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France Fights Islamic Terror
By Micah Halpern

Friday October 30, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

France is becoming an extremely dangerous place to live.

There was a second beheading this week and three other people were murdered by Muslims shouting “Alahu Akhbar”.

The beheading and two of the murders took place in Nice in the Church of Notre Dame.

An Israeli professional soccer team, Hapoel BerSheva, was staying in a hotel next door to the attack. After the attack, they requested additional security.

In Jedda, Saudi Arabia the French embassy was attacked. A French guard stationed at the embassy was stabbed and hospitalized. That attacker also shouted “Alahu Akhbar”.

France is trying to crack down on Islamic extremists.

They are also defending the freedom to discuss and critique cartoons that depict Muhammed. Cartoons are the excuse for these murderers, just like it was the excuse for the mass murders that took place in the office of the magazine Charlie Hebdo in 2015.

Turkey has condemned France. The Palestinians are declaring a national Day of Rage against France’s anti-Islamic crackdown.

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US Passports Will Say Israel
By Micah Halpern

Thursday October 29, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

It is going to be officially announced soon - maybe you’ve already heard.

The United States, under President Donald J. Trump, will now permit US citizens born in Jerusalem to list the country Israel as their place of birth.

Until now, if a baby, the child of a United States citizen, was born in Jerusalem, their passport would list Jerusalem under “city of birth. And under “country of birth” it would be BLANK.

There would be no country of birth because, according to US policy, Jerusalem was still in question and in doubt.

That ended in December of 2017 when the United States recognized that Jerusalem was the capital of Israel.

This is a slam dunk issue. In 2015 the US Supreme Court ruled that Congress does not have the power to determine foreign policy and recognize capitals. In practical terms, it means that the President of the United States can decide to put Israel on US passports because Jerusalem is indeed located in Israel.

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Iran's Spy Ship Saviz
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday October 28, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

The Saviz is officially a merchant ship registered to Iran.

It has been suggested by intelligence analysts that the Saviz is really an intelligence ship monitoring and transmitting everything they see.

The ship is anchored at the southern end of the Red Sea, off the coast of Yemen and the Straits of Bab el Mandeb.

The location is a choke hold for oil and goods as they make their way going both to Europe through the Suez Canal at the northern end of the Rad Sea and going off to Africa and Asia coming South.

There are two undeniable proofs that the Saviz is an Iranian Revolutionary Guard Intel ship. First, we see them on the ship in their uniforms. Second, the ship has barely moved in 3 years. It just sits and observes.

Monitoring every single ship that enters and exits the Red Sea provides Iran with a treasure trove of intelligence.

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New Elections in Israel
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday October 27, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Yair Lapid, the head of the opposition in Israel’s Knesset and the leader of the Yesh Atid party, has said that if a budget is not passed by next week he will propose a vote of No Confidence in the Knesset.

Lapid is convinced that the vote will pass and the Netanyahu government will fall.
His former party affiliates in Blue and White have promised to vote for the No Confidence vote.

If successful - and there is a very high probability that the vote of No Confidence will, indeed, succeed Israel will go to new elections once again.

What it really means is that Israel has lost confidence in Netanyahu. Israelis have also lost confidence in Blue and White.

If there is another election, I predict a very different mosaic in terms of the parties that will be forming a government.

The moderates have disbanded. There will be a rise of the right. That means Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked will emerge as king makers, not Avigdor Lieberman who held that role in the past few elections. It will mean the near dissolution of Blue and White as well as Lieberman’s party.

Let’s see what happens next week.

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ISIS in Sinai
By Micah Halpern

Monday October 26, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

A branch of ISIS has been terrorizing the residents of the Sinai Peninsula.

In July they attacked a series of villages in Northern Sinai, planting explosives in the homes of residents.

The Egyptian army cleared out the villages. ISIS evacuated – that means they left without conflict. But the Egyptian army neglected to sweep for boobytraps.

Over the past few weeks, 14 people have been killed by explosives planted in their homes by ISIS.

This entire experience proves several axioms.

ISIS is bent on murdering as many innocent people as they can. They planted explosives for that very reason.

The Egyptian army was totally outsmarted by ISIS. They should have had their sappers sweep every home and every site for explosives.

People have been murdered. The murderers, ISIS, are smiling. This must not happen again.

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Sports The Great Peace Equalizer
By Micah Halpern

Sunday October 25, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

The real measure of success of a peace deal is … sports.

And now that Israel and the UAE have signed normalization agreements, sports competitions have begun.

