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Report by British jurists reminds of the horrors of Israeli child detention

The report – which specifies at least six violations of the UN convention on children’s rights –  spotlights the horrors Israelis have grown accustomed to.

A report by a group of distinguished British jurists, published on Tuesday, reached the conclusion that Israel violates the Convention of the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), of which it is a signatory, by its behavior in the Occupied Territories, and that in a few cases it is also in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The report was made at the behest of the British Foreign Ministry, whose officials said they intend to “challenge Israel” over its policy regarding the detention of Palestinian children.

The report itself is measured and careful, and in and of itself, contains little that is new to anyone familiar, for instance, with B’Tselem’s report on the issue. It reports what every Israeli must know and what many Palestinians have experienced: the invasion of a home at night; the dragging of a child out of his bed; handcuffing and blindfolding him, even though he is no threat to the armed-to-the-hilt gunmen who detain him; dragging him away into a far interrogation facility, without the presence of a relative; a hostile interrogation, often including threats of violence and sometimes actual violence; the demand to incriminate others; the prevention of contact with a relative or a lawyer; the long detention, months turning into years, without a trial; and that trial’s foregone conclusion, known well in advance.

All of which is well known. So well known, our hearts have grown callous. How many Israeli adults did not see Palestinian children sitting on the ground, hands cuffed behind their backs, their eyes blindfolded with gun cloth? Those who dwell in darkness grow used to it. And then a group of British jurists comes along, turning a searchlight at them, and show them how far they are from the civilized norm. In a few cold sentences they remove the thin film of “the only democratic country in the Middle East,” leaving you just with a “country in the Middle East.”

The jurists have found that within Israel proper, it actually observes the UNCRC; the problem is what happens in the Occupied Territories. They state loud and clear that “Israel should not discriminate between those children over whom it exercises penal jurisdiction. Military law and public administration should deal with Palestinian children on an equal footing with Israeli children.”

So simple, so obvious; this is Article 2(1) of the UNCRC, which Israel signed in 1989 has to say:

States Parties shall respect and ensure the rights set forth in the present Convention to each child within their jurisdiction without discrimination of any kind, irrespective of the child’s or his or her parent’s or legal guardian’s race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or other status. (My emphasis.)

It’s not a complicated text and it’s not a complicated demand, yet Israel fails to meet it time after time. The report finds (articles 110-111) that Israel is in violation of the aforementioned article 2; of article 3 (protecting the interests of the child (“In all actions concerning children… the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration”); of article 37(b), which prohibits using detention as the first measure against a child (“No child shall be deprived of his or her liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily. The arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time“- my emphasis); of article 37(c), which prohibits the jailing of children together with adults; of article 37(d), which requires speedy access to a lawyer (and one might also quote the demand for a ” prompt decision on any such action”); and article 40, which the jurists interpret as prohibiting the handcuffing of a child – and this handcuffing, so routine we barely notice it anymore, drew plenty of angry attention abroad.

The report further found that the common practice of moving detained children from the Occupied Territories to Israel is a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention; it also noted that such transfer largely prohibits meetings between the detainees and their parents, who often do not have a permit to enter Israel – Kafkaesquely, sometimes because their children were detained.

In the discussions of the British jurists with Israeli colleagues, the latter promised to sometime improve the treatment of minor detainees, however with the condition that “there being no significant unrest or ‘third intifada'”; the jurists coldly write (114) that “A major cause of future unrest may well be the resentment of continuing injustice. We hope that the Israeli Government will recognise this, and will recognise too that justice is not a negotiable commodity but a fundamental human right which can itself do much to defuse anger.”

Possibly the most disturbing article in the report is article 115: “It may be that much of the reluctance to treat Palestinian children in conformity  with international norms stems from a belief, which was advanced to us by a military prosecutor, that every Palestinian child is a “potential terrorist”. Such a stance seems to us to be the starting point of a spiral of injustice, and one which only Israel, as the Occupying Power in the West Bank, can reverse.”

So, at least one military prosecutor accepted the basic position of the notorious gentile-slaying manual “Torat Ha’Melekh”: that every Palestinian child is a potential terrorist, and as such the rules relating to “normal” children do not apply to them. The fact that he was dumb enough to say this to a British fact-finding committee is mind-boggling, and I wonder whether he fully understood what he said – or, having lived for years among average Israelis, his moral sense has long ago dulled. One devoutly hopes this criminal remark should provide plenty of work for our Hasbara experts.

