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WATCH: Police spray putrid water on Palestinian homes, schools

Two new videos catch a police ‘skunk’ truck spraying East Jerusalem neighborhoods with foul-smelling liquid. The smell was so bad that 4,500 students had to stay home from school.

The “skunk” trucks drives slowly through the neighborhood. It is evening, and there is no evidence of clashes in the area. The truck proceeds slowly, sprays putrid-smelling water on a nearby building, continues on and shoots once again. When it’s all over, the truck has tainted schools, homes, streets – entire neighborhoods – with its unbearable stink. Just like that.

Two videos that were filmed this past week by Palestinian residents of Jerusalem and were given to +972 support claims by residents regarding the inappropriate use of the skunk by the police. In August, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) filed a complaint to the police regarding multiple cases of the arbitrary use of the skunk, especially at times when there are no protests or clashes. It seems that the police has not changed its ways.

The common understanding among residents and human rights organizations is that the police are collectively punishing Jerusalem’s Palestinian residents, in light of clashes between youth and police in these neighborhoods. But the punishment neither begins nor ends with skunk water; the police block entrances to these neighborhoods with concrete blocks, detains residents for long hours at checkpoints and hands out petty fines – all at the behest of the Jerusalem municipality.

Police use the 'skunk' water canon to disperse protesters in Kafr Kanna, a day after Israeli police fatally shot an Arab man in the village. (photo: Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Police use the ‘skunk’ water canon to disperse protesters in Kafr Kanna, a day after Israeli police fatally shot an Arab man in the village. (photo: Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

In the A-Tur neighborhood, the police shot skunk water at four large schools, forcing the parents of 4,500 students to leave their children at home due to the unbearable smell. “It was this past Friday, at around 5:30 p.m.,” says Khader Abu Sabitan, a member of the parents’ committee in the neighborhood. “I was on the road and saw them pass with their machine, and saw how they began shooting water at the school. I’m telling you – there was nothing there. It is Friday at 5:30 in the evening, and there was no one in the school or on the streets. Nothing. Everyone was home. They went to all four schools in the neighborhood, shot the water, and left.”

WATCH: The ‘skunk’ sprays foul-smelling liquid on a school in A-Tur

The skunk water targeted the A-Tur elementary school for boys, the elementary and high school for girls, a high school for boys and the “Basma” elementary school for disabled children. All four schools are located on the neighborhood’s main street.

“After we saw what they did, we told the parents not to send the children to school on Saturday, which is a school day for us. We thought that the municipality would be able to solve the problem by Sunday, since the children didn’t go to school on that day. It wasn’t a strike – we just could not enter the area because of the smell. We sent letters through the teachers on Saturday and Sunday, but no one came. So we brought back the children to school on Monday, and told them to go straight to class ad not linger outside. The smell even permeated the classrooms, but they closed the windows and made do somehow. They stayed inside during the lunch break and then went straight home. It has been a week, and it still smells. Less, but you can still smell it.”

For anyone who has not experienced it, words cannot express the smell of the skunk. The Israeli-developed truck is primarily used by the army in the occupied territories over the past several years, although now it is slowly making its way to Jerusalem and Israel. The strong stench smells like a mix of feces and animal carcass – gagging is almost inevitable.

WATCH: The ‘skunk’ showers putrid water on homes in Jabel Mukaber

The worst part is that there is almost no way to get rid of the smell. Showering doesn’t help, and protesters usually deal with it is by taking a dip in the sea. Objects that have been sprayed with skunk water often smell for much longer periods of time. After being hit with a few drops of skunk water, my camera smelled for nearly half a year.

It is difficult to fathom exactly why such large amounts of skunk water must be sprayed at classrooms and homes, as can be seen in the second video that was filmed in the Jabel Mukaber neighborhood of Jerusalem. Like in the video from A-Tur, there are no stone throwers or protesters. The police act casually, there are no rocks being thrown in the air, no sounds of explosions, no screaming or bullets that characterize confrontations in East Jerusalem. Just a skunk truck spraying homes.

“The perception of the residents and organizations is that the police uses the skunk routinely, regardless of whether they are dispersing protests, as one can plainly see in the video” Oshrat Maimon, an attorney with the Ir Amim NGO. “The problem is that we don’t even know what the police’s procedure is when it comes to using the skunk. Therefore, we don’t know if the problem is in the procedure itself, or in the lack of implementation. The truth is that we’re a bit helpless in this situation.”

