Middle East Monitor – Informed Comment https://www.juancole.com Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion Fri, 14 Jan 2022 06:44:23 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.7.5 Far-Right Israelis aren’t Planting trees in the Negev for ‘forestation,’ but to ethnically Cleanse Palestinians https://www.juancole.com/2022/01/israelis-forestation-palestinians.html https://www.juancole.com/2022/01/israelis-forestation-palestinians.html#respond Fri, 14 Jan 2022 05:04:11 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=202387 By Motasem A Dalloul | –

( Middle East Monitor ) – After mass protests by Arab residents and threats by Arab parliamentarians, the Israeli occupation government decided on Wednesday to suspend the major Jewish National Fund (JNF) project of planting trees in the Negev. The JNF is a quasi-governmental body which oversees thirteen per cent of the land in Israel to be used by Jews exclusively. It started its planting project on Sunday; worth NIS150m ($48m) it is intended to afforest large swathes of the land in the Negev under the supervision of the Israel Land Authority.

The Israeli government claims that this is state-owned land even though it includes many Arab villages, which the government has never recognised and so they remain disconnected from public services such as the water and sewage networks, the electricity grid and telecommunications access. However, left-wing Israelis claim that it is land at the heart of a dispute between the government and local Arab residents. Local Palestinians know that it is their land on which they have lived for centuries.

Planting trees and turning the desert into a green area and farmland is something good that everyone should be happy about. So why do the local Palestinian Arabs object?

From the 1940s onwards, the Zionists occupied Palestine and expelled the local population in huge numbers, replacing them with Jewish immigrants who assumed “ownership” of the Palestinian land and homes. Some Palestinians resisted the violent ethnic cleansing; some moved to nearby areas; some fled to areas that had not been occupied in 1948; and some fled the country altogether.

Ever since, the occupation state has been treating the Jewish immigrants as genuine citizens, while the original inhabitants who managed to stay in their homes in the land occupied since 1948 are “unrecognised” residents or, at best, second-class citizens. They are referred to as Arab Israelis.

At that time, the JNF carried out forestation projects over large areas of the occupied land, including on the ruins of the deserted Palestinian villages in order to change the facts on the ground and turn Palestine into Israel. My neighbour Mustafa Abul Qumsan, 86, was expelled from his village in 1948, when he was 12 years old. “Years after the occupation,” he told me, “I went to visit my village. I did not find our homes. I found a forest.”

The Palestinian Arab residents of Israel know through experience that forestation projects are used to cover the evidence of the ethnic cleansing of the local Palestinians. Regardless of any economic or environmental reasons for forestation in the Negev, therefore, the main purpose is to reinforce Israel’s grip on the occupied land ahead of the potential expansion of the local Palestinian Arab population in the area.

Israel has been trying since 1948 to expel the local population from areas across occupied Palestine, especially the Negev. In some areas, they remove them by force or demolish their homes. The “unrecognised” village of Al Araqib, for example, has been demolished by the Israelis more than 150 times since 2011, and rebuilt by its residents on every occasion.

To persuade the Arabs to leave their villages — and give ethnic cleansing a glossy veneer — Israel has on several occasions proposed that they should move to urbanised areas with high rise blocks where they can enjoy public services. All such proposals have been rejected, because the local people know that they are a ruse to uproot them from their own land. This is contested by Israeli officials, of course.

“There’s no expulsion,” Alon Tal MK told the Times of Israel. “These are national lands; we have a right to protect them for all citizens, and one way to do that is by planting trees.” He has overseen forestation at the JNF for more than a decade. “The Israel Land Authority wants to hold land, which is their job. Bedouins [Palestinians in the Negev] are squatters, and one way to make them stop doing that is by planting trees.” The Knesset member’s words expose the real intention behind the forestation plan of the Israeli government and the JNF.

The Palestinians in the Negev lived peacefully on their land for centuries before the Israeli occupation. Their presence alone signified ownership; they neither needed nor had (in most cases) documentation to prove this. The occupation state, however, demands to see such proof of ownership. It has imposed many oppressive laws intended to strip the Palestinians of their ownership rights, and knows full well that most in the Negev have no title deeds or similar documents.

Since the 1970s, dozens of Palestinian Arabs have gone to court in an effort to prove their ownership of their land. They have either lost their cases or the courts have delayed the process. In the meantime, the occupation authorities have been speeding up the theft of the land by destroying the unrecognised villages, making the living conditions even worse, blocking the building of new homes and carrying out forestation and urbanisation projects.

“Today, there are about 125,000 acres of contested land,” explained Hanna Noach, who co-directs the left-wing Negev Coexistence Forum. “Bedouins are summoned to court and asked to prove their ownership, but other than oral tradition, they often have nothing to show.”

The ideological aspect of this old-new land grab is obvious. Far-right extremist Itamar Ben Gvir is a parliamentarian and head of the Otzma Yehudit party, which is openly anti-Arab. Forestation is a tool for Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestine, not an objective in itself.

“Today, the order of the hour is to reach the Negev and take part in the important mitzvah [commandment] of struggling for the Land of Israel,” he was quoted as saying by the Jerusalem Post. He added that he has spoken with a religious-Zionist authority, Rabbi Dov Lior, the former chief rabbi of Hebron and Kiryat Arba, “Who ruled that it was permissible to plant trees for the struggle for the Land of Israel, and called on all Knesset members to come to the Negev to make the desert bloom.”

According to Israeli Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel, writing on Facebook: “There are many areas in the country where, when you do not cultivate the land, you lose it… On the eve of Tu Bishvat [a Jewish holiday celebrated as an ecological awareness day], agriculture should be recognised and planting is the solution everywhere, and so it will be done this year as well.”

Israel’s intentions are very clear. It wants as much Palestinian land as possible, with as few Palestinians living on it as possible. That’s what forestation is all about. Ecology and the environment have nothing to do with it. The Palestinians understand this; we all see it; but nobody does anything to stop it, leaving the local residents to face the Israeli occupation authorities on their own while the complicit international community sits and watches.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor or Informed Comment.

