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The State of Israel just announced who would receive the honor of lighting the torch that marks the start of Israel Independence Day.  It went to Israeli TV news anchor, Lucy Aharish.  She is a young Israeli-Palestinian who grew up among Moroccan Jews in Dimona.  Her politics during this period were exceedingly right-wing.  And today, they still bear traces of that upbringing.  She speaks Hebrew with no Palestinian accent, dresses like a hip Tel Avivit, and bears no semblance of her ethnic roots.  Her politics around the Palestinian conflict are typically liberal Zionist (“We have other things to get over besides the occupation and discrimination”).  It’s a problem not of her making nor is it her responsibility to fix it or speak on anyone’s behalf but her own.

The only time Lucy Aharish spoke out was when a settler thug attacked her verbally during a TV interview.  At that point, she did speak up for herself and put the interviewee in his place.  But other than that, you’d hardly know Aharish was “Arab,” to use the slightly pejorative Hebrew phrasing.

Just as Israeli advocacy groups like Aish HaTorah and StandWithUs love to single out Muslim and Arab Uncle Tom’s for special approbation, the choice of Aharish fits that mold.  She’s Arab, but she’s one of “us.”  She’s not one of “them,” except in a nominal sense.  She’s the good “Arab” because you hardly even know she’s Arab:

“What’s more important for me is the brand name Lucy Aharish. The Arab sector does not pay me a salary. My national identify is that of an Arab-Israeli. I identify with Palestinian suffering, but I am not part of it. I have a different suffering here: I am not getting the rights that accrue to me as a citizen of Israel – such as better mortgage terms – because I did not do army service.”

international women's day protest wounded protester

Woman overcome by tear gas at today’s Palestinian women’s protest

israeli attack dog assault palestinian woman

Israeli police attack dog assaults Palestinian woman

Now, I want to do a Compare and Contrast: note the image of a Palestinian woman protesting against the Occupation.  Despite the fact that she and those tear gassed and assaulted with stun grenades today were unarmed, that didn’t stop Israeli police thugs from using violence to break up their non-violent demonstration.

Israel should take pride that it orders dogs to attack unarmed women.  That’s part of the Zionist dream, isn’t it?  To shed blood for the homeland?  Preferably the blood of the enemy.  And lots of it.

Finally, here is the State of Israel’s official media self-promotion (hasbara) for International Women’s Day.  What does it tout?  That it’s designed special joysticks for drone operators so women’s smaller hands can be more comfortable.  What an achievement!  Enabling women to have the privilege of killing Palestinian civilians just like men.  Zionism’s contribution to the liberation of women!

A few relevant facts: 300 of those murdered by the IDF during Operation Protective Edge were women.  A survey by a human rights NGO found that 37% of Gazans murdered during Operation Protective Edge were killed by drones.  If you keep in mind that up to 80% of the Gazan dead were civilians, you can do the math and determine how many civilians those female drone operators killed.  Happy Women’s Day everyone–Israel-style!

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idf al nusra meeting

Golan border meeting between IDF and al-Nusra fighters (Press TV)

Despite an ironclad gag order within Israel prohibiting publication of even a single detail of the “espionage” case against Sedki al-Maket, Hilal Halabi and several other Golani Druze, word is beginning to circulate in foreign media.  Beyond the two posts here, and the original video aired on Syrian state TV, now Press TV has published new pictures showing IDF officers meeting in broad daylight at the Quneitra border-crossing.  This further bolsters the claims of al-Maket and my own reporting here.

Given the orientation of the picture, it was clearly taken on the Israeli-occupied side of the ceasefire line.  That means it’s likely an IDF soldier took the picture.  That could be where Hilal Halabi comes in.  He was arrested this week, presumably as part of the same case involving al-Maket.  I speculated at the time that Halabi may’ve notified the Golani reporter about the nighttime meeting.  It’s possible the soldier took this picture as well.  These are educated guesses about how this could’ve played out.

The IDF-al Nusra collaboration is the region’s worst-kept secret: the IDF has made an alliance of convenience with al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, al-Nusra.  It’s done this because it believes that Hezbollah, al-Nusra’s enemy, is a more dangerous adversary.  Keep in mind, that when Hezbollah was first founded, the Mossad too made common cause with it against Israel’s then enemies, the Palestinians.

