Israel the aggressor, we the abetters
THE ABSURD TIMES
This is happening increasingly of late, but you would not know it for our media.
(Art has nothing to say right now other than life is plodding along as expected. If he supplies a quote before I post this, I will include it here.)
Well, here it is TWATA: “He is a happy man who can once for all avoid having to do with a great many of his fellow creatures.”
MAGA: But first: I was amazed to notice that the Barbie doll has been cited for being communist. At least it is not woke?
After the movie
Neo Honest Charlie
The President of Israel will address our congress.
The President of India will address our congress.
We have sold our congress.
Interestingly enough, right after we had watched JUDGEMENT AT NURENBERG on a streaming site, the following report came in about Israel’s appropriations of the West Bank. People thought that it had exhausted its perfidy via Gaza, but it had more to do. Even its Supreme Court had made some rulings against some of the policies and, at the same time, Netanyahu is in some sort of trouble with the legal system, although our media in the U.S. does not delve into it.
What is clear, however, is that having seized power, much like the Nazis did in the early years of their right-wing autocracy is now taking steps to disarm that judicial system. Can there be any doubt that this
is one of the goals of the MAGA movement.
As President Biden meets with Israeli President Isaac Herzog at the White House today, several progressive Democrats have announced plans to boycott Herzog’s address to a joint session of Congress. This comes after Biden invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to visit the United States this year despite recently criticizing the makeup of Netanyahu’s far-right Cabinet as “one of the most extremist” he has seen. The visits from Israeli leadership are an attempt to “normalize apartheid,” says Palestinian human rights attorney Noura Erakat, who compares today’s U.S. support of Israel to the nation’s support for South African apartheid. “The United States is complicit and a pillar of Israeli apartheid in its provision of unequivocal financial, diplomatic and military support.” Erakat also applauds the efforts of activists and politicians who have shifted Democrats’ sympathies more toward Palestine than Israel, according to a recent Gallup poll.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: President Biden is meeting Israeli President Isaac Herzog at the White House today. On Wednesday, Herzog will address a joint session of Congress, though several progressive Democrats have announced plans to boycott his speech. The group includes Congress members Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Cori Bush, Ilhan Omar, and Jamaal Bowman. Cori Bush wrote, “The Israeli government is responsible for enforcing an apartheid state and rampantly abusing the rights of Palestinians. Congress should not be giving a platform to the President of a country that shows no respect for human rights. I will not be attending his joint address,” unquote.
On Monday, President Biden spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and invited him for a meeting in the United States this year. Biden recently criticized the makeup of Netanyahu’s far-right Cabinet, describing it as, quote, “one of the most extremist” he’s ever seen in Israel.
Israeli President Herzog’s visit to the White House comes just weeks after the Israeli military attacked the Jenin refugee camp, killing at least 12 Palestinians in Israel’s largest military operation in the occupied West Bank in 20 years.
We begin today’s show with Noura Erakat. She’s a Palestinian human rights attorney and associate professor at Rutgers University. She’s the author of Justice for Some: Law and the Question of Palestine.
Let’s begin with Herzog’s visit, the Israeli president, to Biden, the address, joint session of Congress, and then, yesterday, President Biden speaking personally on the phone with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, inviting him to the United States. Your response, Noura Erakat?
NOURA ERAKAT: So, let’s just begin by setting up the context, that this is 2023, in the aftermath of the legacy human rights organizations, Israeli human rights organizations, U.N. committees, U.N. agencies, as well as multiple scholars and independent investigations have all concluded that Israel oversees an apartheid regime. This is also in a context where, since the collapse of the peace process in 2000, Israel has made clear that there will be no Palestinian state, there will be no such thing as binationalism, that they will catalyze and enhance their takeover of Palestinian lands and their removal. They have shifted from occupation to warfare.
This is a completely different universe than the one existed in 2000, and yet the rhetoric and the feedback surrounding Isaac Herzog’s invitation and speech is one that completely ignores all of that. So, it’s important to emphasize that this effort within Congress, specifically among a mainstream Democratic element, is meant to normalize apartheid. It’s not just saying that they want to defend Israel. They are saying that if this is in fact apartheid, as all of these luminaries and experts have concluded, then in this case it’s OK, it should be an exception, and it should be exemplary for others to follow.
