Analysis News

Space for perpetuating the conflict: Tunnels, deterrence and profits

Israeli leaders cannot escape the idea that Palestinians must be controlled, all the time and in all areas of life. Indeed, if controlling the Palestinians is everything we want, then the separation wall and the ‘Iron Dome’ are excellent solutions. The longer this snowball rolls, however, any non-military option is ruled out more aggressively, and even relatively moderate military options become irrelevant.

By Idan Landau

It became official this summer: tunnels are the new centrifuges. For years, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been waving the Iranian threat in front of us, and one morning we woke up and… poof! – the threat vanished, at least from most of the prime minister’s speeches.

Then came the rockets – from Hezbollah and Hamas. The Israeli hasbara machine painted that capability in demonic dimensions, used to justify every crime and injustice against innocent civilians in Lebanon and Gaza. And yet, after each Israeli military operation Hezbollah and Hamas improved their ability to launch rockets.

But then the tunnels made an appearance, followed by their offspring: smuggling tunnels, terror tunnels, explosive tunnels, launching tunnels, and most recently – infiltration tunnels.

We need to raise some serious questions about the tunnels, just a moment before they become a holy cow no one can question.

Israeli soldiers discover a tunnel in the Gaza Strip during ‘Operation Protective Edge,’ July 20, 2014. (Photo by IDF Spokesperson)

Israeli soldiers discover a tunnel in the Gaza Strip during ‘Operation Protective Edge,’ July 20, 2014. (Photo by IDF Spokesperson)

My starting point is an extensive post I wrote two and a half years ago about the special elite combat engineering unit of the IDF, Yahalom, which described its deeds from the days of operation Cast Lead to today. A part of it was dedicated to the significant efforts that the IDF is investing, both technological and operational, in the training of this unit for “tunnel combat.” I emphasize the expression “tunnel combat,” not to be confused with “tunnel detection” and “tunnel destruction,” which are the focus of public attention these days. It’s not the same thing, though by the end we’ll see that the conclusions are not significantly different.

That is what I wrote then:

The notable examples from our days are the tunnels that the Chinese dug in Ranzhuang against the...

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How the IDF abdicates its monopoly on violence in the West Bank

The IDF grants arrest and other powers to civilians in West Bank settlements and outposts but fails to ensure they are held accountable. In essence, the army has privatized law enforcement.

By Yossi Gurvitz, for Yesh Din

Illustrative photo of an Israeli settlement's civilian security coordinator. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Illustrative photo of an Israeli settlement’s civilian security coordinator. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Privatizing the state’s use of force should be a source of concern to us all. Such a process – and particularly when the powers are transferred to a body with a clear political agenda – creates uncontrolled militias. This is the process that has occurred in the West Bank due to the army’s policy of delegating some of its law enforcement powers to civilian security coordinators, as discussed in Yesh Din’s new report, “The lawless zone.”

The institution of the civilian security coordinator in itself is not new; it is part of a spatial defense approach that predates the establishment of the State of Israel. This function was formalized in the Local Authorities Law (Arrangement of Guarding), 1961. That law established that the security coordinators and guards were to be accountable to the police or the army. In the West Bank, where this mechanism was introduced by a military order in 1971, is more complex.

Read the full Yesh Din report here

The security coordinators — and the guards accountable to them — enjoy quasi-military and law enforcement powers, such as the power to detain or search a suspect and to arrest him if he resists. Despite this, supervision over their actions is remarkably vague. In official terms, security coordinators derive their powers from appointment by the IDF’s Central Command. In practice, however, they are appointed by the settlements in which they work. In official terms, security coordinators are accountable to the army, which grants them their powers and provides training programs, and to military law. In practice, there is not even a single documented instance in which a security coordinator has been prosecuted for deviating from his authority, despite the fact that the new report itemizes a number of documented violations. In official terms, the security coordinator receives instructions from the army brigade; but he receives his salary from the settlement where he operates. The security coordinator is not an employee of the Defense Ministry...

