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Rwanda is out, but Israel says it can still deport refugees to — Uganda?

International pressure led Rwanda to back out of a secret agreement to take in African asylum seekers deported from Israel. Now Israel says it has a nearly identical agreement with a second country, widely known to be Uganda. Kampala denies any such agreement exists.

Israeli insisted on Wednesday that despite the collapse of a deal with Rwanda to forcibly deport tens of thousands of asylum seekers, the mass deportations can continue because an agreement is still in place with a “second third country,” widely believed to be Uganda.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the cancelation of the Rwanda deportation scheme Monday night, saying that Kigali had buckled in the face of international pressure. Hours later, however, Netanyahu himself buckled under pressure from his political base and reversed his reversal of policy.

In a brief to the High Court of Justice Wednesday afternoon, the Israeli State Attorney wrote that Israeli in fact had secret agreements with two countries to take in asylum seekers forcibly deported by Israel. A “special envoy to third countries” departed Israel for the “second third-country” Wednesday morning to ensure it, too, won’t back out of its allegedly secret agreement with Israel.

Third country refers to a country other than an asylum seeker’s country of origin to which Israel aims to deport them. Israel has refused to divulge which countries those “third countries” are, although Netanyahu acknowledged for the first time this week that the “first third country” was in fact Rwanda.

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In its filing to the High Court on Wednesday, the state attorney clarified that just because Netanyahu broke his own state secrets declaration by revealing who the “first third country” is (Rwanda), that doesn’t mean that the “second third country” (presumably Uganda) can now be named. That’s still a state secret — for now.

The foreign minister of Uganda, Henry Okello Oryem, told the AP on Tuesday that his country will turn back any deported asylum seekers sent there. “We do not have a contract, any understanding, formal or informal, with Israel for them to dump their refugees here.”

The special envoy was expected to report back by Wednesday evening or Thursday morning.

The state provided the updated information in response to a High Court petition demanding the release of several hundred asylum seekers who are being imprisoned for refusing to...

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A week of unbearable heartbreak in Israel-Palestine

From unarmed protesters gunned down in Gaza to hope snatched away from refugees, the human suffering this past week has been overwhelming.

This past week has been one of the more heartbreaking recent periods in Israel-Palestine. First, and this seems surreal to write for the umpteenth time, the Israeli army dispatched 100 snipers to open fire into a crowd of unarmed protesters last weekend, shooting over 700 people, killing at least 16. Some were shot in the back while running away.

Not only have the country’s leadership, its military, and its cheerleaders been completely unapologetic and dispassionate about what some have dubbed Gaza’s Passover Massacre, they have been brazenly shouting — seemingly to themselves — that it was actually the right thing to do. The outcome was not only predictable; it was the plan all along.

Pure heartbreak. And sorrow. And shame.

Then there is the way that Benjamin Netanyahu toyed with and ultimately broke the hearts of tens of thousands of Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers — people who fled horrors most of us should be relieved we cannot imagine, and many of whom endured torture and other unimaginable horrors just to reach Israel. To find relative safety and security.

Monday night Netanyahu announced a deal that would have found a decent and dignified resolution for almost all of the tens of thousands of African asylum seekers in Israel. The mass, forcible deportation of refugees to Rwanda is off the table. Sweetening the deal, the UN was to work to resettle over 16,000 Eritrean and Sudanese nationals in Western countries, and Israel would grant legal status to an equal number of refugees who would be allowed to remain.

It was hard to imagine a better outcome for the tens of thousands of men, women and children who have been living in limbo, in fear, subject to crueler and crueler restrictions on their ability to live even semi-normal lives.

And then, just as quickly, just as much out of thin air as the solution had appeared, it was yanked away. Almost like a sick joke. While the world is facing its biggest migration and refugee crisis since the Second World War, Israel, a country of 8 million people, a country comprised almost entirely of refugees of some form or another, declared it is unwilling — not...

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Israel halts refugee deportation plan, UN to help with resettlement [updated]

After major public campaigns inside Israel and abroad, pressure on the Rwandan government not to accept refugees deported by Israel, and ultimately effective legal challenges, Israel announces it will scrap its mass deportation plan and work with the UN to resettle African asylum seekers in Western countries. This is a huge victory but there may be more fight ahead.

