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The 1967 Obsession, Trump and Trivia By Miko Peled

Israeli Generals Dayan, Narkis and Bar-Lev at the Western Wall

Israeli Generals Dayan, Narkis and Bar-Lev at the Western Wall

I arrived in Jerusalem last night and as always during the weeks between mid-May and mid-June the media is full of romanticized memories. Within these weeks are the two most siginicfant dates in modern Palestinian history: May 1948 when Palestine was conquered and renamed Israel, and June, 1967 when the Israeli army completed the conquest of Palestine by taking East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. For Palestinians these dates bring back bitter memories, but for Israelis the memories are sweet – those were the days when we were young and brave and innocent.  Vintage photos of soldiers at the newly conquered Western Wall, generals announcing “the Temple Mount is in our hands,” and teary-eyed old Jews praying with devotion are everywhere. The horrors that make up the Palestinian memories, the piles of dead bodies, civilians panicking as they are forcibly exiled, children lost in the mayhem and ancient villages and communities bulldozed only to be rebuilt for Jews are rarely shown or discussed.

Palestinian refugees fleeing to Jordan across the wrecked Alenbi Bridge

Destruction of the 700 year old Mughrabi neighborhood was done immediately following the Israeli conquest of East Jerusalem to create the Western Wall plaza.

To add to all that, Donald Trump is expected to arrive in Jerusalem and this gives the press and the official state PR machine an even greater opportunity to deal with the two things they love best: smoke screens and trivia.  Gaza? never even heard of it! Fifteen hundred innocent political prisoners on a hunger strike for over a month? Nobody cares! But check this out: apparently Trump will fly directly from Saudi Arabia to Tel-Aviv and this is the first direct flight between the two countries; the King David Hotel in Jerusalem is preparing for Trump’s visit and a drone was spotted in the hotel parking lot! And the ongoing burning question, will the great deal maker be able to close the Israeli-Palestinian peace Deal?  All smoke screens and trivia which are the staples of tabloids – a category into which most Israeli media outlets fit perfectly – though in their defense one must admit that there is no point in dealing with substance because Trump’s visit will offer none.

Here are a few items that are sure not to be on Trump’s agenda: Two million people in Gaza have no access to clean water, proper nutrition or medicine.  They have been victims of devastating attacks for seven decades and before they can recover from one assault there is another one pending.  The Israeli water authority allocates only 3% of the water to Palestinians even though they make up more than 50% of the overall population. More than 55% of Palestinians with Israeli citizenship live below the poverty line, and even though they rate one of the highest in the world in literacy, there is massive unemployment among Palestinians. Palestinians in the West Bank live under a brutal military regime governed by Israeli commanders who impose inhumane laws and prevent people from enjoying the basic most human rights. Seven thousand political prisoners sit in Israeli jails in violation of international law, over fifteen hundred of them on a hunger strike for over a month.

Trump may also visit Ramallah, and there too these topics are not likely to come up. Though there are attempts to prop the legitimacy of the Palestinian Authority, it is on life support and barely surviving. Municipal elections to West Bank cities were a failure – marked by boycotts of major political parties and a lack of voter interest. Mahmoud Abbas, the so-called president of the Palestinian Authority is old and tired and can no longer mask his disinterest in the fate of his people.  Hamas has made some changes to its charter and the newly elected head of Hamas’ political bureau is the Gaza resident, Gaza born Ismail Haniya, who is also the democratically elected Prime Minister of the now defunct Palestinian Authority.  The Authority has no real authority and neither party is relevant anymore.

The question of moving the US embassy to Jerusalem is also dead at this point although for political reasons Netanyahu will pretend it is a priority.  Both Trump and Netanyahu know that Jerusalem is a red line that even two reckless politicians such as them will not dare cross. Trump will not risk a multi billion dollar weapons deal with Saudi Arabia, and Netanyahu won’t risk an uprising for a symbolic gesture for which no country in the world can give its support.  The international community has never recognized Jerusalem as part of Israel, and international recognition of Israel’s jurisdiction is out of the question. So while Israeli politicians may try to create headlines over this topic, it is nothing but a smoke screen.

The terror under which Palestinians live – be it in their own country or in refugee camps  around it, is part of the daily bread of Palestinian existence. The causes for this existence, the wars of 1948 and 1967 are commemorated each year during the weeks between mid-May and mid-June.  The horror of the Palestinian reality is magnified when compared to the dishonest, romanticized narrative presented by Jews during that time: An Israel that is eternally young and brave and facing constant danger, yet winning and succeeding. Judging by Trump’s entourage, which includes David Friedman the new US ambassador to Israel and Jared Kushner, the famous Jewish son in law, Israel’s narrative of lies will dominate the agenda, while trivia and smoke screens will dominate the news.

 

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Miko Peled : few days in Palestine

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It’s only been a few days since I arrived in Palestine so not much has happened. Well, relatively speaking not much. I was traveling to Nabi Saleh to see my friend Bassem Tamimi. Since I didn’t have a car I had to travel by bus through Qalandia checkpoint to Ramallah then by service cab to the village and back – and on the way back, the girl soldier put down her phone long enough to examine my ID, realize I was Israeli and detain me. Then the next day, I went to the epic “Combat BDS” conference also known as, or rather should be known as “Crazy & Loony Bros. How Do We Kill BDS Circus” in Jerusalem. It was an unforgettable experience. And now, as I sit and write this, a soldier is being tried for murder because he shot a Palestinian who was already dead. So its not the soldier that shot and murdered the young Palestinian that’s on trial, it’s the soldier that shot him for fun after he lay dead, or nearly dead on the ground, ignored by several Israeli ambulances that were driving around him – that’s the soldier that’s being tried. But, as I said, it’s only been a few days.

I grew up here and when I come here I live in the home and in the room where I grew up. Very little has changed in Motza Elite, a quiet and disorganized little place where for the most part houses are surrounded by trees and vegetation. Sure, the trees are taller, their trunks thicker, but it is still a quiet, beautiful little place with no soldiers, police or border guards and of course, no Arabs. It is the perfect white, Jewish, privileged community and it is the perfect place to get away from it all, or as most people who live here do, ignore any of it exists. “It” is the rest of Palestine.

