President Obama September 5 2014

“Obama Lacks the Credibility to Sell Used Cars, Much Less Lead an ‘Anti-Terror’ Coalition”

COMMENT

“Barack Obama has spent the last six years throwing America’s allies under the bus and weaseling out of “red lines”. It is no surprise that governments in the Middle East are reluctant to join an “anti-terror” coalition lead by a man they wouldn’t buy a used car from.”

by Aboud Dandachi

Aboud DandachiBarack Obama is a man who desperately wishes that foreign-policy wasn’t part of the job description that comes with being President of the United States. After six years of trying to “pivot” away from the Middle East, Obama is discovering that just because one doesn’t have an interest in the Middle East, is no immunity from the Middle East biting one in the ass.

With the terror group ISIS rampaging over much of the Levant and executing Western hostages, Obama has found himself forced to commit America to going to war again in the region. A broad regional coalition of (mainly) Sunni states is, according to Obama’s thinking, an essential ingredient to legitimizing America’s latest military foray in a region Obama would dearly love to be rid of.

Alas, Obama’s efforts at coalition-building have so far proven a dismal failure, with no country yet willing to openly commit to joining the USA in any military action against ISIS. But the reluctance of Middle Eastern governments to join an “anti-ISIS” coalition is not due to any imagined sympathies towards the group.

Simply put, countries in the region are understandably reluctant to commit themselves to a man who has himself not kept a single commitment to any of America’s allies. From Ukraine, to Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Turkey and the Gulf, America’s friends and opponents have noted what little value the Obama administration’s “commitments” are actually worth.

After six years of weaselling out of “red lines”, throwing Lebanese and Ukrainian allies under the bus, treating Turkey and Israel with open disdain, and going behind the Gulf’s back to sign an appeasement with the Iranian Ayatollocracy, the scale of which outdid even Chamberlain’s Munich agreement with Adolph Hitler, Obama comes as a supplicant to the Middle East; a supplicant with not even the credibility of a used-car salesman.

Join an Obama-led “anti-terror” coalition? Speaking as a Syrian refugee, I tend to regard Barack Obama as one would regard a neighbor who never lent much more than a glass of water while my house burned, but now expects me to join his vigilante neighborhood gang because someone broke his windows.

Six years into his administration, Obama is learning that there is a price to be paid for screwing over America’s allies and breaking commitments. And it doesn’t help matters when Obama confides to the American press that he foresees the ISIS problem as being one “for the next president, and probably the one after that.”

The “next president”. Obama may very well prefer to coast through the rest of his presidency, and eventually enjoy the post-presidential bounties of big fat speaking fees and appearances. But those of us who actually live in the region aren’t so lucky, and Obama is going to have to display an unprecedented level of commitment if he wants his “anti-ISIS” coalition to amount to more than himself and some Iranian Shia proxy militias, most of whom have proven to be as bad as ISIS.

No American boots on the ground? That may sound good politically, but it’s a policy that flies in the face of any serious military strategy that has a snowball’s chance in hell of defeating ISIS.

ISIS will not be defeated by airstrikes alone, someone’s boots are going to have to go toe to toe with the Jihadis. What kind of an imbecile telegraphs their own pain-thresholds to an adversary well before a battle. All it does is raise doubts about one’s resolve in the minds of both one’s opponents, and potential allies (good luck Obama, on getting any Turkish or Arab “boots on the ground” after displaying your reluctance to put your “boots” where your mouth is).

Obama’s dismal failure in putting together a reliable “anti-terror” coalition stands in marked contrast to the success of George Bush Senior, who prior to Desert Storm managed to create an impressive regional and international alliance to expel Saddam from Kuwait. In 1990, America’s allies knew what they were signing up for when they got behind a US-led coalition.

Obama is no George Bush Senior. In 1990, Bush managed to build an impressive regional and international coalition against Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. Before a single bullet was fired in Desert Storm, Saddam was completely isolated politically. While the military contributions of many countries in Desert Storm would eventually prove peripheral, the political legitimacy they afforded to the campaign was invaluable.