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Promoting Hatred of Muslim Americans is a Billion Dollar Industry: Can the New Congressional Envoy Combat it? https://www.juancole.com/2022/01/promoting-americans-congressional.html https://www.juancole.com/2022/01/promoting-americans-congressional.html#respond Thu, 13 Jan 2022 05:04:20 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=202373 By Nasim Ahmed | –

( Middle East Monitor) – US lawmakers voted, last month, in support of a bill to create a State Department office tasked with monitoring and combating Islamophobia across the globe. With members of the House of Representatives casting their vote along party lines, a ten-seat majority held by the Democrats ensured a marginal victory for the proposed legislation, highlighting, once again, the deep wedge in the US when it comes to Islam and Muslims.

Republicans strongly opposed the bill. Some took the frustration of their defeat out on social media in typical Islamophobic fashion. Peddling anti-Muslim tropes, they confirmed, if further confirmation were needed, the size of the challenge America faces in combating the global rise of anti-Muslim bigotry that has been normalised in the post 9/11 era.

As I mentioned in a previous article, the likes of Chinese President Xi Jinping have adopted the US War on Terror template, as have many regimes in the Middle East. Anti-Muslim fearmongering and conspiracy theories about “creeping sharia” have taken deep roots in culture and society, not just in the US, but also across the world.

The same article pointed out that the proof of the pudding in the current US administration’s attempt to tackle Islamophobia would be demonstrated through its seriousness in tackling domestic anti-Muslim racism, namely the collaboration of Israel with the Islamophobia industry within US shores.

The staggering size of that industry was revealed this week in a report by the prominent Muslim rights group, Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). An eye-watering $105,865,763 was poured into 26 Islamophobia Network groups between 2017-2019, within the US alone, according to CAIR’s report, Islamophobia in the Mainstream. These groups spread misinformation and conspiracy theories about Muslims and Islam, highlighting the herculean challenge facing US lawmakers hoping to combat Islamophobia.

While right-wing Christian Evangelical groups – who, in recent years, have hijacked the Republican Party – and so-called charitable organisations were listed amongst the top financiers of America’s Islamophobia network, pro-Israel Jewish organisations featured heavily in the report.

The Islamophobia Network is a decentralised group of actors’ organisations and individuals that share an ideology of extreme anti-Muslim animus, and work with one another to negatively influence public opinion and government policy about Muslims and Islam. They include politicians, think tanks, scholars, religious groups and activists that distort Islam and Muslims for monetary and political gain. This industry, says the report, has been drawing upon mainstream American philanthropic institutions for financial and political support for years.

An earlier study, for example, found that as many as 1,096 organisations were funding 39 groups in the Islamophobia Network between 2014 and 2016, to the tune of $1.5 billion. This endless pool of resource has been the main reason for why anti–Muslim animus and Islamophobic messages have become a pervasive feature of the mainstream political, legal, educational and media landscapes. For years, this network, says the report, has been drawing upon reputable American philanthropic institutions for financial and political support, often unbeknownst to donors, civil society organisations and the general public.

Amongst the top funders listed in the report is The Adelson Family Foundation. It came second on the list to the Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund Foundation, which gave nearly seven million to groups within the Islamophobia network between 2017 and 2019. Its founder, Sheldon G Adelson, is a staunch supporter of Israel. A major donor of former US President Donald Trump, Adelson’s fortunes turned the GOP into a deeply hostile anti-Palestinian party and ensured that there was no daylight between US and the Israeli far-right. “I’m a one-issue person. That issue is Israel,” Adelson is reported as saying. Between 2017 and 2019, his foundation gave nearly four million dollars anti-Muslim groups.

A combined $3 million was donated by the Adelson foundation to the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) between 2017-2019. MEMRI, says the report, has an established reputation for distributing highly selective, distorted, and inaccurate translations of Arabic and Persian media. Through these selections, the organisation attempts to portray Muslims and Arabs as inherently irrational and violent. CNN’s Arabic department is also said to have found “massive problems” with MEMRI’s translation of the program.

Third on the list, Jewish Communal Fund, has also funnelled over $3 million into some of the most notorious groups with the Islamophobia Network. It gave the American Freedom Defence Initiative (AFDI) $50,000. AFDI, says the report “has been characterised as an extremist anti-Muslim hate group, known for its demeaning print media advertising that has likened Muslims to savages”. The president of the organisation, Pamela Geller, is a known Islamophobe.

Amongst the receipts include many well-known anti-Palestinian groups. The pro-Israel media advocacy group, Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), received more than $4 million in grants between 2017 – 2019. Another notorious anti-Muslim group that received millions is the Middle East Forum (MEF). Its founder, Daniel Pipes, has used the two million received to portray Islam as an inherently violent ideology and “imperialist faith,” says the report.

Neo-con lobby groups in Washington were amongst the highest recipients of funds. The Foundation for Defence of Democracies (FDD) obtained close to $10 million in grants between 2017 and 2019. FDD has been advancing the Islamophobic “war on terror” narrative and associated policies and practices. FDD Senior Fellow, Andrew McCarthy, wrote in National Review that the Bush administration, in trying to forge a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine, was “hellbent on granting statehood to savages who worship ‘martyrdom.”

On top of following the money sustaining the billion dollar hate industry for decades, the report documented the real life effects of Islamophobia in society, including violent targeting of Muslims, attacks on mosques, harassment of Muslims at school and the plaguing of the mainstream media and politics with anti-Muslim messaging, which peaked during the administration of Donald Trump. Its findings demonstrated the extent to which Islamophobia has become mainstream and an acceptable part of society.

In its recommendations, charitable institutions are urged to implement clear anti-hate policies and procedures to ensure that their funds are not granted to hate groups. Organisations are asked to investigate their grant making procedures to learn if they are intentionally or unintentionally funnelling money to Islamophobia network groups.