*

I will start with what seems to me the most bizarre thing going on at this moment. Two young Palestinians, who attacked fully armed soldiers using knives, were killed. Ambulances are on the scene taking care of the soldiers who were slightly wounded and they drive around the bodies of the young Palestinians. Suddenly a shot is heard. A soldier who was not on the scene originally decides to shoot one of the Palestinians lying on the ground, motionless, in the head. He claims he saw some movement and was concerned the victim on the ground might detonate a bomb. Now for some reason this soldier is charged with murder.

*

It’s a good idea from time to time to travel around the country as Palestinians do. Use buses, service cabs and go through checkpoints. It’s inconvenient, takes a lot of time and is totally unpredictable. So that’s what we did. Fadwa, my better half and I took a bus to East Jerusalem then another bus to Ramallah where we met Bassem Tamimi. We had coffee at “Stars and Bucks Café” and then the three of us took a service cab to Nabi Saleh. Bassem was supposed to be in the US now on a speaking tour. This would have been his third tour since receiving his visa to the US. But suddenly, with no real explanation and no apparent reason he got notice that his visa has been revoked. So American audiences were denied the chance to hear him and he remains here in Palestine trying to help the nearly twenty youth from Nabi Saleh, who are in prison, including his son Wa’ed.

We arrived in Nabi Saleh, spent the afternoon there and then returned to Jerusalem. We took a service cab to Ramallah, a cab to the checkpoint, tried to find our way through the maze that makes up the checkpoint, and thankfully the Palestinian vendors outside pointed us in the right direction. The soldier behind the window rarely takes the trouble to lift their eyes when the ID is presented. So, I press my ID against the window expecting to be waved through when something caught her eye long enough for her to see that mine was an Israeli ID. With nothing better to do she decided to look into this strange phenomenon, an Israeli coming through a Palestinian checkpoint. Thinking I was probably some kind of “human rights” agitator or something she called me from inside, “Are you with human rights?”

MORE…
“ISRAEL IS FIGHTING FOR YOU”: EXPOSING THE FALSEHOODS IN THE RECENT AND RENEWED ZIONIST PROPAGANDA TECHNIQUE AGAINST THE PALESTINIAN STRUGGLE FOR JUSTICE
G4S CONCEDES TO BDS PRESSURE; SET TO LEAVE ISRAEL
WITCH-HUNTING FOR ISRAEL
MORE ON ISRAEL’S COMBATING BDS
“No.”

“Are you with B’Tselem”

“No.”

“Don’t you know Jews are not allowed to cross here?

“No.”

“What were you doing in Ramallah?”

“We bought strawberries, and had coffee.”

Fadwa is not the problem because she is not Jewish. I am the problem. Still they ask her the same questions and we are “invited” in to a waiting room and sit down.

We sit and wait. The room is maybe three feet by three feet and its freezing cold. We start looking at the graffiti in Arabic that is engraved into the walls. Ten minutes go by and nothing happens.

“What are we waiting for?”

“The police are on their way?’

“What for”

“To question you?”

“Why?”

“There is an order from the colonel or general that prohibits Jews from crossing here.”

She should read my book, The General’s Son, Journey of an Israeli in Palestine, there is a chapter called, The Commanding General’s Order.

“OK, we wont do it again.”

“The police will be here any minute.”

We wait ten more minutes and the same conversation takes place, then again and again about every ten minutes. Finally, she hands me my ID and says, “You can go now.” No explanation, no nothing.

*

It was a cold, rainy day as thousands entered the convention center in Jerusalem. Fresh coffee, sandwiches and pastries were free, security was tight and I tried to make myself as un-noticeable as possible. “Just blend in,” I thought to myself when I heard someone say, “look that’s Miko Peled.” Crap! Not the place I want to be recognized. Every kind of Israeli crazy was there. I look over, and it’s Anthony Lowenstein, the Auzzie journalist and Dan Cohen, an American journalist. Both are crazy Jews like me who came to see this circus. We sat down and then it started. The world’s most self-absorbed, self-righteous and criminally insane society was putting on a show, with its best actors playing lead roles. This was the “How To Combat BDS” conference, put on by Israel’s largest newspaper, Yediot Aharonot.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin was up first. Israel could hardly have selected a better-suited man for the job of representing the state and the people of Israel. Rivlin is a white, European colonizer, constantly patting Israel and himself on the back for being a liberal democratic melting pot. “BDS foundation is de-legitimization of Israel without connection to what Israel does” President Rivlin said and he added that “the world is in awe of Israeli exceptionalism.” He ended his remarks by saying that he sleeps better than ever knowing the Israeli army is the most moral army on earth. Talk about “opium to the masses.”

Anthony Lowenstein wrote a piece about the conference everyone should read, but here is quick review of some of my favorite highlights: Gilad Erdan minister of public security, strategic affairs and Hasbarah (all that is one ministerial office) who has been designated as lead role in the fight against BDS said that it’s all about legitimacy. Indeed this is about legitimacy. Everything Israel does is about claiming it has legitimacy when clearly, being a settler-colonialist project that established a racist system in Palestine, it hasn’t got any legitimacy at all. Erdan went on to say that BDS activists would soon begin to pay for de-legitimization of Israel. He didn’t specify how they would pay, but one can be sure that all dedicated BDS activists expect that the struggle to free Palestine will be a tough one and will readily confront obstacles to achieve this goal.

Then Jewish Billionaire Ron Lauder came up to speak. He said that since anti-Semitic campus groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine and the Muslim Students Association are so well funded, poor Jewish students can’t complete and have no tools to defend themselves. You had to wonder if he is lying or just totally clueless. His remedy is that he will provide the funds for Pro Israeli groups on campus so that the Zionist voice is heard. As president of the World Jewish Congress he works closely with Jewish leaders around the world to push for anti-BDS legislation. Interestingly enough, he was the first one to mention Omar Barghouti, who heads the BDS movement, “why does he want to destroy Israel?” Lauder asked. If they had any sense they would have invited him to explain.

The EU ambassador to Israel was on a panel with some of the worst racist figures in Israel, including Danny Dayan. Dayan who was rejected by the government of Brazil to be Israel’s ambassador was now nominated to be Israel’s Consul General in NY. The EU ambassador said that West Bank settlement products are welcome in the EU, and that the labeling of settlement products is done merely for information purposes. More opium! Dore Good, general director of the Israeli foreign ministry said that we must expose the fact that the Islamic jihad and the Muslim Brotherhood established BDS. He repeated this several times even though it is completely untrue, practicing what was once said about a lie, that if it is repeated enough times, it becomes truth. Well, I doubt that in this case it will work. The day ended shortly after that and the three exhausted Jewish infiltrators drove away to bask in the warmth of Arab East Jerusalem. Who knows what the next few days may bring.

