Senator Cantwell, are you listening?

Activism
on 27 Comments

Senate Bill 720, the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, (and its twin in the House of Representatives, Bill 1697), are currently wending their ways through the national legislative process with all the usual front and backroom big money pressure from AIPAC, StandWithUs, and Co., as well as pushback from the less financially endowed citizenry. S. 720 is part of a host of national and state level legislation that seeks to suppress criticism of Israeli policy, to destroy BDS, the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction movement (as anti-Semitic hate speech dangerous to Israel), and to erase Palestinian history and narrative. Washington Senator Maria Cantwell who claims to support freedom of speech and human rights, is a cosponsor of S. 720 and we have a problem with that.

Six constituents (including myself) met with an outreach staffer in Seattle on September 7. We are activist Jews, a Unitarian, an Episcopalian, and an Anglican; we are a building contractor, doctor, Palestinian educator, psychologist, and folks active on community and social justice issues. Most of us have had personal experiences bearing witness and working in Israel/Palestine. The staffer was welcoming, interested, but clearly not well versed in the topic, as that is the turf of the DC office. So we started with the basics.

Cantwell claims that S. 720 is narrower than opponents of the bill have stated, and she is unfortunately mistaken, most likely bending to the talking points furnished by AIPAC and Co. The Israel Anti-Boycott Act amends the Export Administration Act (EAA), passed in 1979 in response to the Arab League boycott of Israel.

According to the ACLU: That law prohibits “U.S. persons” — a term that refers to both individuals and companies — from taking certain actions to comply with or support a boycott imposed by a foreign country against another country that is friendly to the United States.

The 1979 law responded to the Arab League’s boycott of Israel. At the time, countries in the Arab League would require U.S. businesses to boycott Israel and Israeli companies, and furnish information to verify the boycott, as a condition of doing business. To prevent foreign countries from dragooning U.S. businesses into these compulsory boycotts, the 1979 law prohibited U.S. companies from complying with foreign boycott requirements.

EAA prohibits US persons who are doing business, from boycotting a “friendly country.” (Friendly is not defined… are we talking France? Saudi Arabia? Philippines? Is Israel really friendly when it flaunts US demands to halt settlement construction, opposes the Iran deal, humiliates Obama, trashes Palestinian Prime Minister Abbas, the presumptive other “peace partner”?). EAA also prohibits the “furnishing of information” about US business persons’ relationships in the boycotted country. S. 720 takes this further.

Written in response to the UN Human Rights Council March 2016 resolution which called for a database of companies working in the occupied Palestinian territories, the bill’s statement of policy claims that these policies are part of BDS activities against Israel. The new bill prohibits US persons from boycotting Israel and Israeli businesses including in the territories, in response to calls from international governmental organizations like the UN and EU. It would make even requesting information about businesses in relation to boycott activities illegal.

Now let’s remember that the construction of Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem, the Israeli colonization and industrial development of the West Bank, and the extraction of resources are all illegal according to international law and this is not controversial outside the United States. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and even the Israeli group Peace Now have made similar calls for boycott of settlement products. According to a Brookings Institute poll, 60% of Democrats and 46% of all Americans support sanctions or stronger action against Israel because of settlement construction.

Senator Cantwell states, “Any allegation that this bill creates potential criminal or civil liability for individuals or organizations refusing to do business with Israel for these reasons is incorrect.”

Senator, this is just not factual. I know you have your hands full with Trump and DACA and North Korea, and Harvey and Irma, but did you actually read the bill?

According to the ACLU: The bill states that violators shall be fined in accordance with the penalties laid out in Section 206 of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. That section provides that violations are punishable by a civil penalty that could reach $250,000 and that willful violations are subject to criminal prosecution, which could result in a fine of up to $1 million and 20 years in prison.

By expanding from boycott calls from foreign governments to calls from the UN or human rights groups, the bill explicitly attacks political speech. So it’s Passover, you’re thinking about liberation, and you would really like to honor the UN call to avoid settlement products plus you are feeling a little squirmy about the upswing in settlement building. You would rather not buy Israeli wines that are grown in vineyards on occupied land. So you search the web or post a question on Facebook requesting information…That request could make you vulnerable to a fine of up to $1 million and 20 years in prison. And even if it doesn’t happen to you or your Uncle Morris, there is a definite chilling of the political environment and the very real risk of self-censorship, a First Amendment harm.