Arriving as it does, weeks after US lawmakers voted in support of a bill to tackle the global spread of Islamophobia, the report is another timely reminder that, after two decades of the “war on terror”, the US remains a fertile and lucrative place for anti-Muslim hate groups. Despite their good intentions, any new legislation will be meaningless unless Democrat members of Congress weed out the poison within American society so that anti-Muslim racism no longer remains a path to electoral victory but, instead, is seen as a route to certain electoral defeat.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor or Informed Comment.

Via Middle East Monitor

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In Human Rights Violation, Israel is holding 500 People without Charge or Trial, including 6 Children https://www.juancole.com/2022/01/violation-including-children.html Sat, 08 Jan 2022 05:04:13 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=202269 ( Middle East Monitor ) – The Palestinian people rightly saluted Hisham Abu Hawash as a brave man who was prepared to die in pursuit of his freedom. On 4 January, the occupation state of Israel agreed to his release following his almost five-month long hunger strike. Images of Hisham’s frail, almost skeletal body were widely shared on social media, together with a video of Hisham’s children visiting and hugging their dying father, raising anger amongst human rights defenders.

Those who have experienced fasting, particularly for religious reasons, will readily acknowledge how challenging experiencing hunger is. At the end of just a day of fasting, they are ready to tuck into a feast. Imagine going without food for almost five months as Hisham did. Imagine also what would drive someone to do this.

I doubt that any of his captors would be brave enough to do what he did for freedom.

Hisham was held in administrative detention, which Israel uses and abuses at will with no accountability. A practice it uses to hold Palestinians for extendable periods without charge, on suspicion that they pose a security threat. Once it has designated the evidence as ‘secret’, it can apply repeatedly for renewal of detention, which the Israeli courts almost always uphold.

Abu Hawash is not the first and he certainly will not be the last Palestinian whose rights Israel abuses in this way with impunity. The Palestinians have Britain to ‘thank’ for this law, which Israel introduced in 1979, based on the British Mandate 1945 (Defence Emergency) Regulations.

In October, five Palestinians where on hunger strike demanding their freedom, moving UN experts to point out that calls on Israel to comply with its obligation have come to no avail. “In international law, administrative detention is permitted only in exceptional circumstances, and only for short periods of time. Israel’s practices exceed all of the international legal boundaries.”

All but one of the detainees succeeded in forcing Israel to release them within days of each other, except Abu Hawash who doctors warned last week was near death.

The international community which usually rushes to claim Israel has a right to defend itself against Palestinian resistance were tongue tied and said nothing in opposition to the practice which UN experts called an “unlawful practice”.

While Abu Hawash will be released on 26 February, there are currently over 500 Palestinians, including six children being held under administrative detention.

The remaining detainees recently announced that they will boycott the Israeli courts system in protest at their detention.

It is left to individual detainees to fight for their freedom from administrative detention. Israel can and in 2022 will detain more Palestinians without charge or conviction. While some foreign missions in Palestine raised their ‘concern’ in Hisham’s case, none committed to taking a stand that would place enough pressure on Israel that would force it to end this practice.

The British Consulate in Jerusalem tweeted: “Gravely concerned about the deteriorating health condition of Palestinian #HishamAbuHawash who has been on hunger strike for 141 days to protest his administrative detention in an Israeli prison since October 2020. ½”, while the European Union Delegation to the Palestinians tweeted: “1/2 Seriously concerned about the critical health condition of Palestinian Hisham Abu Hawash, who has been on an extended hunger strike for 140 days to protest his administrative detention in Israeli prison since October 2020.”

Neither embassy in Tel Aviv tweeted or made any comments about the practice. Why this division of responsibility? The missions express concern in Ramallah but blindly support Israel in Tel Aviv? As for the US, well the US Embassy Twitter account was silent on the matter and in the absence of a US Consulate in East Jerusalem, it is difficult to judge whether the consulate which Biden promised but has thus far failed to reopen, would have said in the matter.

The reaction in Palestine to Hisham’s release was joyous but Palestinians questioned whether Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had raised the issue of Abu Hawash when he met Israeli Defence Minister Gantz at his home near Tel Aviv. However, a video circulating on social media, appeared to show Abbas being thanked by a member of Hisham’s family thanking the president for his efforts in releasing him. What is clear though is that Hisham gained his freedom through his own sacrifice and the support of people around the world rather than Abbas’ intervention.

In Israel, the reaction of a society that keeps moving to the right as it continually elects extremist leaders was of anger at the agreement to release Abu Hawash. However, their anger should have been directed at their government and the legal system which allows detention without charge. They would not accept this practice for their own family or friends.

The anger was exemplified by the extremist, far right Kahanist MK Itamar Ben Gvir who on hearing the news of the ‘deal’ attempted to break into the Abu Hawash’s room at the hospital but was prevented by Hisham’s family and supporters. Another far right Israeli attacked a Palestinian cameraman outside the hospital simply for reporting on the gathering.

Britain’s legacy since the Balfour Declaration and the Palestinian Nakba that coincided with the end of the British Mandate, continues to haunt Palestinians, with the practice of administrative detention which Israel adopted to suit its oppressive policies towards the Palestinians.

Successive administrative detainees have used hunger strikes as a last weapon to peacefully seek their freedom. In addition to labelling Palestinians ‘terrorists’ and their use of peaceful means of resistance as different variations of this, including ‘economic terror’, ‘political terror’, an Israeli leader is likely to couch a new phrase to label hunger strikes as a form of terror. Perhaps this could be ‘starvation terror’ or ‘hunger terror’. The alternative will be to label it as some form of ‘new anti-Semitism’, perhaps that the administrative detainees would not do this if they were detained by another country, ‘singling Israel out’ because it is what they claim to be ‘the world’s only Jewish state’. Mad as it sounds it would not surprise me in the least if Israeli leaders attempted to smear these brave detainees for fighting peacefully for their freedom.

The easier route for the oppressive state would be to end this practice. Detainees should either be charged or released if the state cannot bring charges.

While its at it, it could recognise the rights of Palestinians to freedom, justice and equality in their homeland, end its settler colonialist Apartheid policies and make peace with the Palestinians whose land it continues to exist on through the denial of their rights, including the right for the refugees to return, oppression and most importantly, through the barrel of the gun.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor or Informed Comment.

