but they made up as much as 30 percent of the student body. When the bill was brought to a vote, most of the parliamentarians from the centrist parties were absent from the plenum. The bill passed with the votes of the extreme right wing and entered history as the Numerus Clausus Law, the first institutional expression of anti-Semitism in Europe during the interwar years.

Among the thousands of Jewish students who abandoned Hungary were John von Neumann and Edward Teller, who went on to develop game theory and the hydrogen bomb. Their skills and those of their colleagues did not interest Hungarian nationalists. They wanted to throw the Jews out, even at the cost of a brain drain. Politicians in Budapest were only concerned about international pressure, which indeed eased the restrictions a few years later. But the damage had already been done: The Jewish geniuses were gone, and Hungary continued its downfall into fascism.

The proposed Affirmative Action bill, which passed last week through the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee and is on its way to a preliminary reading, is marching along the same path. The bill proposed by MKs Hamad Amar, David Rotem and Alex Miller of Yisrael Beiteinu seeks to give preference for civil service jobs to those who served in the IDF. On the face of it, justice is being done in favor of “those who lay in ambush and risked their lives,” to quote Amar, preferring them over those who evaded the draft and were able to go to university at age 18.

But like in Hungary of 1920, so too in Israel of 2011, the spirit of the law is more important than the language, and everyone is clear on its purpose: to get rid of the Haredim and the Arabs. The state is the one that exempted them from mandatory military service and now wants to punish them for alleged “evasion.”

MK Rotem, who chairs the Knesset Law Committee, explained his position during discussions: “I hear constantly talk about the right to equality. I think that the military cemeteries should be closed, there is no equality there. They do not bury Arabs there.”

To the Shas representative MK Nissim Zeev, who opposed the bill, Rotem said: “I do not care about your world.”

Rotem responded rudely to the representatives of ministries who expressed reservations at the bill, saying it was redundant and possibly also illegal. “At noon today you will see how legal it is,” Rotem told attorney Tziona Koenig-Yair, Commissioner for Equal Opportunities at the Workplace. “What is your [lawyer’s] license number?”

“19893,” she said.

Rotem then went on to deal with the Justice Ministry’s representative, attorney Dan Oren: “And what is your license number?”

What is the relevance, wondered Oren, and insisted: “It is our function and we have expertise in these matters.”

Koenig-Yair gave in: “I apologize to the chairman if there was something offensive in my statements.”

The government of Benjamin Netanyau, which has sought to oppress the Arab community since it was established, was, of course, in favor of the “Affirmative Action Bill.” Not all committee MKs fell in line: Benny Begin voted against the bill in the preliminary reading, Isaac Herzog petitioned against it, but Rotem said that “he can no longer file a petition.”

During the vote in the Law Committee, it was an opposition MK, Otniel Schneller (Kadima ), who was most ardently in favor: “From a moral point of view, I consider this a most important law,” he said. Schneller joined the two representatives of Yisrael Beiteinu, and against the two Haredi MKs, passed the bill to the next stage.

The nationalists in Israel, like their predecessors in Hungary during the past century, do not care about the loss of talent or exacerbation of domestic tensions. They are interested in harming minorities and pushing them out. And like their predecessors in the parliament in Budapest, the representatives of the center in our Knesset have opted to sit in the cafeteria instead of fighting racist bills.

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2.  Ynet,

June 01, 2011


March on Lebanon border on ‘Nakba Day’ Photo: Reuters

Palestinians gear for Sunday march on Israel’s borders

Pro-Palestinian pages on social media websites buzzing with calls to rush to all borders on day marking 44th anniversary of Six Day War

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4076728,00.html

Roee Nahmias

Fatah representative in Lebanon, Munir Maqdah, said Tuesday that Palestinians residing in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Gaza were planning to march towards their respective borders with Israel on Sunday, the 44th anniversary of the Six Day War.

“We want our lands in Palestine back,” Maqdah said, noting that the processions aim to remain non-violent. He also urged UNIFIL forces in south Lebanon to “ensure the march’s safety.”

The Fatah official’s statement is the last in a myriad of activities calling on pro-Palestinian activists to march on Israel’s borders.

The highest flurry of activities is noted on Facebook, where various pro-Palestinian group have issued a similar call: “Our Palestinian countrymen, as part of our just pursuit of statehood… and in response to Netanyahu’s speech in Congress and Obama’s hesitant speech, we emphasize that Palestine is our land and the land of our forefathers and that will not accept any division or compromise.