Now put this in the context of more than 20 state legislatures working to criminalize BDS in the US, governors organizing campaigns opposing BDS, (including our Governor Jay Inslee), the muzzling and attacks on US campuses of students and professors, the frenzy of activity in Hillel’s to train students to stand up uncritically for Israeli policy and denounce BDS, similar activities amongst Christian Zionists, a proliferation of McCarthyesque groups like Canary Mission, and the rightward swing under the current administration, and we are on a slippery slope.

We explained the BDS call to the staffer, the difference between Judaism (the religion), Jews (the people, cultural group, lovers of matzoh balls, ironic self-deprecating jokes, Iraqi food, Ladino, you make the definition), and Israel (the state) and why criticizing the policies of the state is different from anti-Semitism. We explained that as Jews and Christians and social justice activists concerned with the well-being and future for Palestinians as well as Jewish Israelis, that after decades of failed wars, UN resolutions, peace processes, violent resistance, peaceful village protests, dialogue groups, etc., the BDS call is the most hopeful nonviolent resistance movement that has captured the hearts and imagination of many in the international community. As those of us who have traveled to the region know, it is clear that Israel has destroyed much of the Palestinian economy on the West Bank, totally crippled Gaza, created a second class disadvantaged status for Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, and thrown off any responsibility for the growing refugee crisis that now numbers millions of people waiting in limbo for a resolution to their displacement and loss of land.

Huda Giddens, a Palestinian whose family fled Jerusalem and Haifa in 1947-1948, pointed out that the Israeli government demanded compensation from Germany and other countries for the losses of Jews who were forced to flee. While she has no plans to return, she does recognize her right of return and demands compensation for her family’s extensive property. She brought a folder full of the original documents proving her claims. After the ’48 war, the Israeli government passed the Absentee Property Law and claimed that any property not inhabited at the time became the property of the state. She has never been able to return.

Thus the discussion turned to issues of ethnic cleansing, growing Israeli apartheid behavior, of the moral questions facing the US which is supporting the occupation and multiple violations of human rights. These are basic issues of equity, justice, and compassion.

Senator Cantwell, we are asking you to reconsider. Study the on-the-ground and historical realities that highlight the experiences of Palestinians as well as Jewish Israelis. Think about the historic role of the US as a defender of human rights, think about what we have learned from the study of our own indigenous peoples and our civil rights movements. We have been told you are “not a slave to AIPAC,” that you support human rights and freedom of speech.

Even if you do not feel comfortable supporting the BDS movement, let’s start with defending our First Amendment rights at home. Withdraw your sponsorship to S. 720. And then learn more about the issue of Israel/Palestine with a truly open mind. We would be happy to send you more resources and meet with you in the future. We are your constituents. That’s what democracy is all about.

About Alice Rothchild

Alice Rothchild is a Jewish-American physician. Her most recent book is Condition Critical: Life and Death in Israel/Palestine, from Just World Books. Her previous book is On the Brink: Israel and Palestine on the Eve of the 2014 Gaza Invasion.

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27 Responses

  1. Emory Riddle
    September 10, 2017, 2:12 pm

    Need to make the pols more afraid of us the voters than of their super donors. Do this by creating a climate whereas any pol who supports all this Israel Uber America stuff has no future career.

  2. lonely rico
    September 10, 2017, 7:00 pm

    Bravo Dr. Rothchild.

    That’s what democracy is all about.

    Zionism is NOT about democracy
    The congressional Zionists do NOT defend democracy.
    Nor do they defend America.

    As explained by Israel’s Justice Minister, the abominable Ayelet Shaked –

    [She] prefers Zionism to human rights …She believes that we [Israelis] have a different kind of justice, superior to universal justice. Zionism above all. *
    http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/1.809867

    * I wonder how this might sound in German –
    “Zion, Zion über alles,
    Über alles in der Welt“

  3. JWalters
    September 10, 2017, 7:08 pm

    “Cantwell claims that S. 720 is narrower than opponents of the bill have stated”

    This is exactly how the Balfour letter to Rothschild (aka “Balfour declaration”) worked. The vague language was interpreted by British politicians to mean a minimal Jewish enclave in Palestine, while the Zionists interpreted it to mean a Jewish state. In essence, the Zionists lied about their intentions until they could apply force of arms to go far beyond that initial vague statement.