Over the past several weeks, activists from East Jerusalem have met with members of human rights organizations in order to attempt to formulate a response to the actions of the police and municipality. They, however, found it difficult to arrive at a solution. “Our field coordinators say that people are afraid of the police and do not want to provide testimonies,” says Maimon. “Even people who were shot, such as someone was hit with a sponge-tipped bullet in the head or a woman who was shot and her uterus was torn – when our investigators speak with them, they are afraid that if they speak up the police will find its way to them and find a way to harm them.

In response to ACRI’s request, the police responded that the skunk is used according to regulations, but refused to say explain what the regulation says. ACRI has attempted to force the police to publish the regulations vis-a-vis the skunk. Meanwhile in East Jerusalem, the occupation becomes smellier than ever.

+972 asked for a response from Jerusalem Police. Their response will be published here.

Hundreds of Palestinians, Israelis protest collective punishment in East Jerusalem
The hard fact is that Israeli repression works
What Palestinian media is saying about the Jerusalem violence

This article was first published on +972′s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call. Read it in Hebrew here.

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    1. Pedro X

      No rioting? Here is a small sample of reports in the last few weeks:

      “Palestinians across East Jerusalem have been rioting in various locations. Silwan, A-tur, Beit Hanina, Shuafat, and the Arab Quarter of the Old City have seen near-continuous rioting. Masked teens and young adults have been throwing rocks, fireworks, and Molotov Cocktails at police, passing cars, buildings, and people.”

      “In Jerusalem, dozens of Arab rioters hurled rocks and fireworks at police and security forces in A-Tur”

      “At A-Tur, youths hurled firebombs at police.”

      “In Jerusalem, dozens of Arab rioters hurled rocks and fireworks at police and security forces in A-Tur.”

      “Rabbi Horowitz is referring to three suspects, aged 22, 15-and-a-half and 12, all residents of the north-eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of A-Tur, who are thought to have destroyed graves at the site over the course of the past month.” [Note not only were grave markers smashed by the burial chambers were also desecrated.]

      “A car filled with women and children earlier this month also escaped an Arab mob in the Jerusalem neighborhood of A-Tur,”

      “Police dispersed gangs of rock-throwing protesters, spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP, adding that there was scattered unrest again on Sunday morning.

      Violence also flared in the areas of A-Tur, Beit Hanina, Shuafat and Ras al-Amoud.”

      “Assailants threw stones, causing damage to six cars and a bus in east Jerusalem’s a-Tur neighborhood on Thursday.”

      “Masked rioters threw stones and Molotov cocktails at Israeli security personnel in the neighborhood of a-Tur.”

      Also a little earlier this fall”

      ” A Jewish couple and its four-year-old son barely escaped being killed by an Arab lynch mob that had attacked the family’s vehicle near Jerusalem’s A-Tur neighborhood.”

      Reply to Comment
      • hans schnakenhals

        see any rioting on the videos? and quoting a police spokesman, really?

        Reply to Comment
      • There was no rioting at the time of spraying. Why attack four schools with skunk water? How is the school building responsible for the items you list, if all true?

        All you’re doing is signaling that these residents as such, their young, are sewage.

        Reply to Comment
        • Pedro X

          An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Spraying down areas of riots or areas for gathering of rioters minimizes the ability of rioters to arm and recruit children and youth to the riots. It is non-lethal means to stop violent rioting by Palestinians. Would you prefer tanks and artillery pieces deal with the mindless violence of the Palestinians?

          Reply to Comment
          • Well, yes. I guess if you spray schools, keeping perhaps thousands at home, you have decreased the probability of “child recruitment,” and, overall, brought a sense of belonging to them.

            The rule of law localizes constraint and punishment to those likely culpable as such, or those proven so under court rules of evidence and inference. All you are doing here is affirming why Israel is hated by these young who will grow into suppressed adulthood.

            Your logic shows you don’t want these residents to live their lives where they were born. Jews for centuries endured this. Now the Jewish State does it in turn. Until you deal with the root causes of hostility this will continue. Bring on the tanks, the soldiers. All you will do is shame yourself.

