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Heathcote Williams: ‘An Old Man and a Young Man in Gaza’

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On Saturday evenings KALW, the smaller and less corporate of San Francisco’s two public radio stations, airs a terrific music show called Tangents. The host, Dore Stein, puts together an amazing mélange of world and roots music, blues, jazz, and especially hybrids that combine several of these genres. But what really makes the show unique is “Gaza Corner,” a weekly feature Stein added in June 2010, just after the murderous Israeli attack on the Mavi Marmara and the rest of that year’s Gaza Freedom Flotilla: every week at 11 p.m., he reads an article he’s found particularly illuminating about the situation in Israel/Palestine or, in recent years, Syria or elsewhere in the region, followed by some relevant music, usually by a Middle Eastern artist. (He also posts the articles he reads on “Gaza Corner” here.)

For Saturday night’s “Gaza Corner,” while Gaza experienced the heaviest bombardment of the current Israeli onslaught, he read long excerpts from a powerful prose-poem called “An Old Man and a Young Man in Gaza,” by Heathcote Williams, a noted British poet, actor, and playwright. Here’s the poem in full, with illustrations apparently selected by the poet, as it appears here. (The captions under some of the photos are slightly blurred at the original site.)

An Old Man and a Young Man in Gaza

“No man can cause more grief than the one clinging blindly to the vices of his ancestors.”
William Faulkner, Intruder in the Dust

Gaza 1


An old man holds a placard that reads,

“You take my water, burn my olive trees,
Destroy my house, take my job, steal my land,
Imprison my father, kill my mother,
Bombard my country, starve us all,
Humiliate us all, but I am to blame:
I shot a rocket back.”

Here are some ungodly chants
From the Zionist Book of Psalms
Which are used to justify
Laying waste to a whole country
And to its inhabitants:

“We must blow Gaza back to the Middle Ages
Destroying all the infrastructure including roads and water”
Eli Yishai, former Deputy Prime Minister.

“There should be no electricity in Gaza,
No gasoline or moving vehicles, nothing…
We need to flatten entire neighborhoods…
Flatten all of Gaza”
Gilad Sharon, Ariel Sharon’s son in the Jerusalem Post.

“There are no innocents in Gaza. Mow them down …
Kill the Gazans without thought or mercy.”
Michael Ben-Ari, an ex-member of the Knesset.

Gaza should be “bombed so hard the population
Has to flee into Egypt”
Israel Katz, a Minister of Transportation.

Gaza should be “wiped clean with bombs”,
Avi Dichter, a Minister of Home Front Defense.

Israeli soldiers must “learn from the Syrians
How to slaughter the enemy”,
The Israeli Rabbi Yaakov Yosef.

Here is Ze’ev Jabotinsky, admirer of Mussolini
And the godfather of Zionist militarism,
Justifying “transferring” the Palestinian people
From their homes in 1940:
“The world has become accustomed to the idea
Of mass migrations and has become fond of them.”

Jabotinsky adds, “Hitler— as odious as he is to us—
Has given this idea a good name in the world.” [1]

It is ironic that Jabotinsky used Hitler
As a precedent for the Palestinians’ “transfer”
Since forcible expulsion
Was among the charges against Adolf Eichmann –
One of the architects of the Nazi Holocaust
Captured in Argentina, and tried and hanged in Israel.

Undeterred, the former chief rabbi,
Mordechai Elyahu, has urged Israel,
Its army and its government
To “employ the Nazi choice”
Against the Palestinians.
To carry out a series of carpet bombings
Of Palestinian population centres in Gaza;
He urges the “indiscriminate killing of civilians”.
On religious grounds.

The Chabad Lubavitch Rabbi Schneerson,
A self proclaimed Messiah
Whose followers await his return from the dead,
(As if the Rabbi hadn’t preached
Enough when alive by his making the claim
That his religion heralded a new Master Race) –
Has a devoted and powerful acolyte, Rabbi Manis Friedman,
Who declares that the “only way to fight a moral war”
Is to “destroy the Arabs’ holy sites” and “to kill them.”
To “kill men, women and children”, and to eliminate anyone
Who stands in the way of a Greater Israel.