If Assad were ever overthrown and the Sunni-affiliated al-Nusra took over Syria or large portions of it, and its agenda transformed them into enemies of Israel, then Israel will be fighting the same conflict with al Nusra it’s now fighting with Hezbollah.  God, doesn’t this get old to any Israeli strategists?  Don’t they get deja vu regarding crap like this?  Apparently not.  They’re gluttons for ongoing punishment.  Or else they need to have a potent enemy at hand to justify the garrison-perpetual-war state they’ve created.

In breaking this story, I’ve observed an important principle: Israeli intervention in regional affairs is almost always toxic.  No matter what short-term interest Israel believes it’s advancing, invariably military alliances like this (and the one with the South Lebanese Army in the 1980s) go all to hell and blow up in everyone’s faces.  To the argument pro-Israelists advance–that Israel has no choice since its enemies have their own proxies who intervene in Israel’s affairs–I say: do the deal you know must be made.  Get right with your neighbors.  Accept the Saudi peace plan.  Give back the Golan.  Then you will no longer have any powder kegs into which your enemies can throw matches.

For his troubles, Press TV’s Golan reporter received a ‘friendly’ visit from the IDF.  They asked where he got the pictures (which means the army already knew they were legitimate).  Then they warned him that he was under special observation.  Given the IDF’s murder of journalists in Gaza during the summer war, such a warning is not an idle threat.  Nor did the reporter take it that way.

UPDATE: Since writing the following, I’ve since identified the location of the photo, as I noted above.

I should also add that we do not know the provenance of these pictures.  We don’t know who took them, when they were taken or where (by the way, if anyone reading this knows the Golan and can identify this border crossing, please be in touch).

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It’s campaign season in Israel.  Which means the TV viewing public gets to see a series of increasingly histrionic, election ads attempting to provoke atavistic fears of terror, the Holocaust and national extermination.  The latest example is an ad so revolting that it was pulled a day after it was released.

In the video, a group of Israeli workers and entrepreneurs hold an Alcoholics Anonymous-style meeting whose purpose is to share horror stories about how the Netanyahu government ruined their lives.  The attendees represent archetypes, all of which the average Israeli would find objectionable: the cell phone gouger who charged high fees, the port worker who was paid handsomely for doing no work, and the public broadcasting official who collected license fees from the public.  Finally, a Hamas fighter speaking atrocious Hebrew is thrown in for good measure.  Bibi, you see, has ruined his life since Hamas is supposedly now a vanquished fighting force (as if).

The ad is blatantly false or misleading in a number of ways.  First, Bibi had little to do with breaking the cell phone monopoly.  Credit for this is generally offered to Moshe Kahlon, a former Likud minister, who has since bolted and founded a rival political party.  As for the public broadcaster, clearly Israelis don’t appreciate paying licensing fees for watching television.  But the true purpose of Bibi’s assault on this public service is his resentment of its journalistic independence.  Bibi would much prefer private media companies controlling the airwaves, so that they’d be owned by his oligarch pals like Ronald Lauder or Sheldon Adelson.  A public utility owned by the nation is a threat.  So for that reason Bibi plans not just to end licensing fees, but to break up public broadcasting altogether.

I leave the “best” (or worst) for last.  The Hamas fighter in this video calls himself “Abu Loti.”  This is a revolting term for “gay” in Arabic.  In effect, it means “fag.”  So some smart Likud media consultant thought: eyzeh keyf (“what a lark”) to make fun of Hamas and earn points from the Israeli public.  But in effect this homophobic smear insults all Israeli gays as well.  It’s shameful.

But that’s not what’s most disturbing.  What’s most disturbing is the reason the video was pulled had nothing to do with the homophobic slur.  Rather, Israeli media criticized the video for lumping Hamasniks with Israeli workers.  THAT is what disturbed the Israeli public most.