On Sunday, Maccabi Haifa Football Club announced a cooperation agreement with the United Arab Emirates' Al-Ain Football Club. They will play a friendly match in Abu Dhabi very soon. The exact date has not yet been set.

Maccabi owner Yaakov Schachar summed it up this way: "I am happy to inform you that our club has been invited to hold a friendly soccer match called the 'Game of Peace', in Abu Dhabi …. I have always believed it was possible to develop friendly relations through sports. We will sign a memorandum of understanding between the two clubs. In a matter of days to create a relationship that will include collaborations on both the sporting and business side."

Al-Ain is the UAE’s national winning team. They have won the local championship 13 times and the Super Cup five times. In 2018, they lost to Real Madrid in the final of the Club World Cup. Real Madrid is the European champions, so even losing to them is an honor.

This will be a great football match. More than that, it is a big step forward towards forging real peace between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

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Israel to Test 100,000/day
By Micah Halpern

Friday October 23, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Israel has announced a new policy vis a vis COVID testing. By next month, they will be testing 100,000 people every day for COVID.

The change in policy includes people being able to take tests without a doctor’s prescription which has been standard policy until now.

There are 9.2 million citizens of Israel. If Israel is able to test 100,000 every day, that means every 92 days, every Israeli will be tested.

The new testing will make Israel more capable of catching the virus early and of isolating those who are contagious.

The most critical part of stymying the virus is identifying those who have it and keeping those who are infected from spreading it to others.

Israel might have found the answer.

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Secret Diplomacy
By Micah Halpern

Thursday October 22, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

On Sunday in Manama, the capital of Bahrain, the United States, Israel and Bahrain officially signed their agreement. Seconds after the document was signed, an Israeli official handed the Bahraini foreign minister a note.

It was an official request to open an Israeli embassy.

It was to be a simple procedure. All the infrastructure was in place. There has been a secret Israeli embassy in Bahrain since 2009.

The secret embassy had been set up as a development consultancy working to help non-oil companies advance business deals in Bahrain. The company was called “The Center for International Development”.

On the board were Israeli diplomats who now serve as Israel’s Counsel General in Mumbai, Israel’s Foreign Ministry Cyber Coordinator and the Deputy Director of Economic Affairs. They all had false backgrounds and LinkedIn pages.

Bahrain and Israel have been secretly engaged in economic development as well as anti-terror coordination and anti-Iranian strategy for over a decade. That’s essential to understand.

Ever since Qatar closed itself to Israel and to the rest of the Sunni world and joined forces with Iran – Bahrain knew they needed this Israeli advantage.

Kudos to Bahrain.

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Israel: Next Lockdown Hanukah
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday October 21, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

It has been a difficult month for Israelis. The month of the High Holidays and Sukkot are normally a time for family and fun even some relaxation.

This year it was spent in lockdown.

Now, slowly, Israel is opening up. Kindergartens and nursery schools. Essential businesses. Public transport is operating and people are permitted to visit family. Within a week or two, life should be back in full swing.

The contagion rate is 3% and the situation is looking very good. But if the contagion rate increases, Israel will snap back the restrictions.

Now the big challenge is Hanukah. What happens during Hanukah? Hanukah, like the High Holidays and Sukkot is a two week celebratory period (even though Hanukah itself is only 8 days) when Israelis travel, have family events and party.

As you read this, Israel’s decision makers are discussing how to lock Israel down during Hanukah to prevent a COVID spike.

If they asked, I would say the best way is to keep those people who are high risk away from everyone else. It sounds awful. It sounds heartless. But the best way to save those who are most likely to suffer is to make certain that the older people you love do not come into contact with potential carriers.

As a policy it sounds discriminatory. It is.

But de facto, this how people behave to protect themselves. People knew that when they were not feeling well, they did not go out. So, too, now.

Unfortunately, this season, flu shots are not readily available for the entire population in Israel. What would be a second line of health defense is not there.

An educational campaign should be launched to protect the vulnerable and remind young and old alike how to convey their love at a safe distance.

Go out only when necessary and properly protected. Wash hands and keep safe distance. It should be rote for all of us by now.

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Sacha Baron Cohen Humor/Critique
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday October 20, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

I just watched the tape of Sacha Baron Cohen, or Borat as he is best known to the world, on Jimmy Kimmel Live.

I thought it was truly hilarious. His Borat 2 is coming out on Oct 23rd on Amazon. The theme of this movie is about ridiculous and crazy anti-Semitism.

Sacha Baron Cohen remains in his Borat character for the entire interview and flips into Hebrew phrases, just like he did in his original movie in 2006.

Kimmel asks Borat/Cohen about COVID. He replies, "comes from a place called Wuhan, which is in Israel".