‘Youth of June 5’ Facebook Page

“On this day, June 5, we urge you to take active part in actions meant to empathize with our prisoners,” the “Youth of June 5” page read.

Facebook pages affiliated with Syrian pro-Palestinian groups, called on the masses to “unite and turn June 5 into a day commemorating the fallen and right of return.”

Another group urges masses to “march on Israel’s border this Saturday and free the Golan Heights.”

Still, at this time no concrete plans for any march have been posted on social media

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3.  Al Jazeera,

31 May 2011


Turning the ‘right of return’ into reality

Myths perpetuated by Israel as to why the “right of return” is impossible are easily debunked when looked at logically.

http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/05/2011527131738517819.html

Ben White

The May 15 Nakba protests put the issue of Palestinian refugees back on the table [GALLO/GETTY]

After years of marginalisation in the peace process, the Palestinian refugees are back on centre stage.

On May 15, Nakba day, the refugees forced their way on to the news agenda; in the past two weeks, Israeli and Palestinian leaders have been compelled to comment on what has always been so much more than a “final status issue”.

During his remarks in the Oval Office, and in response to an op-ed in The New York Times by Mahmoud Abbas, Israeli PM Netanyahu dismissed the refugees’ right of return as fatal to “Israel’s future as a Jewish state”. But the permanent expulsion of one people to make way for another is a hard sell, which is why Netanyahu and others rely on oft-repeated myths about the refugees.

One myth is that the “creation” of the Palestinian refugee “problem” (a euphemism for ethnic cleansing) was a consequence of the Arab countries’ war with Israel. This claim was undermined – almost despite himself – by Israeli historian Benny Morris, who though joining the attack on Abbas’ op-ed, noted that 300,000 Palestinians had lost their homes before 15 May 1948.

In fact, as serious historians and research have shown, Palestinians left their homes and villages through a combination of attacks, direct forced removals, and fear of atrocities.

The expulsion of the refugees was ultimately realised by the forcible prevention of their return, the destruction of villages, and the legislative steps taken to expropriate their land and deny them citizenship.

A second myth manipulates the question of the Jews from Arab countries, around 850,000 of whom left between 1948 and the 1970s. Israel’s apologists try and suggest that these “Jewish refugees” somehow “cancel out” the Palestinian refugees, as if the residents of Ramla or Deir Yassin were responsible for events in Baghdad and Cairo.

More than a hint here of “all Arabs are the same”.

In fact, most scorn the link, such as Israeli professor Yehouda Shenhav who wrote that “any reasonable person” must acknowledge the analogy to be “unfounded”. When the US house of representatives in 2008 called for linking the issues of Jews from Arab countries and Palestinian refugees, The Economist wrote that the resolution showed “the power of the pro-Israel lobby in Washington”.

Put simply, one right does not cancel out another. Ask those pushing this propaganda if they support restitution and redress for all refugees, Jewish and Palestinian, and they fall strangely silent.

What kind of return?

But it is the exposure of a third myth that is the most explosive: that a literal return is unfeasible. In the words of the excellent arenaofspeculation.org, engaging “in new ways with the spatial, political and social landscapes of Israel-Palestine” means that instead of asking “can we return?” or “when will we return?” Palestinians are suddenly allowed to ask “what kind of return do we want to create for ourselves?”

A discussion on what implementing the right of the return would look like is taking place. There is the long-standing work of Salman Abu Sitta and the Palestinian Return Centre (PRC), as well as studies by Badil and Decolonising Architecture Art Residency. Recently, the Israeli group Zochrot published in their journal Sedek a fascinating collection of articles on realising the return.

Many people are familiar with the words of Israeli military chief of staff Moshe Dayan at a funeral in 1956, when he reminded those present that Palestinian refugees in Gaza had been watching the transformation of “the lands and the villages, where they and their fathers dwelt, into our estate.”

Less well known are the thoughts of his father, member of Knesset Shmuel Dayan, who in 1950 admitted: “Maybe [not allowing the refugees back] is not right and not moral, but if we become just and moral, I do not know where we will end up.”

There can be no doubt that the obstacle to a resolution of this central injustice is the insistence on maintaining a regime of ethno-religious privilege and exclusion.

After 63 years of dispossession, the refugees have been once again revealed to be at the heart of the issue, for it is they who best exemplify what it means to create and maintain a Jewish state at the expense of the indigenous Palestinians.