On Contact: The BDS Movement with Miko Peled

Shimon Peres from the perspective of his victims

Officials and mourners surround coffins covered with Lebanese flags during a mass funeral in the southern Lebanese town of Tyre, 30 April 1996. The victims were killed in an Israeli artillery attack on a UN base in Qana, in southern Lebanon, on 18 April as part of an operation ordered by then Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres. Ahmed Azakir AP Photo

The obituaries for Shimon Peres have already appeared, no doubt prepared in advance as the news of his hospitalization reached the media.

The verdict on his life is very clear and was already pronounced by US President Barack Obama: Peres was a man who changed the course of human history in his relentless search for peace in the Middle East.

My guess is that very few of the obituaries will examine Peres’ life and activities from the perspective of the victims of Zionism and Israel.

He occupied many positions in politics that had immense impact on the Palestinians wherever they are. He was director general of the Israeli defense ministry, minister of defense, minister for development of the Galilee and the Negev (Naqab), prime minister and president.

In all these roles, the decisions he took and the policies he pursued contributed to the destruction of the Palestinian people and did nothing to advance the cause of peace and reconciliation between Palestinians and Israelis.

Born Szymon Perski in 1923, in a town that was then part of Poland, Peres immigrated to Palestine in 1934. As a teenager in an agricultural school, he became active in politics within the Labor Zionist movement that led Zionism and later the young State of Israel.

As a leading figure in the movement’s youth cadres, Peres attracted the attention of the high command of the Jewish paramilitary force in British-ruled Palestine, the Haganah.

Nuclear bomb

In 1947, Peres was fully recruited to the organization and sent abroad by its leader David Ben-Gurion to purchase arms which were later used in the 1948 Nakba, the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, and against the Arab contingents that entered Palestine that year.

After a few years abroad, mainly in the United States, where he was busy purchasing arms and building the infrastructure for the Israeli military industry, he returned to become director general of the defense ministry.

Peres was active in forging Israel’s collusion with the UK and France to invade Egypt in 1956, for which Israel was rewarded by France with the needed capacity to build nuclear weapons.

Indeed it was Peres himself who largely oversaw Israel’s clandestine nuclear weapons program.

No less important was the zeal Peres showed under Ben-Gurion’s guidance and inspiration to Judaize the Galilee. Despite the 1948 ethnic cleansing, that part of Israel was still very much Palestinian countryside and landscape.

Peres was behind the idea of confiscating Palestinian land for the purpose of building exclusive Jewish towns such as Karmiel and Upper Nazareth and basing the military in the region so as to disrupt territorial contiguity between Palestinian villages and towns.

This ruination of the Palestinian countryside led to the disappearance of the traditional Palestinian villages and the transformation of the farmers into an underemployed and deprived urban working class. This dismal reality is still with us today.

Settlers’ champion

Peres disappeared for a while from the political scene when his master Ben-Gurion, Israel’s founding prime minister, was pushed aside in 1963 by a new generation of leaders.

He came back after the 1967 War and the first portfolio he held was as minister responsible for the occupied territories. In this role, he legitimized, quite often retroactively, the settlement drive in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

As so many of us realize today, by the time the pro-settlement Likud party came to power in 1977, the Jewish settlement infrastructure, in particular in the West Bank, had already rendered a two-state solution an impossible vision.

In 1974, Peres’ political career became intimately connected to that of his nemesis, Yitzhak Rabin. The two politicians who could not stand each other, had to work in tandem for the sake of political survival.

However, on Israel’s strategy toward the Palestinians, they shared the Zionist settler-colonial perspective, coveting as much of Palestine’s land as possible with as few Palestinians on it as possible.

They worked well together in quelling brutally the Palestinian uprising that began in 1987.

Peres’ first role in this difficult partnership was as defense minister in the 1974 Rabin government. The first real crisis Peres faced was a major expansion of the messianic settler movement Gush Emunim’s colonization effort in and around the West Bank city of Nablus.

Rabin opposed the new settlements, but Peres stood with the settlers and those colonies that now strangulate Nablus are there thanks to his efforts.

In 1976, Peres led government policy on the occupied territories, convinced that a deal could be struck with Jordan, by which the West Bank would be within Jordanian jurisdiction but under effective Israeli rule.

He initiated municipal elections in the West Bank but to his great surprise and disappointment, the candidates identified with the Palestine Liberation Organization were elected and not the ones loyal to Jordan’s Hashemite monarchy.

But Peres remained faithful to what he named the “Jordanian option” as an opposition leader after 1977 and when he returned to power in coalition with the Likud in 1984-1988. He pushed forward the negotiations on the basis of this concept until King Hussein’s decision to cede any political connection between Jordan and the West Bank in 1988.

Israel’s international face

The 1990s exposed to the world to a more mature and coherent Peres. He was Israel’s international face, whether in government or outside it. He played this role even after the Likud ascended as the main political force in the land.

In power, in Rabin’s government in the early 1990s, as prime minister after Rabin’s 1995 assassination, and then as a minister in the cabinet of Ehud Barak from 1999 to 2001, Peres pushed a new concept for what he called “peace.”

Instead of sharing rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with Jordan or Egypt, he now wished to do it with the Palestine Liberation Organization. The idea was accepted by PLO leader Yasser Arafat, who may have hoped to build on this a new project for the liberation of Palestine.

As enshrined in the 1993 Oslo accords, this concept was enthusiastically endorsed by Israel’s international allies.

Peres was the leading ambassador of this peace process charade that provided an international umbrella for Israel to establish facts on the ground that would create a greater apartheid Israel with small Palestinian bantustans scattered within it.

The fact that he won a Nobel Peace Prize for a process that advanced the ruination of Palestine and its people is yet another testimony to world governments’ misunderstanding, cynicism and apathy toward their suffering.

We are fortunate to live in an era in which international civil society has exposed this charade and offers, through the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement and the growing support for the one-state solution, a more hopeful and genuine path forward.