We hear laughter, it’s a funny response. But more than laughs, Cohen was making a point. As Borat, he was making fun of people who actually believe that Israel is responsible for the virus. The interview continues with a health questionnaire in which Borat asks Kimmel how many Jews he had been around. Kimmel’s response was “all our writers are Jewish and none of our cameramen.”

Some might find this distasteful and, paradoxically, even anti-Semitic. NO! It is Cohen’s vehicle of critique. Sacha Baron Cohen is flabbergasted that people, normal people, hold these beliefs and the medium he uses to teach and critique is humor and film. It is no different than what Charlie Chaplin did in “The Great Dictator”.

Sacha Baron Cohen has written op-eds and spoken to groups. But there is no comparing the reach and the power of those messages with the reach and the power of a blockbuster movie.

In Borat 2, Cohen also addresses Holocaust denial. He interviewed real Holocaust survivors. Some were offended afterwards - I can understand their offense. How can the Holocaust be funny? It isn’t funny, but there is an entire genre of humor that Jewish victims shared with one another in the midst of the atrocities. For them, it was a survival tool.

Humor is a vehicle of critique and communication. Sometimes it’s good humor, sometimes it’s tasteless. It always has a message.

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UAE Musician Plays Hatikvah
By Micah Halpern

Monday October 19, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Ahmed al-Mansouri, a musician from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), played Israel’s national anthem, Hatikvah, on his oud – an eleven-stringed guitar-like musical instrument popular in the Arab world. He taped his rendition of the anthem and then posted it on YouTube. Al-Mansouri was paying tribute to the normalization agreement between the Jewish state and the UAE.

Ynet, easily tracked him down. They spoke on air about the Israel/UAE agreement, the responses he received to his tribute and the significance of music in shaping a world built on unity and peace.

In the interview Al Mansouri said that he would love to play together with an Israeli musician, on air, hosted by the interviewer. The Israeli newscaster said that he would arrange it and taught the UAE musician the Yiddish-Hebrew word “Schiduch” which means a match.

Al Mansouri told Ynet that: “Once I heard about the agreement between the UAE and Israel I decided to play the national anthem of Israel on the oud, to send a message of peace between the two countries … It is a dream for me, and I hope one day to visit Israel and play in public there”.

Speaking about Israeli music, al Mansouri said that he learned it from Youtube. He said he likes it and added: “In my opinion, Israeli music is very beautiful, it is similar to Arabic music in a different taste."

This is just one example of how people, regular people, not famous people, are expressing their excitement about the new horizons opening up between Israel and the Arab world. On YouTube, again, I saw another example. People, driving in a car on a busy highway in the UAE are happily singing the Israeli national anthem.

All the while imprinted on the screen are the words United Arab Emirates.

Israeli and UAE artists have already jointly recorded and posted songs. One of those songs received 1.1 million clicks in just a few weeks. The song is now trending and has gone viral.

Going back to the Ynet interview, the newscaster commented that this agreement seems so natural. He’s right - it does not seem forced at all. Actually, from Oct 17th to the 20th a team of Americans, headed by US Treasury Secretary Mnuchin, spent time in Israel and the UAE in order to further assist in commercial projects that will benefit all the parties.

This is a prime example of the famous quote: a rising tide lifts all boats. This expression is often attributed to John F Kennedy in a speech he gave in 1963. But his speech writer, Ted Sorenson, said that while he did write it into JFK’s speech, it is not original to either one of them. Sorenson borrowed the phrase from a report by the Economical Council of New England.

Partnerships, that’s what it’s all about.

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Saturday Night in Jerusalem
By Micah Halpern

Sunday October 18, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Saturday nights, in Jerusalem, protests take place outside the official resident of the prime minister.

About 10,000 people attend.

Most people don’t wear masks and there is no social distancing. Most of the people are young, but there are some more mature people in attendance.

Protest organizers claim that these Jerusalem protests are deliberately kept small and controlled. They assert that every Saturday night, throughout the country, there are other small protests that take place. They say that the number of Saturday night protestors totals 260,000.

The protests began months ago and now there seems to be a groundswell.

Polls show that Netanyahu is slipping. He is facing challenges from his rightwing flank. His political future is anything but secure.

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US Threatens Turkey
By Micah Halpern

Saturday October 17, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

The US warned Turkey that there will be “potential serious consequences” if they activate the S-400 Russian anti-aircraft anti-missile systems that they purchased and received.

The “consequences” will be a breakdown of relations between the United States and Turkey. It will also mean a breakdown of relations between NATO and Turkey.

