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Thoughtful modern day “Plagues” to contemplate this Passover – presented by JACPAC – but there is something missing

April 14, 2014 2 comments

JACPAC (the Joint Action Committee for Political Affairs) a wonderful group of politically active women (and a few men) whose issues center around Israel, women’s rights aWe were once slaves in the land of Egyptnd now, gun control, have come out with a list of ten modern day plagues to think about this Pesach [Their list follows at the bottom of this post – unfortunately, I couldn’t get the very cool green frog background to copy over].  Their hope is that:

As you gather with your families around the seder table and retell the story of Passover, remember that oppression, hunger, discrimination and violence still plague us all.

However, I thought that given their goal, they left out two of the most important things that we Jews should be thinking about.  So, I wrote them the following:

To Marcia, Dana, Janna and JACPAC:

With respect, I believe that you have left out two extremely important plagues:

–          The Occupation and the treatment of the Palestinians

–          Failure to reach a two state solution

The occupation is one of the most important plagues because of the threat it presents to Israel remaining both a Jewish and Democratic state.  It also tends to corrupt a society. I have witnessed this personally when visiting the West Bank and I assume that you have as well.  The attitude towards the Palestinians is simply shameful.  And it is clearly appears to be an overall policy of the government and military.  If this were happening in the US, I am sure that JACPAC would be the first to speak out against it.

For myself, one of the most important aspects of the Seder is the fact that the Haggadah emphasizes the fact that “you” – the Seder participant him/herself – were a slave in the land of Egypt.  I think that this is profound.  The Haggadah is asking each of us to put ourselves in the shoes of someone that is enslaved and oppressed.  It wants us to feel what it is like to be the one who is powerless – as we Jews have been for 2000 years until quite recently.

Now however, the miracle of the success of the State of Israel has put us in an unfamiliar position.  The Jewish State (we shouldn’t need the Palestinians to have to bless this description) is now in control of the West Bank and controls access to Gaza.  Whether you want to call it” occupation” or not (a la Sheldon Adelson), Israel is controlling the lives of 2.5 million people in the West Bank.  How we as Jews handle this situation is a test of Jewish values. The lesson I take from the Haggadah is to remember what it is like to be powerless and oppressed – and if the tables are turned so that Jews are in power, to use that power wisely.

And, I believe that “Treatment of the Palestinians” should come ahead of “BDS” – because there is a connection.  BDS scares many of us precisely because we have seen the effectiveness of this tactic before particularly with South Africa.  As a matter of fact, many of us Jews were in the forefront of the BDS movement against South Africa.  While some of those who promote BDS have the goal of destroying the state of Israel, there are many others who are simply protesting the very real abuses of power and justice that do occur.

The question I would like to contemplate for this Pesach is this:  If we keep the land, but lose our ethics, where are we?

I think the Haggadah is telling us that that puts us back wandering in a moral desert.

_______________________________

So, yasher koach, on the list of plagues.  It provides much for all of us to consider at the Seder table.  I simply wish that you would challenge your membership even further.  There are very real facts on the ground in Israel that are hard to look at.  But, hiding our heads in the sand, doesn’t change the reality on the ground.

Best wishes to you and your families for a chag kasher v’sameach — a meaningful and sweet Pesach.

 

JACPAC’s Email:

You thought the plagues ended with Pharaoh? 
Think Again 

Today’s Plagues

 

1.  Iran and Nuclear Weapons

Israel’s security hangs in the balance as Iran races to build up their nuclear stockpile.

 

2. Boycott. Divestment. Sanctions (BDS)

Israel will be economically, culturally and educationally strangled from a global BDS movement.

3.  Global Warming

Climate change will lead to rising global temperatures, severe natural disasters, and dangerous levels of pollution.

 

4.  Gun Violence

In America, an adult is killed by a firearm every 17 minutes and a child every 3.25 hours.

5.  Limited Access to Reproductive Rights

Increased restrictions: forcing abortion clinics to close at a record pace, mandatory ultrasounds, loss of contraception insurance coverage, 6-week abortion bans

 

6.  Theology vs. Science

State lawmakers across the country are pushing for creationism to be taught in schools instead of the science of evolution.  A Senate candidate from North Carolina has even said that the big bang theory are “lies from the pit of hell.”