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Palestinian Hisham Abu Hawash was never Charged or Convicted of a Crime but he Almost Died in an Israeli Jail https://www.juancole.com/2022/01/palestinian-convicted-israeli.html Thu, 06 Jan 2022 05:02:58 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=202228 By Motasem A Dalloul | –

( Middle East Monitor ) – After 141 days on hunger strike in an Israeli prison, Palestinian prisoner Hisham Abu Hawash has agreed a deal with the occupation authorities that his administrative detention will end on 26 February. The Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs Commission announced the deal between Abu Hawash and the Israeli occupation authorities, but did say what led to the agreement or who played a role in it.

The Palestinian Prisoners’ Society (PPS) said that the hunger strike and deal highlighted the issue of the prisoners held by Israel. “The struggle by Abu Hawash has brought the issue of the prisoners, specifically the issue of administrative detention, back to the forefront, despite all the challenges,” said the society.


Palestinians in Gaza stand in solidarity with hunger striker Hisham Abu Hawash on 5 January 2022 [Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor]

Father of five Abu Hawash, 40, is from Dura, south of Hebron in the occupied West Bank. He was detained on 27 October, 2020, and was immediately put under administrative detention for six months. Facing neither charges nor a trial his detention order was renewed several times, prompting him to go on an open-ended hunger strike in protest.

The most important fact in his case is that the Israeli authorities agreed on his release against their wishes. Neither the politicians nor the military wanted him to be released. They waited for him to end his protest, but when his health condition deteriorated critically and he was on the verge of dying, they accepted that he preferred death over administrative detention. So why didn’t Israel just let him die?

Palestinians hunger-strikers in Israeli jails – Cartoon [CarlosLatuff]

Palestinian news agency Wafa reported that the Israeli authorities came under massive pressure from the Palestinian Authority to release Abu Hawash. PA President Mahmoud Abbas and the head of the General Intelligence Service, Majed Faraj, are said to have made intensive representations to the Israelis for his release.

However, Israeli journalists dispute this. Although the PA should have played a major role in getting Abu Hawash released from prison, I doubt that it did. The evidence for this is the PA’s own detention of Ziad Al-Kilani, a Palestinian from Jenin who was released recently by Israel. With their own prisons full of Palestinian political prisoners, many of them ex-prisoners of the Israelis, why should Abbas and Faraj seek to have Abu Hawash released?

Commenting on the reports about Abbas’s involvement in the deal to release Abu Hawash, former West Bank hunger striker Sheikh Khader Adnan said, “If the PA’s political pressure is effective, it should seek the release of Marwan Al-Barghouti or hunger striker Naser Abu Hamaid, who is on the verge of death.” Adnan added that if the PA is able to do anything at all, it should at least push Israel to end the isolation of the Palestinian prisoners in Al-Ramla Prison.

Immediately following the announcement of the deal between Abu Hawash and the Israeli occupation authorities, the Times of Israel reported that his marathon hunger strike attracted intense interest from Palestinians as well as international pressure on Israel. UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric welcomed the deal, and said, “We have always made it clear that detainees must be tried according to legal procedures or released.”

Israel did not want to release Abu Hawash precisely because it will now come under more pressure to release prisoners held without trial under the archaic administrative detention system. Moreover, the government will be condemned by extreme right-wing Israelis for buckling under pressure from “terrorists”. On hearing about the deal, one extremist member of the Israeli parliament, Itamar Ben-Gvir, stormed into the hospital where Abu Hawash is being held and tried to attack him.

The Palestinian resistance did not claim to have put any pressure on Israel to release the hunger striker, but hailed his patience and resilience. However, Israeli media have revealed that pressure from the Palestinian resistance in Gaza pushed Israel to promise to bring his administrative detention to an end.

Israeli public broadcaster Kan reported that threats from Gaza prompted the Public Prosecution Service to agree on Abu Hawash’s release on 26 February. According to Israeli journalist Gal Berger from Kan, “The release of Abu Hawash reiterated the connection between Gaza and the West Bank.”

Baruch Yedid of Channel 14 told me that it is not in doubt that the threats from Gaza played a role in the release of the hunger striker. “Currently, Israel does not want a confrontation. It does not want a confrontation with Hamas.” He confirmed that many right wing Israeli media are using this incident to attack the government.

Well-respected columnist Gideon Levy of Haaretz told me that Israeli did not want Abu Hawash to die. “They know that this would cause more unrest in the West Bank and rockets from Gaza,” he explained.

The Israeli government, said Meron Rapoport from +972 magazine, reiterated to me that Israel did not want a dead prisoner. “It seems that the release of Abu Hawash was related directly to Gaza, but Israel always gives up at the last moment.”

The PA may be trying to claim the credit for the end of Abu Hawash’s hunger strike and his release next month, but it shows itself up by doing so. If Abbas and Faraj think that political prisoners should be released, then they should empty the PA’s own prisons of every member of every resistance faction. The fact that they won’t tells us all we need to know about their real intentions.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor or Informed Comment.

Via Middle East Monitor

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Why is Popular Resistance in the Occupied West Bank Increasing? https://www.juancole.com/2022/01/resistance-occupied-increasing.html Wed, 05 Jan 2022 05:04:31 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=202213 ( Middle East Monitor ) – Recent weeks rank among the most turbulent in the West Bank, with massive protests taking place in different parts of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories. From tension in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah that led to a bloody escalation last May, to the weekly protests being held since June in the village of Beita near Nablus and the most recent confrontations that erupted ten days ago in Burqa, the Palestinians in the West Bank continue to defy Israel’s inhuman and illegal military occupation.

Clashes broke out in Burqa after a group of illegal Israeli settlers marched to a Palestinian-owned hill on the outskirts of the village. Local villagers challenged the move before the settlers could occupy the land. Settler mobilisation was countered by appeals from Palestinian activists to the people living in neighbouring areas to rush in defence of the hill and foil the attack.