So why did George Bush Senior succeed where Barack Obama has so far failed? By any measure, Obama’s task should have proven the easier of the two. While Saddam initially had some international support, ISIS has none. The Iraqi military at the time was the world’s largest, a far tougher nut to crack than ISIS could ever dream of becoming.

No, in the end, the success or failure of coalition building depends as much on the attributes and perceived reliability of those who would lead such a coalition, as it does on the potential target or goals of said coalition. In 1990, America’s resolve, objectives and commitment were unquestioned. American boots were the first to go into battle. America’s allies knew what they were signing up for when they got behind the USA. America’s allies trusted America’s president.

A stark contrast to the fuzzy, muddled approach of America’s current president. It is difficult to have confidence in a man whose own self-confidence is so lacking, his best hope of fixing the greatest threat of this decade is to leave it to be solved by “the next president, and probably the one after that.”

The above article originally appeared on Mr. Dandachi’s website.

Aboud Dandachi is an activist from the Syrian city of Homs, currently residing in Istanbul. He has been cited on issues relating to the Syrian conflict in the BBC, NPR, LA Times, the Guardian, Al-Arabiya and Turkiye Gazetesi. Aboud’s articles have been republished on numerous media outlets including Daily Sabah, Elder of Ziyon, EA Worldview, Frontpage Mag, and jewishinfoNews.  Aboud can be followed on Twitter @AboudDandachi

Photo Credit: President Barack Obama visits Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England, Sept. 5, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

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SEVENTY YEARS LATER - "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose" | "The more things change, the more they stay the same"

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“Compromise with political Islam is impossible”

SPECIAL REPORT

The following article was originally published in the independent online magazine opendemocracy.net and is republished by jewishinfoNews under a Creative Commons licence.

On the 20th anniversary of the fundamentalist assassination of Algerian educator Salah Chouaki, Karima Bennoune translates his warning – so relevant today – about the need to be uncompromising in the battle against the very ideology that motivated his murder.
Salah Chouaki, noted education expert and dedicated leftwing activist, murdered on September 14, 1994

Salah Chouaki, noted education expert and dedicated left- wing activist, murdered on September 14, 1994

Algerian educator Salah Chouaki published this article in the newspaper El Watan on 15 March 1993 as Algeria headed into its “dark decade” of fundamentalist violence and state counter terror abuses. He was amazingly prescient about the rising threat of political Islam. The day after this article appeared a campaign of fundamentalist assassinations of Algerian intellectuals escalated with the killing of former Minister of Education Djilali Liabes. Just eighteen months later, on 14 September 1994, after receiving threats which failed to silence him, Chouaki himself was gunned down by the Armed Islamic Group. During the subsequent decade, as many as 200,000 Algerians were killed.

The feminist activist Ourida Chouaki said that one of the most important ways to remember is by combating the fundamentalist ideology which motivated his killing, and by discrediting jihadist terrorism. His article is translated into English for publication today in that spirit, and to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the killing of this progressive North African thinker and activist. Salah Chouaki wrote, that “the most dangerous and deadly illusion… is to underestimate fundamentalism… the mortal enemy of our people.” His brave words and warnings – that like so many other Algerian intellectuals he gave his life to articulate – remain tragically relevant today around the world.

Compromise with political Islam is impossible

There is an unresolvable contradiction between support for the idea of a modern society and the belief, sincere or feigned, that it is possible to ‘domesticate’ the totalitarian monster of fundamentalism.

The expression “we are a Muslim state” was used recently by the head of the government, as if to tell the fundamentalists that he had no lessons to learn from them.  Meanwhile, he labelled the most important modernist forces “secular-assimilationists”- as if they represented a totally outmoded politics. Taken together, all of this reveals a tendency to accept being drawn onto the playing-field of political Islamism. This is a choice which leads inexorably toward fundamentalism itself.

Thus, the state embarks on a course of one-upmanship, beginning a competition with parties that exploit religion and use it for reactionary political ends. In so doing, the state itself and modernist forces have lost the battle before it has even begun.

Even if the fundamentalist forces were to be soundly beaten on the terrorism front thanks to the mantra, “we are a Muslim state”, and because of the attack launched on the partisans of modernization, they would keep their ideological trump cards. Hence, the fundamentalists can try yet again to take power– not merely a piece of power which they already have, but total power – as soon as they have caught their breath.