7.  Erosion of Separation of Church and State

Lawmakers in SC, VA and TN are debating bills that will put prayer back in schools.

 

8. Voting Rights Suppression

Over 30 states across the country have considered discriminatory laws to make it harder for minorities, seniors and students to exercise their right to vote.

9.  Hunger

Today 49 million people in the U.S. struggle to put food on the table. This year the Senate voted to cut $8.6 billion from the federal food assistance program (SNAP) over the next several years.

10.  Human Trafficking

This is a form of modern day slavery.  In the U.S., between 100,000-300,000 children are used for the purpose of sexual exploitation yearly.

____________________________________

 

As you gather with your families around the seder table and retell the story of Passover, remember that oppression, hunger, discrimination and violence still plague us all. 

 

This Passover, let’s recommit ourselves to making our world better for all and fulfill the promises of our own Jewish heritage and traditions.

 

_____________________________________ 
sources: CDC, JCPA, Brady Campaign, Feeding America, ACLU, Children’s Defense Fund

 

 Paid for by Joint Action Committee for Political Affairs.  Contributions or gifts are not tax deductible.  Contributions may total up to $5200 per individual ($2600 for the primary election, and $2600 for the general election).  Federal law requires us to use our best efforts to collect and report the name, mailing address, occupation, and name of employer of individuals whose contributions exceed $200 in an election cycle.  Corporate contributions and contributions from non-US citizens who are not lawfully admitted for permanent residence are prohibited.  All contributions by individuals must be made from personal funds and may not be reimbursed or paid by another person.
Support JAC today.www.jacpac.org 

No water in East Jerusalem for two weeks. Yet Israel claims that ALL of Jerusalem s/b the capital

March 27, 2014 Comments off

25 Days Without WaterOne of the main stumbling blocks to coming to a peace agreement with the Palestinians is Jerusalem.  The Israelis claim the entire city of Jerusalem (as they define it – including the annexation of East Jerusalem in 1980) as Israel’s capital.  The Palestinians also demand Jerusalem (Al-Quds) as their capital – although it seems that they might accept East Jerusalem and the holy sites as sufficient.

A recent post in +972, tells about an East Jerusalem neighborhood that has been without water for three weeks:

The East Jerusalem neighborhoods of Ras Shehada, Ras Khamis, Dahyat A’salam and the Shuafat refugee camp, which are cut off from the rest of the city by the separation wall, have gone without running water since March 4.

And further:

Palestinian East Jerusalem residents turned to Israel’s High Court on Tuesday demanding that running water be restored to their homes, after suffering for three weeks without it. The petition was filed on their behalf by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI).

So this raises a question:  If the municipal authority of Jerusalem does not systematically offer the same services to East Jerusalem as it does to the rest of Jerusalem, how can it claim that it is all part of the same city?  In the U.S. there is a law that if you don’t retain some aspects of private ownership over a piece of property, it falls into the public domain.  You may notice this via plaques on ground of certain building setbacks or even closing off of small areas of public walkways that exist on private property for some hours or a day to maintain private rights.  So, isn’t the current situation in Jerusalem somewhat analogous?  That is, if basic municipal services are not being systematically provided, or like in this case, repairs are not made within a reasonable time, doesn’t that provide an argument that, in fact, the municipality has given up some right to claim these neighborhoods as part of its city?

More photos here:  PHOTOS: 13 days without water in East Jerusalem

 

It’s That Time of Year for A Repost: Contemplating the Message of Passover

April 5, 2012 1 comment

Pesach is my favorite Jewish holiday.  The traditions are so rich and the Seder is the ultimate joyous, jubilant Jewish celebration:  the symbols of the Seder plate, the smells and tastes of real Jewish food (I will put Margie’s golden chicken soup up against any in the world), the struggle with matzoh for eight days, the four cups, the laughter, the singing, Elijah.  Those are all so memorable.

But it is the message that permeates the holiday that is so important.  While the book of Exodus holds perhaps more of the basic concepts, precepts, commandments and narratives of the Torah than any other book, the Haggadah‘s lessons seem much narrower.