The sight of Palestinian villagers gathering to defend their land brought back memories of the first and second Palestinian intifadas. The villagers in Burqa and their supporters used the same tactics seen during the two major uprisings: throwing stones, burning tyres, equipping themselves with Molotov cocktails, and mobilising via announcements made through mosque loudspeakers.

This demonstrated the fact that Palestinians in the West Bank are emboldened to confront settler attacks on their homes, lands and farms. This, in turn, may lead to a level of resistance which falls short of a full uprising, but is nevertheless more than a one-off protest.

The dynamics behind the youth-driven revitalisation of popular resistance in the occupied West Bank to counter the daily attacks by the Israeli occupation forces and the 620,000 Jewish settlers in more than 200 illegal settlements built on Palestinian land. The year-long series of protests along the Gaza Strip’s nominal border with Israel, started in 2018 and known as the Great March of Return, has played a pivotal role in the rebirth of popular resistance across the occupied Palestinian territories.

The weekly marches provided hope to the Palestinians in Gaza that the 15-year Israeli-led siege might come to an end. They found that such popular resistance is effective and allowed their voice to be heard as shuttle diplomacy was launched to alleviate their suffering under Israel’s brutal blockade. The Rafah Border Crossing — their only outlet to the world not controlled wholly by Israel — was opened by Egypt in large part due to these protests.

The demonstrations also forced Israel to allow financial support from Qatar to flow into the impoverished Gaza Strip, and acted as leverage in the hands of the Palestinians to exert pressure on the occupation state to open all crossings and ease the measures it had imposed since 2007. This model was inspirational for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Jerusalem.

Israel’s military offensive against the Palestinians in Gaza last May and the serious developments that accompanied it provided another important dynamic behind the ongoing popular resistance in the West Bank. The 11-day bombardment united the Palestinian communities in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank with those living within Israel, as well as those in the diaspora, for the first time since 1948. They found themselves protesting and struggling for the same purpose: to protect Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, both in occupied Jerusalem.

Israeli attacks on unarmed Palestinian worshippers in Al-Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan not only outraged all Palestinians, but also restated emphatically the root cause of the conflict. This is not, as Israeli and Western politicians and media would have us believe, legitimate Palestinian resistance; it is Israel’s occupation and apartheid policies which target the people of Palestine everywhere.

Al-Aqsa Mosque is at the heart of the Muslim, Arab and national identity of the indigenous Palestinians. Israeli attacks on this sacred place contributed to Palestinian youth resurrecting the anti-occupation discourse.

This all shows that the grip that the Palestinian Authority has on the West Bank is weakening, especially after PA President Mahmoud Abbas “postponed” long-delayed elections last year on the pretext that Israel would not allow them to be held in Jerusalem. The PA’s reputation was eroded further by the heinous killing of renowned Palestinian opposition figure, Nizar Banat, who was beaten to death by PA security officials.

The stalled peace process and lack of opposition to Israel’s expansionist policies in the West Bank have weakened the PA narrative and damaged the image of its security forces. The result has been calls for the immediate end to security coordination between the PA and Israel. It is no wonder that West Bank activists now look for other solutions to the daily settler attacks.

Every action has a reaction. Palestinian opposition in the occupied West Bank will continue as long as Israeli settler attacks take place under an extreme right-wing government and prime minister in Israel who believes that the whole West Bank should be “Jewish”.

No one knows to which level these protests will escalate. The fact is, though, that there is a new generation of Palestinians who believe that popular resistance works and will continue to grow.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor or Informed Comment.

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New Leftist President of Chile is an ardent supporter of Palestinian Rights https://www.juancole.com/2022/01/president-supporter-palestinian.html Sat, 01 Jan 2022 05:04:05 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=202122 ( Middle East Monitor ) – In Chile, where the largest population of Palestinians in Latin America resides, the Leftist candidate Gabriel Boric has won Chile’s presidential election after he defeated his far-right rival José Antonio Kast by 10 points. 35-year-old Boric’s victory represents a major revival for Chile’s progressive left. The President-elect, Gabriel Boric, is known to be a staunch supporter of the Palestinian cause and defender of human rights, which are being continuously violated in the Occupied Territories. More than once, Boric branded Israel as a “genocidal” and “murderous” state, including during an interview during his campaign: “It doesn’t matter how much power that country has, we need our foreign policy to defend human rights with all its might, regardless of the government,” Boric told Vivo TV Chile.

Boric’s victory prompted celebrations among the Palestinian community in Chile. The Palestinian Community in Chile rushed to congratulate the elected president via a letter signed by its president, Maurice Khamis Massu. The letter stated: “On behalf of the Palestinian Community in Chile, we wish you the best in your new government. From now, we place our Palestinian commitment at your disposal to continue collaborating the Community with progress, growth, justice, and free and fair.”

Massu also thanked the elected president for his continued support for Palestine. “We would like to thank you for your constant support for the Palestinian People and for the promise you made to the sanction for the importation of goods and services that come from the settlements in the Occupied Territories, as well as your defence of human rights in the homeland of our ancestors.”

In an interview with MEMO, Massu said: “The elected President has always defended human rights everywhere around the world, especially about human rights in our occupied land. During his visit last September to our Palestinian community, he made a commitment to maintaining the recognition of the State of Palestine, to respect and enforce international laws. In addition, he confirmed his support to prohibit and impose sanctions on services and products that come from the settlements in the Occupied Territories”.

Boric has always supported the boycott of products that come from illegal Israeli settlements. In July 2020, The Chilean Senate approved a resolution calling on the government to enact legislation that would ban all Israeli settlement products; prohibit companies involved in the Israeli occupation from benefiting from any agreement or bid signed by Chile; apply tourism guidelines for Israel and Palestine that would not allow the promotion of trips to Israel using pictures of East Jerusalem or Bethlehem “among other Palestinian cities”. Boric was one of the supporters and voted for this resolution.

“We hope this progress will be approved in future towards the Palestinian people, especially regarding the boycott and sanction of products and services that come from the settlements in the Occupied Territories, in addition to reactivation of Chile’s role in the international organizations to encourage investigations and condemn Israel’s violation of Palestinians human rights”, Massu said.