The response of the Israeli embassy in London is noteworthy, due to its breathtaking chutzpah: it claims that as long as the Palestinian Authority does not detain children allegedly involved in violence (of course, they drop the “allegedly”‘; they consider Palestinian children to be guilty as soon as they are detained), Israel has no recourse but to detain them itself. The embassy hopes you won’t notice that the detentions mostly take place in Areas B and C, where the PA does not have the authority to carry out arrests.

Israel detains some 500 to 700 Palestinian children every year, i.e. at least one every day, on average. These detentions are carried out with the support – tacit or active – of a vast majority of Israelis. One day they’ll have to explain this.

In the West Bank, there is no justice, even for children
Activists stage street action to protest Israeli torture practices 

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    1. Laurent Szyster

      “One day they’ll have to explain this.”

      I can explain it today. Just watch palestinian TV programs for children, read their schoolbooks. Fortunately, Israel has to prevent only a few hundreds kids from doing what they have been teached: to die for the sake of killing Jews.

      The “horrors Israelis have grown accustomed to” are the ones of their neighbouring peoples: the horrors of the moronic propaganda fed to palestinians, the horrors of militia butchering kids in Syria, the horrors of the way african migrants are dealed with in Egypt, the horrors of terrorists blowing up market places in Irak, the horrors of domestic slavery in Lebanon, the horrors of rulers keeping their people in abject poverty, the horrors of tyranny, backwardness, tribalism, sectarianism and civil strife throughout the Arab World.

      Reply to Comment
    2. AYLA

      Yossi–thank you, as always, for some of the most important reporting out there. @Laurent–If you want to know why a Palestinian child may, in fact, grow up fearing and/or hating Israelis, you might want to talk to a Palestinian. I don’t know a single Palestinian who didn’t have a traumatic experience (or hundreds) with the Israeli army as a child, and the vast majority don’t know Israelis out of uniform (also thanks to our policies). How would you feel if you grew up surrounded by an army, with guns, who controlled your every move, humiliated your parents and grandparents, very possibly destroyed your home while you watched, etc? If we end the occupation, then we will be in a moral position to discuss the actual facts about what Palestinians are, or are not, being taught. Meanwhile, you might be shocked to hear what Israeli children are being taught about Palestinians, in school and, often, at home, in order to prepare them to serve in the IDF. You can always find some true story to back up your worldview; everyone can. Listening to someone else’s and looking in a mirror hold greater promise.

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    3. Yes, Ayla, I was surprised not to find an artcle on 972mag about Nurit Peled’s book presentaion of Palestine in Israeli School Books: Ideology and Propaganda in Education, with Ilan Pappe (unless I missed it). It’s the education that explains a lot of the behavior.

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    4. Laurent, spare me the usual right winger whine, “Israel’s neighbours are worse.” They certainly are, yet this is no excuse. You want to live in Syria? Go do that. Don’t drag this country down there with you.

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    5. Or listen to the words of Dr Hajo Meyer, 88, who survived 10 months in the Nazi death camp:
      “It may be that Israel is not the most cruel country in the world … but one thing I know for sure is that Israel is the world champion in pretending to be civilised and cultured.”

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    6. Israeli intelligence services like to break Palestinians as young as possible in order to create more reliable collaborators.

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    7. Thanks for comment, Engelbert and glad Yossi answered Laurent. A friend spent the summer in Haifi with her partner’s sister. M\She found it most upsetting to see the Israeli boy child of 10 years draw a face on a plastic water bottle, place it on the ground, stomp vicously on it saying ‘death, death to all Arabs’…. I don’t think we need argue over which children will grow up to be ‘terrorists’. Due to the adult propaganda, they don’t really have a choice, do they??

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    8. p.s.They do have a choice, we all do. Let’s hope as these young people grow, they will be able to not act as their Israeli government and maybe their elders have. They will see what has been done to their brothers and sisters with whom they share so much, yet are so divided. The 40s/50’s propagnanda in American history books about the ‘savages’ was eventually eliminated. America still has a long way to go, but at least children are not reading about ‘savages’ and the brave soldiers who wiped them out.

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    9. Bella, from what I understood from people like Ilan Pappe, Miko Peled, or Gilad Atzmon, is that they were in their 20’s when they finally were able to see for themselves what the reality was in contrast to years of indoctrination in school + the army.
      If this is true even for intelligent, curious and well read people, it isn’t obvious that all will be capable of taking that necessary step of self scrutiny.