There are many different interpretations of the meaning of the story from the manifestation of The Lord acting directly in the world, to the molding of the Jewish people into a nation, to the miracles of the Passover and the parting of the Sea of Reeds itself.  Yet to me the most straightforward and overriding message is simple:

  • REMEMBER.  You were slaves in Egypt
  • RELIVE.  How it felt to be enslaved. To be oppressed
  • REPUDIATE.  So that, You, personally, and, Jews as a people, will never become oppressors yourselves

Every Jewish holiday harks back to a connection with bedrock stories from the Jewish community’s past like the recitation of the Akedah and story of Jonah on the High Holidays, the Megillah on Purim, Akadmut and Ruth on Shavuot,, or the rededication of the Temple at Hanukkah.  But the Seder and the Haggadah ask something of us that is wholly unique and of an entirely different nature than any other Jewish holiday.  It specifically tells us that we must place ourselves inside the story – we must be in Egypt to feel the pain and oppression – and the redemption.  This is one of the main lessons of the telling of the story of the Four Sons, which acts as an answer to Mah Nishtanah – Why is this night different from all other nights? 

So why is it so important to more than sympathize, more than empathize, but to actually experience being slaves in Egypt?  The answer seems straightforward.  Each of us needs to understand what it is like to be oppressed so that we will never become oppressors ourselves.  We must feel the weariness of the excruciating labor, the pain of the task masters’ whips, and shed the tears of a people without rights or freedom.  Having lived through it ourselves, it should be unthinkable for Jews to oppress others.  And lest we forget, we are commanded to relive our slavery each and every Pesah.  We must understand the pain of the oppressed and the evil of the oppressor – so that we never allow the roles to be reversed.

One of the traditional prayers at the end of the Seder is “next year in Jerusalem”.  The problem is that now when I look to Jerusalem, I see Israel occupying Arab neighborhoods.  Pushing people out of homes that have been in their families for decades or longer.  And beyond that, I see checkpoints, and identity cards, and political prisons.  Most of all, I see one people subjugating another.  This is not fantasy.  This is reality for anyone who cares to take a look.  But if an American Jew talks about it, he is told,  “You have no right to criticize Israeli policy because you don’t live there.  You don’t have to serve in the IDF.  You don’t have to dive into bomb shelters when the sirens sound.  You don’t have to fear that your children will be killed riding in a school bus.”  That is so very true.  And I am so sorry that life is indeed that dangerous for those living in Eretz Yisrael.  But I am also sorry to say that I believe the Haggadah not only gives me the right, but also the obligation as a Jew, to speak out when I see fellow Jews oppressing another people.  As Peter Beinart said when he spoke at Northwestern, “The morality of a people must not be measured when they are powerless.  The question is how they act when they have the power.”

Gilad Shalit Is Home – You Already Know That – But Have To Say It Is A Great Day

October 18, 2011 Comments off

Haaretz: 

IDF: Gilad Shalit back home in Israel after five years in Hamas captivity

Gilad Shalit returns.  The debate will now begin on “what this means”.  Will the one thousand plus reported prisoners to be released begin new violent attacks on Israel?  Does it upstage the P.A.’s bid for membership in the U.N.?  Does this strengthen Hamas’ hand vis-a-vis Fatah?  These questions and more will debated over the next days and weeks.

For now, I believe that we should all be thankful that Gilad is safe and presumably sound.

http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/idf-gilad-shalit-back-home-in-israel-after-five-years-in-hamas-captivity-1.390585

In Response To A Direct Question In N.H. About Settlements, Candidate John Huntsman Says Best US Policy Towards Israel Is When “There Is No Blue Sky” Between U.S. and the Israeli Government

October 10, 2011 Comments off
Official photo of United States Ambassador to ...

Image via Wikipedia

Former Utah Governor and Ambassador to China, John Huntsman, gave a stump speech in New Hampshire where he was asked a direct question that given the fact that the settlements seem to be the stumbling block between getting the two parties together what would he do if President.  He said that in order to let our closest allies know that they can count on the U.S., the best policy is to align directly with the Israeli government.

Go here to hear John Huntsman’s foreign policy speech.  Israel-Palestine question begins at 34:32.  http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/301950-1

Alan Dershowitz’ Impassioned Speech Calling Out the U.N. for Its Pro-Palestinian Bias In No Uncertain Terms. What Do You Think?