Boric’s presidential win was bad news for Israel, and has created worry among the Jewish community in Chile. “Boric has voted for every bill against Israel, called Israel a murderous state on public television, and consistently supports a boycott of Israel,” Gabriel Colodro, president of Comunidad Chilena de Israel, told Israel Hayom: “Boric has always been an outspoken critic of Israel and publicly condemned Israel’s theft of Palestinian lands. Two years ago, the Comunidad Judia en Chile, an Israel lobby group which states that its aim is to strengthen ties with Israel, presented him with a traditional Rosh Hashana gift of honey, but Boric responded by tweeting: “Comunidad Judia en Chile gave me honey to emphasize its commitment to a more accepting, supportive and respectful society.” His tweet continued: “I thank you for the step, but you can start by demanding that Israel return the Palestinian territory it occupies illegally.”


The elected president with the Palestinian community in Chile, September 2021 [Palestine Community in Chile/Facebook]

Chile is home to some half a million Palestinian immigrants. Gabriel Boric’s win is considered a victory for the Palestinian cause and the Palestinian community in Chile. On the other hand, he faces now a difficult task, because his new government may shape the future of neighbouring countries. The question remains: Will the president stick with his stance toward the Palestinian cause after he takes over the presidency, as he has before?

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor or Informed Comment.

This work by Middle East Monitor is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

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Is China challenging the U.S. in the Gulf? Beijing aids Saudi Arabia’s Ballistic Missil Program https://www.juancole.com/2021/12/challenging-beijing-ballistic.html Fri, 31 Dec 2021 05:30:44 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=202106 By Necmettin Acar |

( Middle East Monitor) – Last week, US intelligence agencies shared information revealing that Saudi Arabia is developing a ballistic missile with the support of China. Shortly afterwards, the fact that Iran launched an exercise called “The Great Prophet 17”, in which it also used ballistic missiles, put the Gulf back on the international front burner.

The fact that both countries are getting assistance from China in developing a ballistic missile program poses a serious problem for the recent US policy of encircling China. The world is curious about the attitude of the US, which has reacted sharply to the fact that its allies in the region have developed cooperation with China in strategic areas so far, to this move by the Saudis. In fact, we can say that the current situation is due to the unpredictability of US foreign policy and Chinese determination to pursue its vital interests in the Gulf.

Saudis’ search for alternative security

As the US remains unethical about blocking nuclear activities and is accepted as a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), Iran has gained a strong patron in China. This resulted in a complete opening of the power asymmetry against the Saudis in the Iranian-Saudi rivalry in the Gulf. The US unwillingness to respond to Iranian threats to the Saudi regime, the abandonment of the Saudis in the Yemen war alone, and the withdrawal of the US air defence systems from south of the Saudi capital, Riyadh, in September obliged the Saudis to seek alternatives in defence.

Apart from the Dongfeng-3 ballistic missiles imported from China in 1988, the Saudis have been doing all their weapons purchases from Western countries, especially the US, with great loyalty since 1932, when Saudi Arabia was founded, but now have begun to question their dependence on the West in defence.

The Saudis turning to China, the biggest US rival in the defence and weapons industries, carries important messages in this process. An important change is taking place in this policy of the US which, in the past, considered the Middle East a priority foreign policy to surround the Soviets, ensure energy security and support Israel’s security. Until the beginning of 2010, America was the most important guarantor of the political stability and territorial integrity of the Gulf States but, since then, it has begun to step out of its role as a guarantor in the region.

With this orientation of the US, which is no longer dependent on energy resources in the region with the fracking revolution and has adopted the priority foreign policy goal of limiting China with its “Asian Pivot” strategy, the Gulf region has begun to lose its priority. However, with the Eisenhower (1957), Nixon (1969), and Carter (1980) doctrines, the country declared the Gulf region a vital area of US interest and declared that any challenges to US interests in this region would be responded to by using all means. The erosion of the US mission as the security guarantor of regimes in the Gulf States and the forcing of its allies in the region to defend themselves is the most important reason why the Saudis are looking for different alternatives.

Chinese policy of entering Gulf

The regional-wide power vacuum created by the US being stripped of its role as a security guarantor in the region has created a significant opportunity for China which, for many years, has been looking for a place on the global political scene. China is turning to a strategy in the form of energy security, trade and investment, responding to American military activities in the South China Sea, and creating regional alliances on the Uyghur issue.

The Gulf region is of indispensable importance in terms of energy security for China, whose energy needs are rising due to its rapidly growing economy. The Gulf region, which holds two-thirds of the global oil and natural gas reserves and is geographically quite close to China, today alone accounts for 55% of Chinese oil imports. The demand for natural gas is also on the rise due to the sensitivity about clean energy consumption. China, which consumed 15 million barrels of oil per day in 2021, is expected to increase its consumption to 20 million a day, and it is almost impossible to meet this growing demand from another area outside the Gulf. This, alone, makes the Gulf region extremely important for Chinese foreign policy.

Another element that makes the Gulf important for China is the unique economic and geopolitical advantages offered by the region in terms of investment and trade. For the success of China’s Belt and Road Initiative announced in 2013, the Gulf region is of indispensable importance. In addition, the Gulf States, which have rich oil reserves and are turning to important infrastructure projects using the huge funds they have, offer significant advantages from the Chinese point of view, which considers investment and trade the most important foreign policy item.

Thirdly, China which, in recent months, has been targeted by the AUKUS (UK-Australia-US) nuclear sub pact that aims to decimate China in the South China Sea, also wants to overcome this siege by establishing close relations with Gulf States. In particular, cooperation with Iran, the only actor with the ability and motivation to challenge the regional status quo defined by the US, is extremely important for China.