What religious restoration?

If the state uses religion, under whatever pretext and in whatever form – from then on there is no reason to think that others would not surface alongside it, to dispute its monopoly!

From the moment that we plant in the minds of the general public the seed of the idea that the question of power is intimately related to some sort of “religious restoration,” we are in fact accepting that political discourse may be dismantled and reduced to religious discourse. We are no longer speaking to citizens, but to believers. We are no longer speaking to civil society but to an abstract ‘umma’. We are no longer running a state under the rule of law but a de facto state. From that moment onward, the Constitution and the laws lose all meaning, as we continue to experience in a tragic fashion. Is it not in the name of God and of sacred religion that terrorists continue to savagely assassinate Algerians?

If one calls on religion and the clergy, and if one goes to the extent of training them as the sole judges of whether or not actions conform to sacred texts, how can one avoid at some point giving in to the pressure exerted by those who choose the societal project most in agreement with the basic convictions of a mass of believers, and of the clergy they trust to implement this project?

Thus, the believers and the umma would have no need for modern republican institutions, nor for a state under the rule of law with all its powers, nor for an army or a police force, nor for rules regulating the functioning of the economy, nor for scientific or cultural development….  Thus, we give way to wild neoliberalism, to obscurantist dogmas, to the most ferocious repression and even to stoning, to the negation of the basic rights of citizens…

Egyptian philosopher Fouad Zakariya has clearly demonstrated how, in the sphere of state-society relations, political Islamism functions as a path. It inexorably changes the state into a surging wave of fundamentalism as it embarks on the quest for power by all possible means so as to become a theocratic society.

Zakariya identified and analyzed the following pattern:  the Islamists occupy the socio-cultural terrain, then the politico-ideological terrain. They exert a multiform pressure on the society and the state. The latter makes concessions to them, and even ends up trying to outdo them so as not to allow itself to appear less Islamist than the Islamists. Thus, the state introduces Islamism in school, in the cultural realm, in institutions, in different spheres – including the economic one – thinking or pretending to think that it is promoting Islam as a religion. The Islamists profit from all of this, re-investing their gains in all manner of renewed pressures which win them yet more ground, and then they repeat this pattern again, at ever higher levels.

In each and every case, it is fundamentalism that succeeds in re-orienting the positions that take hold in these spheres in its favor. This is because of the enormous scientific and cultural lag that affects these countries. It is also because the balance of power within religion, as shaped by our history, has erased the brightest pages of our Arabo-Islamic cultural patrimony – those which carry the seeds of rationality and of modernity. This historical dynamic has promoted the domination of the most conservative and obscurantist interpretations.

As the experience of our country, and that of Egypt, in the 70s and 80s,  concretely demonstrates, the legitimization of political Islamism… comes about principally because of state Islamism, whatever the original intention of those who promote that approach.

As long as one opts for a state Islamism, for which one can never determine the correct dosage, and which in any case works in favor of fundamentalism, one can only offer a negative answer to the question: “how can a Muslim population achieve modernity?”  This question is, in and of itself, a legitimate one.  However, the answer that suggests we should do so “by Islamizing modernity” is nothing more than a false response, which amounts to the same thing as “modernizing political Islam”.

In all cases, this means one imagines modernity as replicated in the future on the present and past reality, and from the point of view of a “specificity.”  It designates the “umma” as a part of humanity which excludes itself from humanity.  It bases faith on a personal, internalized conviction that excludes rationality.

What then would be the most positive answer to the question of how a Muslim population can achieve modernity?  It could be expressed as follows:  For a Muslim population that is culturally Arabo-Amazight (Berber), doing so means accepting and being at ease with modernity, without negating  any of its own specificities vis-à-vis other Muslim populations, and other peoples of the world, who also have their own specificities….

Why is secularism so often reduced to a kind of offense against religion?  Why engage in such useless questioning of motives when our country needs instead a sincere and objective debate?…  Political discourse in religious garb is the cancer that eats away at our society.