October 4, 2011 1 comment

Alan Dershowitz from Israelseen.com

This post is going to be long.  It consists of a e-mail exchange between myself and one of our best friends.  She is an Israeli liberal.  She recently forwarded me a video of a speech that Alan Dershowitz gave about ten days ago at the “Durban Watch” Conference sponsored by the Hudson Institute and Touro University(“the largest Jewish-sponsored educational institution in the United States” according to its website).  I had hoped to embed the video right here so you could watch it, but it is at Pajama Media’s PJTV and evidently can’t be embedded here.  I urge you to view the clip (or part of it – it runs about 17 minutes): 

Durban Watch: Alan Dershowitz — Harvard Professor and Best-Selling Author

In this speech, Prof. Dershowitz very convincingly asks how the U.N. can dare to say that it has any moral authority since as far back as 1975 it has done virtually nothing for oppressed people of the world like the Cambodians under Pol Pot, the Rwandans, the Chechens, etc.  because they have been preoccupied with discussing Israeli human rights violations.  Further, he points out that it is ludicrous to say that a vote to admit the Palestinians is in support of the two-state solution because a large number of the voting countries do not recognize Israel as a legitimate state.  So, they are really only supporting a one state solution – Palestine.  He then goes on to talk about the rights of Arabs in Israel, the great medical and other scientific devices that Israel has given the world, and the very effective counter-terrorism methods which have become the state of the art.

The following is the email trail between my friend and myself.  I have eliminated the identifying names and the chronological order has been set in reading order so that the earliest posts are first, but otherwise, the debate is verbatim.

My question to all out there:

A. Is my correspondent correct?  Did I “reject it all”, or did I give Dershowitz his due and refute him where appropriate?

B. Do you agree with Dershowitz’ argument?

C. Do you agree with Dershowitz’ style and delivery?

I would love to hear your comments

__________________________________________________________________

From:  A FRIEND OF G’s – M.S.  Sent: Friday, September 30, 2011 10:19 PM
To: G     Subject: Alan Dershowitz – what a speech

 None of you will suspect me to be a Zionist or a pro State of Israel’s policy. But you all must listen to this profound words of the no. 1 supporter of Israel, the fame Alan Dershowitz, and I am very serious.Listen to him. Go to this link.

http://www.pjtv.com/?cmd=mpg&load=6057&mpid=457

From, M.S.

__________________________________________________________________

From: G    Sent: Friday, September 30, 2011 3:10 PM
To:  Mark Zivin;
Subject: FW: Alan Dershowitz – what a speech

 Hi,

Although I do not support the policy of Israel these days, I do think that Dershowitz’s speech to which you can listen on this link is really impressive and has a lot in it.

Let’s hope for better news this coming year

__________________________________________________________________

From: Mark Zivin Sent: Monday, October 03, 2011 12:02 AM
To: G
Subject: RE: Alan Dershowitz – what a speech

 Although Dershowitz makes some excellent points, I find him to be one of the most arrogant, one-sided and sometimes hypocritical apologists for Israel.  He has become a caricature of his early pro-Israel self and he has lost all credibility with me.

 The points that resonated with me include the following:

  1. There is no doubt that the UN continues to be an extremely anti-Israel body – I personally do not believe that it should be condemned wholesale as many on the right here in the US do.  I believe that it is a flawed organization  – but still accomplishes much good in the world.
  2. I particularly liked his suggestion that any state that is not willing to recognize Israel not be allowed to vote on Palestinian admission. However, unfortunately, while the application obviously implies that it is within a two-state framework, I am not sure that there is anything explicit about that in the application
  3. I was very surprised to hear his claim that Fayad is asking for multiple times the land area for acceding to 1) Jewish Quarter, 2) Route to Hebrew U. and , 3)Western Wall.  I have NOT heard that anywhere else.  As a matter of fact, it was my understanding that in several of the previous proposals, Israel offered less land.   This is the type of claim that causes me to question the veracity of everything he says.  Look, he claims that Fayad told him this face-to-face, so I guess I have to believe him.  However, as with most political statements, one really needs to know the context in which a statement is made – so as to make sure that it was not in some way taken out of context.

 Actually, the impression I got from the tone of Dershowitz’ rant was that he is damn pissed off that the Palestinians are making a very smart political move by going to the UN.