Ben White is a freelance journalist and writer, specialising in Palestine and Israel. His first book, Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide, was published by Pluto Press in 2009, receiving praise from the likes of Desmond Tutu, Nur Masalha and Ghada Karmi.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

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4.  The Guardian,

31 May 2011

Israel’s PR victory shames news broadcasters

Our latest analysis of news bulletins reveals how Israel continues to spin images of war

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/may/31/israel-pr-victory-images-war

Greg Philo

Smoke billows from the Gaza Strip following Israeli air strikes in December 2008. Photograph: Said Khatib/AFP/Getty Images

The propaganda battle over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has reached a new level of intensity. In 2004 the Glasgow University Media Group published a major study on TV coverage of the Second Intifada and its impact on public understanding. We analysed about 200 programmes and questioned more than 800 people. Our conclusion: reporting was dominated by Israeli accounts. Since then we have been contacted by many journalists, especially from the BBC, and told of the intense pressures they are under that limit criticism of Israel. They asked us to raise the issue in public because they can’t. They speak of “waiting in fear for the phone call from the Israelis” (meaning the embassy or higher), of the BBC’s Jerusalem bureau having been “leant on by the Americans”, of being “guilty of self-censorship” and of “urgently needing an external arbiter”. Yet the public response of the BBC is to avoid reporting our latest findings. Those in control have the power to say what is not going to be the news.

For their part, the Israelis have increased their PR effort. The Arab spring has put demands for democracy and freedom at the heart of Middle East politics, and new technology has created more problems for the spin doctors. The most graphic images of war can now be brought immediately into public view, including the deaths of women and children. When Israel planned its attack on Gaza in December 2008, it developed a new National Information Directorate, and the supply of possible material was limited by stopping reporters from entering Gaza during the fighting. In 2010, when Israel attacked the Gaza aid flotilla, it issued edited footage with its own captions about what was supposed to have happened. This highly contested account was nonetheless largely swallowed by TV news programmes. A UN-sponsored report, which later refuted the account, was barely covered.

These new public relations were designed to co-ordinate specific messages across all information sources, repeated by every Israeli speaker. Each time a grim visual image appeared, the Israeli explanation would be alongside it. In the US, messages were exhaustively analysed by The Israel Project, a US-based group that, according to Shimon Peres, “has given Israel new tools in the battle to win the hearts and minds of the world”. In a document of more than 100 pages (labelled “not for publication or distribution”) an enormous range of possible statements about Israel was sorted into categories of “words that work” and “words that will turn listeners off”. There are strictures about what should be said and how to say it: avoid religion, Israeli messages should focus on security and peace, make sure you distinguish between the Palestinian people and Hamas (even though Hamas was elected). There is a remarkable likeness between these and the content of TV news headlines. Many journalists bought the message. Hamas was being attacked, and somehow not the Palestinians: “The bombardment continues on Hamas targets” (BBC1, 31 December 2008); “The offensive against Hamas enters its second week” (BBC1, 3 January 2009).

There were terrible images of Palestinian casualties but the message from Israel was relentless. Its attack was a necessary “response” to the firing of rockets by Palestinians. It was the Palestinian action that had started the trouble. In a new project, we have analysed more than 4,000 lines of text from the main UK news bulletins of the attack, but there was no coverage in these of the killing by the Israelis of more than 1,000 Palestinians, including hundreds of children, in the three years before it. In the TV news coverage, Israeli statements on the causes of action overwhelmed those of the Palestinians by more than three to one. Palestinian statements tended to be only that they would seek revenge on Israel. The underlying reasons for the conflict were absent, such as being driven from their homes and land when Israel was created.

Journalists tended to stay on the firmest ground in reporting, such as the images of “innocent victims”, and there was little said about why Palestinians were fighting Israel. We interviewed audience groups and found the gaps in their knowledge closely paralleled absences in the news. A majority believed Palestinians broke the ceasefire that existed before the December attack and did not know Israel had attacked Gaza during it, in November 2008, killing six Palestinians. Members of the public expressed sorrow for the plight of Palestinians but, because of the Israeli message so firmly carried by TV, they thought the Palestinians had somehow brought it on themselves. As one put it: “When I saw the pictures of the dead children it was dreadful, I was in tears but it didn’t make me feel that the Palestinians and Hamas were right … I think the Palestinians haven’t taken the chance to work towards a peaceful solution. Hamas called an end to the last ceasefire.” This participant was surprised to hear Hamas was reported to have said it would have stopped the rockets if Israel had agreed to lift its economic siege. The source was Ephraim Halevy, former head of the Mossad intelligence service.

Images of suffering do not now in themselves affect how audiences see the validity of actions in war. People see the images as tragic, but judgments as to who is right and wrong are now firmly in the hands of the spin doctors.