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    10. Danny

      Turns out that the UNGA resolution from 1975 that stated that zionism is a form of racism, was correct after all! Here’s hoping Chaim Herzog is turning over in his grave!

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    11. I agree Engelbert… however … I have to be hopeful. I don’t know the people you mention, I am brand new to this site, a friend sent it to me a few days ago, and at least (so far) it isn’t full of hatred and racial slurs. There has to be dialogue, something that has not happened. Or if attempted, stopped. I have to hope future generations will not continue the hatred, the blame, and seeking revenge. Let’s also hope those who’ve grown up in very favorable circumstances can also take part in self scrutiny. (U.S. Europe) tho I am sure I don’t need to spell that out.

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    12. You’re very right, Bella. The people I mentioned are just a few out of a vast number of Israelis who wrote good books about their experiences.

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    13. Alan

      This thread illustrates one of the major problems I have with 972: Yossi posts an important and disturbing report about the IDF’s treatment of Palestinian children and within minutes the anti-Semitic termites come out of the woodwork– Joachim Martillo(posting as JCSM), a professional anti-Semitic blogger, and then Engelbert recommends books by anti-Semitic crackpots like Gilad Atzmon.

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    14. Danny

      Amazing how Leibovich’s description of Israeli occupation forces as Judeo-Nazis is becoming truer and truer by the day. While I have previously thought that an Israeli version of Auschwitz for Palestinians would have been an impossibility, I am not so sure anymore. I think that in today’s Israel, anything is possible. The only reason Israel hasn’t committed genocide against the Palestinians is that they can’t, not because of any moral issues.

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    15. No country can honor such accords without independent, judicial redress. “For every right, there must be a remedy….” Israeli State policy, no matter how often it says it does so honor such rights, will always fail absent redress. Any security apparatus in such constant internal stress would so fail.
      As Alya, above, notes, people live on experience and stories. And those abound. If you want to change the growing perception of children, you will have to change their experience.
      I cannot account for what hate is preached elsewhere, but I can refuse to do the same where I am. Hatred of others is no warrant for me to act in kind. “An eye for an eye leaves us all blind.” And so we are.

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    16. Laurent Szyster


      “How would you feel if you grew up surrounded by an army, with guns, who controlled your every move, humiliated your parents and grandparents, very possibly destroyed your home while you watched, etc?”.

      Well, I remember my grand-father from Vilna telling me how his lituanian neighbours burned down his village, how one of those thugs chopped off two of his fingers with an axe as he was protecting his head. I also remember him showing me a picture of his family and how he said “the German killed them all”.

      But I don’t remember him or anybody else in my Jewish community saying “you must die killing Goyims”.

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    17. As I said, Laurent, “an eye for an eye leaves us all blind.” If you want to see young Palestinians who are not advocating the death of Jews, try the new, activist women in the Bank. They want to create a new way. Why not help them do it?

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    18. AYLA

      Laurent–First of all, thank you for sharing your grandfather’s powerful story. I’ve read a lot about Vilna; what a strong history you have in your family. Now, on a completely separate note: you’re making an illogical comparison (and most comparisons are illogical). Had you grown up in Vilna, and had those same Lituanian neighbors continued to treat your grandfather and parents and let’s say all of your people and you that way, on your land, all your life, (I’m not saying Israel is cutting off anyone’s fingers–I’m just working with what you presented to me as a comparison), then we’d have a comparable situation. As it stands, we do not. Also, your reasoning is faulty because you seem to believe that all the Palestinian children are systematically being taught to “die killing Jews”. You think *they* are brainwashed? Go talk to some humans. Seriously, Laurent–go meet some Palestinians. Hang out. Talk. Ask questions. You will undoubtedly be surprised.
      Alan–I know what you mean, not about 972, but about how hard it is when we come out because we care about Israel (and humanity) to confront Israel’s injustices against Palestinian, and are joined by people who are hatefully anti-jewish and/or anti-Israel. This is especially hard because there is such a strong pro-Israel voice that thinks we, you and I, are feeding the hateful voice–or worse, that we are the hateful voice–and these threads sometimes seem to confirm that since the craziest of crazies who live no where near this region come out for the i/p conflict. I figure all I can do is take responsibility for my own voice, my own actions, my own role. Mantillo and Engelbert, etc., are not here because of us. Better our voices be in the mix as well. It would be good for 972 to weed them out, as they have others in the past. But if they don’t, it is not because they are sitting on a committee approving these voices; it is because they are individuals working day jobs, raising families, and blogging here for no pay, and they don’t have a lot of time to monitor. It may be true that their radar is more up for the anti-Palestinian racists, but that doesn’t mean they don’t eventually ban these guys. They do, and with equal criteria. Sometimes it takes someone like you pointing it out.
      GregPollock–I’m always relieved to see/hear you, here.