    The Zionist Israelis have proven beyond any doubt they cannot be trusted. They have stolen America’s nuclear secrets and materials. They have knowingly attempted to sink an American naval vessel and kill all hands (USS Liberty). They have sabotaged America’s freedom of speech on the topic of Israel and US foreign policy. They have dragged America into needless, catastrophic wars in the Middle East. And they demonstrate in their daily policies that they flatly OPPOSE America’s most fundamental value of universal human rights. A concise history of censored facts is in “War Profiteers and the Roots of the War on Terror”.

    I urge Senator Cantwell to find the will and the way to resist this evil force before it brings its destruction to the very forest in which she sits. If that seems farfetched, consider that every US citizen who takes a plane trip WITHIN the US must go through an onerous security procedure entirely due to Israel’s influence on the US.

    • MHughes976
      September 11, 2017, 2:16 am

      The British ministers of 1917 were not deceived or exploited by the Jewish Zionists – they (or the dominant faction among them) were convinced Christian Zionists and knew what they were about. The newspapers were immediately briefed to that effect. Margaret Macmillan’s ‘Peacemakers’ makes this clear., I think. It’s quite true that successive Zionist and Israeli leaderships have been ruthless and arrogant.

    • Misterioso
      September 11, 2017, 10:57 am

      @JWalters

      Well and truly stated!!

      Also, for the record:

      When the Balfour Declaration was issued, Palestine was still a province of the Ottoman Empire. Hence, by viewing “with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish peoples,” the Balfour Declaration violated the well established legal maxim, “Nemo dat quod non habet” (nobody can give what he does not possess.)

      In discussing the legal basis for the creation of Israel, the highly respected American lawyer and diplomat Sol Linowitz wrote: “…the [Balfour] Declaration was legally impotent. For Great Britain had no sovereign rights over Palestine; it had no proprietary interest; it had no authority to dispose of the land. The Declaration was merely a statement of British intentions and no more.” (Sol M. Linowitz, “Analysis of a Tinderbox: The Legal Basis for the State of Israel.” American Bar Association Journal XLlll l957, pp.522-3)

      Even Chaim Weizmann knew the Declaration had no legal status: “The Balfour Declaration of 1917 was built on air.” (Quoted by Mallison, “The Balfour Declaration,” in The transformation of Palestine: essays on the Origin and Development of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, ed. by Abu-Lughold; Northwestern University Press, 1971 p. 85)

      It should also be noted that although the Allies managed to have the Balfour Declaration mentioned after World War 1 in the aborted Treaty of Sevres, there is no mention of it in the final treaty that was signed with the Turks at Lausanne on July 24, 1923. This is important in international law because Turkey did not agree to the idea of a “Jewish national home” in Palestine when it surrendered sovereignty to Britain.

      By incorporating the Balfour Declaration the 1922 League of Nations British Class A mandate for Palestine did facilitate Jewish immigration to “secure the establishment of the Jewish National Home,” but it did not call for the creation of a sovereign Jewish state or homeland in Palestine or any form of partition. This was made very clear in the Churchill Memorandum (1 July 1922) regarding the British Mandate: “[T]he status of all citizens of Palestine in the eyes of the law shall be Palestinian, and it has never been intended that they, or any section of them, should possess any other juridical status.”

      Furthermore, regarding the British Mandate, as approved by the Council of the League of Nations, the British government declared: “His Majesty’s Government therefore now declare unequivocally that it is not part of their policy that Palestine should become a Jewish State.” (Command Paper, 1922)

      To make it absolutely clear, in May 1939, the British government issued the MacDonald White Paper, which in accordance with the Mandate, ruled out any possibility of a Jewish state, and declared Great Britain “could not have intended Palestine should be converted into a Jewish state against the will of the Arab population of the country.” It called for a Palestinian state in which Jews and Arabs would govern jointly based on a constitution to be drafted by their representatives and those of Britain. The constitution would safeguard the “Jewish National Home” in Palestine and if good relations developed between Jews and Arabs, the country would be granted independence in ten years. Land sales to Jews were to be restricted and the annual level of Jewish immigration was to be limited to 15,000 for five years, following which, Palestinian Arab acquiescence would be required.

