July 2014: UK antisemitism reflections

August 6th, 2014 by Mark Gardner

July 2014 now joins January 2009 as a month when war between Israel and Hamas caused antisemitism to spew forth across Britain. If this latest round of Middle East violence has now ended, then we may expect the antisemitism to gradually diminish: but this hatred has again been revealed, even if most of the time it lies beneath the surface. Are British Jews (and those elsewhere) to be forever held hostage to a seemingly intractable conflict in which totalitarian Jihadists are sworn to destroy Israel at whatever cost?

Members of the public expressing fears and concerns to CST have referenced this in different ways. One said she felt “stuck in a swamp“. Another said that the hatred had come from “ordinary people, not what or who we expect it from…its the underlying antisemitism, and now that they’ve put it out there, how are we supposed to put it back?“. It may sound trite to speak of Jews defriending others on Facebook, but anecdotally, this seems to be happening again and again, with Jews deeply upset by what this conflict has revealed about those whom they believed to be their friends (in all meanings of the word).

Bare statistics do not, cannot, explain the emotion that many people are feeling right now: but they are stark. CST has now recorded over 200 antisemitic incidents for July 2014, making it very clearly the second worst month we have seen since our records began in 1984. (The worst was Jan’ 2009, when 288 incidents were recorded. The second worst was Feb’ 2009, with 114 incidents.) The July 2014 total is not yet finalised, because it takes time to properly analyse and categorise all of the reports reaching us from throughout Britain right now, so the figure of 200 is an absolute minimum.

Of course, antisemitic incidents occur every day, week and month of the year. CST recorded 304 between January and June 2014 (a rise of 36% from 2013). We now have over 200 in one month, so the maths are clear. Not every July incident relates to the Israel-Hamas conflict, but the majority do. Without listing every one of them, it is almost impossible to convey the scale and the impact of the invective, but each and every incident involves at least one victim and at least one perpetrator. They come randomly at Jews and Jewish locations throughout the country. Many of them appear to be perpetrated by Muslim youth and adults, but by no means all. That this racism is perpetrated in the name of human rights (for Palestinians) is bizarre, but nothing new: although it does help explain the deafening silence from the self-titled anti-racism movement. (Hope not Hate does not fit this category and is a strong exception.)

The hatred is showing clear trends. Shouting “Free Gaza” on a pro-Palestinian demonstration is not antisemitic: but obviously is when yelled at a random Jew in the street, or when daubed on a synagogue wall.  The same goes for screams of “child murderer”, shouted at Jews or pinned on a synagogue. Then, there is the ever present antisemitic fixation with Nazism. This comes two ways, Jews being told that they are the new Nazis, or Jews being told that “Hitler was right” (a phrase that trended on Twitter).

Child murderer has a long history in antisemitism, almost 2,000 years longer than Nazism does. The accusation of Jews having killed Jesus, the embodiment of innocence, moved into medieval blood libels. Some Jews perceive sections of the UK media as having focussed to such an extent upon Gazan child victims in this latest conflict that it somehow indicates that these blood libels still lurk somewhere deep. Others would counter that this kind of ‘unconscious antisemitism’ argument is ridiculous and that the media could not focus upon dead and injured children if they did not actually exist, nor in such numbers. The fact remains: British Jews are being called child-murderers.

The Nazi slanders and threats are not in mainstream media, but the question ‘why didn’t Jews / Israel learn the lessons of the Holocaust?’ has been. This is surely repellent to the overwhelming majority of Jews. It comes posed as a question, but really it is a demand. Whatever its motivation, it smells of Jew-Israel-Nazi equivalence and ‘we are holier than thou’.

The super-heated arguments of how the media covers Israel are not strictly CST’s business; and neither are boycotts of Israel. Nevertheless, it is impossible to discuss how Jews feel right now without noting how both things impact upon antisemitism, upon how Jews are perceived and how Jews themselves feel.

One need not be a dyed in the wool defender of Israel, nor even a Zionist, to suspect that no other country on earth appears to evoke such passion and hatred. We need not cite Syria right now, nor Sri Lanka in 2009, because Britain itself has killed civilians in the Middle East in recent years, children included. Yet it is only one section of British society that is called “child-murderers”, or “Nazis”, or is told that Hitler should have wiped them all out.