Finally, China is trying to handle the problems arising from the Uyghur issue, which has put it in a difficult position in domestic and foreign policy, by forging an alliance with two countries (Iran and Saudi Arabia) that claim to lead the Islamic world in the Gulf region. From China’s point of view, the prospect of the Uyghur issue turning into a global jihad, as it did in Afghanistan in the 1980s, is the most important internal threat. Thanks to the close relations it has developed with Iran and Saudi Arabia, China hopes to get support from two important countries of the Islamic world for its own view on the Uyghur issue, which has recently been brought to the forefront in the West.

US-China geopolitical rivalry in the Gulf

During the period we are in, global politics is the scene of intense geopolitical competition between the US and China. In this competition, the Gulf stands out as a very important region due to its geopolitical position, ideological advantages and rich energy resources. For many years, the US strongly opposed the cooperation of its allies in the region with China in the fields of advanced technology and the defence industry. But now the unpredictability of US foreign policy has forced its allies, who have a rising threat perception, to seek alternatives.

It is known that China has long supported the Iranian missile program, but today the Saudis, like Iran, are forced to turn to China in the field of defence products, which has posed significant risks to the future of US hegemony in the Gulf region. China’s eagerness to fill the power vacuum left by the US, which has recently shown signs of withdrawing from the Gulf region, indicates that there will be significant transformations in regional politics in the near future.

Necmettin Acar is the head of the Political Science and International Relations Department at Mardin Artuklu University in south-eastern Turkey

Via Middle East Monitor

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor or Informed Comment.

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Did China share missile tech with Saudi? | Saudi Arabia | Ballistic Missiles | Gulf Power | WION

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Israeli Army loses control of Squatter-Settlers who are attacking Palestinians ever more Brutally https://www.juancole.com/2021/12/settlers-attacking-palestinians.html Wed, 29 Dec 2021 05:04:01 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=202065 Adnan Abu Amer | –

( The Middle East Monitor) – The attacks carried out by the Israeli settlers against the Palestinians in the West Bank alongside violations of the occupation soldiers have continued to the extent that they have prompted Israeli alerts and fear that these attacks will ignite the security situation in the Palestinian areas.

The Israeli security alerts mention the existence of preliminary information from the settlers that they may carry out sabotage operations against Palestinians and their establishments, homes and farms, including burning of cars and buildings, beating with batons, and throwing stones. These and other factors could ignite the area as they may provoke Palestinians’ attempts to take revenge for any aggressive attacks that the settlers may carry out.

In light of the series of Palestinian attacks that took place in recent weeks, the Israeli military establishment fears that the violence of settlers and right-wing activists against the Palestinians may worsen the security situation in the Palestinian territories even further, especially in view of the escalation of field tensions between the Palestinians on the one hand and the settlers backed by the Israeli army on the other.

In addition to the recent Palestinian operations, the Israeli army and the Israel Security Agency Shabak have monitored the flare-up of field protests in various areas of the West Bank. During these protests, stones and explosives were thrown at army forces and settlers’ vehicles. They have, on their part, responded with gun fire in addition to launching several arrest campaigns against Palestinian youths, whether they were suspected of carrying out offensive operations or participating in throwing stones and planting explosive devices. Additionally, there are other forms of popular resistance taking place in various cities across the West Bank.

Israeli warnings of bloody attacks that may be carried out by settlers against Palestinians coincide with the release of Israeli statements accusing the settlers of enflaming the security situation. A notable example of these has been the recent by statement Omer Bar Lev, Minister of Public Security who accused the settlers of carrying out violent acts to ignite the field security situation with the Palestinians, so they are forced to respond to the attacks through stabbings and shootings. There are Israeli fears that these attacks will continue in the coming days.

The occupation army has monitored 15 incidents against Palestinians in recent days, including cases of burning a building, burning a car, throwing stones, raiding a house, hitting with batons, using pepper gas and the like. During one of these violent attacks, a Palestinian truck driver was hit in the head with a stone thrown at him by a group of Jewish settlers in Chumash.

For quite some time there was no such settlement violence against Palestinians. However, when the atmosphere is “saturated with a large amount of fuel,” which is the expression used by the occupation security services to refer to the tense security situation, then these aggressive actions of settlers against Palestinians can lead to devastating consequences. The army and the public security are aware that if “extra fuel leaks on to the fire,” it will be very difficult to stop the ongoing escalation of settlers against the Palestinians.

The ongoing settlement attacks against the Palestinians can be traced back to 1891 when the Jewish settlement project began. In the ensuing years the settlers showed extreme hostility ad cruelty toward the Arabs. They attacked them without justification and beat them in a humiliating manner for no reason. They were proud to do so and there was no one to stop the tide of this dangerous trend.

Coinciding with the continued violence of settlers against Palestinians in the West Bank and complicity of the occupation forces with them, some Israeli voices, although few, have called for curbing the military policy adopted by the occupation army and stopping the “soft hand on trigger” policy because it is enough to increase the number of Palestinian victims.

These Israeli voices do not necessarily express their keenness to save the blood of the Palestinians, but they fear of what they call “the genie coming out of his bottle,” and then the transition of the security situation in the West Bank to a point of unprecedented escalation, which may burn everything with it. Therefore, these voices are calling for changing the way in which occupation soldiers work in the occupied territories, especially the West Bank.

Having engrained in its soldiers the “soft hand on the trigger” policy, the Israeli occupation now seem unable to change the mindset of its soldiers. Perhaps the General Staff is responsible for that, although it pretends to hold its breath when any new Palestinian death occurs. The result is that “the genie has come out of the bottle” and the only way to return it is to fundamentally change the Israeli political conduct in the occupied Palestinian territories, which they have turned into a ticking time bomb that could explode at any moment.

On the other hand, there are genuine Israeli fears that occupation will eventually destroy the very fabric of Israeli society by turning its soldiers into a group of killers shooting at every moving object without endangering their lives.

These Israeli voices believe that their army have no strategy or tactics to engage in battle. They are, at best, proficient in offending the Palestinians and disrupting their daily lives. They claim that the Palestinians threaten their lives so they continue to beat them while they are handcuffed in military vehicles. When they reach their bases, they continue to beat them and tie their guns to the bodies of their detainees. All this occurs while their detainees are still handcuffed, blindfolded and subject to insults.