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The U.S. is also guilty in Palestine

When an indigenous, stateless population is blocked access to opportunities for justice by superpowers like the U.S., something is wrong – deadly wrong.

By Sam Bahour

The U.S. is not a neutral mediator in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict; it is an active participant and is guilty of the crimes being committed by Israel against Palestinians, most recently, the mass killings and destruction Israel wrought on the Gaza Strip during the summer. The reality that the U.S. is an active supporter of unimaginable suffering may very well be the motivating force behind the U.S.’s adamant attempts to block the Palestinians from using any of the internationally recognized tools of accountability to hold Israel responsible, such as the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court. When an indigenous, stateless population is blocked access to opportunities for justice by superpowers like the U.S., something is wrong – deadly wrong.

While Israeli bombs were hammering Gaza, Alice Lynd with the assistance of Staughton Lynd, drafted a 32-page pamphlet which was published by the Palestine-Israel Working Group of Historians Against the War (HAW) titled, Violations by Israel and the Problem of Enforcement (August 2014). The policy paper places the U.S. in front of its own mirror and meticulously documents how one hand of the U.S. government systematically documents Israeli violations of U.S. law and international law, while the other hand unconditionally dishes out financial, military, and diplomatic support to Israel.

The study notes that:

Israeli and American F-15 airplanes cooperating during the "Blue Flag" exercise in November 2013. (Photo by Gui Ashash/IAF)

Israeli and American F-15 airplanes cooperating during the “Blue Flag” exercise in November 2013. (Photo by Gui Ashash/IAF)

This contradiction of its own policy would seem incriminating enough, but if all the other means of U.S. support to Israel are added – especially the U.S.’s unwavering role in the UN Security Council as a proxy for Israel’s interests by vetoing and thereby blocking international steps for justice – the evidence that the U.S. is an active player in Israel’s onslaught and continued military occupation becomes overwhelming.

It stands to reason that the U.S. very rightly fears that any step to hold Israel accountable for crimes against humanity would ultimately incriminate the U.S. as Israel’s funder, diplomatic cover, political handler, and arms supplier for decades.

While this new document was being...

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Contradicting its own ruling, Israel’s Supreme Court legalizes segregated communities

The Israeli Supreme Court Wednesday dismissed various petitions against the Admissions Committees Law, which allows admissions committees in hundreds of communities in Israel to reject housing applicants based on their “social suitability.”

By Amjad Iraqi

March 8, 2000 marked a unique moment in Israeli history. In a major decision, the Supreme Court of Israel ruled that the town of Katzir, which was established on state land by the Jewish Agency, could not deny the right of the Arab Ka’adan family to live in the town simply on the basis that they were not Jewish. This was the first time that Palestinian citizens of Israel successfully challenged the legality of “Jewish-only” communities in the state, generating cautious optimism that it could set an important precedent for Palestinian rights in land and housing.

Fifteen years later, on September 17, 2014, these hopes came to an abrupt end. In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court dismissed various petitions filed by human rights groups against the Admissions Committees Law, enacted by the Knesset in 2011. The law allows admissions committees in 434 communities in the Negev and the Galilee (about 43 percent of all towns in Israel) to reject housing applicants based on their “social suitability” and the communities’ “social and cultural fabric.” In effect, these committees are now legally permitted to refuse residency based on any “undesired” identity, including Palestinian, Sephardic, African, gay, religious, secular and others.

The Admissions Committees Law is the Israeli right wing’s response to the Supreme Court ruling in the Ka’adan case. Realizing that marginalized groups were increasingly challenging the state’s discriminatory practices, the Knesset under the 2009-12 Netanyahu government sought to turn Israel’s historical policies against these groups into law. Many Knesset members openly declared that the purpose of these laws was to subdue the “threats” posed by Palestinian citizens to the Jewish character of the state. The authors of the Admissions Committees Law even stated that, though deliberately written in neutral language, its main aim was to prevent Arab citizens from living with Jews.