And so, I applaud the progressive members of Congress who are skipping this address. I encourage other members of Congress to do the same and continue — continue to build the momentum amongst a progressive base that sees Palestine squarely within a social justice agenda. This is already manifest in social justice movements, such as Black-Palestinian transnational solidarity, that has centered that this is a joint struggle, that has endorsed BDS, and that, in fact, catapulted many of these progressive Democrats into office. This is also evident amongst the Democrats themselves. Not only has Israel become a bipartisan issue, but for the first time ever, more Palestinian — more Democrats sympathize with Palestinians than they do with Israelis, according to a 2023 Gallup poll. Continue to build that momentum. Resist this movement to normalize apartheid.
What the members of Congress are doing with the invitation, what they did in response to Representative Jayapal’s very accurate statement that Israel is a racist state, is akin to gaslighting, for lack of a better word, but really is normalization that is responding to the fact that they have lost the battle on the grassroots level and are trying to stem, from the top down, what they couldn’t defeat from the bottom up. And we see this not only in this normalization, but we also see it in the passage of anti-BDS resolutions, as well as the adoption of the Israel Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition that wants to equate criticism of Israel with antisemitism.
AMY GOODMAN: Noura, I wanted to play the clip you were just referring to, to the Progressive Caucus chair, Congressmember Pramila Jayapal, who made headlines this weekend after she called Israel a “racist state” while speaking at the Netroots Nation conference in Chicago Saturday.
REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL: I want you to know that we have been fighting to make it clear that Israel is a racist state, that the Palestinian people deserve self-determination and autonomy, that the dream — that the dream of a two-state solution is slipping away from us.
AMY GOODMAN: After facing criticism, Congressmember Jayapal later clarified her comments, writing, quote, “I do not believe the idea of Israel as a nation is racist. I do, however, believe that Netanyahu’s extreme right-wing government has engaged in discriminatory and outright racist policies and that there are extreme racists driving that policy within the leadership of the current government. … We know that the status quo is unacceptable, untenable, and unjust,” Pramila Jayapal said. Your response to that, Noura Erakat?
NOURA ERAKAT: One, I want to point out that nothing that she said was controversial. If Representative Jayapal is wrong, then so are all the experts and the advocates that study this issue and that apply it across the globe. So, the attack on her is actually a bullying and harassment attack that is meant to scare everyone else from even having a conversation and acknowledging this reality on the ground, and, most importantly, taking responsibility for it.
The United States is not just a bystander here. The United States is complicit and a pillar of Israeli apartheid in its provision on unequivocal financial, diplomatic and military support, that, but for that support, Israel could not sustain this regime, which is not surprising, which is not surprising at all, because the U.S. was the last pillar to fall, the last domino to fall, in sustaining apartheid in South Africa, where it had to fall in line with everyone else. But during apartheid South Africa and the international campaign against it during that regime’s tenure, the United States issued the most vetoes within the Security Council to protect apartheid there, just — to protect apartheid in Namibia and South Africa, and here we’re seeing a similar pattern.
As to the way that Representative Jayapal amended her statement, note that she didn’t walk it back. She didn’t say that Israel is a racist state. She wanted to make a distinction between Israeli people and the Israeli government. But what we need to understand here — and this is important for the audience to know — that she used the term “Israeli nation,” and there is no such thing as an Israeli national within Israel’s law.
And this is the crux of the matter. Israel bifurcates Jewish nationality from Israeli citizens so that it can flow all of the possessory rights to land, to employment, to housing, to the right to life through Jewish nationality in a way that it’s extraterritorialized, so that a pubescent Jewish teen, who doesn’t even know where Israel is on the map, ostensibly has more claim than a Palestinian grandma who is 80 years old, who was born before the state of Israel was established in 1948, has to those rights. Under any situation, we would decry this system as being discriminatory, contravening liberal norms of democracy. But in this situation, the international community, specifically the United States and Western governments, want to insist that this exception is acceptable and exemplary.