            There are no chosen ones. Only the clueless, all of us, in various degrees and ways.

            You shall not divert attention from the simple truth that now students, those who are not yet adults who mostly have found their paths truncated, who just maybe can still imagine a better life and world–these students will enter foul smelling buildings which will tell them–“you stink as this, you are sewage awaiting expulsion, you have no place here.”

            This has happened to Jews so often elsewhere. I shall not embrace a solution which makes some other the stink of the world. No final solution, anywhere, ever.

            Reply to Comment
          • Redro X

            Preventing riots and riot control always provides a challenge. The disturbances in Jerusalem by Arab protestors have been dubbed by the Washington Post in an article dated November 15, 2014 as the “Children’s Intifada” since 60% of those arrested are children.

            Palestinians are sending their children and youth to riot. The Washington Post reports:

            “We are starting to use intelligence information to get to those who are disturbing the peace, but really, in the end, they are sending small children — 12, 13 years old,” he said.”


            “Most of the protests occur between 7:30 and 9 a.m. and between 4 and 6 p.m, the hours when high school students are on their way to and from school, Israeli police say.”

            The LA Times on October 2, 2014 described the situation in Jerusalem.

            “Hardly a day goes by without a stone-throwing clash between young Palestinians and Israeli security forces in some traditionally Arab corner of the holy city, skirmishes that often escalate to the point that police break out what are described as intense but nonlethal methods of crowd control: stun grenades, tear gas or a foul-smelling, retch-inducing liquid known as “skunk water.”


            “It has become commonplace to see children as young as 8 taking part in clashes …. A number of Palestinian adults interviewed in East Jerusalem acknowledged that they rarely intervene to prevent youngsters from taking to the streets, despite the danger.

            “Why would I want to stop them?” one young mother asked angrily. “If I needed to, I would put the stones into their hands. But they find them for themselves.”

            The most progressive of countries use harsh riot control measures. For instance on Nov. 5, 2014 in Brussels police beat demonstrators with batons, fired tear gas and water tanks.

            The Spanish riot police in 2013 hit protesting firefighters with truncheons and dragged away individuals.

            Skunk liquid is non-toxic and environmentally friendly made up of biodegradable food products and yeast. The use of skunk liquid is a non-lethal method to deal with these riots. Palestinian parents and Palestinian society should start taking responsibility for their children and Israel would not have to use any riot control measures.

            Reply to Comment
          • Joe

            I’m curious; has Israel used Skunk for crowd control on Israeli Jews? Like any ultra-orthodox draft rioters, or settlers who refuse to leave

            Reply to Comment
          • Fowlslegs

            Well written.

            Reply to Comment
          • Y-Man

            Wow, you’re racist as well as being really, really fucking stupid. Congratulations.

            Reply to Comment
          • Tzila

            A colonialist way of analize it.

            Reply to Comment
          • Philos

            Sure, hundreds of teenage boys out in the streets because the police sprayed shit on their school is definitely going to keep order. Idiot

            Reply to Comment
          • Gilly R

            I wonder why the Palestinians react to the oppression that they’ve suffered for years, since Israel became a state. How would you react if your family home, land and job was stolen from you? The settlers are worse than the Palestinians as they have literally taken everything that the Palestinians once owned. I hate that the UK played a huge part in the birth if Israel. I’m ashamed of that part in our history and will always defend the Palestinian people.

            Reply to Comment
        • Bryan

          Surely Greg this is a state that unashamedly displays the ethical refinement of a polecat marking the boundaries of its territory.,

          Reply to Comment
      • Linda Carraway

        Your sources, Pedro? I refuse to take seriously any “quotations” that are not annotated.

        Reply to Comment
        • Pedro X

          There is a riot going on in A-Tur tonight with Palestinians throwing rocks and shooting fireworks at Israeli soldiers. 3 Palestinians so far have been injured. One seriously. The Palestinians never learn.

          Reply to Comment
          • gabi

            Pedro X – these people are under occupation. What in God’s name do you expect them to do? Oh, yeah, sit down and wait for justice to come their way? One thing the Palestinians know full well, by now, is that Israel is far, far stronger than these kids throwing stones. But they will not just sit down and wait . . They have done that for over 40 years, and that’s got them precisely nowhere. In fact, each year more and more land is taken from them.