Less rhetorically, we must note that antisemitic incidents will subside along with the images on people’s television screens, but the long term damage to Jews of anti-Israel boycotts will persist. Dry statistics help us to measure the raw impact of this. If someone engages in “criticism of Israel” then 6% of British Jews consider that person “definitely antisemitic” and 27% answer “probably antisemitic”. If that person supports a boycott of Israel, then 34% of British Jews consider them “definitely antisemitic” and 33% “probably antisemitic”. So, boycott of Israel is a tipping point for most Jews in regarding criticism as being antisemitic or not. One consequence of this latest Israel-Hamas war will be a lot more boycotts, either through choice (such as trade unions and cultural venues) or through intimidation (such as commercial outlets). Just as Israel is being singled out for scrutiny and boycott, so many Jews are going to feel the same way.

When the Jewish Film Festival is given a ‘ditch your Israeli Embassy link’ ultimatum by the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn, it betrays how British Jews’ connections to Israel are the measure by which others judge them. The same applies to the National Union of Students decision to boycott Israel, which promises no end of trouble and intimidation for Jewish students. Then, there are the mass intimidations of supermarkets that dare to sell Israeli goods, some of which have actually been forced to briefly stop trading as a result. (As cheerfully relayed here by a Labour MP.)

Finally, two antisemitic incidents out of over two hundred, giving the merest hint of recent events. The first speaks volumes of how Jews risk being expected to behave: and the reactions they risk upon refusal.

1. Street in Bradford, evening of 26th July. A Jewish man and his wife were driving when they became caught in slow moving traffic due to an accident up the road. Every car in the queue was being stopped by a group of apparently Muslim men and women, carrying buckets and asking for money for Gaza. The Jewish man politely declined to donate, whereupon “you f**king Jewish bastard!” was shouted at him. Then, another man used a loudhailer to also shout “you f**king Jewish bastard!” at him. Next, “Jewish bastard coming down the road!” was shouted down the street to alert each of the other collectors.

2. Synagogue in Hove, 2nd August (photo by F.Sharpe)

Hove pic

 

 

When vitriol turns to violence

August 1st, 2014 by Mark Gardner

This article appears in today’s edition of the Jewish Chronicle

Today, my organisation CST releases its six-monthly report on antisemitic incidents, for January to June 2014. It shows a large increase of 36 per cent: 304 incidents across Britain in the first half of 2014, compared to 223 in the first half of 2013.

The reasons are unclear. It may be better reporting rates or more antisemitism. It is probably both. Last month, July 2014, is another story entirely. Here we know exactly what is happening, a significant escalation in antisemitism, with incident levels having more than doubled during this latest conflict between Israel and Hamas. There have been over 130 incidents in the second worst outburst of antisemitism in recent memory: the worst was in January and February 2009, during and immediately after that year’s Israel-Hamas conflict.

It may be a small mercy to say that events in Britain have not compared with those in France, but the point is vitally important. Scenes of mobs attacking synagogues and police lines have not been repeated here in the UK. We have not suffered the years of deepening antisemitic trauma punctuated by the kidnap, torture and murder of the young man Ilan Halimi in 2006 and the shooting at Ozar HaTorah school in 2012.

These terrible acts have not caused French Israel-haters, mainly young Muslims, to lessen their rage and many observers are now seriously asking if there is a viable future for French Jews, approximately 5,000 of whom are making aliyah

At face value, this month’s events suggest that Britain is not in the same position as France: but the potential for violent antisemitism is still very real.

I raised these concerns last week on BBC Radio Five Live. It was the morning after David Ward MP’s remarks about Hamas rockets and “Ich bin ein Palestinian”, and I summarised some of the many antisemitic incidents reported to CST by Jews from across the country. David Ward’s response was both staggering and utterly predictable, a bored dismissal of our communal concerns, “we’ve heard it all before…criticism of Israel…antisemitism bandwagon”.