Using Russian weapons is a clear violation of NATO membership. The US could recommend that NATO oust Turkey.

US State department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said that: "If confirmed, we would condemn in the strongest terms the S-400 test missile launch as incompatible with Turkey’s responsibilities as a NATO ally and strategic partner of the United States."

Turkey is pushing the envelope.

The Erdogan government is flirting with Russia and Iran and they are testing the US and NATO to see how will respond and how serious the response will be. Turkey is betting that NATO will not care and that they will get the best of both NATO and Russia.

I think that Turkey is underestimating both NATO and the United States.

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Cyber Attack Hits Iran
By Micah Halpern

Thursday October 15, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Iran has confirmed that on Tuesday and Wednesday they were targeted by a computer hack.

They said that two targets were attacked and that in order to make certain that everything is safe, they took other offices of the grid.

Since Stuxnet, Iran has made their systems independent. They have nothing on the internet. Everything internal.

This attack was very effective. They did not hide it from the public, Iranian media covered the hack.

If I were managing a cyber attack I would use the small attacks on the two agencies as a ploy. I would watch as Iran shut down and rebooted several of what would be my more significant targets. Watching, and maybe even injecting spyware.

Whatever attacked Iran, it is highly sophisticated. No doubt it will strike again.

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Liz Taylor & Cleopatra
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday October 14, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Israeli actress model Gal Gadot, who became a household name after starring as Wonder Woman, will now star as Cleopatra in a new remake of the 1963 blockbuster movie originally starring Liz Taylor.

The response to the announcement about Gadot’s new role has met with criticism by the Muslim world which is claiming that “Israel has stolen our land, now they are stealing our heroes!”

When the 1963 movie came out, Egypt banned the screening and put Liz Taylor on a no - fly list. It was the most expensive movie to be made at that time and Elizabeth Taylor earned $1 million in her lead role.

Elizabeth Taylor converted to Judaism in 1957 to marry the famous and popular singer Eddie Fisher. She became a major supporter of Israel buying a $100,000 Israel bond and raising over a million dollars for Israel.

Historically, Cleopatra was not actually Egyptian. She was Ptolemaic. Her father was from Macedon. Her mother was unknown.

In the end, Egyptians were so impressed by the response to the film that they did a major turnaround. The movie mentioned Egypt 122 times and it earned 4 Oscars.
Despite Liz Taylor’s love of Israel and even her visit to Israel, Egypt lifted its ban on the movie Cleopatra.

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Herd Immunity
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday October 13, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

We are hearing a lot about “herd immunity”. It requires some explanation.
Never in history has herd immunity been a strategy for confronting a disease, an epidemic or a pandemic. Herd immunity is a result of a vaccination policy.

Let’s take measles, for example. Because 95% of the population is vaccinated, the other 5% are mostly protected. That 5% is composed of infants and others who cannot be given the vaccine.

Even in cases where the minimum percentage of herd immunity is less, like polio - where it is 80%, the principle is predicated on the vaccine.

The suggestion that people be exposed to COVID – 19 so that they develop herd immunity is just absurd. Or to suggest that they are already immune because others around them have been ill, is just absurd.

In the United States 8 million people, out of 328 million people, have been exposed. That is a 0.3% of the total population. About 10% of the world has been exposed.

The only way to get to herd immunity is with a vaccination and even then, the vaccine needs to be a blanket covering well over 80% of the population.
Self-delusion and made-up excuses are not an excuse for caution and proper conduct.

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Statue of A/S Lueger
By Micah Halpern

Friday October 9, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

A statue of the man who served as mayor of Vienna from 1897 to 1910 was defaced when the word SCHANDE was scrawled on the monument. SCHANDE means “shame on you” in German. Ironically, it also means “shame on you” in Yiddish.

Mayor Karl Lueger was a racist. He was the role model for Hitler. During his tenure as mayor, Vienna was one of the largest cities in the world with a population of over 2 million people.

Nowadays, debates about the appropriateness of statues is commonplace. In the United States statues erected to honor people now considered racist are regularly toppled and destroyed.

Lueger was a racist. He was a self-declared racist. Writers and philosophers use Lueger as the model of a racist. A racist cult of character has grown with Lueger at its center.

But in 1926, Vienna erected the statue to honor Karl Lueger. It represented Vienna as it was then and there is still an undertone of anti-Semitism in Vienna to this day.

The statue of Karl Lueger has not been taken down for a reason. In Vienna there are still many who have very positive feelings about the racism of Karl Lueger.

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Israeli Sings w Iranians
By Micah Halpern

Thursday October 8, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Liraz Charhi has just finished her second album. She is an Israeli actress and singer, of Persian decent.