            What would you do under these circumstances? And don’t tell me you would negotiate a settlement, because the Palestinians have absolutely nothing to negotiate with. So that’s not viable.

            It may be better if they were given the vote, and treated equally with Israelis, but, no, that’s not on either, because even the Israeli Arabs are faced with the “one law for us and one for them” system of law. Shameful. And Israel calls itself a democracy !!

            Reply to Comment
          • Pedro X

            “But they will not just sit down and wait . . They have done that for over 40 years”

            Yeh, sure. The Palestinian Arabs have been involved in terrorism from the end of the 1948 war and it has never stopped. Between 1950 and 1953 there were 64,000 infiltrations and attacks by Arabs into Israel. After Ariel Sharon taught the Arabs a few lessons the terrorism and attacks were less. However they carried on. The PLO began its attacks against Israeli targets several years before he 1967 war.

            The Arabs could have had peace and a state but they preferred to try to eliminate Israel, its people and its institutions. After the 1967 war Israel offered peace to the Arabs who responded with terror, a war of attrition and the 1973 war.

            In 1978, 1993, 2000, 2001 and 2008 Israel offered peace to the Palestinians and Arabs who responded with terror each time.

            Reply to Comment
          • Dan

            Israel say they are offering peace then they continue with their illegal settlements, genocide against children and Israel continues to be an Apartheid state. The problem isn’t religion because Jews were living fine with Muslims before they were illegally given stolen Palestinian land. How can you possibly try to justify stealing their land and trying to eradicate an entire race of people?

            How can you accuse the Palestinians of terrorism when Israel are notorious for it? The Lavon Affair and the USS Liberty attack were proven to be Israeli false flag attacks and there are many more. The fact that Palestinians are willing to fight back with stones and fireworks only proves one thing, they are not cowards. The Palestinians have every right to self defence and to do everything they can to protect their homes. The Israelis do not because they shouldn’t be there.

            Reply to Comment
          • Weiss

            You really need to stop this pathetic display of rabid racism.


            Especially not THIS JEW

            YOU represent the FASCISTS that are destroying Israel FROM WITHIN

            Reply to Comment
          • So right.

            Reply to Comment
          • Bryan

            Pedro – please feel free to rewrite history whenever it suits you. The authoritative research on Palestinian infiltration is Benny Morris (“Israel’s Border Wars, 1949-1956: Arab Infiltration, Israeli Retaliation and the Countdown to the Suez War”, 1993.) One reviewer summarizing the work says that Morris “suggests that infiltration into Israel was a direct consequence of the displacement and dispossession of over 700,000 Palestinians in the course of the Palestine War and that the motives behind it were largely economic and social rather than political. Many of the infiltrators were Palestinian refugees whose reasons for crossing the border included looking for relatives, returning to their homes, recovering possessions, tending to their fields, collecting their crops and, occasionally, exacting revenge. Some of the infiltrators were thieves and smugglers; some were involved in the hashish convoys; while others were nomadic Bedouins, more accustomed to grazing rights than to state borders. There were terroristic and politically-motivated raids, such as those organised by the ex-Mufti, Hajj Amin al Husayni, and financed by Saudi Arabia, but they did not amount to very much. In the period 1949-1956 as a whole, 90 per cent or more of all infiltrations, in Morris’s estimate, were motivated by economic and social concerns.

            As the years went by, a certain overlap developed between economic infiltration and political infiltration geared to killing and injuring Israelis. The `free fire policy’ adopted by the Israeli army, border guard and police in dealing with suspects – a policy of shooting first and asking questions later – contributed to this overlap. Faced with trigger-happy Israeli soldiers, infiltrators started coming in organized bands and to respond in kind. Altogether between 2,700 and 5,000 infiltrators were killed in the period 1949-1956, the great majority of whom were unarmed.

            In the second place, Morris shows that the governments of the neighbouring Arab states were opposed to the cross-border forays into Israel for most of the period under discussion. Arab governments were caught on the horns of a dilemma: if they openly intervened to stop infiltration, they risked alienating their own passionately pro-Palestinian publics; if they were seen to condone infiltration, they risked clashes with the Israeli army and the possible loss of more territory.