The next day, there was a splendid article by Emma Barnett in the Daily Telegraph, explaining her fears as a British Jew about hostile impacts arising here from an overseas conflict. Radio 2 decided to interview both her and Alexei Sayle, who has long been a trenchant (Jewish) critic of Israeli policies. Sayle’s reaction made David Ward look like Gandhi. He began in the same vein, claiming she was abusing antisemitism to discredit Palestinians before denouncing her as “supporting the murder of children, the murder of women…from a fascist, Zionist ideology”.

Sayle’s vignette brilliantly exemplified how and why mainstream British Jews end up being attacked for whatever crimes Israel is being accused of. We are aware of the situation and of the group libels, but stand resolutely against them and lead our Jewish lives. That is what CST aims to do and it is what we would ask each of you to do also.

Antisemitic incidents increase by more than a third in first six months of 2014

July 31st, 2014 by CST

Total does not include further increase in July triggered by reactions to conflict in Israel and Gaza

Incidents Report Jan - June 2014

The first six months of 2014 saw a 36% increase in the number of antisemitic incidents recorded in the United Kingdom, according to a new CST report. CST recorded 304 antisemitic hate crimes and hate incidents from January to June 2014, compared to 223 incidents in the corresponding period of 2013. A further 152 reports were received by CST but were not deemed to be antisemitic and are not included in this total.

This total of 304 incidents does not include a further increase in July triggered by antisemitic reactions to the conflict in Israel and Gaza. Over 130 incidents have been recorded in July, making it the highest monthly total since January 2009; which was itself a reaction to a period of conflict in Israel and Gaza.

CST has recorded antisemitic incidents in the UK since 1984. The highest total for the first six months of the year was 629 incidents in 2009. There were 294 antisemitic incidents recorded in the first half of 2012 and 325 during the same period in 2011. There is no clear explanation for the sharp rise in recorded incidents in the first half of 2014, which may reflect both a rise in the number of incidents taking place and better reporting of incidents to CST and the Police.

Graffiti at a Jewish-owned home, London, February 2014

The 304 antisemitic incidents include 22 violent antisemitic assaults, a fall of 32% from the 29 violent assaults recorded in the first half of 2013 and the lowest total for the January-June period since 2001. None were classified as ‘Extreme Violence’, which would involve a threat to life or grievous bodily harm (GBH).

There were 27 incidents of Damage & Desecration of Jewish property; 232 incidents of Abusive Behaviour, which includes verbal abuse, antisemitic graffiti, antisemitic abuse via social media and one-off cases of hate mail; 19 direct antisemitic threats; and 4 cases of mass-mailed antisemitic leaflets or emails.

Damage at Blackley Cemetery, Manchester, June 2014

Desecration at Blackley Cemetery, Manchester, June 2014

The number of antisemitic incidents recorded in Greater London from January to June 2014 rose by 53%, from 94 antisemitic incidents in the first half of 2013 to 144 in the first half of 2014; while in Greater Manchester the number of incidents increased by 16%, with 96 recorded in the first six months of 2014 compared to 83 in the same period in 2013.

Fifty-four of the 304 antisemitic incidents recorded involved the use of social media to transmit antisemitic threats or abuse, compared to 35 such incidents in the same period of 2013. Incidents involving the use of social media are only recorded by CST if they have been reported by a member of the public who fulfils the role of a victim or witness; if the comment shows evidence of antisemitic content, motivation or targeting; and if the offender is based in the United Kingdom or has directly targeted a UK-based victim.

Antisemitic tweet, June 2014

Antisemitic tweet, June 2014

The highest monthly total in the six-monthly period was 62 antisemitic incidents recorded in June 2014. The lowest monthly total in the first half of 2014 was 39 incidents, recorded in March.

CST spokesman Mark Gardner said:

There is no clear explanation for the rise to 304 antisemitic incidents, which may reflect both better reporting and a worsening of the problem. Even more worrying is that since the period covered by this report, CST has already recorded over 130 further antisemitic incidents. There is no excuse for this wave of racist intimidation and violence and we call upon all good people to unequivocally condemn it.