Qana

As prime minister, Peres had one additional “contribution” to make to the history of Palestinian and Lebanese suffering.

In response to the endless skirmishes between Hizballah and the Israeli army in southern Lebanon, where Hizballah and other groups resisted the Israeli occupation that began in 1982 until they drove it out in 2000, Peres ordered the bombing of the whole area in April 1996.

During what Israel dubbed Operation Grapes of Wrath, Israeli shelling killed more than 100 people – civilians fleeing bombardment and UN peacekeepers from Fiji – near the village of Qana.

Despite a United Nations investigation that found Israel’s explanation that the shelling had been an accident to be “unlikely,” the massacre did nothing to dent Peres’ international reputation as a “peacemaker.”

In this century, Peres was more a symbolic figurehead than an active politician. He founded the Peres Center for Peace, built on confiscated Palestinian refugee property in Jaffa, which continues to sell the idea of a Palestinian “state” with little land, real independence or sovereignty as the best possible solution.

That will never work, but if the world continues to be committed to this Peres legacy, there will be no end to the suffering of the Palestinians.

Shimon Peres symbolized the beautification of Zionism, but the facts on the ground lay bare his role in perpetrating so much suffering and conflict. Knowing the truth, at least, helps us understand how to move forward and undo so much of the injustice Peres helped create.

The author of numerous books, Ilan Pappe is professor of history and director of the European Centre for Palestine Studies at the University of Exeter.

Interview with Shir Hever

 

You went to Berlin to the Free University. Why?

I actually live in Heidelberg, although I’m writing my PhD at the Free University of Berlin. I followed my partner who found a job in Germany. The very large emigration from Israel of young and educated people has meant that much of my family and friends have already left Israel, and Berlin is actually a favorite destination, where I meet many of my old friends from Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv.

What motivated you to research Israel’s military sector and to support BDS? Did your upbringing and family background have a role in this, or was it something you came to later in life?
I did grow up in a leftist and critical family, and was taught to ask questions from a young age. I went to a very militaristic school, so I was taught a Zionist perspective as well, but I didn’t want to take part in the occupation directly as a soldier. In order to try to be a non-combat soldier, I volunteered for a year of social service in the town of Sderot, and there I had time to think about politics, to hear from my friends who were drafted into the army, and to see aspects of Israeli society that I never knew existed. I decided not to do any military service. By pretending to be crazy I easily received an exemption, like thousands do every year.
Only in university, however, did I become aware of the Palestinian side of the story, when Palestinians were invited by a political group called “The Campus Will Not Stay Silent” to speak about their experiences during the Second Intifada. I started to become politically active and joined the Alternative Information Center, a joint Palestinian-Israeli organization.
Supporting BDS came naturally as I was part of the group of activists who were considering various strategies of combating the occupation. As an economist, I felt that BDS can have a very strong impact on the Israeli economy and society and was something that empowers Palestinians to use non-violent resistance.
Choosing my research topics was done in an activist environment, and I would usually write reports and studies on matters upon requests from activists. After writing my book on the political economy of Israel’s occupation, I realized that the Israeli military industry and Israeli arms exports are very important to complete the picture, to explain how Israel’s occupation fits into global interests, and so I chose this as a topic for my PhD.

It is said that the Israeli population is becoming more mentally and psychologically isolated from the rest of the world. Is that also your experience?
Absolutely not. Israelis strongly depend on a feeling of being part of the “west,” and part of Europe (even though Israel is not in Europe). The fascination of Israelis with the European Football Cup, with the Eurovision etc. is one aspect of this, but also the desire to travel in the world, to consume western culture, etc. I admit that when BDS started, I did not imagine that its most powerful impact would be precisely in the sphere of culture. Whenever a famous artist cancels a performance in Israel, the reactions are very powerful, because Israelis don’t want to feel isolated. The fact that Israelis are willing to pay double the prices for tickets to performances of artists who choose to violate BDS and perform in Israel is a testimony to that fact. Actually, this is the reason for BDS being a successful tactic; it targets a sensitive nerve of Israel’s culture, the need to be included.

Listening to Netanyahu and Lieberman, we get the impression here that the division between Jews and Palestinians in Israel itself is increasingly growing. Is that true?
On the political level, yes of course. The Israeli government is not ashamed to call for separation, and to demonize Palestinians as a group. On the local and personal level, there are also many cases of Palestinians and Jews working together, becoming friends, creating families together. Separation is never 100% successful. It is true that many Israeli Jews have little contact with Palestinians and know very little about them. Very few Israeli Jews bother to learn Arabic. But Palestinian Israelis, on the other hand, have frequent contact with Israeli Jews, speak good Hebrew and have a very good understanding of Jewish culture and politics.

How can you explain that an Israeli general has compared the situation in his country with Germany of the 1930s?
Major-General Yair Golan is well-known for being very direct and not too careful with what he says. In a lecture he gave in 2007 he admitted that the Wall of Separation’s main purpose is to separate populations, and security only comes as a second priority.
Currently Israel is witnessing a fierce struggle between two competing elite groups. The old military elite in Israel (to which Golan belongs) is in a state of crisis, losing much of its influence over the government and the business sector.
The military elite is not leftist, progressive or opposed to the occupation, but it believes in creating an “intelligent” occupation, a careful and planned use of force in order to keep the Palestinians under control. They are afraid of the populism of the Israeli government and how it encourages unbounded brutality of Israeli soldiers against Palestinians. Golan hinted that such populism and brutality are not signs of strength of Israel, but actually signs of weakness.
His statement was severely criticized, and gave the government the opportunity to make more populist statements. Minister of Defense Ya’alon (also a member of Israel’s military elite, and former commander of the army) was forced to resign and was replaced by Lieberman, who is not a member of the military elite.

Does militarism and war (also) serve to cover the tensions within Israeli Jewish society?
I wouldn’t say militarism and war, but rather an obsession with security. Israel hasn’t fought a real conventional war since 1973, instead it is constantly engaged in asymmetrical conflicts in civilian areas, where Israeli soldiers use heavy armaments in civilian areas. But the constant fear of retaliation, the threat of real and imagined terrorism, are exploited very cynically by the Israeli government to distract from the burning social issues in Israel.
A good example of this is the 2011 attack on an Israeli bus in the midst of large social protests in Israel. Netanyahu quickly announced that the attackers came from Gaza, and ordered a bombing against Gaza, killing five Palestinians. Even though the attackers did not come from Gaza, Palestinians chose not to react to the Israeli killing of innocent Palestinians, because such retaliation would serve the desire of Netanyahu to suppress the social protests. I think that we can learn from this example how well Palestinians understand Israeli society. Interestingly, the social protests ended eventually with very little effect, and the security issue continues to dominate Israeli political discourse.