This objective of segregation is not a new phenomenon in Israel, and has in fact been a central, ongoing practice since the state’s establishment in 1948. Legislation ranging from the Absentees Property Law (1950) to the Negev Individual Settlements Law (2011), along with the policies of the Jewish National Fund, Israel Land Authority and the government itself, operate with...

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COMIC: Rome's finest progressives and the scourge of Masada

Stanislaus and Cecelia, progressive Romans living in Judea, wanted nothing more than peace — but the Masadans gave them no choice.

By Eli Valley

Eli.Valley.Masada

Eli Valley is a writer and artist whose work has been published in New York Magazine, The Daily Beast, Gawker, Saveur, Haaretz and elsewhere. He is currently finishing his first novel. Eli’s website is www.EVComics.com and he tweets at @elivalley.

More from Eli Valley:
What if Mahmoud was named Jonah?
COMIC: Consensus in the Conference
Why even god can’t reach a two-state solution




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PHOTOS: Anti-Zionists join rally against anti-Semitism in Berlin

Our joint Jewish-Palestinian-German protest confused participants at the rally against anti-Semitism, and definitely confused the German police. We wanted to chip away at the automatic linkage between Jews and the State of Israel.

Text by Inna Michaeli
Photos by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org

Demonstration against anti-Semitism and all racism in Berlin, September 14, 2014. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Demonstration against anti-Semitism and all racism in Berlin, September 14, 2014. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

BERLIN — By the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin on Sunday, some 3,000 people rallied against anti-Semitism, at the initiative of the Central Council of Jews in Germany. As promised, German Chancellor Angela Merkel gave a speech. Many in the crowd were touched by her declaration of historical responsibility for the crimes of the past, and for ensuring that Jews are welcome in Germany.

We also came to the march — around 100 activists, a lot of Jews, Germans, Palestinians and others, and no small number of Israelis. We demonstrated with banners reading: “No to attacks on synagogues and mosques in Berlin and in Gaza”, “anti-Semitism ≠ anti-Zionism”, and some of the Israelis in the crowd carried a sign reading, “Merkel, give us German passports, not weapons.”

Israelis demand Merkel for German passports, September 14, 2014. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Israelis demand Merkel for German passports, September 14, 2014. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks at the demonstration against anti-Semitism, September 14, 2014. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks at the demonstration against anti-Semitism, September 14, 2014. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The goal of the non-Zionist bloc was to show that we exist as Jews and others, who oppose anti-Semitism and all racism, and who reject the automatic linkage between Jews and the State of Israel. Indeed, it was evident that the bloc’s presence sparked many discussions — not only between us and the other marchers, but also among the other groups. Along with hostile reactions, demands that we leave and those doubting the Jewishness of the Jews among us, many of us had open and positive discussions.

The police were pretty confused. They came and listened to our slogans through their walkie talkies and tried to understand whether we were for or against. The police officers stressed that they were in no...

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Returning to Gaza's devastation after summer peace camp

During Operation Protective Edge, dozens of Israeli and Palestinian children spent their days at a summer peace camp in the U.S. When one of those children returned to Gaza and found his family homes destroyed, he wrote a letter to the new Israeli friend he’d made at camp.

By Orly Noy

Just days before the start of the latest Gaza war I had the opportunity to speak with Noa, my daughter’s good friend, who told me excitedly about her upcoming trip to a camp run by Seeds of Peace, an a-political organization that works to introduce youths from conflict zones around the world in a neutral location – in this case, Maine.

Like her classmates in her bi-lingual school in Israel, Noa doesn’t really need well-intentioned Americans to introduce her to the “other side”; they have been some of her closest friends since age five. Nevertheless, the upcoming trip was exciting to her, partly out of the knowledge that a different setting could make her face a different discourse – her own and that of other participants. That was especially true in anticipation of meeting the “other” whom she hadn’t yet met, particularly young people from the West Bank and Gaza.