 Finally, I don’t if you are aware that Pajamas Media (PJTV) is a predominately right-wing media outlook that – similar to MEMRI and CAMERA – will rarely, if ever, publish anything that criticizes Israel.  While they claim to ‘set the record straight’ and ‘counter the left-wing media’ and do translate/publish some very interesting information – they are so one-sided that in my mind, they have very little credibility.  Camera in particular looks for anti-Semitism and anti-Israel bias everywhere – and in my mind often stretch the truth in doing so.

 Also, the Hudson Institute is a right-wing think tank in DC – and very partisan.

 Anyhow, thanks for forwarding this.  I am a big believer in listening to all points of view.

 Hope all is well with you guys.

 Love,  Mark

__________________________________________________________________

From: G Sent: Sunday, October 02, 2011 5:21 PM
To: Mark Zivin
Subject: RE: Alan Dershowitz – what a speech 

Dear Mark,

Anything that you say about Dershowitz or the media that you mention is right. However, you do not address his main points! It is incredible to hear about the fact that the UN did not deal with Cambodia and at that time they were condemning Israel. It is amazing to realize that they never deal with what Turkey or Syria are doing while at the same time they are voting against Israel permanently. And so on and so on… I will not go again into the arguments that he brings. Most of the things he says are right! I am sorry to say that in your arguments you sound one sided also. You know that I do not agree with the politics of our government, but I am also tired of everybody (especially the British) blindly supporting the Palestinians only without really understanding the problem in depth.

Gmar chatima tova

G

__________________________________________________________________

From: Mark Zivin  Sent: Monday, October 03, 2011 12:47 AM
To:Subject: RE: Alan Dershowitz – what a speech

 First, I didn’t address those issues because I have not had time to research whether he is totally correct or not.  He may well be – but I don’t take what virtually anybody says without fact checking.  Plus, I am sorry but for me citing events (as tragic as they may be) that are 35 years old don’t support or refute where the UN is today – and what positive role they may play in the world.     

 Finally, as my mom used to say, “two wrongs don’t make a right”.    The fact that the UN is anti-Israel does not address whether or not anything is really accomplished by the Palestinians going to the UN.  I personally don’t believe that Abbas went to the UN because he thought that somehow magically this would “create” the State of Palestine.  I think that he went because the peace talks are at a standstill and that he was trying to shake things up.  It appears that he has.

 Bibi has agreed to come back to the negotiating table with no pre-conditions.  I read that the Palestinians have rejected that – which makes me extremely angry at them – but perhaps that will change.  I certainly hope that the two sides can at least start talking.

__________________________________________________________________

From: G
Sent: Monday, October 03, 2011 12:02 AM
To: Mark Zivin
Subject: RE: Alan Dershowitz – what a speech 

Even if part of it is right, you should give it consideration. But you reject it all at once just because it is him and also because it is about Israel. He is on the extreme side and so are you in your response.

__________________________________________________________________

From: Mark Zivin
Sent: Monday, October 03, 2011 10:19 PM
To:Subject: RE: Alan Dershowitz – what a speech

While there is no question that I dislike Mr. Dershowitz, and that came through loud and clear in my response to you, I don’t reject all of his arguments out of hand and I am sorry that I didn’t do a better job of communicating that.  I should have spent more time in expressing my points of agreement and also in explaining my disagreements.  I did indicate a couple points of agreement:

  1. There is no doubt that the UN continues to be an extremely anti-Israel body – I personally do not believe that it should be condemned wholesale as many on the right here in the US do.  I believe that it is a flawed organization  – but still accomplishes much good in the world.
  2. I particularly liked his suggestion that any state that is not willing to recognize Israel not be allowed to vote on Palestinian admission. However, unfortunately, while the application obviously implies that it is within a two-state framework, I am not sure that there is anything explicit about that in the application