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5.  The Guardian,

1 June 2011

The Middle East: all process, no progress

The Palestinian UN recognition strategy attempts to circumvent nonexistent negotiations, but it can’t get round a US veto

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/jun/01/middleeast-israel

Carne Ross

US President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at the White House: a tense meeting did little to raise hopes of a peace deal any time soon. Photograph: Charles Dharapak/AP

Whenever an international problem starts being called a “process”, one should immediately become suspicious that the problem itself will not be solved. Indeed, the naming of a problem as a “process” is a way to obscure lack of progress with endless anaesthetising conferences, meetings and statesmanlike speeches.

The climate change “process” demonstrates this dismal rule: after years of preparatory meetings, and two major global conferences in Copenhagen and Cancún, this “process” has yet to agree any concrete action to limit carbon emissions. And, of course, the mother of all empty processes is the Middle East “peace process”.

There has been much talk about Israel and the Palestinians in recent days. Speeches by President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu have offered almost mutually exclusive visions of the outlines of a possible Israeli-Palestinian settlement. Virtually the only element common to both was that neither offered any suggestion about how to reach any deal. Netanyahu refused any engagement with a Fatah-Hamas government. Obama’s two speeches said not a word about convening any kind of Israeli-Palestinian negotiation. The US president seems to be despairing of this “process”.

For their part, the Palestinians have concluded some time ago that the “peace process” is a hollow vessel. Hamas chose, instead, the dead end of violence. The Fatah-led government in the West Bank has, by contrast, pursued the project of building a viable Palestinian state in the areas under its control. Internationally, the PLO has been steadily recruiting states around the world to recognise the Palestinian state, an effort planned to culminate in September at the UN general assembly where, the Palestinians hope, the general assembly will adopt a resolution accepting the existence of a Palestinian state.

The PLO has not yet formally adopted this strategy and, in the absence of clarity, misunderstandings about this “UN recognition strategy” have multiplied. Some rightwing commentators have suggested that such a decision at the UN will amount to the “delegitimisation” of Israel, failing to acknowledge that Israel’s current status at the UN would remain unaffected, and a resolution would not alter the fact that no UN member state has ever accepted Israel’s occupation of the West Bank or Gaza, or that Jerusalem’s status is yet to be determined. Meanwhile, Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz called the Palestinian strategy a “UN declaration of a Palestinian state” and the Economist, too, seems to think that the UN can recognise a state. This is not the case. The UN does not recognise states; only other states can. The UN can, however, agree to make a state a member, once it has been recognised by others. But contrary to much commentary, even this is far from straightforward.

As is usual, all the serious decisions at the UN are in the power of the security council, which is required to recommend a state for membership to the general assembly. And here lies one problem with the PLO’s strategy: that recommendation will not be forthcoming thanks to an American veto, as Obama’s speech made clear, with emphasis.

Realising this potential obstacle, the PLO may choose to vest its hopes in various procedural devices to get around the security council, including what is called the “Uniting for Peace” procedure. Under this procedure, first used by the US in 1950 to circumvent a Soviet block on UN intervention in Korea, the general assembly can take on an issue of international peace and security when its members agree that the security council has failed its own responsibility to do so.

The UN has never accepted a new member using procedural devices like this. And it may be a precedent that many member states, including Palestine’s many sympathisers at the UN, do not want established. Russia, for instance, may be loath to open the door to Kosovo’s membership, which it currently refuses to recognise. But worst of all, even if such a resolution were to attract enough supporters (as would be likely), bypass the security council (which is less likely) and become a full member state of the UN or, perhaps, an observer state as a fallback, it would do little to end Israel’s occupation.

The PLO seems to be calculating that UN membership will grant Palestine new legal status with which to fight Israel’s occupation and define the final settlement. These outcomes are by no means guaranteed. In any case, the Palestinians hope that the UN strategy will provide vivid evidence of Israel’s international isolation, compelling Israel to come to the table – or compelling the Americans to make them. As such, the strategy makes sense and the PLO cannot be blamed for trying something, anything, given Netanyahu’s obdurate refusal to contemplate a deal – a two-state solution based more or less on the 1967 borders – that every one else in the world regards both as reasonable and long overdue.

But the putative UN strategy is flawed. Both Israel and the US have endured almost total isolation at the UN for decades, to no palpable effect on their policies except to intensify their rejection of the UN as a place to address the dispute. September’s vote, if it goes through, will doubtless have the same consequence.