[Important update added at the bottom of this article.]

The Israeli government announced Monday that it was abandoning its plan to deport tens of thousands of African asylum seekers to Rwanda, following “mutual understandings” it had reached with the UN Refugee Agency. Under the agreement, UNHCR will work to resettle 16,250 African asylum seekers in Western countries and Israel will give legal status to a portion of the remaining African asylum seeker population in Israel.

This is a huge victory, primarily for the thousands of asylum seekers hopefully headed to countries that, unlike Israel and Rwanda, are willing to accept them. For those refugees who will finally get to stop living in fear of deportation, indefinite imprisonment, increasingly hostile laws targeting them and their livelihoods, and the insecurity of living without any legal status, this is among the better foreseeable outcomes.

It is also fairly clear that the massive anti-deportation movement played a pivotal role in pushing the Israeli government to agree to grant status to at least some of those African asylum seekers who are not resettled by the UN. Paradoxically, it was likely the deportation plan itself that motivated the UN to make its part of the deal happen.

The combination of anti-deportation rallies across Israel and around the world, activists and journalists (+972 Magazine included) working to expose how Rwanda and Uganda refuse to actually absorb the refugees Israel deports there, public and international pressure on the Rwandan government, strategic lawsuits challenging the deportation plan itself, and the right timing, all played a role in stopping the mass deportations.

Speaking through tears Monday afternoon, Michael, a 25-years-old Eritrean asylum seeker, described the news as a huge victory. “It’s all because of our struggle. God and the nation of Israel helped us — first they stopped the deportation, but now they are going to get us status, and that is really great.”

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“They wanted to send us to Uganda and...


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How Israel is predetermining a violent outcome for Gaza return march

Security officials have launched a public campaign painting the ‘Great Return March’ as a violent, Hamas-sponsored event. Israel has never needed excuses to violently suppress Palestinian protests, which makes this a priori justification of violence all the more worrying.

Israel’s senior-most defense policy official once famously told American diplomats that “we don’t do Gandhi very well.” Israeli security forces, Defense Ministry policy chief Amos Gilad was explaining, don’t really have the means or patience to suppress mass, nonviolent Palestinian protests without employing disproportionate violence themselves — nor are they willing to allow such protests to occur without being suppressed.

It is no surprise, then, that in preparation for a series of mass, nonviolent marches along the Gaza-Israel border starting this weekend, the Israeli army’s chief of staff announced the deployment of 100 special forces snipers and several infantry brigades to the area. There will be Palestinians casualties, the generals told Israel’s security cabinet.

Yet the Palestinian organizers of the “Great March of Return” insist that their movement is nonviolent. “We’re against stone throwing or even burning tires,” Gaza-based organizer Hasan al-Kurd told +972 Magazine this week. “We will make sure the protest doesn’t escalate to violence — at least from our end.”

It is the Israeli side that worries the march’s organizers. In Gaza they have been watching with no small amount of anxiety as the Israeli security establishment, through the echo-chamber of Israeli media outlets, has framed their march as a Hamas event. They understand that introducing Hamas into the equation serves as an a priori justification for Israel to employ violence against them; for if the marchers are inherently violent, then surely deploying 100 snipers is a reasonable precaution.

Hamas’s participation, however nominal or considerable it may be, is a non-sequitur. Even if the Islamist movement’s role in the march is larger than the organizers are willing to admit, history teaches us that Israeli security forces will employ violence against the marchers anyway. Hamas is a convenient excuse but one that isn’t actually necessary. Israel has never needed a justification to violently suppress Palestinian political activity — especially when masses take to the streets.

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Friday’s march coincides with the anniversary of Land Day, which itself commemorates how in 1976 Israeli security forces responded to a general strike and mass protest of Palestinian...

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Injunction poses first major hurdle to deportation plan

The temporary injunction against the government’s plan will remain in effect for at least another week and a half. But the mass deportations are still scheduled to begin on April 1.

Israel’s top court issued a temporary injunction against the mass deportation of tens of thousands of African asylum seekers on Thursday.

The decision came in a response to the first major legal challenge to Israel’s deportation plan, and will stay in effect at least another week and a half. If the state’s response satisfies the High Court, however, the deportations could still begin on schedule — April 1.

