Israel the "Ashkenazi Trick"
- Interestingly, a people who wanted to escape racism against Jews,
turned racist itself. I suppose that psychologists would have a
professional explanation for this. But pretty, it is not.
Another aspect is the one that the title refers to: the political
one. It is not only in the past that "All the leaders speak about
peace, Golda Meir used to say that she was willing to travel
anywhere in the world to make peace. But these were not truthful
words. In the archive, in the Israeli papers, I found that all the
Arab leaders were practical people, people who wanted peace," but it
is true even in recent times that the Arabs not the Israeli leaders
want peace, vis, for instance, Israel's reaction to the generous
offer of the Saudi Arabian peace plan. Shlaim's "book gives a
clear sense of a state that could not get enough," and in this, too,
nothing has changed. The smoke screen of the so-called
disengagement is keeping eyes off the West Bank and Jerusalem, where
the wall is enclosing Palestinians in ghettos that cut off from
their fields, olive groves, school, hospitals, and separate members
of families from one another, making a Palestinian state
impossible. All of this appears to be with Bush's
approval. Tonight on an interview televised on the 1st channel's
Friday weekly, Bush 3 times referred to Gaza as the Palestinian
state. One thing is for certain: many more Palestinians and
Israelis will suffer and be killed before the mess here ends.
Anything that you can doe.g., support economic sanctions, please
do. We need your help.
No peaceful solution
By Meron Rapoport
Ha'aretz Friday Magazine August 12, 2005
And apparently, despite his very innocent appearance, with his curls
and his slow speech, Avi Shlaim - the third and least familiar
member of the group of new historians - knows that he is a sort of
enemy of the people, and even enjoys it with refined British
enjoyment. And now he has come to Israel, armed with his book, "The
Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World."
After reading the 573 pages of the book, one can understand why
Sharon and Livnat do not want Shlaim to be taught here: in very
readable prose, based on facts, he surveys the history of Israel's
contacts with the Arab world from 1948 to 2000, and states
decisively ("The job of the historian is to judge," he says) that
the Israeli story that Israel has always stretched out its hand to
peace, but there was nobody to talk to - is groundless. The Arabs
have repeatedly outstretched a hand to peace - says Shlaim - and
Israel has always rejected it. Each time with a different excuse.
Among the new historians, Avi Shlaim is the most "classical." Benny
Morris began as a journalist with a conscience, served time in a
military prison for refusal to serve in Lebanon, and from this
starting-point, came to write the "new history" about the creation
of the refugee problem. Ilan Pappe was an activist in the non-
Zionist left even before he went to complete his doctoral studies at
Shlaim did not come from a political background. He studied history
at Cambridge so he could serve as a diplomat in the Israeli Foreign
Service, a job chosen for him by his mother, who fell in love with
the British Foreign Service when her family found refuge in the
British Embassy in Baghdad during the anti-Jewish riots there in
Only after he had taught international relations for several years
at the University of Reading (specializing in European issues), and
only after moving to Oxford, did he begin to take an interest in the
history of that country, Israel, where he had lived between the ages
of five and 16, and where he did two-and-a-half years of military
service. This interest began in no small part thanks to one student,
whose doctoral thesis he read as an outside examiner. The name of
the student was Ilan Pappe.
Chance brought the new historians together. In 1988, Simha Flapan
published his book "The Birth of Israel: Myths and Reality," Ilan
Pappe published "Britain and the Arab-Israel Conflict, 1948-51,"
Benny Morris published "The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee
Problem" and Shlaim published "Collusion Across the Jordan: King
Abdullah, the Zionist Movement and the Partition of Palestine."
Shabtai Tevet, Ben-Gurion's biographer, published in Haaretz a
no-holds-barred attack on what he called "the new historians." Benny
Morris replied, and he and Ilan Pappe continued to fight that war,
which quickly went beyond a simple academic debate.
But while Morris and Pappe were clashing here with the guardians of
the "old history," which claimed that the Palestinian refugees left
of their own free will and that the Zionist movement was always
peace-loving, Shlaim remained in England, continued to teach at
Oxford, to publish articles and to write books about the Israeli-
Arab conflict. "The Iron Wall" was published in Great Britain in
2000, and sold over 45,000 copies, a best-seller in academic terms.