Friedman embraces Israel’s ruthless colonizing power
With an Old Testament ferocity  –
With what Christopher Hitchens has called,
“The root of religious evil” –
Whereby the Torah can be misused
To mow down men in a mosque
With an automatic rifle,
And such vengeful triumphs
Given a country’s blessing:

Streets in Israeli cities
Are routinely named after armed cuckoos –
Murderous Israeli heroes
Who’ve evicted indigenous birds
From the Palestinian nest,
And then killed them.

The Head of Israeli’s National Defense College,
Professor Arnon Sofer,
Outlines his country’s Defense strategy:
“If we want to remain alive, we will have to kill and kill and kill.
All day, every day.” [2]


Colonel Yoav Gal, an Israeli Air Force pilot,
Tells Israel’s Army Radio
“I believe that it [Operation Cast Lead]
Should have been even stronger! Dresden! Dresden!
The extermination of a city!
Not even a stone will be thrown at us. Because we’re Jews.
I want the Arabs of Gaza to flee to Egypt.
This is what I want. I want to destroy the city.” [3]


Ethnic cleansing is Israel’s origin
Not peace:
Netanyahu tells students at Bar Ilan University,
“Israel should have exploited the repression
Of the demonstrations in China,
When world attention focused on that country,
To carry out mass expulsions
Among the Arabs of the territories.” [4]

Despondently, the philosopher Martin Buber
Once told a New York audience,
“When we followers of the prophetic Judaism
Returned to Palestine…the majority of Jewish people
Preferred to learn from Hitler rather than from us.” [5]

Enflamed when Palestinians fight back
With increasing desperation
And despite overwhelming odds
To try to regain their ancestral land,
Israelis chant “Death to the Arabs”
“A Jew is a brother, an Arab is a bastard”.

In front of their Arab neighbours,
A song is sung by settlers at Purim
Praising Baruch Goldstein’s massacre
Of 29 Palestinians at prayer during Ramadan:
“Dr. Goldstein, there is none other like you in the world.
Dr. Goldstein, we all love you… he aimed at terrorists’ heads,
Squeezed the trigger hard, and shot bullets,
And shot, and shot.”

At this settler hero’s funeral, Rabbi Yaacov Perrin
Famously claimed that even one million Arabs
Are “not worth a Jewish fingernail”.
Goldstein’s mass murder created suicide bombers –
Some two hundred amongst ten million Palestinians –
Which led to Israel’s land-grabbing apartheid wall.

The Israeli lawmaker, Ayelet Shaked, calls
For the genocide of Palestinians on Facebook
And she advocates “the slaughter of Palestinian mothers
Who give birth to ‘little snakes,’”
“The entire Palestinian people is the enemy.”
She urges their complete destruction,
“including its elderly and its women.”

A Jerusalem city councillor in charge of municipal security, Aryeh King, publicly advocates the murder
And the mutilation of non-Jews:
“I am calling out to all the Pinchases that are here …
Every one of us has a mission …
The Rebbe, who is here with us, expects us to commit acts of Pinchas.”
Pinchas (Phineas in English) in the Torah was so incensed
By interracial (Jewish-Midianite) sex
That he took a sword and plunged it through both bodies
Of a couple in the middle of their lovemaking.
Then with a medieval fervor, Rabbi Noam Perel
Advocates scalping Arabs
By removing their genitalia –
A blood sacrifice to a mad mind-set
Of mystical thuggery. [6]

Two Israeli girls hold up a banner
“Hating Arabs is not racism, it’s values!”
Placing the Hebrew word for “Arabs”, ARAVIM,
Into Twitter reveals young Israelis desiring
That Arabs die or be tortured to death.

The US House of Representatives
Votes unanimously to reaffirm its full support for Israel.
US jets duly declare war on Arab children
Whose futures they disintegrate.