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Noy Alooshe has produced another one of his magificent satiric hip-hop videos. This one turns Bibi’s Congressional speech into a flashy dance routine in which the members of Congress jump up and down at the prime minister’s command as if they were trained seals.  Note also Naftali Bennett’s goofy cameo:

Today’s Bibiton (aka Yisrael HaYom) ran a screaming front page headline based on an exclusive interview with the Prime Minister himself, his first since returning home after his heroic exit from the lion’s den of Washington DC.  In the interview, he castigates unnamed “foreigners” and their millions, who’ve inundated Israel with left-wing propaganda designed to ensure leftist extremists topple his government.
Bibiton screenshot bibi

Millions of Shekels from Abroad–to Increase Votes from the Left and Arabs [sic]

Netanyahu attributes blame: “there are very powerful forces whose purpose is to topple the Likud regime and replace it with the leftist government.

On funding streaming to [Israeli left-wing] NGOs: “the strategy is clear–to bring to the polls more leftists and Israeli Arabs [sic] so that the Arabs [sic] will win 16 seats and enable the formation of the leftist government.

On the Congressional speech: “My words penetrated deeply into [their, i.e. Congress’] consciousness.”

Bibi’s no doubt referring to the initiative of One Voice, which formed an campaign operation, V15, designed (though ostensibly non-partisan) to recruit voters for the Zionist Camp coalition.  Since the consultant running the campaign worked for Obama, it’s thought (especially among Likudniks) that the president and his Jewish supporters (better known as J Street) funded this personal assault, as Bibi views it, on him.

Bibi sees dark foreign forces at work seeking to overthrow him.  He’s like an Israeli version of Macbeth; or more likely Putin, who similarly passed laws outlawing foreign NGOs from his shores if they remotely questioned his rule.  It’s no accident that Avigdor Lieberman, one of Putin’s “good friends,” was one of the first to suggest that foreign powers were seeking to destroy Israel from within by funding NGOs who informed on Israel before international tribunals investigating possible Israeli war crimes.  Lieberman urged legislation which would restrict how much foreign sources could give to Israeli groups and force them to publicly identify every non-Israeli donor.  Bibi, who hasn’t an original political bone in his body is, in effect, aping his political rival.

Ironically, Bibi has no problem with foreign money propping up his rule.  That would be Sheldon Adelson to the tune of $3-million a month.  An Israeli media outlet reported that Adelson, who owns Bibiton, sinks nearly $40-million per year into it.  Bibi has publicly admitted that he wouldn’t be prime minister were it not for Bibiton.  One cannot underestimate the power this newspaper gives him and his fellow mafiosi.

So some foreign money is good and some is bad.  Very, very bad.  Adelson’s money smells like springtime and J Street’s smells like s(^t.  Interesting how that works.

Bibi’s pathetic pathology views the Zionist Camp, which is a rather shakily cobbled-together center-right political entity, as extreme leftists.  While it’s true here in America we have Tea Party lunatics calling Barack Obama a Marxist, socialist, etc. these people are marginal to American political life.  They’re oddities.  In Israel, the paranoid delusionals run the show.  They’re the inmates who’ve taken over the asylum.

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sedki al maket

Sedki al-Maket, Golani Druze, delivering video report on IDF meeting with Syrian rebel commanders

If you want a lesson in the ways of the Israeli security apparatus–how it manipulates law and media in service to its interests–take a lesson from the case of Golani Druze Sedki al-Maket.  As I reported a few days ago, the security apparatus arrested him (in secret, of course) and slapped a gag order on the case.  No Israeli reporter could report the name of the detainee or the charges against him.  Thanks to a report in Syrian state media, I was able to expose his identity.  My own reporting added the reason why he irked the security apparatus to the extent that it arrested him and likely will bring charges that will send him to prison for years.

UPDATE: Israel’s secret police are so freaked out by Israeli media even noting in their reporting that foreign media outlets (like this blog and two Arab media sources) have reported information about this scandal, that they today issued a sweeping new version of the gag order.  By the way, this is the handiwork of Judge Hanna Sabbagh of the Nazareth Magistrate Court, one of the apparently infinitely pliable Israeli jurists (he is Israeli-Palestinian, by the way) when it comes to security matters:

As an extension of the gag order of 2/25/15 in the matter of the security case investigated by the Northern District police and the Shin Bet, today a new gag order was published by Judge Chana Sabag, vice-president of the Nazareth District Court.  According to it, the earlier gag order is widened to prohibit publication of any details of the investigation; any detail that might identify the suspects, publication about the reporting of any other media outlets including full or partial quotations from foreign media or publications on the internet, including any direct or indirect hint concerning the information prohibited [in Israel] from publication in this case.