If we look at the big military companies such as the Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI) and Elbit, do they account for a large share of the Israeli economy?
The arms sector is a large section of Israel’s industrial sector, and the two biggest arms companies are the government-owned IAI, and the private Elbit Systems. There are conflicting numbers from various sources, and I estimate that 11% of Israel’s total exports are security and military exports, to which these two companies contribute more than half. Of course this is very significant for the Israeli economy, and no other country in the world has arms as such a high proportion of its total exports (not even the U.S, the world’s largest arms exporter). Nevertheless, one must remember that the majority of Israel’s exports, and industrial companies and workforce are civilian.

How is the Netherlands (and the EU) most complicit in supporting the Israeli military industrial complex? Through its subsidies and financing, its scientific research, its global production facilities, its purchases of Israeli military products and services, or its provision of tax havens for the companies’ profits?

All of the above, but the complicity is not just in helping to fund the Israeli arms industry, but also by legitimizing it. When Dutch and European politicians promote security cooperation projects with Israel, they are fully aware that the Israeli arms industry is based on the Israeli military experience in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, technologies developed in the course of repression of Palestinian resistance and control over a large population denied its basic rights. Therefore, all these ties between European and Israeli arms companies send a message that Europe accepts Israel’s occupation and even seeks to learn from it. This was said by General Yoav Galant (currently Israel’s minister of housing), that “foreign governments are hypocritical. On the one hand they criticize our actions, but then they come to us to learn how we do it.”

BDS campaigns in Europe have the potential to be a powerful force given that the EU traditionally has been one of Israel’s largest markets. Is this where you think BDS efforts can be most effective – or rather in the US or elsewhere?
In the end, the most effective BDS campaigns are not necessarily the ones that have the biggest monetary effect, but those that get the attention of the Israeli public. U.S-based BDS was very effective in making Israelis feel that “even our closest ally is changing its opinion on us,” but so did BDS actions in Germany. Europe remains Israel’s largest target both for exports and for imports, but BDS doesn’t seek to change that. BDS is not a tool to harm the Israeli economy, but to achieve political change through pressure.
The Netherlands play a very important role because of the importance of the Rotterdam port to Israel’s exports to Europe, especially of agricultural produce, which is of great symbolic significance. If the Netherlands will impose more strict controls over that import, it has a direct impact on the Israeli illegal colonies in the Jordan Valley, which is the most fertile land in all of Palestine.

Is BDS a bigger threat for the economy of Israel or for its image?
BDS does not seek to harm the Israeli economy, but to convince Israelis that it is unsustainable to violate international law. I don’t believe that the Israeli government will continue with its policies of apartheid and occupation long enough for BDS to cause a long-term damage to the Israeli exports. When Israeli companies will start moving to other countries to avoid BDS, the Israeli government will either collapse, or change its policies. The majority of the Israeli public today (unlike the situation in the 1970s and 1980s) is no longer willing to make great sacrifices for the sake of Zionism.
The Israeli image, however, is already strongly affected by BDS. The strength of BDS is that it is a movement based on research and information, and that through BDS, activists are able to educate the public about the situation in Palestine, and disseminate materials. The image of Israel in the world is changing as a result, and this is something that has no less of an effect on Israeli decision makers than the economic impact.

What could be important focus points for organizations such as docP and Stop de Wapenhandel (Stop the Arms Trade)?
In my experience, it is a very bad idea for someone from Israel/Palestine to tell organizations what their focus should be. Surely you know better than me who is your audience, what kind of message will be more effective to reach them and what they can do and organize locally. Palestine solidarity groups work in a wide variety of contexts – from student groups to church groups, from labor unions to social justice and environmental movements. My only recommendation would be to choose projects that can have an impact inside Israel, projects that involve major and well-known Israeli companies, politicians, etc. And that each such project should be accompanied by research. Activists can only be successful if they have a lot of information that they can disseminate as part of their activity. It is never enough to say “let’s boycott this company because it is Israeli.” You must explain why.

Shir Hever

DocP |  source

 

Gideon Levy

Israelis Ignore the Gaza Ghetto Until the War Drums Are Heard

Haaretz February 4, 2016

Two million human beings, some of whom worked here for years, some of them even have friends here, live in abject poverty and petrifying despair, mainly because of Israel’s blockade.

http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.701213

Gideon Levy |

Most Israelis cannot imagine the daily lives of Gazans.Credit: AFP

The latest news from the ghetto comes, as usual, from the outside. The addiction to fear and the eternal wallowing in terror in Israel suddenly reminded one of the existence of the neighboring ghetto. Only thus are we here reminded of Gaza. When it shoots, or at least digs. Residents of the communities surrounding Gaza hear sounds, perhaps the sounds of digging, and the ghetto is no longer abandoned. We recall its existence. Iran dropped off the agenda. Sweden isn’t scary enough. Hezbollah is busy. So we return to Gaza.

If the Ayelet Zurer affair loses steam heaven forbid, or the Moshe Ivgy affair doesn’t take off – the things that are really interesting – because then some bored commentators and editors and politicians and bloodthirsty generals are liable to drag Israel into another “war” in Gaza. And “war” in Gaza is always another controlled massacre, whose achievements are measured in the number of corpses and amount of destroyed buildings that it leaves behind. Isaac Herzog has already promised as much.

But the real news from Gaza doesn’t reach Israelis. Who here heard that jets of the most moral air force in the world poisoned in recent weeks the fields of a “buffer zone,” which Israel declared unilaterally, at a distance of 300 meters from the fence? Farmers in Gaza report that the dusters spread the poison up to 500 meters, and that 1,187 dunams (293 acres) were damaged in the last poisoning in December. The pilots, convinced that they are doing a good thing, reported hitting their targets accurately.

Pay attention to the sterile wording of the IDF spokesman: “Aerial spraying of herbicidal germination preventing material next to the security fence was carried out in order to allow optimal implementation of ongoing security missions in the area,” he stated.