A Palestinian woman stands near laundry hanging over a destroyed quarter of the Shujayea neighborood, Gaza City, September 4, 2014. (Activestills.org)

A Palestinian woman stands near laundry hanging over a destroyed quarter of the Shujayea neighborood, Gaza City, September 4, 2014. (Activestills.org)

As her departure got closer and closer, and against the backdrop of the atrocities in Gaza and the terror in southern Israel, it became clearer that the camp was going to be much more sensitive and charged than she had imagined. I thought about her frequently while she was at the camp, but because they weren’t allowed to write or speak with the “outside world” I didn’t know what she and the other children were going through. So, I waited for Noa’s return.

Once she returned to Israel I understood that it had been a significant and moving experience for her. Noa came back with a skill that very few adults I know possess: the ability to listen, to really listen to another, and that’s what she did. Quite naturally, good friendships and strong connections were made, ones that now, upon the children’s return...

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In J'lem, thousands of Palestinian students have no classrooms

There is a shortage of 738 classrooms in East Jerusalem – only 38 percent of Palestinian children are registered in the municipal education system. The problem is not lack of funds, but a planning policy designed to prevent development in Palestinian neighborhoods of the city.

By Aviv Tatarsky

Palestinian children on a rooftop in East Jerusalem. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Palestinian children on a rooftop in East Jerusalem. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

As the Israeli school year begins, let’s do a little math. There is a shortage of 408 regular classrooms and 330 kindergarten classrooms in East Jerusalem. This does not include replacing the 681 classrooms currently not up to code. In addition, there is a shortage of 1,636 classrooms in the official, public municipal education system, forcing students to study in a parallel private, costly unofficial school system.

Over the past five years the Jerusalem Municipality has built an average of 36 new classrooms per year in the Palestinian neighborhoods of the city. At this rate, how many years would it take for the municipality to remedy the shortage and fulfill its basic obligation to provide free education to every child in “undivided and unified” Jerusalem?

This is not advanced mathematics. Still the calculation is worthwhile. It would take 21 years to build the 738 missing classrooms, 40 years if we also want to replace those classrooms not up to code. In the meantime, tens of thousands of students are forced to pay exorbitant fees for a costly education. Thousands more simply stay home; the exact number of such students is unknown but according to the municipality’s statistics the figure is somewhere above 8,000.

Truth is, it was a trick question. In practice, the current pace of building barely covers the population’s natural growth rate. The bottom line is that only 38 percent of Palestinian students in Jerusalem (42,792 out of 111,5000) study in the official municipal system, as detailed in the latest Ir Amim report.

The report outlines the legal proceedings on this issue since 2000, demonstrating the ongoing failure of the Jerusalem Municipality and Education Ministry to fulfill their obligations based on court rulings as well as their own promises to resolve the issue.

For example, in 2011 the High Court ordered the Jerusalem Municipality and Education Ministry to absorb every single student in East Jerusalem interested in pursuing an...

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It's time for a real joint struggle

Honesty is needed to wake Israelis from their delusions. Continuing to view Israel as a normal state will only prolong this bloody conflict and create yet more suffering for both sides.

By Awad Abdelfattah

Israel’s ruling elite continues to mislead Israeli society into believing that the Palestinians will one day submit to their enslavement. Israel’s colonization of the land and people is unceasing, suppressing and killing the indigenous Palestinian population in a quest for an illusionary individual and collective security.

The recent onslaught on Gaza – the third major offensive in seven years – and the continuing escalation in official racist policies and practices against Israel’s 1.3 million Palestinian citizens have failed to make Palestinians submit. Rather, this endless warfare has only bolstered their resilience and commitment to struggle for their legitimate rights.

Israelis assume that the lessons of other colonized peoples’ triumphant liberations do not hold true for them. In this view Israel represents a “chosen people” and is immune to historical processes that drive human beings to fight for a free and decent life. This belief is sustained both by an obsession among Israelis with their self-image as an enlightened and superior society, and by a classic colonial racist worldview.