John Mann MP, Chair, All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism, said:

This is troubling news and from the feedback we are receiving, it is likely that the volume of antisemitic incidents will increase significantly before the years end. The role of politicians at the present time is fundamental to ensuring good community relations are maintained in the UK and elsewhere.

A full copy of the report can be downloaded here (pdf).

Antisemitic poster, Hertfordshire, June 2014

Antisemitic poster, Hertfordshire, June 2014

Protesting Palestine, targeting Jews

July 21st, 2014 by CST

CST wrote last week about the danger of anti-Israel protests in the UK involving or encouraging antisemitism, either by targeting British Jews or by featuring antisemitic language and imagery.

Since then, several more examples of antisemitic incidents and other activity in relation to anti-Israel protests have been reported to CST:

  • Demonstrators on a march through central London assaulted and verbally abused a Jewish woman who expressed her support for Israel as they walked past. Marchers surrounded her, called her a “Jew Zionist” and stole her phone. Later the same afternoon, demonstrators from the same march verbally abused another Jewish woman who was with her two young children, telling them to “Burn in hell.”
  • A pro-Israel demonstrator at a rally in central London was knocked unconscious by a group of assailants who were part of a counter-protest. While it is not believed that anything antisemitic was said, this level of violence from pro-Palestinian protestors is a worrying development.
  • A Rabbi walking in north London was verbally abused by a group of youths who shouted “Free Palestine”, “F*** the Zionists”, “F*** the Jews” and “Allah Akhbar.”
  • A brick was thrown at the window of a synagogue in Belfast.
  • “Baby murderers” was shouted at a synagogue in Liverpool.
  • A pro-Israel organisation in London received a telephoned bomb threat.
  • A visibly Jewish boy was cycling in north London when a woman wearing a black niqab threw a stone at him, hitting him on the head.

These are just a handful of over 70 antisemitic incidents reported to CST since the beginning of July. This is roughly double the number we would expect to be reported during this period under ‘normal’ circumstances. Approximately ten of these incidents have involved violence. Approximately 14 have involved the use of social media.

Roughly two-thirds of the incidents reported since 1 July have been related to the ongoing conflict between Israel and Gaza, and the number of incidents reported to CST has escalated since the beginning of Israel’s operation in Gaza on 8 July.

Another disturbing factor is that the proportion of antisemitic incident perpetrators described to CST as being of south Asian appearance has been much higher during this period than is normally the case. Antisemitism in Muslim communities is something that others have written about before; the incidents reported to CST suggest that it is playing a significant role in the high level of antisemitic incidents currently being reported. In these circumstances, last week’s statement from the Muslim Council of Britain warning against such behaviour was most welcome.

There have also been several examples of antisemitic incitement on anti-Israel demonstrations and on social media since the conflict between Israel and Gaza began. Last week the hashtag #HitlerWasRight trended on Twitter worldwide. One protestor took this theme onto an anti-Israel demonstration in London:

hitler right2

It should be noted that the antisemitic incidents recorded by CST since 1 July do not include antisemitic placards or chants on demonstrations.

Other protestors have used Nazi imagery to abuse Israel:

Hitler Bibi2

Comparing Israel to Nazi Germany is antisemitic. It abuses the memory of Holocaust victims and offends contemporary Jews. It attacks Israel on the basis of its Jewishness. It should have no part in pro-Palestinian campaigning.

This flag commits the same offence, and compounds it by using a Star of David next to the phrase “Baby Killers”. The Star of David is a Jewish symbol. It is found on the Israeli flag, but it is also found on synagogues all over the UK. To use it in the manner it is displayed on this flag risks inciting hatred against British Jews.

DSC027082

This incitement has also been seen on social media. This cartoon is from the Facebook page of UK Hizb ut-Tahrir spokesman Taji Mustafa. it evokes the antisemitic blood libel, in which Jews are accused of murdering non-Jewish children and consuming their blood in religious rituals. The Arabic on the knife reads “Arab silence”, but the person holding the knife bears a Star of David. The Stars and Stripes on the fork also suggests an antisemitic conspiracy theory regarding alleged Jewish control of America.