      Hence, consistent with the terms of its Class A Mandate and the MacDonald White Paper, Britain abstained on the UNGA vote regarding the recommendatory only Nov. 29/47 Partition Plan.

      • MHughes976
        September 11, 2017, 1:52 pm

        We did to some extent try to withdraw from the outrageous thing we had done but it is a mistake to attend only to official pronouncements. The Times on the morrow of the B Declation announced ”Palestine for the Jews. Official sympathy’ – and Balfour himself must have briefed them. Quoting a very interesting passage from Margaret Macmillan’s ‘Peacemakers’:
        ‘The British also toned down the language of the mandate to imply that the Jewish national home would merely be in Palestine rather than occupying the whole. In place of the duty of the mandatory power to develop a self-governing Commonwealth they substituted ‘self-governing institutions’. Weizmann….struggled to prevent the British government making the terms even weaker. He wrote in despair to Albert Einstein ‘All the shady characters of the world are at work against us. Rich servile Jews, dark fanatic Jewish obscurantists in combination with the Vatican, with Arab assassins, English imperialist anti-Semitic reactionaries – in short, all the dogs are howling’. He was not as alone as he felt. Support kept coming, often from unexpected quarters such as German Zionists, Anglican clergy or Italian Catholics. The United States Congress roused itself…to pass resolutions in favour of the Jewish national home. And Weizmann’s chief British allies remained firm. In a private meeting at Balfor’s house on 22 July 1921 Lloyd George and Balfour assured him that ‘they had always meant an eventual Jewish state’. When the awkward issue of Zionist gun-running into Palestine came up, Churchill winked: ‘We won’t mind it, but don’t speak of it’. All agreed that the Palestinian Arab delegation was a nuisance’ – Macmillan ‘Peacemakers’ p.416.
        Never underestimate Christian Zionism.

      • Misterioso
        September 11, 2017, 3:38 pm

        For the record, it should be noted that In its report, the 1919 King Crane Commission pointed out that the Balfour Declaration did not call for a Jewish state in Palestine and it could not be achieved without denying the “civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities….” The commissioners also found “…that the Zionists looked forward to a practically complete dispossession of the present non-Jewish inhabitants…by various forms of purchase…” and recommended that “Jewish immigration should be definitely limited”, that “the project for making Palestine a Jewish commonwealth should be given up…” (Howard, Harry N., The King Crane Commission, Beirut: Khayats, 1963; quoted by Sami Hadawi, Bitter Harvest, pp.17-18.)

        The King-Crane Commission made it clear where it stood regarding the Zionist’s historical claim to Palestine: “…the initial claim, often submitted by Zionist representatives, that they have a `right’ to Palestine, based on an occupation of two thousand years ago, can hardly be seriously considered.” (“The American King-Crane Commission of Inquiry, 1919” quoted in From Haven to Conquest, p. 217, edited by Whalid Khalidi) Or as Lord Sydenham stated before the British House of Lords on 21 June 1922: “If we are going to admit claims on conquest thousands of years ago, the whole world will have to be turned upside down.” (Hansard)

        The Balfour Declaration was also opposed by Gertrude Bell, one of the era’s greatest Arabists, a colleague of T.E. Lawrence and a member of British intelligence in Cairo. Realizing what the Balfour Declaration could lead to, she wrote the British cabinet of PM Lloyd George advising it that “an independent Jewish Palestine” was impractical because “[Palestine]…is not Jewish; ” the native population would not “accept Jewish authority…. Jerusalem is equally sacred to three faiths and should not be put under the exclusive control of any one….” (Sanders, The High Walls of Jerusalem, p. 585, quoted by Donald Neff, Fallen Pillars, p. 14)

        Whatever was being discussed behind the scenes, the resulting 1922 League of Nations CLASS A Mandate for Palestine and the 1939 MacDonald White Paper prohibited the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine or any form of partition.

        What happened during the count down to and following passage of the recommendatory only 1947 Partition Plan (UNGA Res. 181) is another story.