Since then it has been translated into four languages, first into
Arabic and recently into Portuguese, in Brazil.
The book is being published in Hebrew only now, at the initiative of
Yaakov Sharett, the son of Israel's first foreign minister Moshe
Sharett, who decided on his own to translate the book, and
approached Aliyat Gag publishers with a completed manuscript. Shlaim
had already approached five publishers in Israel asking them to
translate the book, and was turned down. "Not interesting," they
told him. This is Shlaim's first book to appear in Hebrew.
A life of luxury in Baghdad
Not only does Shlaim's academic career differ from that of his
friends, so does his biography. Pappe was born on the Carmel in
Haifa, Morris was born in England. Shlaim was born in Baghdad in
1945, to a wealthy family with a magnificent three-story house and
10 servants, including a special servant who went to the market to
do the shopping. His father was an importer of building materials,
and hobnobbed with the heads of the Iraqi government, including then-
prime minister Nuri Said.
"Most of the ministers were customers of ours," says Shlaim. "They
used to come to our house and order building materials for their
houses. They never paid, but in return they ordered work for the
government from us, and paid much more than necessary. That was
corruption, but not brutal corruption, as with Saddam Hussein. That
was an old Arab political culture, a culture of compromise."
His mother was connected to the British government. Her father was
the British army's head interpreter in Iraq during World War II, two
of her brothers served in British intelligence as interpreters, and
received British citizenship. That helped them later on, when they
wanted to leave Iraq.
Shlaim describes a home in which Judaism was not an important
component of his parents' identity. "Judaism was ritual," he
says. "My parents used to attend the synagogue once a year, at home
we spoke Judeo-Arabic, we listened to Arabic music. Nor was Zionism
important, my parents had no empathy for it. There were Zionist
agents who tried to create propaganda, but it didn't impress the
Jewish elite and the middle class. There was no tradition of
persecution or anti-Semitism in Iraq."
The first pogrom took place in 1941, in Farhoud, in the context of
the (pro-Nazi) Iraqi rebellion against British rule. The real
problems began with Israel's War of Independence in 1948, says
Shlaim, when the harassment began. The climax came when a hand
grenade was thrown into the central synagogue in Baghdad in
1951, "and from that day to this, there have been rumors that an
Israeli agent tossed the grenade."
And have you, as a historian, tried to check out these rumors?
"At the state archives, I asked for the file on Baghdad in 1950.
Although by law these documents are already supposed to be released,
they told me that the file was closed and that I couldn't see it. An
acquaintance of mine told me that he had examined the file, and that
there was no Israeli involvement recorded in it. All those involved
in bringing the Jews of Iraq to Israel - Shlomo Hillel, Mordechai
Ben Porat - vigorously deny that there was such involvement."
And what do you think?
"I don't have enough tools as a historian. I only know that Sharett
wrote in his diary, relating to the `stinking affair' in Egypt (in
which Israeli agents placed bombs in movie theaters in Cairo, to
cause conflict between Egypt and Britain), that `there was a similar
case in Iraq.' He doesn't explain, but Sharett apparently suspected
that the Mossad had tossed the grenade.
"I think - I can't prove it - that there was an understanding
between the Iraqi government and the Israeli government. An
understanding, not an agreement. Israel asked Iraq to let the Jews
immigrate, the Iraqis said: We are not opposed, but the Jews are
filling central positions here in the Iraqi economy, so Israel said:
Leave the Jewish property in Iraq. That accords with the behavior of
the Iraqi government. Immediately after the grenade was thrown, the
Jews of Iraq started to panic, and then the government issued a law
that any Iraqi - they wrote `Iraqi' rather than `Jew' specifically -
who wanted to leave the country, could leave if he registered by a
certain date, but would have to surrender his citizenship.
"Out of the 130,000 Jews in Iraq, 100,000 registered, including my
father. And then, immediately afterward, a new law was issued, to
the effect that any Iraqi who had given up his citizenship was
giving up all his other rights, including property rights. My father
was sure that he would have enough time to sell his property, but
then it turned out that he had lost everything: a house and
warehouses and merchandise worth half a million pounds sterling at
the time. In the end, he was even forced to cross the border
illegally on a mule, because he was the guarantor of the debts of
another Jew who had disappeared. I, my mother and my sisters, with
our British citizenship, left Iraq on a regular flight to Cyprus,
and met up with my father in Israel."