In the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis,
Eight members of the Al Haj family
Are killed, including five children.
gaza 2








Four Arab children, fishermens’ children
First cousins from the Bakr family, aged nine to eleven,
Playing football on the Gaza beach in July, 2014,
Are shot dead by an Israeli gunboat.

gaza 3
A 12-year-old boy loses 18 members of his family in an air raid
From US planes including his father, a schoolteacher,
A photograph of Abdul Rahman Al-Batsh
Shows his shoulders slumped against a car.
It’s the moment that he’s discovered
That his father is amongst the dead.

gaza 4







Later Abdul Rahman would say,
“They think we are worth nothing. They are killers,
They have no humanity,
And one day I will avenge my father.”

gaza 5


Israel receives more aid from the US

Than the whole of the continent of Africa
Whilst the US population remains docile.
The Israeli Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman,
Says that Israel must “go all the way” in Gaza.

gaza 6


Comfortably seated on camp chairs and sofas
Some fifty Israelis gather to eat popcorn
And watch from a Sderot hilltop
As bombs rain down from US-supplied F-16s.
They clap and applaud each deadly blast
From 1,000-pound iron fragmentation bombs. [7]

gaza 7


“We are here to see Israel destroy Hamas,” Eli Chone,
A 22-year-old American tells Allan Sørensen,
Of Kristeligt Dagblad, pointing to a dot of light in the sky.
“It is a fighter who is about to dive. This means that it is about to shoot.”

gaza 8












The conquerors’ fans draw up their chairs;
Swigging on beers as they tend their barbecue
And watch Gaza burn from their vantage-point
In Sderot (once the Palestinian village of Najd).

Someone points out that Hamas
(Rather than it having been elected)
Is “a death-cult” and Palestinians “enjoy martyrdom”
So “we’re doing the Arabs a favour.”

A lurid cocktail of triumphalist hatred,
Mixed with smoke from burning flesh,
Blinds them to Palestine’s righteous yearning
For self-determination,
Their right in international law;
To be unencumbered by occupation
To be free from being Israel’s penal colony;
Free from being stateless in a brutalized Bantustan –
A colonized people who are jeered at and decried
For their minimal attempts to fight back.

Later that night a bomb would land on a Gaza care home
Filled with elderly patients who cannot move
And with children who are already disabled;
Both are bombed in their wheelchairs or in their beds.

gaza 9








The Rabbi Noam Perel, head of Bnei Akiva 
The world’s largest religious-Zionist youth organization,
Urges on his Facebook page that the IDF,
The Israeli Defense Force be transformed
Into an army of avengers,
“Which will not stop at 300 Philistine foreskins”

gaza 10












And, thus incited by a fascistic atavism,
Israeli Jews go on the rampage
Looking to beat any Arab they encounter
To heighten their sense of victory.

gaza 11







On July 2nd, 2014,
A young man in Shuafat, Jerusalem,
Muhammad Abu-Khdeir,
A 16-year old boy with a knowing, elfin smile
Is pulled into a car
And kidnapped in East Jerusalem
While waiting to go into the mosque.

He is tied and beaten;
He has gasoline poured into his mouth
And he is burned alive.

His body is found in the Jerusalem Forest;
Battered in the head
And with soot deposits in the lungs
Suggesting he’s still breathing
When set on fire.
Ninety per cent of his body is burned.

gaza 12


Another victim of Israel’s slow motion genocide –

A holocaust which, this time,
Is being financed and uncritically supported
By ‘the good guys’,
By the internationally ‘great and the good’,
By the craven chorus of the compliant
Who ritually pipe up to defend
Israel’s right to defend itself –
To defend the indefensible,
And to supply the money
The weapons, and the excuses
To enable it to do so.

gaza 13


Israel’s vision of itself was once
As a “light unto the nations”.
It has no need of the fearful hatred,
Fuelling its bombs and its bullets,
Unless it wishes to fade away –
Putting out the light that might enable it
To see the stranger as a friend.


Heathcote Williams

(with grateful acknowledgements to Angela Godfrey-Goldstein)



[1]  Source: Tom Segev, One Palestine, Complete: Jews and Arabs Under the British Mandate, Metropolitan Books, 1999, p. 407

[2] The Jerusalem Post, 24 May 2004

[3] Broadcast during “Operation Cast Lead”, 11 January 2009

[4] Benyamin Netanyahu, then Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister, currently Prime Minister of Israel; from the Israeli journalHotam, November 24, 1989:
One night at a dinner party in Jerusalem in 1977, I heard a young Israeli [Netanyahu] talking about the Arabs in terms which chilled my blood. “In the next war, we’ve got to get the Palestinians out of the West Bank for good.” Max Hastings, ‘The paradox of Israel’s pursuit of might: Forty years ago, I was enraptured by Israel’s courageous sense of mission. For me today, as for many, that idealism has palled,’ London: The Guardian, 9 May, 2009