      • Nathan
        September 11, 2017, 8:54 pm

        Misterioso – In all the vast literature written in Arabic about the birth of Israel, there is universal agreement that Israel was founded by the British. Mahmoud Abbas dedicated a chapter in his PhD thesis to describing the reasons why the imperialists from the west wanted the Jews to found a state in Palestine. Therefore, it was really interesting to read your comments in which you try to prove that there was no intention whatsoever on the part of the English (or the League of Nations) that a Jewish state be founded in Palestine. Perhaps, the Arabs feel a need to make excuses for themselves as to why their opposition to Zionism did not succeed in preventing the rise of Israel. Anyway, you should note that your view of events is very similar to the Zionist narrative: Despite the opposition of Great Britain, expressed in the White Paper of 1939, (and despite the opposition of the Arab world), the Jews of Palestine succeeded in founding Israel.

      • Talkback
        September 12, 2017, 11:10 am

        Nathan: “Despite the opposition of Great Britain, expressed in the White Paper of 1939, (and despite the opposition of the Arab world), the Jews of Palestine succeeded in founding Israel.”

        Yep. A decade of Jewish terrorism was too much for Great Britain. And then the terror was nationalized and exists until today. Real existing Zionism is nothing else than the institutionalized terror of an Apartheid junta.

      • JWalters
        September 12, 2017, 8:23 pm

        Misterioso, thanks for the wealth of facts on the Balfour declaration. They establish the legal reality of this zionist fig leaf for slaughter and bigotry.

        MHughes, I agree the Christian Zionists cannot be ignored. In other factors behind the scenes, Lloyd George was a Rothschild banker before he became Britain’s helpful Prime Minister.

        Nathan, It would be more accurate to say that Britain was instrumental in not blocking the zionists from taking over Palestine. The initiative to establish a Jewish state came entirely from the zionists, much of it in secret deals and threats. e.g. “War Profiteers and the Roots of the War on Terror”.

        Talkback, well put.

      • MHughes976
        September 13, 2017, 12:22 pm

        I am sure that Lloyd George was never a banker, Rothschild or otherwise. He did run a law firm that represented Herzl. That was because he was, always had been and always would be, a committed Christian Zionist, though in an odd way he was scarcely a Christian. Balfour was a very strong Christian and Christian Zionist. They came of a tradition already three centuries old which had so far, until the appearance of Herzl and especially Weizmann, not been helped sufficiently from the Jewish side.

      • JWalters
        September 13, 2017, 5:51 pm

        Yes, Lloyd George was a lawyer, not a banker. My slip, thanks for the correction.

  4. mcohen..
    September 10, 2017, 7:53 pm

    ok so now we have targeting of individuals like eisner,bari weiss, cantwell.
    its a blame game.but both sides are the same.

    • Annie Robbins
      September 10, 2017, 9:10 pm

      by “targeting”, do you mean this:

      Senator Cantwell, we are asking you to reconsider. Study the on-the-ground and historical realities that highlight the experiences of Palestinians as well as Jewish Israelis. Think about the historic role of the US as a defender of human rights, think about what we have learned from the study of our own indigenous peoples and our civil rights movements. We have been told you are “not a slave to AIPAC,” that you support human rights and freedom of speech.

      Even if you do not feel comfortable supporting the BDS movement, let’s start with defending our First Amendment rights at home. Withdraw your sponsorship to S. 720.

      if not, please give a “targeting” example from the article.

  5. JosephA
    September 10, 2017, 11:58 pm

    Well written, Alice, bravo!

    • RoHa
      September 11, 2017, 2:25 am

      Except for

      “Is Israel really friendly when it flaunts US demands to halt settlement construction…”

      Surely that should be “flouts”, not “flaunts”.

      • Parity
        September 11, 2017, 2:30 pm

        The use of “flaunts” is appropriate in this sense from Merriam-Webster: 2
        : to treat contemptuously
        flaunted the rules — Louis Untermeyer.

        The Israel government has not simply ignored our demands. It has ostentatiously and contemptuously done so.

      • Mooser
        September 11, 2017, 5:23 pm

        “from Merriam-Webster: 2”.”

        That will give “RoHa” a bad case of OECD.