While the injunction forbids the deportation of asylum seekers as long as it is in effect, the government will continue to conduct hearings for asylum seekers in preparation of the mass deportations. Additionally, the government will not send additional asylum seekers who refuse “voluntary departure” to Saharonim Prison. Asylum seekers currently imprisoned in Saharonim will not be released.

At a hearing earlier this week the justices appeared at least a little perturbed by Rwanda’s denial that the agreement exists, and particularly what that means for deportees’ access to legal remedy if they are denied the protections it is supposed to provide them.The High Court of Justice already approved an earlier version of the deportation plan, which is based on an agreement between Israel and Rwanda — which Israel insists must remain secret and Rwanda denies even exists.

Israel claims that Sudanese and Eritrean asylum seekers who agree to go to a “third country,” known to be Rwanda and Uganda, will be able to live and work there legally. A +972 Magazine investigation earlier this year in Rwanda and Uganda, where most asylum seekers deported by Israel have been sent thus far, found that not only are they denied legal status but they are often pushed out of the country within days of arrival.

The treatment of African asylum seekers became one of the most serious points of contention between the Israeli government and the Supreme Court in recent years, a conflict that has at times threatened Israel’s informal system of checks and balances.

The court has struck down several different versions of a law used to indefinitely detain African asylum seekers. Each time, however, the government came back with slightly softened legislation that nevertheless accomplished the same policy goal — the imprisonment of African asylum...

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Israel halts asylum seeker deportations — for now

Israeli authorities signal they plan to keep the deportation plan on schedule.

By Michael Schaeffer Omer-Man and Joshua Leifer

Israeli authorities announced that they will temporarily halt, until further notice, the deportation of African asylum seekers to Rwanda and Uganda. Israel will, however, continue to issue deportation notices, and asylum seekers who are already in prison for refusing deportation will not be released. Those processes will continue, the state told the High Court of Justice on Wednesday, “so that the [deportation] plan’s timeline is not delayed.”

The decision to temporarily halt the deportations came in response to a petition that sought an injunction to stop it. The High Court had declined to issue an injunction in a hearing Monday and it is likely that the state’s response on Wednesday was intended to ensure the court does not issue one. The deportations are are not scheduled to begin until April 1, so the Wednesday’s decision will have no immediate effect.

Israel’s plan to deport tens of thousands of African asylum seekers is based on an agreement between Israel and Rwanda, which Israel insists must remain secret and which Rwanda has denied exists at all. One of the main arguments in the petition against the deportation plan was that an agreement which one side refuses to acknowledge even exists is impossible to enforce, thereby putting the deported asylum seekers at risk and with no recourse.

In a hearing on Monday, Supreme Court Justice Hanan Melcer asked the state attorney how asylum seekers can be sure they will receive what Israel is promising them — legal status and the ability to work — if the Rwandan government denies that any agreement exists.

“If some of the refugees have problems in Rwanda, and theoretically they go to a Rwandan court, the court will say, ‘the Rwandan government denies that there is an agreement,’ so how could this agreement be enforceable?” the justice asked the state, according to Eitay Mack, who along with Attorney Avigdor Feldman is representing 119 Israeli human rights activists petitioning the court for an injunction.

+972 Magazine went to Rwanda and Uganda last month to see how the asylum seekers that Israel deports fare upon their arrival. The deported asylum seekers are not given any status in Rwanda and most are pressured or pushed out of the country within days of their arrival — left with little cash and no travel...

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Netanyahu: Even in peace, the occupation will never end

The next time anyone tries to blame the Palestinians for refusing to return to the table, remember that Israel’s prime minister repeatedly states his unwillingness to end the occupation.

He’s said it countless times before in myriad ways. But he usually only says it in Hebrew. This week, however, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said in English, and on camera, that under his leadership Israel will never end the occupation of Palestine.

Speaking at the Economic Club of Washington earlier this week, Netanyahu dodged a question about whether he supports a one- or two-state solution, and outlined a vision that sounds a lot like an entrenched and enhanced version of the occupation as it exists today.

“I don’t want the Palestinians as citizens of Israel and I don’t want them as subjects of Israel. So I want a solution where they have all the powers they need to govern themselves but none of the powers that would threaten us,” the prime minister said.