[5] Jewish Newsletter, June 2, 1958:

[6] David Sheen, ‘Israeli calls for Palestinian blood ring at fever pitch’, The Electronic Intifada , 15 July 2014

[7] Robert Mackey, Israelis Watch Bombs Drop on Gaza From Front-Row Seats
New York Times, July 14, 2014

h/t Dore Stein, Angela Godfrey-Goldstein, and of course Heathcote Williams

Henry Norr
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11 Responses

  1. just
    just on July 21, 2014, 10:58 am

    Thanks for highlighting this, Henry. It’s invaluable.

  2. Susie Kneedler
    Susie Kneedler on July 21, 2014, 11:34 am

    Thanks for this vision yesterday + today, + always, Henry, and Dore Stein + Angela Godfrey-Goldstein. And to wondrous Heathcote Williams: you’re unforgettably radiant even in bit acting parts, as well as all else. Thank you for everything.

  3. Citizen
    Citizen on July 21, 2014, 11:56 am

    I can’t find anyone around me or with whom I’m in contact who’s even listening. I live in the Tampa Bay area, where the Tampa Bay student was mauled by Israeli border undercover thugs. My own family members have shown little interest, and they are educated and pretty cynical about government.

    • just
      just on July 21, 2014, 12:12 pm

      I empathize, Citizen. Here’s the thing, though: it usually takes a long time to undo programming. Israel and its supporters have taken full advantage of this, and upsetting the applecart is difficult at best. I have long seen this situation as central to many of the problems we face. People used to look at me like I was crazy when I spoke of it! Now, not so much. I find much more success when I break it to them gently, and then f/u with a bit of the old MW facts. The internet has made my efforts much easier, because we have the facts at our fingertips…….

      Don’t give up, we’re on a roll. It’s all for the best cause in the world.

      I passed on Henry’s link to this poem the other day to several of the unconverted……… cross your fingers!

      • just
        just on July 21, 2014, 12:36 pm

        I really mean this– it is for the best cause in the world & it’s the very least we can do. We can’t afford to slack off or become dispirited when the Palestinians have given their lives, safety and freedom…

        We are responsible for this, that’s what I’ve been trying to get across all these many years… I care about suffering worldwide, I really do. But, this is the longest US war in our history, and nobody ever thinks about it that way. We have funded, supported, and armed this war for decades now! (of course I am not even touching on the very beginning of this!)

      • MHughes976
        MHughes976 on July 21, 2014, 12:55 pm

        Quite so, just. I’d only add that there’s the same uneasy apathy in the UK. The years of our prime responsibility are further back in time but still very important, maybe one reason why we so much prefer to look the other way and think about something else.

  4. Marnie
    Marnie on July 21, 2014, 1:15 pm

    Thank you.

  5. Henry Norr
    Henry Norr on July 21, 2014, 5:19 pm

    One mistake in my write-up: it wasn’t Dore Stein himself who read from the poem during his show last Saturday – he played a recording of the British actor Alan Cox reading it.

    If anyone wants to hear that reading, go to KALW’s “Local Music Player” page and click on Tangents in the list of programs. Then, unless you want to listen to the first three hours of the show, scroll the player at the top of the page to the beginning of the “Gaza Corner” segment at 186:50 or directly to the beginning of Cox’s reading of the poem at 196:45 or so. The archive will be available through next Saturday, when it will be replaced by the next Tangents show.

    • Henry Norr
      Henry Norr on July 22, 2014, 12:40 am

      If anyone wants a copy of the audio file of Alan Cox reading this poem, Dore Stein is very kindly offering to send it to to anyone who requests it via email to him at [email protected].

      (He has registered here so he can post directly, but for some reason it seems to be taking a long time for his registration to get approved.)