For this album, Liraz had Iranian women from Iran singing with her. She used encrypted chats and encrypted social media. She sent money to her back-up singers through third countries. And she was petrified that they would be discovered.

“Technically, it was very difficult” Charhi, 42, said in an interview. “But emotionally, it was much more difficult. I felt night after night that I was doing a bad thing and these people could be arrested.”

In the end Liraz Charhi fulfilled her dream.

She is a strong believer that the real problem in Iran is Iranian leadership, not Iranians.

What a remarkable story.

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Egypt Broadcasts Israeli FM Speech
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday October 7, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

In Berlin on Tuesday October 6 Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi met with his UAE counterpart, Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, along with their German host Heiko Mass.

In what has become commonplace in the new world we live in, the group visited Berlin’s Holocaust Memorial. Gabi Ashkenazi is the son of Holocaust survivors.

What was extra ordinary is that, on the Gregorian calendar, the visit took place on the anniversary of the Yom Kippur War.

The Israeli FM’s speech was broadcast live on Egyptian TV.

Peace between Israel and Egypt has been swung between cold to cool. Over recent years, once Egypt’s President Al Sisi took office, the relationship between leaders has warmed up. Al Sisi has welcomed the normalization of the Gulf states with Israel as a very good step forward.

However, the media and the masses have been consistently cold and angry at anything related to Israel. This broadcast of Israel’s foreign minister on an Egyptian network called Extra might be a dramatic change.

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Frm Saudi Spy Head Critique of PA
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday October 6, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Saudi Arabia's former intelligence chief and ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz, is a living and breathing institution. He has been in his role for decades. In both of his positions his fingers were on the pulse of everything, small and large, that was happening in the world.

A 3-part interview was conducted with him on Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television.
The first episode aired on Monday.

The most significant element in the Prince’s interview was his critique of Palestinian leadership over the past decades. He called the PA’s criticism of the agreements that both the UAE and Bahrain made with Israel a "transgression" and "reprehensible discourse".

Saudi Arabia is not about to be the next country to normalize with Israel, but they are getting closer and closer.

Prince Bandar, as he is always called in the United States, said that the Palestinians and their backers always are on the wrong side. And yet, he reminded them, Saudi kings have supported the Palestinian Authority for decades - despite the PA’s errors.

As an interesting aside, Prince Bandar’s daughter, Reema, is the current Saudi Ambassador to the United States.

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Erdogan Claims Jerusalem
By Micah Halpern

Monday October 5, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

President Erdogan of Turkey addressed the opening session of his parliament and announced that Jerusalem was their city. That they, the Ottomans, controlled Jerusalem for centuries.

Erdogan said: “In this city, which we had to leave in tears during the First World War, it is still possible to come across traces of the Ottoman resistance. So, Jerusalem is our city, a city from us.”

While it is true that the Ottomans controlled Jerusalem from 1516 until 1917 and the end of WWI when they were ousted by the British, it is hardly their city.

Much of Erdogan’s opening remarks were dedicated to the Palestinians. It was
strangely eerie to read his words. His presentation sounded like a speech from 1980 - not 2020. This is a new era and there are only two vocal rejecters of this new era. They are Iran and Turkey.

Saudi Arabia has also stepped up and come out distancing themselves from Erdogan and his politics. Saudi business leaders have called for a total boycott of Turkey. There are tensions in the region and Turkey seems determined to stoke them.

Erdogan feels that Turkey will be stronger because they are rejecting Israel and the US. There will be short term benefits, but in the end, his is a losing strategy.

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Biden Says In-Sh'Allah
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday October 1, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

“In-sh’Allah” in Arabic means “God willing” or if “God wills it.”

It is the same as “Im Yirtzeh Hashem” in Hebrew or “Siyata D’ishmaya” in Aramaic.

All nice expressions – but certainly not a part of the American vernacular.

So imagine my surprise when I heard the expression “In-sh’Allah” coming out of the mouth of former Vice President Joe Biden during the presidential debate against President Donald Trump.

It happened under the talk-overs, you had to be paying careful attention to catch it. Biden asked Trump about making his complete taxes accessible to the public and while Trump was talking, Biden muttered “In-sh’Allah”.

In colloquial Arabic the expression can also mean a sarcastic “yeah, like that will ever happen.” Something akin to “when hell freezes over”.

It was certainly a prepared and rehearsed line and it was directed at Arabic and Muslim voters who see Trump as far too pro-Israel.

The internet lit up - especially twitter. People are still tweeting about that split second comment.

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