An impossible compromise

There is a very serious misunderstanding of what is at stake strategically. This reality is becoming increasingly clear in the eyes of public opinion. We are talking about saving Algeria as a modern nation.

If it is simply a question of courting those who voted for the Islamic Salvation Front because they wanted to reject the bureaucratic rentier system that President Chadli Benjedid represented, for this we are risking the possibility of throwing them into the arms of an even more powerful fundamentalism in the short term and thereby putting the very Muslim identity of the people itself in danger.

Ultimately, it may be the crony bureaucracy itself that refuses to yield. At the end of the day, it is this system which guarantees the political survival of fundamentalism.  It is “economism”, the false belief that economic problems can be resolved by economic formulas independent of the political context and without a resolute ideological struggle against the forces that are the cause of the multidimensional crisis. Those causes are, in fact, the impoverished thought and ideology of the crony bureaucracy for which fundamentalism acts as a counterweight.

Compromise with fundamentalism and all political Islamism is absolutely impossible.

Persisting in defending the possibility and the necessity of such a compromise merely perpetuates illusions and mystifies public opinion. It paves the way for fundamentalism to seize absolute and undivided power.

This thesis is no longer simply theoretical. It has been proven in practice, at the cost of hundreds of victims. Every effort to build bridges with fundamentalism, every effort to draw away from the forces that strive for progress, results in emboldened fundamentalist forces, and a resumption of their initiatives.

The best way to defend Islam is to put it out of the reach of all political manipulation.

The best way to defend the modern state is to put it out of the reach of all exploitation of religion for political ends.

This article has been abridged and annotated for English language readers by the translator, Karima Bennoune. Read the original article in French.

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SEVENTY YEARS LATER - "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose" | "The more things change, the more they stay the same"

SEVENTY YEARS LATER – “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” | “The more things change, the more they stay the same”

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The Guardian a

The Guardian. “Viciously and notoriously anti-Israel.”

by Alan Simons

Many years ago in the UK, I worked for The Guardian. I have to admit I didn’t actually work in the editorial department, but I had day-to-day contact with many of the paper’s columnists and journalists. I even had to pay for the occasional round of drinks at the ‘local,’ around the corner from the office.

Unlike now, many of the editorial staff were media icons in their own right. Mark Arnold-Forster, Clare Hollingworth, Victor Zorza, John Cole, Mary Stott, Norman Shrapnel and of course Alistair Cooke in the USA, to name a few.

Editors of the past such as Alistair Hetherington who continues to be regarded as one of the leading editors of the second half of the twentieth century and Peter Preston both strove to present a balanced view. Since then the paper has steadily strengthened its biased anti-Israel position.  As Greville Janner the former president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews has stated, the paper is “viciously and notoriously anti-Israel.”

It may surprise some readers to learn that C. P. Scott, one of the most famous editors of The Guardian had a strong  friendship with Chaim Weizmann. It is believed that friendship played a role in the Balfour Declaration of 1917. In 1948 The Guardian was a supporter of the new State of Israel.

With Alistair Hetherington at the helm, The Guardian‘s favourable view of Israel continued, as illustrated in their Leader of Monday, June 12, 1967 16.44 BST:

Future security is their first concern. They will not give up the Sinai Peninsula, the West Bank of the Jordan, or the heights over looking the upper Jordan valley until they know what the Arabs will accept. If there is no peace settlement, will they ever give them up?

Israel wishes to live in peace. She does not want hostile neighbours on her borders, whoever they are, for another hundred or two hundred years. She wants normal trading relations with her neighbours. The offer of generous terms is therefore still worth trying – especially if, through the United Nations and all the Great Powers, Israel’s future frontiers are effectively guaranteed.

In 2002 the paper ran a Leader which, in part said, “the Jewish community is right to fear that the repulsive antisemitism… in many Arab countries…  can find an alarming echo within some British Muslim communities.” But, that was The Guardian of the past.  And now, in 2014 The Guardian  breaks all the barriers in stoking the fire of antisemitism that twelve years ago it found quite alarming.