I would urge Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists and any other NGO which ranks press freedom internationally to take this ludicrous ruling into account when you determine Israel’s ranking.

Now, Syria’s state media outlet reveals two other Golani Druze were arrested along with al-Maket.  They are Sheikh Atef Darwish from Baka’ata and Fidaa Majed al-Shaer from Majdal Shams.

A confidential Israeli Druze source informs me that yet another Druze has been arrested.  His detention is still secret inside Israel, as is his identity.  I can report that he is an IDF soldier, Hilal Halabi, from Daliyat Al-Carmel (near Haifa).  My guess is that Halabi serves in the Golan. He knew about the meeting between IDF and Syrian rebel commanders. He conveyed the information to al-Maket, who used it to film his video.

In the coming days, you’re likely to see lurid headlines spoon-fed to the Israeli media by the intelligence services about a Syrian spy cell within the IDF; about Druze who passed secret intelligence to the enemy.  And it will all (or mostly) be crap.  Don’t believe any (or much) of it.

This is an extraordinary development, but not for the reasons the Shabak would have you believe.  The only major non-Jewish ethnic groups who serve in the IDF are Druze and Bedouin.  The Druze are especially known for their fierce devotion both to the State and the army.  Their history of service goes back to the founding of the State. In recent years, there have been no Shabak arrests of Druze soldiers, while there have been such arrests of Jewish soldiers.

Only recently have young Druze begun to question the legacy of older generations.  Several who reached the age of military service have become refusers and gone to jail for their principles.  Carmel Druze recently protested Israeli medical treatment offered to al Nusra fighters who’ve killed Syrian Druze.

The arrest of Halabi indicates the gradual deterioration of relations between this minority and the State. The fact that an IDF soldier has collaborated with Golani Druze signifies a growing solidarity between Carmel and Golani Druze.  Many of the Golani Druze maintain support or allegiance to Syria.  Until now, Israel never had to doubt the loyalty of the Carmel Druze.  Until now.

The hawkish Israeli security site 0404 reported this incident revealed a “major security breach.” It said further that the particulars of the case will cause re-evaluation of basic security assumptions.  I’m sure that one of them will be the growing suspicion of the loyalty of the Israeli Druze.

Turning to Syria, Israel would like you to believe it’s neutral in the civil war.  But it isn’t.  Israel has serially bombed Syrian targets and assassinated Syrian and Iranian generals (two) supporting the regime.  Several media outlets and I have also reported Israel established a military encampment for Syrian rebels in Israeli-occupied Golan. Israeli media reports:

UN observers stated that tents were set up about 300 meters from the Israeli position for some 70 families of Syrian deserters. The Syrian army sent a letter of complaint to UNDOF in September, claiming this tent camp was a base for “armed terrorists” crossing the border into Israel. The Syrians also warned that if the UN would not evacuate the tent camp, the Syrian army would view it as a legitimate target.

UN peacekeepers have also written reports confirming this.  Israel also shared intelligence and transferred weapons to al-Nusra Islamist rebels on the Golan border, and shot down a Syrian fighter jet which spent less than one second over airspace of Israel-occupied Golan (which itself is internationally recognized as Syrian territory.

That’s what al-Maket further exposed.  He followed a group of four Syrian rebel commanders as they crossed into Israel-occupied Golan and made their way to a rendezvous with Israeli intelligence officers.  They met near border known in Hebrew as Ramat HaMagshimim (UN outpost 85). He videotaped a report some yards from the meeting and described it in detail.  Al-Maket then offered the video to the Syrian regime and it was aired on Syrian national TV.

You can imagine how happy the Shabak and IDF AMAN were with this development.  Besides noting how poor Israeli security was in ensuring the meeting was held covertly, it further blows out of the water Israel’s claim of neutrality.  This couldn’t be countenanced.  That’s why he was arrested and the security apparatus is going to such great lengths to try and find him guilty in the media without revealing anything specific about the charges.  This is standard operation procedure: to bruit about the claim of a “grave security violation.”