Since the 1967 security council resolution (pdf), which demanded Israel’s withdrawal from territories it had occupied during the six day war, reams of international law and countless debates at the UN have promised much to the Palestinians, but delivered nothing. The only time Israel has actually withdrawn from the occupied territories was as a result of a negotiated agreement with the PLO following the 1993 declaration of principles.

In unfortunate resemblance to both the current Israeli and US approaches, the Palestinian UN strategy offers nothing about how to reach a settlement with the one country whose recognition of Palestine really matters: Israel. Instead, September’s looming confrontation at the UN promises an outcome all too familiar to those who follow this ill-fated “process”: argument and antagonism to nil material effect. As Rashid Khalidi has wisely argued, the Palestinians should not rely on traditional routes, including American diplomacy, to achieve their state: the non-violent protests of the “Arab spring” offer a better, if uncertain, prospect.

The endless speechifying and diplomatic manoeuvring of the misnamed “peace process” has occupied statesmen, diplomats and commentators for decades, providing a simulacrum of progress when none, in fact, exists. The next few months will see yet more activity and diplomacy, risking distraction from the reality of continuing settlement building and mounting frustration of ordinary Palestinians living under an occupation that promises no end. With tension rising between Israel and its neighbours, and with it the risk of international conflict, no one can regard this situation as acceptable.

And no one should allow themselves the illusion that more rhetoric and an empty process, at the UN, in Washington or anywhere else, will solve it.

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6. Haaretz,

June 01, 2011


Jerusalem Day celebrations will not cover up the city’s rot and discrimination

Jerusalem Day is an ‘artificial celebration’; Jerusalem is the most ultra-Orthodox city, the most Arab, plagued by negative migration.

http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/jerusalem-day-celebrations-will-not-cover-up-the-city-s-rot-and-discrimination-1.365222

By Yossi Sarid

Jerusalem Day is an artificial celebration, which only the religious Zionist movement, settlers, workers on an organized outing, the president, the mayor and Channel 1 bother celebrating in a big way. Most people in Israel don’t even know, and don’t care, why it even exists.

The poet and Jerusalemite Gilad Meiri, who apparently also loves a different Jerusalem, has called in a poem “to liberate Jerusalem from Jerusalem Day.”

Ever since Jerusalem became a city that was compacted together 44 years ago, there have been few reasons to celebrate, and this year, fewer than ever.

Jerusalem 2011 is a sad city pretending to be glad.

Earlier this week, the Central Bureau of Statistics published real data that puts us into a less than party-like mood: Jerusalem is the most ultra-Orthodox city, the most Arab, and plagued by negative migration. Some 8,000 Jerusalemites got fed up with the city over the past year and abandoned it.

The rate of high school students who pass their matriculation exams is low and the city is is not heedful of the children of the poor.

Meanwhile, in the eastern part of the city, more than 1,000 classrooms are lacking; about half the children have no place in a classroom, they are mamzerim.

Even before this, Jerusalem was no bed of roses. But in recent years is has become a bed of thorns.

In the neighborhood of Al-Bustan, at the foot of the City of David, the municipality insists on destroying dozens of inhabited homes to turn a delusional vision into reality – the “Garden of the King.”

In the neighborhood of Silwan, has anyone noticed that a “quiet intifada” is under way? Settlers in Beit Yonatan and Wadi Hilweh have been clashing daily with local residents and lives have been lost. Beit Yonatan should have been evacuated long ago according to the High Court of Justice decisions at which Mayor Nir Barkat thumbs his nose and the attorney general neglects.

The police are arresting local leaders, including Jawad Siyam, who established a community center for children and has fallen victim to false complaints by settlers, his neighbors. The police are also arresting minors; just the other day, Haaretz reported on the illegal arrest of a 7-year-old boy.

In the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, Palestinian families continue to be ejected from their homes. The settlement of Simon the Just is expanding with the open and covert support of the state authorities.

On the ruins of the Shepherd Hotel, which the Custodian of Abandoned Property sold to Irving Moskowitz, a new settlement will soon arise. Quite a few celebrations await Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his ministers, Rivlin and his MKs, ahead of next Jerusalem Day, even before September and mainly thereafter. We can start getting ready for the dedication of the Third Temple.

This year has not been good for Jerusalem’s good name; it is the year the Holy City became synonymous with a building project called Holyland. Something is rotten in this city, many of whose past and present leaders are on trial for their shenanigans. Annual festivals (and not only in churches ), marathons, new restaurants in the market and other pleasantries on its day of joy will not cover up the rot, the discrimination or the deprivation.

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