And what I want to emphasize is that it actually is not just harmful to Palestinians, as evidenced by the systematic killing of Palestinians, the removal and the harm inflicted upon them, but that these ideas are not contained just to Israel-Palestine, but in fact are exported. These ideas of what sovereignty should look like are exported across the world. We see it embodied by the Hindutva movement in India and its reigning government. We also see it embodied even in the United States by European supremacists such as Richard Spencer, who says that he envisions that the future of European sovereignty should be modeled upon Israel’s model of sovereignty. These ideas are dangerous. And it’s not that we want to make an exception here. We want to actually make it clear that there should be no situation where states are not states that belong to everybody who is there, rather than to a nationality that exists extraterritorially.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Noura Erakat, I wanted to ask you — President Biden’s announcement that he has invited Prime Minister Netanyahu also to visit the United States, after months of saying that he had no plans to do so, especially in light of the enormous settlement expansion that the Netanyahu government has been involved in — I think the group, the watchdog group, Peace Now has said that 12,800 settlements across the West Bank have been established since January by the Netanyahu government. Your response to this, the Biden presidency just saying, “Well, we’re inviting Netanyahu to come to the U.S. again”?
NOURA ERAKAT: Listen, the 13,000-some settlements are just the tip of the iceberg. Israel has actually transferred authority of the West Bank from military supervision to civilian oversight. They’ve basically taken the fig leaf off, that this is not a temporary situation, but that this is a permanent condition, and they’re planning for annexation. This contravenes the diplomatic consensus on the two-state solution, which is fraught on its own.
But even more than that, this contravenes even the U.S. and this U.S. administration, specifically the Biden administration. They didn’t want to invite Netanyahu not just because of his contravention and violations against Palestinians — I think that that would be quite ambitious on our part — but, in fact, it was Netanyahu who undermined a sitting president in trying to establish Iranian nuclear rapprochement. It was Netanyahu who came to Congress to address a joint session to actually torpedo President Obama’s attempt to establish an Iran nuclear agreement, and received several standing ovations. This is the Biden administration’s legacy.
So, the fact that not only has this been overturned, but now they’re going to invite Netanyahu nevertheless without stepping back any of those missteps, any of that betrayal, is an about-face and says a lot about the Democratic administration and where Israel fits, wherein as far as the United States is concerned, they’ve thrown up their hands, that they will continue to provide unequivocal support and place absolutely no conditions on Israel’s behavior, on Israel’s participation, even in furtherance of the U.S.’s national interests in the region.
On Saturday, Basel Adra, reporter for Local Call and +972 Magazine, was detained while covering an Israeli settler attack in the West Bank area of Masafer Yatta. After he refused to hand over his video footage, Israeli soldiers handcuffed and blindfolded him and then sat him in a chair in the blazing sun for hours. The Union of Journalists in Israel denounced Basel’s detention, describing it as a “serious violation of freedom of the press.” Adra joined the show to discuss the difficulty of witnessing the crimes of Israeli forces against Palestinians as a local journalist. “I’m a Palestinian journalist, and there is a hate from them toward me just because I … film them when they are doing these crimes,” says Adra, who calls for international groups to fight for freedom of the press for Palestinians. “They know that there is no consequences for their acts and their violence toward us.” This incident comes during a pattern of escalating violence against Palestinians, including attacks by settlers against residents of the occupied West Bank.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: In addition to human rights lawyer Noura Erakat, we’re joined in the occupied West Bank by the Palestinian journalist Basel Adra, who writes for +972. He’s spent years documenting Israeli efforts to evict Palestinians living in Masafer Yatta, south of Hebron. He wrote the new cover story for The Nation magazine, headlined “The Destruction of This Palestinian Community Was Green-Lighted by Israel’s Supreme Court.”
On Saturday, he was detained while covering an Israeli settler attack at Masafer Yatta. After he refused to hand over his video footage, Israeli soldiers handcuffed and blindfolded him, then sat him in a chair in the blazing sun for hours. The Union of Journalists in Israel denounced Basel’s detention, describing it as a, quote, “serious violation of freedom of the press.”
Basel Adra joins us now from South Hebron.
Basel, welcome to Democracy Now! Can you describe exactly what took place on Saturday? I don’t hear you, if you’re speaking.
BASEL ADRA: Thank you. Sorry for this.