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    19. AYLA

      GregPollock’s last post came while I was writing mine, and I want to add, yes, @Laurent–as you must know from reading 972, there has been a very significant non-violent resistance in the West Bank for at least a year now (also before, but really significant lately). I have joined them, and it’s a good thing to do, but even if you can’t do that, or aren’t inclined, acknowledging them is a start; their work is really brave and admirable under their circumstances, and they are met by a violent IDF in response (which is also why more Israelis aren’t out with them more regularly). Rather than cherry-picking the bad news, as I’m sure we can find a true story that backs up what seems to be your worldview–go looking for some good news. Really. I recommend the practice.

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    20. Laurent, I’ve met several young people who have been arrested or detained in the course of my work (including my own landlady’s thirteen-year-old son, who was only twelve when the IDF seized him and his friends as they were playing outside the house). They are usually arrested on a charge of stone-throwing, but the arrests hardly ever come at the time of the alleged event – the army will typically wait a while and then descend on the house in the middle of the night. Between midnight and three a.m. is the favourite time for this game. If stone-throwing is really so deadly, such a terrible threat to the lives of Jews that the IDF’s response is quite justified and necessary, then why is it not similarly necessary to pounce on stone-throwing children from settlements in the middle of the night, put them in leg-irons, blindfold them, deprive them of access to a lawyer and their parents, torture a confession out of them? The purpose of these arrests is fear and punishment, and it’s meted out based on ethnicity.
      The most powerful illustration of that that I’ve come across came last summer, when border policemen (travelling in a jeep) stopped to arrest twelve-year-old Mahdi Abu Nab, a twelve-year-old boy who was playing outside his house in Silwan. He had a toy gun. The border police – ensconced in a military jeep – told his father that Mahdi had posed a threat to them. They couldn’t say this to Mahdi himself, because Mahdi is developmentally disabled (visibly so) and his comprehension isn’t great. He goes to a special school for kids with disabilities. At his interrogation, when the interrogator asked him how old he was, he replied, “Four.” He doesn’t understand numbers. He can’t count. But he is a bloodthirsty anti-Semitic killer, raised to hate, a threat to the lives of armed men in a military jeep – either that or a bit of sport for some magavnikim who happened to be bored that day. Take your pick.
      No child should be subject to military law. The absence of a proper age of criminal responsibility means that they can effectively be arrested before they can even speak properly. The youngest child to be arrested to date, to my knowledge, is Yahya al-Rishaq from Silwan, who was five at the time of his arrest. These kids grow up knowing that they’re vulnerable. I have crossed the checkpoint several times with small children only to have the soldiers threaten them with detention as an amusing ‘joke’. Putting them to bed is always an interesting activity after such a ‘joke’; I remember my neighbour’s seven-year-old daughter insisting on sleeping in her wardrobe on one such night so that the soldiers wouldn’t find her if they came.
      People who try to argue in support of the IDF’s behaviour are essentially saying that Palestinian children are somehow different from Israeli children, who receive guaranteed legal protections if accused of a crime. Unlike Israeli kids, Palestinian kids are so dangerous that the only way in which innocent people can be protected from them is if they are stripped of all rights. They are uniquely wicked, uniquely villainous, uniquely hateful. You dehumanise kids like this, and you want to make out that *they* are the hateful ones? As for being raised for violence…Palestinian children do not grow up taking it for granted that when they’re eighteen years old they’ll be soldiers (perhaps arresting children). Just a thought.

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    21. Ayla, it’s really not up to you to decide who should and should not be concerned with the situation, and even less where they should be living to do so. Especially since your vocabulary and that of your partner Alan (“weeding out”, “termites”) is the same vocabulary used by the racist Israel mobs against foreigners. You should be ashamed of yourself.

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    22. Laurent Szyster

      @Youri, @Ayla, @Vicky,

      As long as the conflict is not resolved, the West Bank will remain under military occupation.

      To have civil law there negociations must resume and lead to a lasting peace.

      Given the numerous past occasions squandered by the moderate palestinian leadership and the lasting popularity of the rejectionnist parties, don’t hold your breath.

      Now, my point was not to “argue in support of the IDF’s behaviour” when it is obviously wrong or to say that Palestinian kids are “are uniquely wicked, uniquely villainous, uniquely hateful”.