            Each government dealt with this problem in its own way and with varying degrees of success. The Lebanese authorities transferred many of the Palestinian refugees northwards, to camps in Beirut, Tyre and Sidon, and effectively sealed the border with Israel. Consequently there were no large-scale Israeli raids into Lebanon in the period 1949-1956. The Syrian authorities also exercised strict control over their border with Israel and cases of uncontrolled infiltration were rare. But the Syrian army was allowed to cultivate the demilitarized zones along the border with Israel and this provoked recurrent clashes with the Israeli army.

            Jordan had the longest and most complicated border with Israel, with the largest number of civilians on both sides. The upshot was massive infiltration, Israeli reprisals, countless Jordanian proposals to improve the situation in the border areas, and a singular failure to stem the tide of infiltration. Until his dismissal in March 1956, a British officer, Glubb Pasha, commanded Jordan’s small army, the Arab Legion. Glubb did his utmost to persuade the Israelis that Jordan opposed infiltration and was doing everything in its power to curb it. The Israelis did not doubt Glubb’s sincerity but they piled the pressure on Jordan to do more. Glubb suspected that the Israeli authorities kept crying `the enemy is at the gates’ for internal reasons, in order to persuade their public to accept the rigours of Israeli life. He also believed that the Israelis had a psychological need to bully their weaker neighbours.

            Whether or not out of a psychological need, bully the weak Jordanians was what the Israelis did with a series of well-planned ground raids against villages in the West Bank, beginning in January 1951. The largest and most notorious of these raids was directed against the Jordanian village of Qibya in October 1953. The raid was carried out by Unit 101, a commando unit designed to give a sharp edge to the policy of reprisals. This unit was commanded by an unusually aggressive and an unusually devious young major named Ariel Sharon. Sharon and his men blew up forty five houses and killed sixty-nine Jordanians, the majority women and children. Sharon was apparently well pleased with his handiwork, which in some quarters earned him the title `the murderer of Qibya’.”

            In other words (1) the infiltrators were not primarily terrorists; (2) Israel’s disproportionate response (as so often) generated violence; (3) the Israeli government exploited the issue of infiltration from political motives; (4)the Arab governments generally and fairly consistently acted to restrain infiltration. See: http://users.ox.ac.uk/~ssfc0005/Israels%20Dirty%20War.html

            Reply to Comment
          • RCCA

            Talk about rewriting history?! What about the wars of survival which Israel fought from 1948 onwards? The suicide bombings? To read your comment one might have no idea any of that ever happened.

            Reply to Comment
    2. This was purely provocation.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Gerri Guest

      How strange that these stories never make it to the world media. If the Palestinians respond it makes headlines around the world

      Reply to Comment
    4. Baladi Akka 1948

      If only 972mag and Israelis in general could transcribe Arabic words correctly.
      There is NO such thing as A-Tur (and A-Ram etc).
      The definite article “al-” combined with a ‘sun letter’ is either transcribed gramatically as Al-Tur or phonetically as At-Tur (it’s really Arabic 101).
      At least, when transcribed A-Tur, also by foreign press, we know where they get their informations from…

      Reply to Comment
    5. Jan

      Just this incident alone reveals the deep sadism of the Israeli military, a sadism certainly supported by far too many Israelis.

      To spray schools and homes with this vile stinking water shows how vile and stinking are those who do this.

      For some reason Jews in Israel appear to think that the Palestinians should just bow down to their oppressors who have had their jackboots on Palestinian necks even before 1967.

      I am disgusted and the world should be as well.

      Reply to Comment
      • Pedro X

        You would think that after 67 years of defeat, the Palestinians would admit defeat, abandon mindless violence and rebuild their sick society. They do not because they think they can defeat Israel. they will continue to cause harm to themselves the longer they try to harm Israel and Israelis. Israel will do what is necessary to prevent Palestinians from harming Israel.

        If you think Palestinians have the right to resist then Israel had the right to resist their resistance and impose calm and order in the streets.

        Reply to Comment
        • Kind of shudder to think what your definition of “calm and order in the streets” may be.

          Reply to Comment
        • Pedro X, it has already been pointed out to you that the streets were already calm and orderly at the time the skunk truck is filmed shooting its putrid liquid towards a school.