Israel’s repeated brutal assaults on the Palestinian people, and its failure to subjugate a small number of Palestinian fighters incarcerated in the tiny besieged enclave of the Gaza Strip have generated further cracks in this self-image of superiority. It will be many years before these cracks widen and reach the point where the whole colonial edifice crumbles. But the fact that it will crumble is a realization that increasingly haunts Israelis.

A mosque minaret rises among the ruins of Al-Nada towers after they were destroyed by Israeli strikes in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip, August 4, 2014. The towers had 90 flats. So far, Israeli attacks have killed at least 1,870 Palestinians, and injured 9,470 since the beginning of the Israeli offensive (photo: Activestills)

A mosque minaret rises among the ruins of Al-Nada towers after they were destroyed by Israeli strikes in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip, August 4, 2014. The towers had 90 flats. (photo: Activestills)

In the short and medium...

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WATCH: Israeli forces detain 7-year-old Palestinian boy in Hebron

Israeli Border Police detained two Palestinian boys aged seven and 12 in the West Bank city of Hebron Monday morning on suspicion of throwing stones.

Before school on Monday, a group of Palestinian youths allegedly threw stones at an Israeli Border Police checkpoint in Hebron. According to International Solidarity Movement (ISM) activists who witnessed and filmed the scene, it took some time before the officers came out of their protected position and began making arrests. The ISM activists said there was no certainty that the boys who were detained were in any way connected to the stone throwing.

The children were detained by Israeli soldiers at the checkpoint for around 40 minutes before releasing them. This is not the first time that Israeli soldiers or police have been filmed detaining Palestinian children in Hebron and its surroundings.

In the video, which was shot by ISM activists, the Israeli officers can be seen carrying the seven year old, who at times appears to be crying.

The age of criminal culpability under Israeli military law is 12.

Read +972′s special coverage: Children Under Occupation

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Trapped between Assad and 'IS': Inside the capital of the 'Islamic State'

Following a long period of quiet, the Syrian city of Raqqa is once again being shelled — this time by Assad’s forces. Residents have been forced to flee the shelling, along with IS’s extremist agenda. An interview with a resident of the ‘Islamic State.’

By Elizabeth Tsurkov

Raqqa, the capital of the “Islamic State” in northern Syria, for the past two months has been forced once again to deal with a devastating phenomenon — indiscriminate bombing by the Syrian Air Force. According to reports from the local coordinating committee, a Syrian air force bombing of a bakery on Saturday took the lives of some 50 people, 35 of them civilians.

Residents of Raqqa have found themselves trapped between the regime’s air strikes, which kill indiscriminately, especially civilians, and the Jihadi organization that is forcing upon them an alien lifestyle and an extremist ideology. In an exclusive interview with +972 Magazine, “Akram” (not his real name), a graduate of Aleppo University and a resident of Raqqa, estimates that between 80 and 90 percent of the city’s residents despise the organization and its actions.

When the regime started bombing them, Raqqa residents “started cursing and swearing at both sides,” Akram explains. “Honestly, people are fed up with all of the sides, even the [Free Syrian Army]. They only want the war to stop. Only a few people are still enthusiastic about the revolution.”

Islamic State (IS), for its part, has moved its commanders out of the city. Akram says that after the bombing of the bakery, he spoke with a Tunisian IS militant who concluded that the fact that only a minority of those killed were IS militants proves that god is on the Islamic State’s side and that the civilians killed were sinners being punished for their corruption.

Video: The aftermath of the bombing in Raqqa on September 6, 2014.

Revision of text books

In March of 2013 a coalition of Jihadi, Islamic and secular rebels took control of Raqqa, the first — and only — regional capital to fall into rebel hands. Throughout 2013 IS gradually took control over the city and its management. It suppressed civil society forces that rebelled against it and drove out a group of rebels that had been basing itself in the city. At the beginning of...