On Saturday, I got a call from a Palestinian shepherd and a neighbor that a settler is invading his field. There was armed settlers and with their sheep in a Palestinian special property grazing there, as this is the recent policy of the settlers, where they come over and attack Palestinians in their fields and taking of the private properties. And this is the policy of the Israeli state recently by supporting these settlers attacking more Palestinians and taking more land and creating more new outposts and farms in Palestinian fields, in the Palestinian agricultural fields. So I was filming there.
Later on arrived the police and the Israeli occupation army. They’re invading houses in my village. They tried to arrest people under the claim that the settlers say that the Palestinians were throwing stones at them, so soldiers went directly invading some houses, beating up people, and tried to arrest them.
And then an officer headed to me and said, “Give me your ID and your phone.” And they searched my body, and he told me, “You need to open your phone.” I told him, “This is illegal. There is rules for this. I’m a journalist. And here, my card.” There is the police, is just here, didn’t ask me anything for this. And he said, “No, you should open your phone now and be released, or there is another long way to get the videos from you.” And he didn’t, like, say what is the long way.
So, minutes after that, he called, like, another group of soldiers, who came in another Jeep, and asked them to take me away. So, directly, they took me behind their Jeep. The settlers were there and started — like, the settlers themselves, like, cursing me, while the soldiers were handcuffed me and covering my eyes, before put me inside the Jeep, and started driving away. I couldn’t see. I couldn’t know where I am going. And then, in the way, they stopped, and they transferred, like, me in another soldier’s car and also kept driving, until we arrived in a place which is their military base.
And, like, they took me down from their car, started pushing me hardly. I was trying to ask them where are they going with me, what they are doing. “I can’t see why you are pushing me like this. I don’t see where I am walking, where I’m putting my legs.” And they just keep telling me to shut up and cursing me that I’m a dog, and they knew who I am, because I film them, like, all the time when they come to destroy houses, when they are coming, like, to deck the settlers and when they also come to invade the villages in the night or in the day.
So, there is really — the scary thing for me, that there is hate. And I am a Palestinian journalist, and there is hate from them toward me just because I take my phone or my camera and go film them when they’re doing, like, these crimes, because they know that they’re doing something they don’t want it to be published outside.
So, they let me sit in a chair. I tried to ask them where I am, what is going on with me. They asked me about my phone, why my phone was with the officer, and my ID also. And they kept, like, telling me that I’m a liar and that I am bad and this, like, “Why you are not going to Jenin?” if I am writing to Al Jazeera. And then, like, I stayed there for hours, before the officer came again and put me in the Jeep and then take me to entrance of the village, released me with my phone.
Later on, the army spokesperson said I was taken to the police to give a testimony, I was not detained, which is a really totally lie. They took my phone illegally. I don’t know what they did with it. And I was just sitting in the sun, being cursed by these occupation soldiers, who, for them, it’s really fun, like, to do that. I was asking them, “You would never” — I was telling them, “You would never, ever be brave to do this to an international or an Israeli journalist.” I don’t wish that, but this would never happen here. Just because I’m a Palestinian — it doesn’t matter journalist, Palestinian shepherd, Palestinian farmer, landowner, doesn’t matter. I am Palestinian in the end of the day, and there is a foreign army, which is the Israeli occupation forces, that controls our life and can do whatever they want, because they have the power to do it.
And this is not the first time for me personally to face this. Just last May, I was beaten up for like 40 minutes, really assaulted very hardly. It was filmed on a video when they were beating me up just because I reached my neighbor to film the four soldiers trying to take down his shelter. And they decided to arrest me in that moment. I was, like, protesting, telling them, “This is illegal. You don’t have excuse. I am a journalist, just come here for documentation.” And it was like just masked soldiers who with rifles and uniform, and beating me really hardly, grabbing me on the ground, like, putting my body on the ground, catching my legs and my hands, tried to grab me to their military Jeep. I was too scared for that, and I was, like, hospitalized after 40 minutes of them beating me up.
And also, like, if you want another example about me personally, like, on December 2021 at night, they invaded my home. They confiscated the cameras and the laptop and the car that I use alongside with other activists here for the documentation in Masafer Yatta. And the police and the army kept them for at least one month in their offices, before the court ordered them to bring this back.