  6. DICKERSON3870
    DICKERSON3870 on July 21, 2014, 9:02 pm

    RE: The Chabad Lubavitch Rabbi Schneerson . . .
    . . . Has a devoted and powerful acolyte, Rabbi Manis Friedman,
    Who declares that the “only way to fight a moral war”
    Is to “destroy the Arabs’ holy sites” and “to kill them.”
    To “kill men, women and children”, and to eliminate anyone
    Who stands in the way of a Greater Israel.
    ~ Henry Norr


    [EXCERPT] . . . According to the Sue Fishkoff book “The Rebbe’s Army”, p.167, Bob Dylan is one of the biggest names associated with Chabad. In the early 1980s, Chabad “rescued” Dylan from a brief flirtation with Christianity, and for several years, Dylan studied with Minneapolis Rabbis Manis Friedman and Moshe Feller, whom he visited also for Shabbat dinners. Dylan made a surprise appearance at the 1988 and 1989 Chabad telethons, once playing “Hava Negila” out of tune on the harmonica. . .

    SOURCE –

    ALSO SEE: “Why is the US Honoring a Racist Rabbi?”, by Alison Weir,, 4/07/14

    [EXCERPTS] If things proceed normally, President Barak Obama will soon proclaim April 11, 2014 “Education and Sharing Day, U.S.A.” Despite the innocuous name, this day honors the memory of a religious leader whose lesser-known teachings help fuel some of the most violent attacks against Palestinians by extremist Israeli settlers and soldiers.
    The leader being honored on this day is Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, charismatic head of a mystical/fundamentalist version of Judaism [namely, Chabad-Lubavitch]. . .
    . . . Congress first passed a Resolution honoring Schneerson in 1975. . .
    . . . Schneerson and his movement are an extremely mixed bag.
    Schneerson has been praised widely for a public persona and organization that emphasized “deep compassion and insight,” worked to bring many secular Jews “back” into the fold, created numerous schools around the world, and had offered, in the words of the Jewish Virtual Library, “social-service programs and humanitarian aid to all people, regardless of religious affiliation or background.”
    However, there is also a less attractive underside often at odds with such public perceptions. And some of the more extreme parts of Schneerson’s teachings – such as that Jews are a completely different species than non-Jews, and that non-Jews exist only to serve Jews – have been largely hidden, it appears, even from many who consider themselves his followers.
    As we will see, such views profoundly impact the lives of Palestinians living – and dying – under Israeli occupation and military invasions. . .
    . . . Another such rabbi is Manis Friedman, a Chabad-Lubavitch rabbi inspired by Schneerson who served as the simultaneous translator for a series of Schneerson’s talks. (Friedman is currently dean of a Jewish Studies institute in Minnesota.)
    A 2009 article in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reports, “Like the best Chabad-Lubavitch rabbis, Manis Friedman has won the hearts of many unaffiliated Jews with his charismatic talks about love and God; it was Friedman who helped lead Bob Dylan into a relationship with Chabad.
    “But Friedman, who today travels the country as a Chabad speaker, showed a less warm and cuddly side when he was asked how he thinks Jews should treat their Arab neighbors.”

    In ‘Moment; magazine’s article, “Ask the Rabbis // How Should Jews Treat Their Arab Neighbors?” Friedman answered: “I don’t believe in western morality, i.e. don’t kill civilians or children, don’t destroy holy sites, don’t fight during holiday seasons, don’t bomb cemeteries, don’t shoot until they shoot first because it is immoral. “The only way to fight a moral war is the Jewish way: Destroy their holy sites. Kill men, women and children (and cattle).” . . .


    P.S. ALSO SEE: “Bob Dylan turns 70; still hasn’t Recanted Praise for Rabbi Meir Kahane”, by Amago,, 5/24/11
    LINK –

    • DICKERSON3870
      DICKERSON3870 on July 21, 2014, 9:11 pm

      P.P.S. FROM “Bob Dylan – The Rolling Stone Interview” (by Kurt Loder – 1984)