Here below is a video link to the speech given by Seumas Milne, the paper’s associate editor. Prior to working for The Guardian, Milne was the “business manager of Straight Left, a monthly publication of…  the Communist Party of Great Britain.” I suppose it’s a no-brainer to figure out where he’s coming from.

This associate editor of The Guardian  “in front of tens of thousands of anti-Israel protesters at Hyde Park in London, explicitly justified Palestinian terror attacks on Israelis (a refrain from his Guardian column in mid-July), and accused ‘terrorist’ Israel of  ‘industrial scale’ killing in Gaza.” (As reported by CiF Watch)

To quote Tarek Fatah, the Canadian writer, broadcaster and secular Muslim activist: “Any nation, any society, any country that is created on the basis of a hatred towards the others, will soon run out of people that it can hate or groups it can decimate and it will devour itself.” In response, I say to the Seumas Milnes, The Guardians and antisemites of this world. Hurry up, my people haven’t got all day!

Seumas Milne National Demonstration for Gaza - 09_08_14

Click here to watch this video 

* * *

SEVENTY YEARS LATER - "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose" | "The more things change, the more they stay the same"

SEVENTY YEARS LATER – “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” | “The more things change, the more they stay the same”

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Quote of the week. UNRWA’s screwy world!

What Others Are Saying

The United Nations Relief and Aid Works Agency

UNRWA’s bizarro world extends to its 30,000 employees, almost all of whom are Palestinians, making it the largest employer in the West Bank and Gaza, apart from the government, and a main source of political patronage. It is, in effect, not an independent UN agency but an organ of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and of Hamas in Gaza. Not surprisingly, UNRWA facilities long ago became terrorist bases, according to the Jordan-based Journal of Palestine Studies. This view is supported by James Lindsay, a former legal advisor and general counsel to UNRWA, and former UNRWA Commissioner Peter Hansen, who told CBC [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation] “I am sure that there are Hamas members on the UNRWA payroll ” and “I don’t see that as a crime.”

- Lawrence Solomon, executive director of the Urban Renaissance Institute and a member of the advisory board of StandWithUS Canada.

To read Solomon’s article in Canada’s National Post click here.

* * *

SEVENTY YEARS LATER - "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose" | "The more things change, the more they stay the same"

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GAZA. Yet another example of biased foreign media reporting at its worst

What Others Are Saying

Barry Shaw is the Special Consultant on Delegitimization Issues to the Strategic Dialogue Center at Netanya Academic College, Israel.  He is also the author of Israel Reclaiming the Narrative.  Yesterday, on his blog, The View from Israel - Israeli advocacy in a difficult world, he wrote about how the foreign media in Gaza have been accused of biased reporting bordering on the cynical and cowardly. As a follow-up to our report published yesterday on how an Israeli hospital welcomes children from Gaza and the West Bank, we felt Barry Shaw’s article is important enough to republish in its entirety here:

Did Hamas exploit a Palestinian girl and Sky News?

Barry Shaw

Barry Shaw

The foreign media in Gaza have been accused of biased reporting bordering on the cynical and cowardly.

Faced with the fear of what might happen to them by Hamas caused them to abandon any presence of journalistic ethics and simply regurgitate whatever Hamas gave them, or whatever they saw from their restricted vision, ignoring, of course, the rocket fire coming from outside their hotel windows until they were outside of Gaza and felt brave enough to report in hindsight what they experienced.

What’s infinitely worse is a media outlet like Sky News who, from the safe distance of their London studio, still put out emotional Hamas propaganda that takes a gratuitous swipe at Israel.

This occurred on August 10 when they repeatedly broadcast a piece on a seven year old girl who had been apparently paralysed in an Israeli air strike.

The girl is heard saying “We were sitting at home when we heard a noise. So we went down the stairs.” What noise was this? Could it have been the “Knock on the roof” pre-strike warning that this house had been sited as a terror target by the IDF intelligence? What’s this girl’s family name? Is it among the names of leading Hamas terrorists? This was partially confirmed by the girl known as Maha when she said “Me and my mother were injured, and we knew if we stayed like this we would die. But my mother stayed at home and she died.” Did her mother knowingly act as a human shield (or sacrifice) for Hamas? We don’t know. The reporter didn’t ask or investigate this.