Then you in effect agree with the members of the Mizrahi Democratic
Rainbow, who say that the Jews were brought from the Arab countries
to provide "raw material" to shore up Zionism in Israel?
"That theory is very convincing. We won the War of Independence and
founded a state, but the number of inhabitants was very small, fewer
than 1 million. For Ben-Gurion, the top priority was aliyah
(immigration), and the large reservoir of Jews was no longer in
Europe, but in the Arab countries. We are not refugees, nobody
expelled us from Iraq, nobody told us that we were unwanted. But we
are the victims of the Israeli-Arab conflict."
He knows what nationalism is
Shlaim, five years old at the time, landed with his parents in Ramat
Gan. His father managed to bring some money with him, and tried to
do business here, but failed. "They cheated him. In Baghdad, if you
gave a check and it bounced, you wouldn't show your face again. Here
it was a badge of honor," says Shlaim. His mother, who hadn't worked
a day in her life, found work as a telephone operator in the Ramat
Gan municipality. She acclimated, as did Shlaim and his sisters.
They learned Hebrew quickly, although they continued to speak Arabic
with their parents.
He was somewhat ashamed of his father, especially when he would call
to him in Arabic in the street, but he didn't dare to ask him not to
speak Arabic to him in front of strangers. "He was a broken man, but
he continued to dress and to behave like a respectable man, very
polite, he didn't interrupt and he was not aggressive," says
Shlaim. "He brought with him from Baghdad all the suits that his
tailor had sewn for him from British fabric. He didn't have any
work, and he would go down to the street, in a suit and an ironed
shirt and a tie, and go to the cafes to sit with his friends from
Iraq, who also had no work, and also walked around in the street in
And did you try to talk to him?
"He didn't talk about Iraq, he was silent. Today I'm interested in
his trauma and I'm interested in why he didn't speak at the time.
Maybe he spoke and I didn't show any interest. Children, apparently,
are not interested in history. He died in 1971."
Quite a few Iraqi children were in Shlaim's class in Ramat Gan, but
the Ashkenazi children set the tone. "I didn't encounter
discrimination, and I didn't feel deprived, but the atmosphere was
that anything Ashkenazi was good, and anything Arab was primitive,"
says Shlaim. "I felt I had accomplished something when I had
Ashkenazi friends. I remember that one boy placed his hand on my
shoulder and said to me: You're my best friend. I was amazed that he
didn't feel that I was inferior."
In the classroom, Shlaim sat in back, didn't do homework, didn't say
a word. His grades were poor. To everyone's surprise, he passed the
seker, the test that was administered at the time in eighth grade,
prior to the selection for high schools. His homeroom teacher was
surprised too, and made sure to tell him so. "Her name was Miriam
Glans, and she was a good teacher, of yekke (German Jewish) origin.
But she was hostile. When I received the results of the seker, she
came to me and said: `You know that you passed only because of
special dispensations they give Mizrahim (Jews of North African or
Middle Eastern origin)."
Were you insulted?
"I was insulted, but I didn't say anything. She should have been
happy, she shouldn't have said that."
This humiliation marked the beginning of Shlaim's successful career.
Two years later, to save him from the clutches of the high school
that prophesied certain failure for him, Shlaim's mother decided to
send him to England, to her brother who had immigrated there after
leaving Iraq. Shlaim arrived in London in 1962 at the age of 16,
studied in a Jewish school, and no longer felt like a foreigner.
Just the opposite. The fact that he came from Israel turned him into
a star, an attraction. He completed high school with high grades,
returned to Israel to serve in the army, and even now recalls his
swearing-in ceremony during basic training.
"It was in the Judean Hills, and the slogan was `In blood and fire
Judea fell, in blood and fire it will rise.' I remember that I had
the feeling that we were surrounded by enemies and that I was ready
to die for the homeland. Today that helps me as a researcher. I know
what nationalism is. I have felt it inside me."
After the army he returned to study history at Cambridge, married a
great-granddaughter of David Lloyd George, who was the British prime
minister at the time of the Balfour Declaration, returned to Israel
to be accepted into the Israeli Foreign Service, but then was
informed that he had received a position as a reader at the
University of Reading's department of international relations. In
1987 he was appointed a professor at Oxford, where he is a Fellow at
the prestigious St. Anthony's College. And as far as is known, he
achieved all that without special dispensations for Mizrahim.