“What that means is that whatever the solution is, the area west of the Jordan — that includes the Palestinian areas — would be militarily under Israel,” he continued. “The security, the overriding security responsibility would be Israel’s.”

The mainstay of Israel’s military occupation, of course, is Israeli military control over the Palestinian territories and Palestinians themselves. Through the Oslo Accords, Israel has been able to minimize and outsource much of its control over Palestinians to the Palestinian Authority, but insists on retaining what Netanyahu calls “overriding security responsibility.”

Even after a peace deal, or in Netanyahu’s words, “a solution,” the occupation of Palestine will continue. And without sovereign control of its territory, there would definitely be no independent Palestinian state.

Netanyahu has been saying this for years. In 2014, less than three months after the collapse of the Kerry peace talks, Netanyahu stated that “that there cannot be a situation, under any agreement, in which we relinquish security control of the territory west of the River Jordan.”

A year after that, in 2015, Netanyahu declared that a Palestinian state will never be established on his watch. Fast-forward to 2017 and the prime minister started promising that he will never remove any Israeli settlements from the West Bank, without which even basic Palestinian autonomy is inconceivable. And more than a decade ago Netanyahu was filmed bragging about how he set...

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Chuck Schumer thinks there's no peace because Palestinians don't believe in Torah

Which begs the question, instead of pointless negotiations, should Washington embark on a mass proselytizing program?

Senator Chuck Schumer, arguably the top ranking Democrat in the United States right now, believes that there is no peace between Israel and Palestine because — well, because the Palestinians don’t believe in the Torah.

Speaking at the AIPAC Policy Conference earlier this week, Senator Schumer shuffled his way through a list of clunky talking points ostensibly exonerating Israel of any blame for — well, anything.

It’s not about the settlements, he explained, aptly noting that the conflict didn’t end in 2005 after Israel withdrew a whopping 2 percent of the settlers living in the occupied Palestinian territories.

It’s not about borders, obviously, because Yasser Arafat said ‘no’ that one time, Schumer told the crowd of people who had clearly been on the fence about whether Arafat was the bad guy in this story.

And it’s definitely not about moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, he preached, because … well, he didn’t actually explain that one. But I’ll agree with him on this point, considering that it hasn’t actually happened yet.

So why isn’t there peace? According to Schumer, it’s because “too many Palestinians and too many Arabs” do not want a Jewish state on their land.

“Of course, we say it’s our land, the Torah says it, but they don’t believe in the Torah,” he continued. “So that’s the reason there is not peace.”

Schumer’s theory raises a number of interesting questions, first and foremost: Can there be peace as long as the Palestinians refuse to believe in the Torah?

Which, in turn, raises an even more burning question: Instead of negotiations — which are obviously pointless because, according to Schumer, the conflict is a religious war and not about land or borders or rights or embassies — should the United States focus its peacemaking efforts on converting the Palestinians to Judaism.

Once the Palestinians have been converted to Judaism, after all, they will probably start believing in the Torah, which would most definitely lead them to accept that the Land of Israel belongs to the Jews.

And then peace will reign.

There’s only one flaw: the new Jews (the recently converted Palestinians) probably wouldn’t be allowed to stay in Israel. The Israeli Interior Ministry isn’t all that hot on converts.

Here’s video of Schumer’s speech. Enjoy. If video’s not your...

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Netanyahu's downfall is nothing to celebrate

Netanyahu needs to go, but progressives are mistaken if they think that the end of his rule will halt Israel’s rightward march. 

The myriad corruption scandals engulfing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have, on a near daily basis, been growing and spreading like cracks in a windshield. True or not, the question of if King Bibi’s reign is coming to an end feels like it has officially been supplanted by predictions about when the house of cards will come crashing down.

Even more dizzying is how we are becoming privy to corruption, attempts to corrupt, and general malfeasance in nearly all of the institutions that comprise a democratic state as we know it.

In the past few weeks and months we have learned how politicians, regulators, and oligarchs conspired to shape the news we are fed by the biggest and most influential news outlets, confirming our worst fears about the state of journalism in Israel. The accusations range from negotiating favorable coverage in exchange for regulatory changes to the prime minister literally dictating the front-page headlines of Israel’s most-read newspaper.