Fishermen are forbidden from venturing more than six nautical miles out from shore. Sometimes they catch a fisherman or shoot him. Farmers are forbidden from going within 300 meters. Everything is done to serve Israel’s security, and its security alone – and the occupation of the Gaza Strip ended a long time ago.

Just an hour’s drive from Tel Aviv, there is a ghetto. Even without supplying “germination preventing materials,” almost nothing grows in it. Up-to-date data from Gisha-Legal Center for Freedom of Movement indicate 43 percent unemployment, 70 percent in need of humanitarian assistance and 57 percent suffering from nutrition insecurity.

And then there is the spine-chilling report that the United Nations Relief and Works Agency issued in August under the headline “Gaza 2020: A livable place?” By then the damage to the water infrastructure will be irreversible. The water today is already not potable. The GDP per capita, $1,273, is less than it was 25 years ago, perhaps the only one that declined. Another 1,000 doctors and 2,000 nurses will be needed in the besieged, collapsing health system. From where will they come, out the faculty of medicine in Nuseirat or from the students who left to study medicine at Harvard? Egypt tightened its grasp, the world shirked its commitments and Israel exploits this to continue the blockade.

They get three hours of electricity, sometimes six, in the cold and rain. After that, there is no electricity for 12 hours, and then again for three or six hours, day in, day out. There are about two million people, a million of them refugees and their families, made refugees directly or indirectly by Israel. About a million of them are children. No Israeli can imagine it. Few Israelis feel guilty about it. There are few Israelis who care at all. Hamas, you know.

When the next catastrophe in the world hits, be it an earthquake or flood, we’ll be there with a delegation from the Israel Defense Forces, the same IDF in the same fatigues in which they spray the fields in Gaza. We are always the first.

And meanwhile in the ghetto, two million human beings, some of whom worked here for years, some of them even have friends here, live in abject poverty and petrifying despair, mainly because of Israel’s blockade.

The “We left Gaza” operation is complete. Now we only need to wait for the tunnels to start bombing again.

 

Gideon Levy

Haaretz Correspondent

source

Avigdor Feldman, a Lonely Lawyer

Uri Avnery
December 19, 2015

A Lonely Lawyer

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BY NOW EVERY ISRAELI has seen the TV clip several times – showing a 14-year
old Arab girl being shot dead near the central market of Jewish Jerusalem.

The story is well known: two sisters, 14 and 16 years old, have decided to
attack Israelis. The clip, taken by a security camera, shows one of them,
clad in traditional Arab garb, jumping around on the sidewalk, brandishing a
pair of scissors.

The whole thing looks almost like a dance. She is jumping around aimlessly,
waving the scissors, threatening no one in particular. Then a soldier aims a
pistol at her and shoots her. He runs to the girl and kills her while she is
lying helplessly on the ground. The other girl is grievously wounded.

The soldier was lauded for his bravery by the Minister of Defense, a former
army Chief of Staff, and by his present successor. Throughout the political
establishment, not a single voice was raised against the killing. Even the
opposition was silent. 

THIS WEEK one person raised his voice. Avigdor Feldman, a lawyer, informed
the Attorney General that he was going to apply to the Supreme Court, asking
it to open a criminal investigation against the soldier. He wants the court
to order the authorities to investigate all cases in which soldiers and
civilians have shot and killed “terrorists” after they had already become
unable to act.

In today’s Israel, this is an act of incredible courage. Advocate Feldman is
no crackpot. He is a well-known lawyer, prominent especially in the field of
civil rights.

I got to know him when he was still at the start of his career. He was still
a “stageur” – a lawyer who has finished his studies but is not yet a fully
licensed advocate – working in a friend’s office. He represented me in
several minor court cases, and even then I was struck by his sharp mind.

Since then, Feldman has become a prominent civil-rights lawyer. I have seen
him several times pleading in the Supreme Court, and noticed the reactions
of the court. When Feldman speaks, the judges stop their day-dreaming and
doodling and follow his arguments with rapt attention, interrupting him with
sharp questions, obviously enjoying the judicial jousting. 

Now Feldman has done what nobody else has dared to do: taking the army by
the horns and challenging the high command.

In Israel, that is close to lèse majesté.

SINCE THE beginning of October, Israel has been experiencing a wave of
violence that has not yet acquired an official name. Newspapers call it a
“wave of terrorism”, some speak of “the intifada of the individuals”.

Its outstanding characteristic is that it lacks any organization. It is not
planned by a group, no orders are transmitted from above, no coordination
between cells is necessary.

Some Arab teenager takes a knife from his mother’s kitchen, looks for a
uniformed person in the street and stabs him. If no soldier or policeman is
available, he stabs a settler. If he sees no settler around, he stabs any
Israel he can find. 

If he drives a car, he just looks for a group of soldiers or civilians
waiting by the road and runs them over. 

Many others just throw stones at a passing Israeli car, hoping to cause a
fatal accident. 

Against such acts, the army (in the occupied territories) and the police (in
Israel proper or in annexed East Jerusalem) is almost helpless. In the two
earlier intifadas and in between, the security organs incredibly caught
almost all perpetrators. This was achieved because the acts were committed
by groups and organizations. Almost all of these were sooner or later
infiltrated by Israeli agents. Once one of the perpetrators had been caught,
he or she was induced to inform on the others – either by bribes, “moderate
physical pressure” (as our courts call torture) and such.

All these proven measures are quite useless, when a deed is carried out by a
single person, or by two brothers, acting on the spur of the moment. No
spies. No traitors. No prior signs. Nothing to work on.

The Israeli security services have tried to work out a typical profile of
such perpetrators. To no avail. There is nothing common to all or most of
them. There were several 14 year old teenagers, but also a grandfather with
children and grandchildren. Most did not appear in any anti-terrorist
database. Some were religious radicals, but many others were not religious
at all. Some were females, one a mother. 

What pushed them? The official Israeli stock answer is: sedition. Mahmud
Abbas incites them. Hamas incites them. The Arab media incite them. Almost
all these “incitements” are routine reactions to Israeli actions. And
anyway, a young Arab does not need “incitement”. He sees what’s going on
around him. He sees terrifying nightly arrests, Israeli troops invading
towns and villages. He does not need the lure of the virgins awaiting the
martyr in paradise. 