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Israel's very own tunnels of dread in Jerusalem

While everyone is preoccupied with the Hamas tunnels in Gaza, Israel continues to dig under Palestinian houses in Jerusalem. The excuses are questionable, residents are angry and fearful, and a religious conflagration appears imminent.

By Orly Noy

With the Hamas tunnels dominating the Israeli narrative for the past several weeks, their inherent danger horrifying the entire state and sometimes leading to apocalyptic visions, the state of Israel persistently continued digging its own underground tunnels – in Jerusalem.

These tunnels, like those of Hamas, are being dug under a heavy cloak of secrecy. As with the Hamas tunnels, they serve as a tool for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They are also being dug under the houses of uninvolved civilians, in this case Palestinians. However, while the Hamas tunnels are described as serving terrorist purposes, these tunnels have been authorized by the Supreme Court of Israel, and all the relevant arms of the state have been mobilized in their support.

What follows is a conversation with archaeologist Yonatan Mizrahi from Emek Shaveh, an organization that focuses on the role of archaeology in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, about what is going on underground in one of the world’s most volatile places, the historical heart of Jerusalem.

***

Bags of cement at the entrance to the tunnel on the main street of Silwan. (photo: Emek Shaveh)

Bags of cement at the entrance to the tunnel on the main street of Silwan. (photo: Emek Shaveh)

Is it correct to say that these underground excavations in Jerusalem, especially in the area of the Historic Basin, are not a new development?

Yes, that is correct. At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th centrury underground tunnels were dug as part of archaeological excavations. It was a method of excavation, for various reasons. Toward the beginning of the 20th century it became clear that this practice was very problematic as a research tool, and starting in the second decade of the 20th century the Silwan excavations reverted to an orderly method, from the top down, exposing strata, as we all know. Since that time archaeologists have no longer dug tunnels; it is no longer part of the modus operandi.

When was the digging of tunnels resumed?

After the state of Israel conquered the Old City of Jerusalem it introduced many...

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[op-ed] Israelis, stop swimming in our shit

A new report by Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network details the damage that consecutive Israeli military assaults have caused to Gaza’s water systems, whereby 95 percent of the water consumed in the Strip for decades has been unfit for human consumption.

By Sam Bahour

Tel Aviv beach (photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Tel Aviv beach (photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Palestinians in Gaza are starting to wake up from the shell-shock of Israel’s 51-day Ramadan Massacre, which left over 2,131 Palestinians killed (of which more than 500 were children), over 10,000 injured (more than half of whom are estimated to be permanently handicapped), and scores of homes and businesses demolished. Reality is bleaker than ever before. Nothing of the underlying reasons why Gaza exploded into a bloodbath has changed; Israeli and Egyptian closures of Gaza’s borders remain in place. However, one product is making its way freely across the border into Israel. Actually, this product flows undetected by the almighty Israeli military and rolls right up on to the shores of Tel Aviv. The product is Palestinian shit, or more accurately, to maintain the media bias of the times, Palestinian terrorist shit.

We Palestinians have no love affair with the Israelis relaxing on the shores of Tel Aviv. Many of these Israelis have no problem being high-tech professionals in the morning, throwing on their military uniform and participating in turning Gaza into a living hell on earth in the afternoon, then going for a relaxing swim with the family on the shores of Tel Aviv in the evening. However, we would advise Israelis, and all tourists to Israel for that matter, to please stop swimming in our shit. This practice is not only unhealthy for you and your children, but it is killing us, literally and figuratively.

In a new policy brief titled, “Drying Palestine: Israel’s Systemic Water War,” issued by Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network, Muna Dajani writes from Jerusalem of the damage that consecutive Israeli military aggressions have caused to Gaza’s water systems:

While the Israeli government continues to maintain a total closure on the Gaza Strip, there is no chance the electricity needed to run the water and wastewater networks will be operational anytime soon.

In her policy brief, Ms. Dajani also depicts the water war being waged in the West Bank. She notes:

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