But for now, like, four Palestinian journalists sitting in Israeli jail in administrative detention without any charge, without any accuse, just because they are Palestinians. We don’t see the European Union or the U.S. sending condemnations about these acts, that journalists sitting in jail without charge just because they are Palestinians. And where is the freedom of press?
Last month, just in June, my friend and close colleague, Ehab Alami, for example, from Beit Ummar, northern of Hebron, was shot in his leg by an Israeli soldier, when the soldiers were invading his town, and he was filming them. The camera was there, very clear that he’s journalist. He was wearing a vest, like, telling that it’s press, like he’s a journalist. And even though they shot him, no one talked about this. No one wrote about it. You don’t see the Western, like, embassies here in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv writing about it, that there was a journalist, like, was shot, unless, like, someone like Shireen Abu Akleh, that we love her so much, that was shot in Jenin, because she’s a woman, she has American passport. Then everyone talk about her.
But these daily harassments, and, like, this is just — I was, like, detained for two hours and set up under sun. But all the time I go out in the field, they try to push me back really hardly. They create flying checkpoints to stop us as journalists and taking our IDs, wasting our time to prevent us follow the forces that, for example, demolishing a home or cutting a water well in Masafer Yatta. So, this is we’ve been, like, really — we’re really tired and risk our life to go film these crimes. And they are really making it very hard for us to do this. And it doesn’t matter for them what price we will pay for this, because they know that there is no consequences for their acts and their violence toward us.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Basel Adra, I wanted to ask you — obviously, this crackdown of the government, continued crackdown, on Palestinian journalists is as a result of what the Israeli government is doing and what you are chronicling. Could you talk about the — you report that over a thousand people are at risk of immediate banishment, and the army has already started demolishing homes and schools to make way for more settlements. Could you talk about what you’ve seen in these demolitions?
BASEL ADRA: Yeah. So, for me, personally, since April until today, I witnessed and I document hundreds of demolitions of Palestinian houses and properties in Masafer Yatta. And it’s the most hard thing to see and to witness, and especially now, when I go to film this. I see families, children, like, and mothers stand aside and watching Israeli bulldozers demolishing their homes or their school or their water well, and they are just crying. And then they’re just filming, feeling really powerless and hopeless on this situation.
And just a few hundred meters away from my home and my community, there is the Israeli outpost and settlement that keep expanding. What I’ve seen since April until today, just the Israeli settlements are expanding. They’re getting water, clean water, and asphalt roads and homes. Every day they are building and expanding more and more on our land. And the bulldozers there for them just come to dig the land and to create more houses and farms, huge cow farms, chicken farms, vineyard and cherries. All kind of farms around these settlements are expanding toward our land, while I see and I witness weekly of Israeli bulldozers coming toward Masafer Yatta, to our communities, and demolishing houses, schools, water wells, water pipes, like, bulldozering roads in order to squeeze our communities and to drive us away from here.
So, what happened is, in the '80s, they designated 14 communities of Masafer Yatta out of 20 as a firing zone, which is military area. Like, they want to take this land for the Israeli occupation forces to do military exercises. But Israeli politician Ariel Sharon at that time wrote in his secret documents that he's designating Masafer Yatta as a firing zone area under a pretext to take this land for the Israeli settlements. This document, that he wrote in the '80s, when he make this first designation, was released a year ago from now. So, from the ’80s until last year, they were trying very hard by putting pressure on the Palestinians' of Masafer Yatta life in order to make them, like, leave this land. So they were cutting the water wells. They were, like, preventing access to electricity, demolishing houses, preventing to giving us permission for building homes. And under that, like, they want to drive the people away from their homes.
And it didn’t work, all of this pressure. The Palestinians doesn’t have any other, like, place to go. And they would go to the old caves and invade them, set up new tents and stay at their homes, until last year, last May, an Israeli, like, high court decided to give a green light for the Israeli occupation forces to physically transfer the residents of Masafer Yatta and destroy their homes in order to take this land. And the one that wrote this judgment, the political judgment, is himself a settler, live in the West Bank near Ramallah, himself is violating the international law by living in the West Bank, but he’s being a judge, a settler judge, that wrote the future of 1,300 residents of Masafer Yatta and to give the green light for the Israeli occupation forces to drive these people away and to make them homeless in order to take this land. Since that decision in last May until now, it tells you, over than 50 houses were wiped out by the Israeli occupation forces, which is very crazy.