SINCE THERE is no immediate remedy, politicians and other “experts” fall
back on “deterrence”. Foremost method: summary execution.

This was first discovered in April 1974, when an Israeli bus was hijacked by
four inexperienced Arab youngsters. It was stopped near Ashkelon and
stormed. Two of the four were killed in the shooting, but two were captured
alive. Three photographers took their pictures alive, but later the army
announced that they were also killed in the fighting.

This was a blatant lie, protected by army censorship. As the editor of
Haolam Hazeh magazine, I threatened to go to the Supreme Court. I was
allowed to publish the photos, and a giant storm erupted. The chief of the
Security Service (Shin Bet or Shabak) and his assistants were indicted, but
pardoned without a trial.

In the course of the scandal, a secret directive came to light: the then
Prime Minister, Yitzhak Shamir, had issued an oral directive saying that “no
terrorist should remain alive after committing a terrorist act”. 

Something like that must be in force now. Soldiers, policemen and armed
civilians believe that this is an order: terrorists must be killed on the
spot.

Officially, of course, soldiers and others are allowed to kill only when
their own lives or the lives of others are in direct and immediate danger.
According to the laws of war, as well as Israeli law, it is a crime to kill
enemies when they are wounded, handcuffed or otherwise unable to endanger
lives.

Yet almost all Arab perpetrators – including the wounded and the captured –
are shot on the spot. How is this to be explained?

Most frequently, the facts are simply denied. But with the proliferation of
security cameras, this becomes more and more impossible.

An argument often used is that a soldier has no time to think. He has to act
quickly. A battlefield is no courtroom. A soldier often acts instinctively.

Yes and no. Very often indeed there is no time to think. He who shoots first
stays alive. A soldier has the right – indeed, the duty – to defend his
life. When in doubt, he should act. No one needs to tell me that. I have
been there.

But there are situations when there is no doubt at all. If a handcuffed
prisoner is shot, it is clearly a crime. To shoot a wounded enemy, lying
helplessly on the ground, like the girl with the scissors, is disgusting.

These are clearcut cases. If the Minister of Police (now called Minister for
Interior Security) says in the Knesset that the girl-killer had no time to
think – he lies. 

I dare to say that this minister, Gilad Ardan, an aggressive he-man who did
his glorious army service as a desk officer in the army personnel
department, has a bit less battle experience than I. What he said in the
Knesset is rubbish.

The soldiers shoot and kill because they think that their superiors want
them to. Probably they have been told to do so. The logic behind this is
“deterrence” – if the perpetrator knows that he is going to be killed for
sure, he may think twice before doing it.

There is absolutely no evidence for this. On the contrary, the knowledge
that he or she, the perpetrators, are probably going to be shot on the spot,
just pushes them on. Becoming a shahid, a martyr, will make their family and
the entire neighborhood proud.

Ah, say the deterrers, but if we also destroy the house of the perpetrator’s
family, they will think twice. Their family will beg them to abstain. Sounds
logical?

Not at all. There is absolutely no evidence for this, either. Quite the
contrary. Becoming the parents of a shahid is such an honor, that it
overrides the loss of the family home. Especially if funds provided by Saudi
Arabia and the other Gulf states will pay indemnities. 

It is the clearcut opinion of the security experts that this kind of
collective punishment does not work. On the contrary, it creates more
hatred, which will create more shahids. In short, counter-productive. 

The top army and security service commanders do not hide their opposition to
these measures. They are overruled by politicians and commentators who seek
popularity.

SUMMARY EXECUTIONS and collective punishments are, of course, diametrically
opposed to the international Laws of Warfare. Many Israelis despise these
laws and ignore them. They believe that such naive laws should not hinder
our army in the defense of our country and us.

This argument is based on ignorance.

The laws of warfare were initiated after the 30-year war, in the first half
of the 17th century, which brought untold misery to central Europe. When it
was finished, two thirds of Germany was destroyed and the one third of the
German population wiped out.

The originators of the laws, in particular a Dutchman called Grotius,
started from the sensible assumption that no law will hold if it prevents
the prosecution of war. A nation fighting for its life will not observe any
law that hinders it doing so. But in wars, a lot of atrocities are committed
which serve no military purpose at all, just out of hatred or sadism.

It is these acts – acts that serve no military purpose – that are forbidden
by the international laws of war. Both sides suffer from them. Killing
prisoners, letting the wounded perish, destroying civilian property,
collective punishments and such help no side. They just satisfy sadistic
impulses and senseless hatred.

Such acts are not just immoral and ugly. They are also counterproductive.
Atrocities create hatred, which creates more shahids. Dead prisoners cannot
be interrogated and provide no information, which may be essential for
forming new strategies and tactics. Cruelty is just another form of
stupidity.

Our army knows all this. They are against. But they are overruled by
politicians of the more detestable kind, which we have in abundance.

CONNECTED WITH this subject is the persecution of an organization called
“Breaking the Silence”. 

This was formed by soldiers who, upon their release, started to publicize
their experience in the occupied territories, things they did and things
they saw. This has become a big operation. Their meticulous adherence to the
truth has gained the respect of the army, and testimony given by them is
respected by the army General Attorney’s office and often acted upon.

This has now led to a furious incitement campaign against the group by the
demagogues of the extreme Right. It has been accused of treason, of
“besmirching our boys”, of aiding and abetting the terrorists and such. Many
of the accusers are former office soldiers and shirkers, who accuse former
combatants.

This week the Rightist demagogues furiously attacked the President of
Israel, Reuben Rivlin, for committing treason. His crime: he appeared at a
political conference organized in New York by the liberal Israeli newspaper
Haaretz, where Breaking the Silence was also invited. 

Rivlin is a very nice, very humane person. As President he is insisting on
full equality for Arab citizens. But he also entertains very right-wing
opinions and objects to giving up an inch of “Eretz Israel” territory for
peace. Yet no right-wing politician has come to his aid against the wild
accusations.

Breaking the Silence does not stand alone. Fascist groups – I use the term
with some hesitation – accuse many peace and human rights organizations of
“treason”, citing the fact that several of them do receive donations from
European governments and organizations. The fact that Israeli right-wing and
downright fascist organization receive vastly more money from Jewish and
Christian Evangelist organizations abroad does not matter.