We learned how, on top of attempts to defang the judiciary in Israel, the Netanyahu entourage allegedly tried to sell a shockingly corrupt quid pro quo to a judge shortlisted to be the next attorney general: agree to close a criminal case against the prime minister’s wife, and become attorney general. Even more astounding is that even after that judge told Israel’s now-chief justice of the Supreme Court about the indecent proposal, neither did anything about it.

We learned that someone hired private investigators to dig up dirt on the police detectives tasked with investigating Netanyahu and his cronies. When that news broke, likely leaked by Netanyahu himself, the prime minister put out a face-palm-inducing statement pondering whether investigators who believe the person they are investigating sent somebody to investigate them can be impartial in their investigation.

The accusations go on and on, and the list is guaranteed to grow in the coming days and weeks as more and more suspects, some of whom have been in Netanyahu’s inner-most circles, turn state’s witnesses and give police even more to work with.

Casting aside Netanyahu’s uncanny political survival skills and recalling that his predecessor left office  to stand trial and ultimately spent time in prison, it’s no longer unfathomable that Israel’s second-longest-serving prime minister may never become its...

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Palestinian man dies following beating by IDF soldiers

A video published Thursday shows soldiers beating 33-year-old Yasin al-Saradih during a raid in the West Bank city of Jericho. Military sources say the beating was likely the cause of death.

Video published on social media Thursday appears to show IDF soldiers beating to death a Palestinian man during an arrest raid in the Palestinian city of Jericho, which according to the Oslo Accords is supposed to be under full Palestinian security control.

The video shows the man, 33-year-old Yasin al-Saradih, running in the direction of soldiers while holding an object resembling a lamp or a stool, before one soldier appears around a corner and attempts to shoot at him. More and more soldiers then appear and beat Saradih, which continues as they drag him away — which can be seen on another camera feed.

The army initially accused Saradih of attempting to steal the soldier’s weapon, but changed its story after video of the incident was published. Several reports in the Israeli media, citing military sources, say that an autopsy pointed toward the beating as the cause of Saradih’s death — and that he had not suffered any gunshot wounds.

The scene is reminiscent in many ways of the case of Elor Azaria, who was convicted of executing a disarmed and incapacitated Palestinian attacker in the Palestinian city of Hebron in March 2016. In that case, the initial reporting was simply “Soldier stabbed, assailants killed.” Everything changed a few hours later when video of the execution-style killing was published by B’Tselem volunteer Imad Abu Shamsiyeh.

In 2014, not even video of the sniper execution of two Palestinian teens at a protest in the West Bank town of Beitunia was enough to convince the Israeli establishment that a murder had taken place. It took several more camera angles, an autopsy, and a forensic examination of the bullet that killed Nadeem Nawara before his killer, Ben Deri, was put on trial. And even then, Deri was ultimately allowed a plea deal for negligent manslaughter.

Of course such extreme examples are not the only times the Israeli army has been caught telling a story that turned out to be very different once video appeared. After +972 Magazine obtained video of IDF officers throwing stones at and assaulting two photojournalists in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh in 2015, an army spokesperson described...

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Take a look around. This is what annexation looks like

The annexation of Palestine will not come one day, it is happening every day, and this is what it looks like: legislating mundane changes about higher education councils.

There will be no definitive moment, event or a point in history, when we can say that annexation happened. Israel’s annexation is a process — a deliberate process — which has been carefully planned, began a long time ago, and which will continue for years to come.

It is hard to get too excited over small steps toward annexation, such as a law that moves a university from the jurisdiction of one council of higher education to another. The international community will not raise a storm. The UN Security Council will not hold an emergency session. The EU will not threaten sanctions. Yet this is precisely what the annexation of Palestine will look like.

The Knesset on Monday passed a law that places Israeli universities in the occupied Palestinian territories under the aegis of the Israeli Council for Higher Education, a civilian body created by Israeli law to oversee universities and colleges in Israel. Settlement colleges and universities were previous supervised by the Council for Higher Education in Judea and Samaria, a military body created specifically because the civilian council’s jurisdiction did not extend beyond the State of Israel’s borders.

This was not the first time the Knesset decided that it could legislate beyond the boundaries of the territory over which the state claims sovereignty. Israel rules over the West Bank not with the laws of its elected civilian government but rather with a military regime, in loose accordance with those parts of international law that deal with occupied territories. The wholesale application of civilian law to an occupied territory amounts to annexation.