And last November, I stand and document in a village of Isfey here in Masafer Yatta in early morning, a normal morning, while students were having their class, their lessons in their classrooms as normally, a heavily occupation forces arrived at the school with a bulldozer. The soldiers ran directly to the classrooms, slammed the doors and start to pushing us back as journalists and parents. And the first moment one soldier opened the first, like, stun grenade and throw it at us, when it explode, the students from the class start to open the windows, crying, taking their books and running away from the school crying, in a very traumatic-like scene. I’ve never been in that scene before. It was really horrifying. And then the soldiers just make like a wall around the school. A group of soldiers went inside the school, steal the bags of the kids with the balloons, with their chairs, with their tables, and going out, confiscate them and putting them in the Israeli military trucks, before a bulldozer, was owned and driven by a settler who lived in the outpost nearby, in a minute just bulldozered this school and drove away.
These students watched their dream being damaged in front of their eyes. There was just a school that they can be educated in it. And their parents didn’t have that chance to have a school and to be educated, and none of them, like, educated. And they had this chance for a while to be educated in this school, and they were planning to improve it and to have more classrooms, because it was for a primary school, and they wanted to improve it. But the Israeli occupation forces arrived and wiped it out. The students or the parents built another tent, and the army arrived and take it and confiscate it. Another tent, it was also confiscated by the Israeli occupation forces. So, now they continue the year in a room by one of the villagers that donated to the teacher, and in old cattle farm, that water leak in the winter, and the sun heat it up in the summer. So, since May until now —
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Basel, I just wanted to bring in Noura Erakat, because we only have a little bit of time left. Noura, I wanted to ask you the role of the Palestinian Authority. While all of this is going on, on the West Bank, when so many more Palestinians are being displaced and their homes demolished, what has been the role of the Palestinian Authority?
NOURA ERAKAT: Well, unfortunately, Basel can, I’m sure, discuss this, as well, their complete absence in Masafer Yatta to prevent, or to protect Palestinians. To the extent that they have been armed, they use those arms in order to protect the illegal Israeli settlers in order to demonstrate that they are the “good natives” that the U.S. and Israel can trust. Since the establishment of the Oslo peace agreement, which is an autonomy arrangement of perpetual subjugation, the Palestinian Authority has become an arm and an extension of the occupation in its policing, in its suppression of freedom of speech, in actually tearing apart the fabric of Palestinian social, national, political life, in order to do what most people in power do, which is to preserve that power.
They’ve not even endorsed BDS as articulated by the 2005 BDS call, because, to them, that would undermine their authority to lead their own state. To the extent that they have been — you know, where are they in the discussion about insisting that Israel is an apartheid state, they also have been falling behind and using it very — in self-interested ways in order to advance themselves and their irrelevance, and yet they are not relevant.
To the extent that we’ve seen them, we’ve seen them actually extrajudicially assassinate a Palestinian journalist, Nizar Banat, and then come down hard on the Palestinian people who protested that assassination at the height — at the height — of Palestinian grassroots and social power internationally in May 2021 during the protest against the impending takeover of Sheikh Jarrah.
And so, the Palestinian Authority is part of the problem. And it makes the Palestinian condition even more hard. But even more spectacular, that despite all of these obstacles, Palestinians are able, through their grassroots initiatives, through popular media, through film, through art, through organizing across the globe, to be able to continue to get this story out, to be able to continue to articulate a unified vision for the future, a decolonial future, one based on the freedom, dignity and justice for all people, and not just for a few.
AMY GOODMAN: Noura Erakat, I want to thank you so much for being with us, Palestinian human rights attorney, associate professor at Rutgers University, author of Justice for Some: Law and the Question of Palestine, speaking to us from Portugal, and Basel Adra, reporter from Masafer Yatta for Local Call and +972 Magazine. We’ll link to your new pieces, “I was handcuffed and blindfolded for reporting on settler violence” and your new piece for The Nation magazine, “The Destruction of This Palestinian Community Was Green-Lighted by Israel’s Supreme Court.”
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