      • RoHa
        September 11, 2017, 8:18 pm

        Another reason for treating Merriam Webster with contempt.

      • Mooser
        September 12, 2017, 11:33 am

        “Another reason for treating Merriam Webster with contempt.”

        Ye OECD strikes again!

  6. RoHa
    September 11, 2017, 2:26 am

    And what response did this get from Dayna Lurie and Senator Cantwell?

  7. mcohen..
    September 12, 2017, 7:14 am

    annie says “targeting”

    “The 1979 law responded to the Arab League’s boycott of Israel.”

    the same arab league that has a questionable history of human rights abuses not mention the use of chemical weapons by some of its members.thats what i call targeting

    and you want the the senator to “study” and “reconsider”……i find it amusing that you consider members of the us senate ignorant of i/p issues and history.and mondo needs to educate them.thats what i call selective targeting.

    • Blake
      September 13, 2017, 4:33 pm

      The twin cancers of the middle east were for the Britain’s own strategic purposes foisted on the region – ie European zionists on Palestine where they knew the European Jewish zionists had no rights to Palestine but for their own purposes encouraged them to think they had – and re-established wahhabism after it had been rejected.
      “After the Arab revolt , led by Britain, Sherif Hussein proclaimed himself king of all the Arab countries. But the British had other plans for him which didn’t include him controlling much territory in the Hijaz. Confrontation over the future of arabia ensued between Hussein and another British protégé, Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud. Ibn Saud, a rising power in central Arabia had captured the Nejd region with its capital at Riyadh. Britain had already provided arms and money to Ibn Saud during the First World war. They signed a treaty with him in 1915 and recognised him as the ruler of the Nejd province under British protection. By the end of the war, he was receiving a British subsidy of £5k a month, much less than the £12k doled out to Hussein. Some British officilas were pinning their strategic hopes on Ibn Saud during the war. “At the present moment agitation is intense in all Mohammedan countries…We should therefore create a state more convenient for ourselves, to whom the attention of Islam should be turned. We have an opportunity in Arabia.” (From amemorandum from one British soldier , on the ‘Mohammedan Question’ in 1917). In 1919 London used aircraft in the Hijaz in support of Hussein’s confrontation with Ibn Saud. But after accepting a temporary ceasefire in 1920, Ibn Saud’s 150000 Bedouin militias advanced relentlessly. By the mid-1920s he had gained control of Arabia, including the Hijaz and the Holy places, defeating Hussein for supremacy. Ibn Saud established ‘Saudi’ Arabia in an orgy of murder, described as ‘a lecher and a bloodthirsty autocrat’ by an author, Said Aburish. The conquest of Arabia cost the lives of around 400000 people, over a million people fled to neighbouring countries. Numerous rebellions against the House of Saud subsequently took place killing mostly innocent men, women and children. By the mid-1920’s most of Arabia had been subdued, 40000 people had been executed and some 350000 had limbs amputated. The British recognised Saud’s control and by 1922 his subsidy was raised to 100K a year by Winston Churchill. The territory was divided into districts under the control of Saud’s relatives, a situation which largely prevails today. ” https://www.facebook.com/KJVids/videos/1452215218166095/

  8. Nathan
    September 12, 2017, 10:41 pm

    Yes, JWalters, “the initiative to establish a Jewish state came entirely from the Zionists”. That’s the way of the world. The initiative to found a state generally comes from that particular group that wishes to found it.

    And, yes, Talkback, it often happens that states are founded by force. That’s also the way of the world.

    • Mooser
      September 13, 2017, 1:32 pm

      “And, yes, Talkback, it often happens that states are founded by force. That’s also the way of the world.”

      “♪And now it’s…♪♫
      Springtime for Israel and Zionists
      Israel is happy and gay!
      We’re marching to a faster pace
      Look out, here comes the macher race!♪♫”

    • JWalters
      September 14, 2017, 7:41 pm

      Yes Nathan, that’s the ho-hum way of the world. The Nazis and the Holocaust were merely “the way of the world”. Ho-hum, no big deal.

      • Mooser
        September 18, 2017, 3:51 pm

        You know how it is “JWalters”. When you belong to the most powerful, numerous and resource-rich people on earth, you tend to get inconsiderate of the smaller peoples and indifferent to their fate.

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