Israeli media coverage of national security issues is of the lowest quality.  Reporters routinely publish stories derived from intelligence sources who are anonymous.  When arrests are made, reporters very rarely quote defense lawyers or interview family members or colleagues to learn about the suspect (something I try to do whenever I can).  They present one side, the side of state power.  This makes the detainee guilty before the public even knows his name.  It’s a benighted form of journalism, one in which the intelligence apparatus co-opts the Fourth Estate, turning it into an accomplice in victimizing those who resist or dissent.

The truth of the matter is that any real reporter would give their eye-teeth to cover the story Al-Maket had.  Israeli journalists, however, would know there wasn’t a chance in hell they could get such a report on the air.  The IDF censor would stop it in a heartbeat.  But of course, no Israeli Jewish journalist would be arrested for practicing such journalism.  That only happens to minority (non-Jewish) journalists.  Can you imagine what it must be like for an Israeli reporter knowing he or she can’t do their job?  Such is the sorry state of Israel’s “free press.”

Here is Walla’s strange coverage of the story, which amounts to: this is big, but I can’t tell you a thing about it:

Shabak and Police Investigate Grave Security Case in the North

A sweeping gag order has shrouded every detail of the investigation, and any detail likely to identify the suspects in the case.  Therefore, we can’t report any additional information at this point.  The police released a statement about the existence of the case in light of revelations by journalists of several nations who published about it.

Even this vague non-coverage is incomplete.  I was the first journalist who reported both the identity of the detainee and the reason for his arrest (yesterday an Arab-language outlet reported the story and was the first to break the gag order, since its reporter is stationed in Jerusalem and subject to it).  As a result, Israeli secret police felt compelled to partially lift the veil on their activities.  That’s why it’s so important that foreign journalists not subject to Israeli jurisdiction be able to blow the lid off cases like this.

Foreign media aren’t as constrained: Vice has already reported on similar liaison meetings between Israeli intelligence and rebels.  FoxNews aired a TV news segment showing footage of Israeli commandos returning home after liaising with Golani Druze inside Syria.  Everyone but the Shabak seems to know this is going on.  But the fact that a Golani Druze proved it with video footage rises to a criminal offense.

You and I and any reasonable person (including many Israelis) would want to know if their government was making common-cause with radical Islamists (al Nusra) allied with Al Qaeda.  You might, as a citizen, have a good many questions about whether this is a sound policy.  You might compare it to the U.S. alliance with the mujahadeen against the Soviets in Afghanistan.  You might compare it to the Israeli alliance with the Lebanese Phalangists.  Most observers now concede that little long-term good came from these temporary alliances of convenience.  But if the Israeli security police have their way, no Israeli will be hearing or talking about any of this.

The way they do this is by using the tools of the national security state (secret arrests, censorship, gag orders, a compliant judicial system) to compel obedience and consensus, and to suppress dissent.

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netanyahu aipac 2015

Bibi Netanyahu’s beady-eyed stare as he sternly lectures Aipac conference

Today, Bibi Netanyahu lectured American Jews at the Aipac national conference about his Churchillian date with destiny.  John Boehner’s even giving him a bust of the dead Brit tomorrow as a gesture of eternal political omerta.  Tomorrow, Bibi will address those members of Congress who don’t have the temerity to skip his megalomaniacal oration.  As of the minute I write this 55 members (UPDATE: now 56), including eight Senators, will be absent.  That’s 15% of the House and one-quarter of the entire Democratic caucus, and just short of 10% of the Senate.  These people are heroes.  They shouldn’t have to be, but in light of the power of the Lobby, they are.

The latest Senator to decline is Sen. Elizabeth Warren.  It’s interesting to think that this potential presidential candidate may be setting up a comparison between herself and her Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.  The latter, of course, is a captive of the Lobby and would certainly attend the speech were she still in the Senate.

I’m embarrassed to say that my own senators, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell don’t have the guts to say No.  But my Congress member Jim McDermott won’t be there.