The report stressed that there are only three hospitals worldwide capable of treating anyone in her condition, a claim I found preposterous.
There are numerous Israeli hospitals of international reputation that regular treat such injuries. In 2006, in a previous Hamas-incited conflict, another Palestinian girl was paralysed and received five years of treatment at Alyn Hospital. Her family was members of Islamic Jihad, but this did not prevent Israel from giving this girl the best of Israeli medical care at the expense of the state. When Israeli doctors thought she was well enough to continue her treatment at a Gaza hospital her family fought attempts by Israel to transfer her to a West Bank facility. So she and her family remain in Jerusalem courtesy of the Israeli state.

Sky News claimed that Maha was being prevented from leaving Gaza by Israel. Not true!
A COGAT top representative, Guy Inbar, told me that a request from Gaza had been made and accepted by COGAT on the same day, July 26, and that final details had been requested by COGAT to prepare her exit.
Nothing more was heard from the other side.

It certainly appears that Hamas has cynically played a propaganda game for weeks over this little girl. They have invited members of the press into Shifa Hospital to hear her story, rather than expedite her release for treatment.
There is an excellent fully staffed field hospital set up by the IDF on the Gaza border ready to received patients from Gaza. Only problem is that Hamas physically threatens and prevents people from getting to this facility. This also was not mentioned by Sky.
The IDF Spokesman, Peter Lerner, tweeted Sky News offering to give them information but he failed to get a response. Neither did I when I emailed Sky News a list of questions on this incident and their coverage.

It is still far from certain that a Sky reporter ever met or spoke to the girl. Were they there at the Gaza hospital, did they question, did they ask for Israeli response, or did they simply put out the story as presented to them by Hamas?
My sources in the IDF and with COGAT never received any contact by Sky News on this incident.

The Sky News item did produce some action.
COGAT was contacted by Palestinian health officials and they are coordinating with them and also with the World Health Organization to have the girl removed from Gaza as soon as a new request is received together with all the relevant documents and information. She will be removed first to Jerusalem and then on to a hospital where she can receive the best of care.

COGAT has facilitated every request received by people needing to leave Gaza for serious medical cases, one hundred and fifty in number, throughout this current Gaza conflict.

What was missing from the Sky News report was the fact that Maha is the daughter of Ahmed al-Sheikh Khalil, an Islamic Jihad commander and a munition expert. He was killed on October 29, 2011 by an Israeli air strike in retaliation for launching rockets into Israel from Gaza on the same day.

As for Sky News, I have yet to receive a response from them, despite having sent them a more strongly worded letter. Their reporting of this incident did wake up people in Gaza to take the accepted steps needed to have the girl evacuated.

But, by that time, they had exploited her and Sky for clearly propaganda purposes that have damaged Israel in a most unwarranted manner.

* * *

SEVENTY YEARS LATER - "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose" | "The more things change, the more they stay the same"

SEVENTY YEARS LATER – “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” | “The more things change, the more they stay the same”

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Israel opens its heart to the children of Gaza

“We’re physicians. Our job is to take care of people. The children who come here didn’t do anyone harm. They need our help and we will continue to help them.” – Dr Akiva Tamir, Head of Pediatric Cardiology Unit, Wolfson Hospital, Holon, Israel.

Children from Gaza with heart disease treated in Israel despite Hamas rockets

Click on this image to watch a remarkable story

The Save a Child’s Heart (SACH) humanitarian project in Israel treats 150 children a year from Gaza and the West Bank. Their mission “is to improve the quality of pediatric cardiac care for children from developing countries who suffer from heart disease and to create centers of competence in these countries. SACH is totally dedicated to the idea that every child deserves the best medical treatment available, regardless of the child’s nationality, religion, color, gender or financial situation.

“SACH is motivated by the age-old Jewish tradition of Tikkun Olam – repairing the world. By mending the hearts of children, regardless of their origin, SACH is contributing to a better and more peaceful future for all of our children.”

* * *

SEVENTY YEARS LATER - "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose" | "The more things change, the more they stay the same"

SEVENTY YEARS LATER – “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” | “The more things change, the more they stay the same”

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