      My point is that the use of language like “the horrors of Israeli child detention” is innappropriate because what Youri describes is slightly worse that the treatement unruly arab youth get from the police in France.

      Also, prophetic and judgemental statements such as “One day they’ll have to explain this” are in my opinion too close to pandering to the antisemitic prejudices of this blog audience.

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    23. AYLA

      @Engelbert–while I don’t blame you for being offended, weeding someone off a virtual conversation is quite different from evacuating a human being from a land. But okay: I’ll stick to this verb: Banning.
      @Laurent–the notion that the conflict needs to be “solved” before Israel stops the occupation is terribly offensive and, frankly, sick if you know anything about the effects of the occupation on Palestinians. The conflict will never, I repeat: never, be “solved”. We, Israel, cannot have immoral policy as a result of the unsolved conflict, and in more practical terms, we cannot consider our immoral policy to be entirely defensive. At this point, as far as I’m concerned, it’s one big chicken and egg cycle. Many, on all sides, will find that offensive, as most people on all sides believe they have the moral high ground. I am advocating for an Israel I can believe in, that is worth defending after the occupation ends.

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    24. Laurent Szyster


      What you advocate in a policy of unilateral withdrawal, the kind of which failed in Gaza.

      Peace is not a moral ideal to believe in. It is a concrete state of non belligerence, the practical acception by both parties that they can’t have it all.

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    25. Ayla, I understand. It’s “complicated”, it’s a “conflict”. Where did I hear this before?
      Talking about weeding out people or calling them termites is a clear sign of a certain mindset, not of a rational analysis. Since Israel pretends to be a democracy maybe we should vote on who should be banned here. It’s convenient for members of the occupation to set the rules, but we never asked Botha for permission to attack Apartheid, so stop being so condescening, please.

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    26. Alan

      Englebert– I don’t care if you are weeded or banned, but you have zero moral credibility if you endorse the writing of anti-Semites like Gilad Atzmon. You have no business calling anyone racist when you make common cause with anti-Semites.

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    27. Alan, you can call Apple anti-semitic and then accuse anyone using an iphone of being anti-semitic. You clearly don’t know what it means. It’s a propaganda term to stop any criticism.
      You never read Atzmon and are just relaying on things you read about him.
      As someone said: an anti-semite used to be someone who hates Jews, now it’s someone the Jews hate.
      If you can find racism in what I said I will respond, but repeating endlessly the same thing in the hope that people will finally start to believe it, was invented by Joseph Goebels. Try to think for yourself.

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    28. Alan

      I have read Atzmon; if you don’t believe he’s anti-Semitic, then you yourself are complicit in anti-Semitism. Anyway, it’s not just me, Englebert; your comments have been banned because of their anti-Semitic content on other 972 channels.

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    29. Wow, Alan, are being payed for writing this crap?

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    30. RichardL

      Going back to the article, and the report. Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office must already have been well aware of this decades-long practice that has been going on in Palestine. Now all of a sudden the FCO intends to “challenge Israel”. Well I’m sorry folks but it ain’t going to happen. William Hague is not going to say boo to anybody in Israel and this noble report will merely go the way of similar reports by AI, HRW, DCI, B’Tselem, Save the Children, UNCRC and all the rest. Israel is not going to allow it to be a nuisance. End of story.

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    31. AYLA

      @Engelbert, I agree with @Alan, who, from what little I’ve read of him, seems to be quite thoughtful. To call him a hasbarist is ridiculous. Your views are extreme and hateful, and to respond to hate with more hate is making the world a worse place, not a more just one. You also make the job of leftists like myself much harder, because you are what the pro-Israel voice is afraid of. And I don’t blame them. I will explain one thing: of course internationals can have a voice here. What I said was that the i/p conflict attracts some of the craziest of the crazies. And it does. Especially online.
      @Laurent–I do understand that people lost a lot of hope and faith back when Rabin was shot and during the second intifada and in the aftermath of the Gaza withdrawal. While I certainly don’t have the step-by-step answers, immoral occupation (and I’m not speaking of where we put borders, but of one people’s control over another’s), is simply not an acceptable way to sustain the state of Israel as a Jewish State. Mostly, Laurent, re-read this article. Now try to respond with something other than a blanket, boring, ignorant defense of Israel that you could post blindly without even reading the post. If you read this post and don’t take it in, you are choosing blind support as atrocities are being committed in your name.

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