I didn't feel ashamed, but I was astonished
At the start of his academic career, says Shlaim, he made a
deliberate decision not to deal with the Middle East conflict.
Slowly but surely, however, he was pulled into it. An article here,
an article there. In 1982 he came to Israel with a stipend to write
a study on the influence of the Israel Defense Forces on Israeli
foreign policy. Just then the archives dealing with the 1948 war
were opened, and Shlaim found himself sitting in the State Archive
for days on end. "Then my eyes were opened," he says. "I had the
knowledge acquired in childhood, and I believed in Israel's purity
of arms, I believed that Israel was the victim. I discovered
documents that showed me other things."
Benny Morris once told me that when he found a document that proved
an act of massacre or murder, he was happy about the historical
discovery, but felt shame as an Israeli. What did you feel?
"I didn't sit in the IDF archive and I wasn't exposed to documents
about acts of murder or rape. I worked with diplomatic papers. I
didn't feel shame, but I was astonished. I knew that in every
country there's a gap between rhetoric and practice, but I don't
know of any country where the gap is as great as in Israel. All the
leaders speak about peace, Golda Meir used to say that she was
willing to travel anywhere in the world to make peace. But these
were not truthful words. In the archive, in the Israeli papers, I
found that all the Arab leaders were practical people, people who
"Take, for example, Hosni Zaim (the Syrian chief of staff who took
over the government in 1949 and was deposed a few months later -
M.R.). He said that his ambition was to be the first Arab leader to
make peace with Israel. He proposed an exchange of ambassadors,
agreed to absorb a quarter of a million Palestinian refugees in
Syria, but demanded that the border pass through the middle of Lake
Kinneret. He didn't issue any ultimatum about the rest of the
refugees. I was astonished by the Israeli reaction. Ben-Gurion said:
First we'll sign a cease-fire agreement with Syria, then we'll see.
That destroyed my childhood version. It's not that Ben-Gurion didn't
want peace, he wanted peace, but on the basis of the status quo.
Israel said at the time that there was nobody to talk to. The truth
is that Israel was actually saying that there was nothing to talk
Based on this statement, which took shape among the shelves of the
State Archive in Jerusalem, Shlaim wrote his book "Collusion in
Transjordan," which was published the same year as the books by
Morris, Pappe and Flapan, those same famous - or infamous - "new
historians," depending on the eye of the beholder.
In an article by Shlaim a few years ago, he summarized what seemed
to him the five main arguments of the new historians:
* The official version said that Britain tried to prevent the
establishment of a Jewish state; the "new historians" claimed that
it tried to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state
* The official version said that the Palestinians fled their homes
of their own free will; the "new historians" said that the refugees
were chased out or expelled
* The official version said that the balance of power was in favor
of the Arabs; the "new historians" said that Israel had the
advantage both in manpower and in arms
* The official version said that the Arabs had a coordinated plan to
destroy Israel; the "new historians" said that the Arabs were divided
* The official version said that Arab intransigence prevented peace;
the "new historians" said that Israel is primarily to blame for the
This group has meanwhile disintegrated. Morris' ideological
revolution after the outbreak of the second intifada, during which
he in effect justified the expulsion of the Palestinians in 1948,
distanced him from Shlaim. "He went off his rocker, and expressed
racist views," says Shlaim. "That undermines him as a scholar."
In Shlaim's opinion, Pappe made a mistake by politically defending
the research of Teddy Katz about the massacre in Tantura, and made
an even bigger mistake when he supported the academic boycott of
Israel. "That is a totally stupid and absurd idea," he says. "Under
no circumstances am I willing to support an embargo on dialogue." He
maintains good personal relations, by the way, with both of them.
From the start, Shlaim was interested in the last of the five points
discussed by the new historians: He was interested in the history of
the dead end in the relations between Israel and the Arab
world. "The Iron Wall" is an abridged history of this dead end. The
book took its name from the famous article published by revisionist
leader Ze'ev Jabotinsky in 1923. "Their voluntary agreement is out
of the question ...," wrote Jabotinsky in that article. "This
colonization can, therefore, continue and develop only under the
protection of a force independent of the local population - an
iron wall that the native population cannot break through."