ALL THIS shows how courageous Advocate Feldman is in his efforts. 

As we say in Hebrew: All honor to him. 

Bradley Burston

I Left Israel for Two Weeks. I Came Home to a Different Country

No chief, no plan, no security, no hope. There are times I think about resigning from the tribe.

Bradley Burston Oct 22, 2015 1:50 PM
 An Isaeli soldier looks on at the scene of a West Bank stabbing attack near the settlement of Adam, north of Jerusalem. October 21, 2015Reuters

An Isaeli soldier looks on at the scene of a West Bank stabbing attack near the settlement of Adam, north of Jerusalem. October 21, 2015Reuters

There was a time when I used to forget things, to lose things, with damnable frequency.
At some point, it occurred to me that I always lost things exactly when I was leaving one place for another. I forced myself to imagine, just before leaving anywhere, that I would never be able to return to that place, so I’d sure as anything better take with me everything I’d need for this trip.

It worked. In fact, this month, leaving Israel to visit my family in California, it worked so well that the lie-to-myself, the conscious fiction, the part about never returning, may have come true without me even knowing it.

Two weeks ago, in the middle of the night, I again told myself that lie, in order to make sure that I wouldn’t forget anything before leaving for the airport in Lod.  Now I’m on a plane headed back to Israel. Six miles above a Utah escarpment, I am handed yesterday’s Yedioth Ahronot newspaper and begin to sense, headline by headline, that a million nonstop hours from now, this airplane will land in the same Ben Gurion Airport I’d taken off from – but not in the same country.

The day I left Israel, that mountaintop we’d uneasily lived with so long, the smoking summit which, we knew, capped a mountain of hatred, shuddered and blew entirely off. The ensuing eruption has claimed new victims daily, in every direction. And, with the speed and unstoppability of a volcano, its flow of fire is changing the landscape into something no one can quite recognize.

Just in the short time I’ve been gone, Israel’s eternal, indivisible capital has been physically divided. Palestinians have slashed, hacked, shot or run over dozens of Israelis, killing many of them. Israelis have shot hundreds of Palestinians, scores of them fatally, some for having attacked Israelis, some not.

Within Israel, street mobs have severely assaulted Arabs for being Arabs, and have mistaken Mizrachi  Jews and an Eritrean man for terrorists, with tragic and even fatal results.

“You’re right,” social activist Ronny Douek wrote in an open letter to the prime minister in thatMonday edition of Yedioth, “that in the past we’ve seen terrorist attacks more severe, and that we’ve known more dangerous periods of time.
“But do you not see that this time,  in fact, something has opened a crack inside us? That, in contrast to other periods of crisis, in which we knew how to come together and look forward, this time the horizon looks dark.”

I have lived in Israel for many years, decades in fact. But I know enough about this place – and the fear and the despair in which my loved ones there are now living –  to know that I am coming back to a place about which I know nothing.
I have been a member of this tribe we call the Jews for my whole life. I have been schooled in the mechanics and the horrific if periodic works of pogrom and bloodthirst and genocidal persecution from the time I heard my first fairy tales.

But this, I fear, is something different. Something somehow more permanent.
In the past, when confronted with people who wanted Israel to cease to exist, people who believed Israel was doomed, fragile, unsustainable, and/or indefensibly, immorally evil, deserving of a death sentence, I would react with a faith-based defiance grounded in optimism for a better, more just, more humane future.
I won’t lie about this: For the present, my focus is elsewhere. I want my loved ones to live.
For the future though, I am left to wonder: How is my tribe to live like this? Lost. No chief. No security. No plan. No hope.

There have been times when I thought, Why not just resign from the tribe?
Truth be told, I get letters all the time from people – fellow members of the tribe – who recommend that I do just that, in one form or another. They inform me that my name’s not Jewish enough, my politics not Zionist enough, my complaints about Israel such that I should leave the country, my complaints about Israel such that I should die.

Maybe it’s time I listened to them. Maybe it’s time to resign from the tribe that these people belong to, and to realize, at long last, that all this time I’ve been a member of a different tribe. Not a rival, exactly. Just different.
Maybe it’s time I realized that the tribes of the Holy Land are not simply the mortal enemies we call Jews and Arabs. Maybe all the deafening, implacable, violence-espousing extremists, both disgusting sides of them, are actually in one tribe, together.
And, yes, that first tribe is winning. At this point, any kid with a cleaver, any meathead yelling for death, is a chief on his own.
But maybe there’s another tribe which  loves this land so deeply, that it’s still willing to seek a way to share it among the people who live here. This is a tribe which wants to see human rights defeat hatred, democracy vanquish deity-based dictatorship. The tribe of humans.

If that second tribe is paralyzed, demoralized, delegitimized by the current reality, small wonder. But sometimes, under great pressures, things which you’re sure are lost forever, can reappear. Like love itself. So here’s my letter of resignation from that first tribe, a letter which I’m submitting here, because my tribe lacks a chief I could hand it to:

I hereby resign from the tribe that says killing unarmed people is a form of self defense, whose practitioners are heroes.

I hereby resign from the tribe that says: We deserve everything, all the land, and we’ve got the Book that says so.

I resign from the tribe which says the other guys are monsters,  animals, out only for our blood and our land, undeserving and disqualified from having a country of their own.

I resign from the tribe that says settlers are not civilians and are fair game for murder. I resign from the tribe that says any Jew, because they’re Jewish, deserves to be stabbed.

I resign from the tribe that says Death to Arabs, the tribe which posts that hating Arabs is a virtue.

I resign from the tribe that says Palestinian kids suspected of throwing rocks should be put to death on the spot.

I resign from the tribe which blames the Palestinians for the Holocaust.

I resign from the tribe that says “We’ll knock flat the homes of the relatives of suspected terrorists – but only the Palestinian ones, never the Jews.” I resign from this tribe not only because this ritual is wrong and immoral and collective punishment. I resign also because it doesn’t work, only making a vicious circle that much broader and that much deeper and that much more vicious.

Maybe you have to leave a place in order to know what’s been lost there. But sometimes, as well, you have to come back, to appreciate what’s still there, what can improbably reappear.

Yes, I’m resigning. But I still I haven’t given up on all this.

And, for what it’s worth, I’m keeping my name.Bradley Burston

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