However, I simply don’t agree with much of his assessment of why the Palestinians decided to go to the UN – but that opinion is not based on the fact Dershowitz’ delivery or how I feel about him personally, but simply that I don’t agree with his assessment of why they went (that is, his contention that they went because the UN is so pro-Palestinian and the Palestinians “occupy” the United Nations).  Don’t get me wrong  – yes, the UN is pro-Palestinian – I certainly believe that, and there are many, many examples of that.  However, going to the UN was not their first resort – but rather a pretty late resort.  That is, for example, Abbas has been in power since 2005 – and it is only now that he is going to the UN.  Instead, he spent a considerable amount of time trying to reach agreement with Olmert and reports are that they were very, very close to an agreement.  This seems to me to be a pretty strong argument against D’s contention that the Palestinians’ main reason for going to the UN was because of its advocacy in favor of the Palestinians to the detriment of all other oppressed minorities in the world.  In addition, while I personally don’t believe that going to the UN per se, is going to solve anything – I think that it is a very smart, clever and non-violent tactic.  Therefore, rather than ranting and raving (which you have to admit Dershowitz does), I think it behooves everyone – no matter whether they are on the right or the left – to calmly and intelligently analyze this significant change in tactics.  I am personally extremely happy to see that the main stream Palestinian authorities seem to have rejected violence as a tactic.  (There are glaring exceptions like their honoring suicide bombers, and the PA’s possible reconciliation with Hamas – (but so far, they have not been able to reconcile and presumably one of the issues is their point of view on violence and terrorism)).  I still have a lot of history to learn, but it is my recollection that Arafat never rejected violence.  As evidence that the current government has made tremendous strides in eliminating violence, one only has to look at the fact that the heads of Israeli security have indicated the great advances that the PA police forces have made.  So much so that they were able to open up a significant number of checkpoints about two years ago. 

Many experts believe that the most serious threat to the occupation now is if the Palestinians can maintain discipline and successfully mount massive non-violent protests.  Israel does not seem to have an answer to major non-violent protest.  A group of us met with Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. a few weeks ago in Washington.  He had recently returned from a Congressional Delegation tour of Israel led by Steny Hoyer.  On that tour, he met with both the top Israeli political and military leaders, and the top Palestinian political leaders.  I know there are many people who think Jackson, Jr. is both anti-Semitic and anti-Israel, but you cannot deny that he is very concerned and well informed on the issues.  He has been to Israel as a Congressman five times and to the West Bank several times – and to the best of my knowledge, these tours were organized by AIPAC, so no one can suggest that he has been “brain-washed” by radicals.  In any event, he was visibly upset and pessimistic about the situation.  There was one thing in particular that he said that I found very insightful and worth considering.  He said they were briefed by Israeli military and security leaders about the entire security situation.  When it came time for questions and answers, he asked what their plan was for countering a major non-violent protest (e.g., a march on the East Jerusalem check point by hundreds of non-violent protesters).  He said that they had no answer.  They simply talked around the issue.  That is disturbing…

 On a separate issue, I was about as disappointed with Abbas’ UN speech as I was with Dershowitz’ YouTube clip.  Abbas basically reiterated all of the old Palestinian talking points about the Nakba, etc.  Of particular note was his mentioning “63 years of occupation”.  That goes back to 1948 so by implication he seemed to be denying Israel’s right to exist.  What a step backwards.  Pretty depressing for us two-staters.  Further, he offered virtually no ‘olive branch’ that could be used as a way to bridge the gap.  On the other hand, Bibi’s speech was masterful – as usual – and certainly went a long way to reaching out to the Palestinians.  It’s a shame that Abbas didn’t call Bibi’s bluff – and agree to meet him the same day at the UN.  Now that would have been the sign of a great leader.  Further disheartening, the Palestinians also appear to have rejected the Quartet’s current negotiations to get everybody back to the table. 

 My final word to you is simply that I hope I can convince you that I do my best to give all sides consideration.  That is one of my core ideals.  Like most ideals, one doesn’t always live up to them, but I certainly try to.

 Sending lots of love,

 Mark

House Freezes Palestinian Aid

October 4, 2011 Comments off

According to the JTA, Ilana Ros-Lehtinen, chairwoman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, is holding back almost $200 million of aid to the Palestinian Authority unless they back off their actions at the U.N.

The question:  Why?  Does she have an answer as to what the potential consequences of withholding these funds will have on the ground?  If the P.A. cannot maintain its payments to its security forces or its humanitarian aid – doesn’t this a) increase the likelihood of protests, b) reduce the ability of the P.A. security forces to help quell any violent reaction, and c) potentially increase the attractiveness of Hamas? 

Read more at JTA:   House committee chair places hold on Palestinian aid

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