In the circumstances, all the disclosures about initiating security and criminal investigations by the Israeli Military Police must be seen as attempts to pull the wool over the public’s eyes; even after the formation of security and military criminal investigation committees. Although these investigations may result in the arrest of some soldiers and the extension of their detention, they are, nevertheless, ample measures that will not deter others from committing similar abuses.

The rule that the Israelis refuse to recognise is that for every action there is a reaction. Hence any violations committed by the occupation army against the Palestinians are met with retaliatory offensive operations against these soldiers. Notwithstanding, the occupation army continues its crimes against the Palestinians despite the bloody prices paid by its soldiers and settlers. Clearly the ongoing wave of settler violence is pushing the territories toward an explosion from which there is no return.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor or Informed Comment.

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American Colonialism Left Iraq in Environmental Crisis, Polluted, Corrupt and Crime-Ridden https://www.juancole.com/2021/12/american-colonialism-environmental.html Thu, 23 Dec 2021 05:06:09 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=201963 By Haifa Zangana | –

(Middle East Monitor ) – The devastation caused by man to the environment is no longer a secret; nature is striking back painfully, after decades of warnings by scientists of a catastrophic future that requires quick, radical solutions. There is no more room for procrastination in the face of hurricanes, floods, rising temperatures, desertification, drying up of agricultural lands, forest fires, greenhouse gases and air pollution.

In recent years, the dangers of climate change top of the list of problems and preoccupations in most countries, whether in the first, second or third worlds. In the face of the wrath of nature, the borders separating countries are collapsing, with increasing rapidity in third world countries in particular. It is true that the catastrophic repercussions are affecting everyone, but the third world, including Arab states, bears the greatest burden. Not because the wrath of nature chooses it over America and Europe, of course, but for growing domestic and external reasons, through which disasters, whether natural or man-made, interact to increase the impact and size of any crisis affecting the people of the country.

Iraq, along with Palestine, is a clear example of the environmental crisis resulting from war, occupation and neo-colonial policies in the Arab world, which undermine the social and economic basis of life in the region. The effects of this environmental crisis appear in devastating climate change, the pollution of extractive industries, the depletion of natural resources, the scarcity of water, and the pollution of air and soil due to the use of modern munitions, such as depleted uranium and white phosphorous, as has been seen in Iraq and Gaza. It is estimated that the war against Iraq caused the release of 141 million metric tons of carbon dioxide between 2003 and 2007. That’s more than 60 per cent of the total for all countries in the world.

Despite the availability of this data and its documentation by international human rights organisations, and the fact that the internal environmental situation is largely linked to the outside world, Iraq remained, until recent months, at the bottom of government and public lists of concerns. It is hardly mentioned except on the margins of international conferences or among the lists of “worst” countries in reports and statistics issued by UN bodies and organisations concerned with the environment and its economic and societal repercussions. Only then does it rank in a high position that no one else matches.

Iraq is stable at the top of the most corrupt countries in the world, and it tops the list of the most corrupt Arab countries. Iraqi President Barham Salih is unable to cover the financial loss from corruption in the country over the years. Iraq has lost hundreds of billions of dollars, including $150 billion smuggled abroad through lucrative deals since 2003, a figure that seems smaller when the dinar and dollar are compared, and the word “trillions” comes into play.

Iraq is also among the most dangerous countries according to the security risk index, competing with Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Mali and Afghanistan. This is based on the documentation of the war and information on terrorism, infighting, insurgencies and politically motivated unrest. It was also the second deadliest country for journalists in 2020, according to Reporters Without Borders. Once-beautiful Baghdad, with its ancient civilisation, is not spared from inclusion in the list of the least clean cities in the world due to the neglect of the reconstruction of the buildings and structures that the occupation destroyed, as well as the infrastructure, including the sewage system, roads, water drainage and power plants.

In a recent report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), Iraq ranked fifth in the list of countries most affected by climate change and global warming. The repercussions can be summed up in the lack of water safe for drinking and irrigation, the indiscriminate use of groundwater, and the lack of water in the Tigris and Euphrates rivers due to the construction of dams upstream by Iran and Turkey, in violation of international agreements. This has caused agriculture to be abandoned and the displacement of rural populations to cities that were not prepared to receive them. The Norwegian Refugee Council declared last week that nearly half of the Iraqi population is in need of food assistance in the areas affected by drought.

Despite such evidence about climate and environmental change, and its repercussions on all aspects of life in Iraq, what passes for a government is still involved in corruption and fighting over the results of the recent election. At the same time, it boosts its media exposure by joining in the chorus of calls to protect the environment at international conferences, without ever taking any real action to do so itself. Iraq’s Environment Minister, for example, spoke on the eve of the recent Glasgow Climate Summit about the catastrophic repercussions of climate change on food and water security. He failed to mention his government’s shortcomings in the implementation of reform and development programmes to counter the impact of the crisis in Iraq.

In order to understand the current environmental catastrophe in Iraq, it is necessary to consider the political situation, especially the fragmentation of the state into political blocs, which are fighting among themselves. This has stripped the state of any real power and central authority that would enable it to rebuild the infrastructure and put an end to sectarian and ethnic quota conflicts that are reflected in the distribution of resources. It has also caused the failure of the state to force neighbouring countries to respect Iraq’s sovereign rights. This comes at a time when the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation has classified Iraq among the 44 countries in need of urgent foreign food aid.

The local and global causes of this tragic situation are known, with the failure to implement effective remedies — about which so much has already been written — and creating alternative provision. To this we must add the political and economic complicity of the local rulers with the colonial-imperialist countries; the encouragement of policies of silence, surrender and satisfaction with the tragic reality, instead of rejection and resistance; and the growing sense of regional and ethnic rather than national identity are all responsible for creating conflicts even among their victims, leading to socio-environmental conflicts over land, resources and livelihoods taking centre stage.

This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Quds Al-Arabi on 20 December 2021

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor or Informed Comment.

Via Middle East Monitor

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