Today, Josh Earnest, Obama’s spokesperson offered the most naked warning so far to Netanyahu.  He essentially said that if Bibi exposed any U.S. intelligence secrets in tomorrow’s speech, the Obama administration will view this as a “betrayal.”  That is exceedingly strong language from a press secretary.  In other words, Israel faces the prospect of burning its intelligence relationship with the U.S. for the remainder of Obama’s term.  Channel 10 reported to its Israeli audience that the U.S. has already completely cut off any intelligence sharing regarding the Iran nuclear talks.

I was the first individual to create an online petition to protest Bibi’s speech.  J Street and Jewish Voice for Peace followed with petitions that garnered more than 100,000 signatures.  I urge you to sign if you haven’t already done so.  We’re close to 400 signatures.  You still have time to call or e-mail your elected representatives to tell them: don’t go.

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micha peretz

Micha Peretz’ photo is in the top row, second from the right.

Ynet released a short report and Haaretz a longer one, based on information provided to them by the secret police about the arrest of a smuggling ring that included Micha Peretz, who I reported two weeks ago was secretly detained by them for unspecified crimes. At the time, I correctly surmised that the charges against him related to Gaza tunnels.  The current reports don’t mention him by name, but they do say the detainee is from Mivtahim, Peretz’s home.

The Shabak claims Peretz, with the support of two unnamed Israeli, and several Palestinian partners, supplied “tens” of truckloads of metals and other fabrication materials that could be used to restore the tunnels destroyed during Operation Protective Edge.  The three were purportedly paid by a Gaza contractor nearly $500,000 per month for their role in supplying and shipping the material.  Peretz’s role was to store materials in his warehouse near the border, where they were kept until they were re-loaded on trucks that made their way to the Kerem Shalom border crossing.  What makes no sense is that this crossing is heavily guarded precisely to prevent such smuggling of prohibited material.  How could tens of trucks have succeeded in hauling tens of tons of contraband metals into Gaza?

Further, the items transported to Gaza weren’t exactly small or easy to conceal.  There were no mini-chips or nanotechnology.  We’re talking miles of pipes and similar equipment.  You can’t hide this stuff.  It’s there in plain site.  So if they succeeded in smuggling dangerous materials into Gaza (which is questionable) then the security personnel didn’t catch what should’ve been in plain sight.

micha peretz warehouse

Micha Peretz’s warehouse and materials destined for Gaza (Israeli Police)

Further, the police acknowledge that the detainees conducted legitimate business hauling similar materials to Gaza.  But somehow these materials were classified as “military use,” whereas the other materials were not.  Shabak also claims that the defendants also knew they were providing materials to Hamas.  Though given that there was a Gazan middleman who received the goods before they were distributed in Gaza, it’s entirely possibly they didn’t know.  At least didn’t know explicitly.  Frankly, given the gravity of the charges and the severity with which the Israeli security apparatus would look upon these alleged acts, I strongly doubt any Israeli would knowingly traffic with Hamas.  Despite the money to be made, it couldn’t possibly be worth the risk of going away to prison for years and bankrupting one’s family with legal fees.

The group is accused of making contact with an “enemy organization” and money-laundering to avoid paying taxes on their profits.  Unfortunately, but typically, Ynet made no attempt to contact the suspect’s lawyer or family (as I have done repeatedly).  It merely accepted the word of the secret police as to the guilt of the charged party.

Peretz’s son told me that his father is innocent and the victim of persecution.  He told me that his father had served in the IDF and contributed widely for the betterment of his community.  I have tried to interview him repeatedly and an uncle as well.  But they’ve refused to speak beyond those few words.  The moshav of Mivtahim responded with anger to Peretz’s alleged “betrayal” of both them and the State.  I fear for his family in such circumstances.

News1 says that Peretz was moved to solitary confinement after he threatened to commit suicide.  Note, that this is precisely what happened to Ben Zygier.  He was placed in solitary confinement and did commit suicide.

None of the Israeli reporting on this story credits me with breaking the original story.  Now, the NY Times has published a story, but also neglected to credit my original reporting of it. Thanks for nothing Isabel Kershner.  Par for the course.

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