      . . . • Q (Loder) – Your latest album, ‘Infidels’, is hardly subteen fodder. Some critics have even detected a new note of conservatism in some of the songs — even outright jingoism in “Neighborhood Bully” in which the metaphorical subject is said to be “just one man” whose “enemies say he’s on their land.” That’s clearly a strong Zionist political statement, is it not?
      • A (Dylan) – You’d have to point that out to me, you know, what line is in it that spells that out. I’m not a political songwriter. Joe Hill was a political songwriter; uh, Merle Travis wrote some political songs. “Which Side Are You On?” is a political song. And “Neighborhood Bully,” to me, is not a political song, because if it were, it would fall into a certain political party. If you’re talkin’ about it as an Israeli political song – in Israel alone, there’s maybe twenty political parties. I don’t know where that would fall, what party.
      • Q (Loder) – Well, would it be fair to call that song a heartfelt statement of belief?
      • A (Dylan) – Maybe it is, yeah. But just because somebody feels a certain way, you can’t come around and stick some political-party slogan on it. If you listen closely, it really could be about other things.
      It’s simple and easy to define it, so you got it pegged, and you can deal with it in that certain kinda way. However, I wouldn’t do that. ‘Cause I don’t know what the politics of Israel is. I just don’t know.
      • Q (Loder) – So you haven’t resolved for yourself, for instance, the Palestinian question?
      • A (Dylan) – Not really, because I live here.

      • Q (Loder) – Would you ever live in Israel?
      • A (Dylan) – I don’t know. It’s hard to speculate what tomorrow may bring. I kinda live where I find myself.
      At another point in the song, you say, “He got no allies to really speak of,” and while “he buys obsolete weapons and he won’t be denied…no one sends flesh and blood to fight by his side.” Do you feel that America should send troops over there?
      No. The song doesn’t say that. Who should, who shouldn’t — who am I to say?
      • Q (Loder) – Well, do you think Israel should get more help from the American Jewish community? I don’t want to push this so far, but it just seems so…
      • A (Dylan) – Well, you’re not pushing it too far, you’re just making it specific. And you’re making it specific to what’s going on today. But what’s going on today isn’t gonna last, you know? The battle of Armageddon is specifically spelled out: where it will be fought, and if you wanna get technical, when it will be fought. And the battle of the Armageddon definitely will be fought in the Middle East. . .

      SOURCE –

      A MIDSUMMER EVENING’S MUSICAL INTERLUDE, proudly brought to you by the makers of new Ziocaine Über-Xtreme®: It’s guaran-damn-teed to make you feel entitled!

      . . . Well, the neighborhood bully, he’s just one man
      His enemies say he’s on their land
      They got him outnumbered about a million to one
      He got no place to escape to, no place to run
      He’s the neighborhood bully . . .
      . . . The neighborhood bully been driven out of every land
      He’s wandered the earth an exiled man
      Seen his family scattered, his people hounded and torn
      He’s always on trial for just being born
      He’s the neighborhood bully . . .
      . . . Well, the chances are against it and the odds are slim
      That he’ll live by the rules that the world makes for him

      ’Cause there’s a noose at his neck and a gun at his back
      And a license to kill him is given out to every maniac
      He’s the neighborhood bully . . .
      . . . Now his holiest books have been trampled upon
      No contract he signed was worth what it was written on
      He took the crumbs of the world and he turned it into wealth
      Took sickness and disease and he turned it into health
      He’s the neighborhood bully . . .
      . . . What has he done to wear so many scars?
      Does he change the course of rivers? Does he pollute the moon and stars?
      Neighborhood bully, standing on the hill
      Running out the clock
      , time standing still
      Neighborhood bully
      ~ Lyrics by Bob Dylan, 1983 (the year following the Sabra and Shatila massacre that occurred in Lebanon under the watchful eyes and flares of Gen. Ariel Sharon* and the IDF)

      SOURCE (ENTIRE LYRICS): Neighborhood Bully Lyrics, by Bob Dylan, 1983 –


      * FROM WIKIPEDIA [Sabra and Shatila massacre]: (EXCERPT) . . . The Kahan commission found that Ariel Sharon “bears personal responsibility”,[10] recommended his dismissal from the post of Defense Minister and concluded that Sharon should not hold public office again, stating that:

      It is our view that responsibility is to be imputed to the minister of defense for having disregarded the prospect of acts of vengeance and bloodshed by the Phalangists against the population of the refugee camps and for having failed to take this danger into account when he decided to have the Phalangists enter the camps. In addition, responsibility is to be imputed to the minister of defense for not ordering appropriate measures for preventing or reducing the chances of a massacre as a condition for the Phalangists’ entry into the camps . . .

      SOURCE –

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