Jabotinsky was in the minority at the time, Mapai (the forerunner of
the Labor Party) was in the majority, and Ben-Gurion disdained
Jabotinsky. But in effect, claims Shlaim, Ben-Gurion and the Zionist
movement, and the State of Israel in its wake, adopted the theory of
the "iron wall." In other words, they believed that the only
important thing was to "establish facts on the ground," and
therefore, there was no point in entering negotiations with the
Arabs. They only forgot the end of Jabotinsky's article, remarks
Shlaim, where he said that after the Arabs had come to terms with
the "iron wall," it would be possible to speak to them about mutual
According to Shlaim, the first 10 years of the State of Israel prove
this argument. King Farouk of Egypt wanted an agreement, and Israel
rebuffed him. King Abdullah of Jordan wanted an agreement, and
Israel rebuffed him as well. We have already mentioned Zaim of
Syria. Even the archenemy Nasser, writes Shlaim in one of the
surprising revelations of the book, sent emissaries and even a
personal letter to then-prime minister Sharett, to put out feelers
for an agreement. He was also turned down out of hand.
The book gives a clear sense of a state that could not get enough.
Moshe Dayan, then chief of staff, pressed for war with Egypt to
capture the Gaza Strip and Sharm el-Sheikh, and "raised a
suggestion" to capture the West Bank. Yigal Allon pressed for
remedying the "long-term mistake" made in 1948, by capturing and
annexing the West Bank. Ben-Gurion toyed with this idea and once
with another idea; in 1956, a moment before the Sinai Campaign, he
explained his great dream to his new friends from France: Israel
would occupy the Sinai Peninsula, take over the West Bank and
dismantle the Kingdom of Jordan, and reach the Litani River in
Lebanon, establishing a Maronite state in northern Lebanon. The
entire Israeli leadership (with the exception of Moshe Sharett),
says Shlaim, adopted the idea of the "iron wall." The only argument
was about where to place it.
Every meeting is important
Mordechai ("Moraleh") Bar-On was there when Ben-Gurion revealed
his "grand plan" in the Sevres Palace near Paris. He was then
serving as the head of Dayan's office, and was involved in many
secret and non-secret contacts. Today he himself is a historian, as
well as a personal friend of Shlaim. We are sitting on the balcony
of Bar-On's home in Jerusalem's German Colony, the bastion of the
Israeli elite, a place to which Shlaim never belonged, and
discussing what happened.
Bar-On was active in Peace Now, and he does not really have any
argument with Shlaim as to the facts. He has a serious disagreement
with him regarding Shlaim's interpretation of them. It's true that
Israel rejected all the Arab proposals, he says, and it's true that
up until May 1967, the Arabs had no real plan to attack Israel. But
the Arab proposals were unacceptable, and the war was unavoidable,
because the Arabs could not forget what the Israelis had done to
them in 1948.
Bar-On remembers Ben-Gurion's "grand plan" speech. "I was
embarrassed when I heard it, it sounded like a text from the
Versailles Conference," he says. But he admits that thoughts of
expansion, at least in the direction of Egypt, were very common in
the 1950s. "It's true that from 1955 on, Dayan pressed for war with
Egypt. He begged the Old Man [Ben-Gurion] to embark on `a war of
deterrence,' and the Old Man didn't agree. In December 1955, Dayan
met with 50 officers and asked them who supported a war of
deterrence. All of them, with one exception, voted in favor. Dayan
didn't receive permission from Ben-Gurion to embark on a war of
choice, but he did get permission to cause the situation to
deteriorate. In one of the retaliation operations in the
demilitarized area in Nitzana, he wanted to leave the forces in place
until morning, in the hope that Egypt would attack."
In the end, Ben-Gurion ordered him to withdraw the forces and Dayan
gave in. Bar-On admits that Dayan wanted to get Egypt out of the
Gaza Strip and create a strip from El Arish to Sharm el-Sheikh under
Israeli control. "That was territorial expansion," says Bar-On, "but
it stemmed from what Dayan saw as Israel's strategic weakness. There
was no ideological issue here."