          It’s not Israel resisting resistance, it’s Israel meting out collective punishment. In the examples in Belgium or Spain you provided, the police didn’t wantonly attack houses or schools, only the protesters. So please stop trying to make analogies where there is none.

          Reply to Comment
          • Piotr Berman

            There are some international norms of crowd control, like clobber people after the crowd dispersed, which is much safer for police. Perhaps it should be called “practices in many countries”, although not the “best practices”.

            What we also see here is the mechanism of compensation. As police believes certain methods to be “humane”, say, using tasers and nightsticks rather than guns, it uses them copiously. This way “an ounce of prevention” mutates into “a ton of shit”. If “an ounce of shit” is humane, then a ton is several thousand times more humane.

            Reply to Comment
    6. been there

      Israel is the ONLY country that uses ‘skunk’ water. So terribly terribly cruel. So nasty! So sadistic!

      Reply to Comment
      • Bryan

        Sometimes the disco music is just so embarrassingly awful that the whole dance-floor clears as even the most enthusiastic boppers decide to give this one a miss. Would that it were the same here! However some defenders of the indefensible are so fanatical that they cannot resist the opportunity to come charging to Israel’s defence. Perhaps Pedro is tone-deaf and incapable of hearing the music as others hear it.

        Reply to Comment
        • Pedro X

          Israel has been using skunk water in this fashion for three years. It is a tactic which works and inhibits riots. Skunk gas hurts no one. It is non toxic and can be removed with generous amounts of water and soap. Syria and Iraq used chemical weapons killing tens of thousands of their people and you think the use of skunk gas is so awful. Maybe it is you who is always charging to impale Israel on your sword of hypocrisy.

          Reply to Comment
          • Bryan

            Pedro, when I taught many years ago there was a dysfunctional child from a chaotic family who used, when he was able to throw off adult supervision, to crap in his desk, presumably as a way of making a statement about his alienation from civilized society. If you wish to compare Israeli society to such a disadvantaged, underprivileged child who had utterly failed to integrate into society, then be my guest – go ahead – make your point – and compare the society you are obviously so proud of to a defeacating child.

            Reply to Comment
          • “Skunk gas hurts no one. It is non toxic and can be removed with generous amounts of water and soap.” Just cuz you say so, it must be true! How bout you prove your point and have your house and your children’s school doused with it, then get back and report your findings?

            Reply to Comment
      • Haifawi

        It’s actually a brilliant weapon. Unlike gas or projectiles, there is no danger of injury or death. and it is quite effective at dispersing crowds.

        Now if they just used it only for crowd dispersal and not ‘davka.’

        Reply to Comment
    7. Van

      I have a few simple questions for the Israel-bashers: Inasmuch as you have taken upon yourselves to pontificate about Israel and the Palestinians, have you ever stepped foot in Israeli or Palestinian territories? Are you aware that voting is not permitted in most Islamic countries? Are you aware that shortly after Israel turned over control of Gaza, the radical Islamists (Hamas) declared war on their fellow Palestinian Authority members and drove them out of Gaza killing hundreds of their fellow muslims?

      Are you aware that the militant Gazan Palestinians provoked Israel into armed conflict by firing thousands (yes, I said thousands) of rockets into civilian Israeli territories? Are you aware that the Palestinian Hamas Charter calls for the destruction of Israel (not just the Zionists)? Are you aware that many Islamic nations including Jordon and Egypt have chased the militant Palestinian Islamists out of their countries and that Egypt has erected a long wall to keep them out? Are you aware that the United States has built a 700 mile long wall and fences along our southern borders to keep our neighbors out?

      Are you aware that many thousands of Muslim and Christian citizens voted in Israel’s most recent elections? Are you aware that several Muslims are elected members of Israel’s Knesset (Senate)? Are you aware that no Jews or non-Muslims are permitted to hold governmental positions in most Islamic nations? Are you aware that the Nation of Islam (Louis Farrakhan) has demanded a separate nation to be carved out of the United States? Are you aware that in many Islamic nations women are treated as second-class citizens?: can’t vote, can’t drive, can’t appear in public without a man’s supervision, can’t be educated, must wear long black clothing with eye-slits. All that said, you condemn Israel, the ONLY truly modern democratic state in the whole of the Middle East? Sheesh!

      Reply to Comment
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