There are many other small steps toward annexation being planned in the near and long term. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday stressed the need to advance those plans in an organized manner, and not as ad hoc proposals from individual politicians looking to make headlines.

“With regards to the question of the application of Israeli law in Judea and Samaria and the Jordan Valley,” the prime minister said in a Likud faction meeting, referring to the entirety of the West Bank, “…it should be government-sponsored legislation and not private legislation. This is a process with historic consequences … We will act intelligently.” (Listen to the recording in...

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Three easy ways to keep seeing +972 despite Facebook's changes

Don’t worry, we’re not going anywhere. But if you want to keep seeing the most important updates and analyses from +972, make sure you read this post. It only takes a few seconds.

You may have heard, or even noticed, that Facebook is making major changes in what it shows you in your news feed — namely, less news.

While we fully support you seeing more cute photos of your nieces and nephews, we want to make sure you also see the latest news and analysis from Israel-Palestine.

We know that many of you rely on Facebook to get +972 Magazine, so before your news feed is completely devoid of news, here are three ways you can guarantee that you’ll still see the most important stories from +972:

 

1. Subscribe to our weekly newsletter. Click here to sign up. It only takes a few seconds to subscribe. And it’s free!

Once a week you’ll get a curated selection of +972’s most important stories directly in your inbox. It doesn’t get much easier and convenient than that.

 

2. Customize your Facebook newsfeed with just a few clicks. Then Facebook will still show you +972 articles — alongside those cute photos of kittens, and memories of that one time you went to Madrid and saw that hilariously mistranslated sign, of course.

Here’s all you have to do, in three easy steps:

First, visit +972 Magazine’s Facebook page.

Next, click “Follow”

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Lastly, select “See first.” That’s it. You’re done. You’ll still see +972 in your Facebook feed.

See first

Here’s the link to our Facebook page again.

3. Follow us on Twitter. Here’s our Twitter page.

We’ve got a lot of new and exciting things in the works this year. Don’t miss it just because Facebook changed its mind about what it thinks you want to read.


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Is Michael Oren a 'real' person?

The alleged former ambassador has made numerous statements and claims recently that cast serious doubts on the veracity of his existence as a real person – most recently, news that he initiated a parliamentary inquiry into whether Ahed Tamimi’s family is ‘real.’ (Satire)

For the past two years, +972 Magazine has been conducting a secret investigation into whether Michael Oren, Israel’s alleged former ambassador to the United States, is “a real person” or just an actor playing a character invented by Israel’s hasbara agencies. The investigation did not reach any unequivocal conclusions.

The investigation looked into border-line fantastical actions and statements by Alleged Ambassador Oren, including but not limited to: penning opeds suggesting that Barack Obama’s Mideast policies can be explained by his daddy issues; boastfully interfering in the reporting of one of America’s most respected television news magazines; arguing that Israel was a LGBTQ haven two decades before homosexuality was even legalized in the country; comparing the status of disenfranchised Palestinians living under foreign military rule in the West Bank to Americans who live in Washington DC; endorsing the extra-judicial killing of Palestinians suspected of violent crimes; and most recently, reportedly initiating a parliamentary inquiry into whether the family of Ahed Tamimi is “real.”

“The final assessment was that Oren ‘apparently is a real person, but slowly, characteristics and bits of crazy that fit the profile [the hasbara machine] sought were ‘annexed’ to him,” +972’s chief investigator said. Nevertheless, she added, “there was no unequivocal conclusion on the matter.”

Alleged Ambassador Oren's suspicious fashion choice.The investigator also said she looked into whether “Oren was chosen for his appearance” – grey-haired, blue-eyed and light-skinned. “Also clothing. A real costume. Israeli dress in every respect, not American, with an unbuttoned shirt. Even Floridians don’t wear their collars like that,” she said. “It was all contrived. It’s what’s known as Hasbarollywood.”

She said she realizes this sounds like a conspiracy theory, but insisted that “we naturally had to investigate this question, whether he is a real person or not.” She added that she and her staff nicknamed Oren “Alec Baldwin,” after the actor who plays Donald Trump on Saturday Night Live, because “that wasn’t the real president; he was an...

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