Shlaim, on the other hand, considers Dayan and Ben-Gurion the source
of all evil. Ben-Gurion was a wicked man, Dayan thought in terms of
a perpetual conflict. Sharett was the only one who tried to fight
them. He represented another school, a school that believed that
dialogue with the Arabs was possible, that what Israel did, and even
what Israel said, affected the dynamics of the conflict. "I think
that there were two schools," says Shlaim, "and when Ben-Gurion
dismissed Sharett in 1956, he destroyed the moderate school, and it
was never revived. That school had no leader, Abba Eban didn't
Nonsense, says Bar-On with a dismissive wave of his hand, "there
weren't two schools. There was a strong, dominant school, that of
Ben-Gurion, and there was a small, weak one, that of Sharett."
Shlaim claims that the retaliation operations in the 1950s, Dayan's
baby, led to a deterioration, to an intensification of the hatred
and to a distancing of the chance for dialogue. That was why Sharett
fought against it with all his might. Fought and lost. Bar-On agrees
that at least in the Egyptian sector, the retaliation operations
were what gave rise to the fedayeen operations from the Gaza Strip,
and they in turn led to the Sinai Campaign. But Dayan thought, says
Bar-On, that the Arabs hated us in any case, and therefore it made
no difference how much force we used.
Bar-On thinks he was right. "Sharett thought that if we behaved
nicely, the Arabs wouldn't make trouble. And if we didn't behave
nicely, Arab hatred would increase. I think that he was mistaken on
two counts. There were 750,000 Palestinian refugees in Israel, we
screwed them in 1948, they had good reasons for hatred, so what if
we added another two or three kilos of hatred? If it was possible to
carry out a good operation, it had to be done. The basic situation
in the Arab world was refusal to accept the situation of 1948, and
it was childish to think that anything would help."
This is exactly where Shlaim differs with Bar-On. Abdel Rahman
Sadek, who was the Egyptian press officer in Paris, conducted the
contacts with Israel on Nasser's behalf in 1955. "This dialogue was
not about peace," says Shlaim, "it was about relieving the tension,
reducing the propaganda, lifting trade restrictions, things that
could have improved the atmosphere, served as a lead."
Bar-On: A lead to what?
Shlaim: "To an attempt to understand one another, to the beginning
of a dialogue beyond the lines of conflict."
Bar-On: "I totally disagree here with Avi. Abdullah could not have
passed a peace treaty in his government. The matter of Zaim was not
serious. Ben-Gurion was mistaken in not meeting with him, only
because that would have prevented Avi from writing his article.
Nasser was more serious, but they were not talking about peace
there. Israel did not want to get peace under the minimal conditions
that the Arabs were willing to discuss: the UN Partition Plan
borders and the return of the refugees. Had we agreed to that, there
would be no State of Israel today."
Shlaim: "Not everything is war or peace. There are also interim
agreements. Every contact, every meeting is important. The Sinai
Campaign intensified the hostility, intensified the hatred; in 1964
they created the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization),
established a united Arab headquarters. For the first time, the goal
of the Arab League was to destroy Israel. That was the result of the
Sinai Campaign, and that is what led to the Six-Day War."
The two actually agree about the Six-Day War. In 1967, the moment
occurred when the iron wall became a reality in Arab awareness. From
that moment on, the Arabs understood that they could not defeat
Israel, and the only way to get anything from it was through
negotiations. Bar-On says that "through a wise process," it would
have been possible at the time to return the territories and achieve
peace. Shlaim says that immediately after the war, Jordan's King
Hussein offered a full peace in return for withdrawal from the
West Bank, but "Galili and Allon and the other land robbers" replied
in the negative. Shlaim believes that this negative answer was the
continuation of a policy that has been in force since 1948, and
maybe even prior to that. Bar-On believes it was a localized mistake.
Shlaim considers Sharon a direct successor of the "iron wall"
approach. "Sharon never believed that the process could be resolved
by peaceful means," says Shlaim. "He was always the master of
violent solutions. He has been the prime minister for four years,
and he hasn't had a single meeting about the final-status agreement.
For Jabotinsky, the iron wall was a metaphor. For Sharon, the wall
has turned into a physical reality that mars the landscape, destroys
the environment and in the long term is destroying two societies,
Palestinian society and Israeli society. The left supports a fence,
but I don't believe that it will lead to an agreement."
But what does Shlaim know? Shlaim told me when we were still in the
cafe that since he was a child, Israel has looked to him like
an "Ashkenazi trick" of which he doesn't feel a part. "I'm not
certain even now that I know how that trick works."
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