Taji Mustafa cartoon2

CST has also received several reports of antisemitism on Twitter. These two tweets are clear examples of incitement against Jews in the Stamford Hill area of north London:

Stamford Hill tweet3

j4fly tweet3

It has been suggested by some people that hate and abuse on social media is not as serious as other forms of hate crime and should not be included in hate crime statistics. We do not agree. Firstly, if a victim considers a tweet to be offensive or threatening enough to report it to CST, we will respect their feelings and their reaction to what they have seen. Secondly, if somebody shouts an antisemitic comment at a Jewish person in the street, it may only be heard by one person; if that same comment is put on Twitter, it can be seen by an unlimited number of people and it has a permanent record.

This pattern of antisemitic incidents in relation to the current conflict in Israel and Gaza is replicated in several countries around the world, most notably in France where Jewish shops and synagogues in Sarcelles were attacked last night. The antisemitic incidents and incitement seen in Britain over the past two weeks suggest that this danger is getting more, not less, acute. There should be zero tolerance within pro-Palestinian groups, and wider society, for anybody who targets Jews in word or deed.

UK antisemitism: current situation

July 14th, 2014 by CST

The correlation between Middle East conflict and antisemitism against Jewish Diaspora communities is well known. It is one of the primary reasons for the work of CST, and the partnerships that we have (out of necessity) with Jewish communities, Police, Government, politicians and good people of all faiths and none.

As of noon today, approximately 47 antisemitic incidents have been reported to CST in the two weeks since 1st July. This compares with 58 incidents for all of July 2013, which was the second worst month for incidents in all of last year. In very basic terms, this month’s antisemitic incident levels are almost double what would have been expected.

Some of the 47 incidents are yet to be fully analysed and the figures may yet show slight change, but around 30 of them appear to be directly attributable to the current conflict: because of the verbal or written component, or other indicators. Only three of the 47 incidents include actual violent assault. (Two of these are the can and egg throwing incidents shown below. The other may or may not be overseas-linked and is not currently in the 30 total.)

Of the 30 incidents apparently related to the conflict, the overwhelming majority involve verbal or written abuse and threats, either face to face, or in phone calls, graffiti, emails and online (usually via social media). The incidents have occurred throughout the country.

CST is especially concerned by incidents in which people attending pro-Palestinian demonstrations have turned antisemitic.

In Manchester on 12 July, after a pro-Palestinian rally that included a “Drive for Justice” to the BBC, a group of four of five cars with occupants of south Asian ethnic appearance passed through the Jewish neighbourhood of Broughton Park. Some of the cars flew Palestinian flags, and occupants shouted and swore at Jewish pedestrians (including “Heil Hitler”). Cans and eggs were thrown at Jewish pedestrians from at least two of the cars. Similarly, that same day in Glasgow on the fringes of a demonstration, a man of south Asian appearance was heard shouting “f**king kill the Jews”. CST has made police aware of all these incidents.

London witnessed the largest pro-Palestinian rally, on 11 July. Demonstrators included veteran far right activist James Thring, photographed below, determinedly making the Israel-Holocaust link.

dscf5280

The Holocaust theme continued on Twitter, where the hash tag “#Hitlerwasright” was trending, perhaps partly due to people objecting to its use. CST has been informed by members of the public that the Hitler theme and imagery can also be currently seen in Facebook comment chains for forthcoming pro-Palestinian demonstrations, organised by groups such as Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Stop the War Coalition and Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

The above pales in comparison with the situation in France, where on Sunday 13 July over 100 Jews needed rescuing from inside a synagogue that was besieged by a violent pro-Palestinian mob. Also that day in Paris, a Jewish owned shop was reportedly ransacked by a 50 strong mob armed with iron bars; and a synagogue was fire bombed. On 8 July, a 17 year old Jewish girl was attacked with pepper spray in her face, whilst her assailant (an adult male of North African ethnic appearance) yelled antisemitic abuse at her.

These antisemitic impacts, very largely involving Muslim perpetrators, are why so many thousands of Jews have left France in recent years. The kidnap, torture and ultimately murder (by burning) of Ilan Halimi in Paris in 2006 was one particularly horrific act. In 2012, there was the appalling terrorist attack on the Jewish primary school in Toulouse. Two months ago, a French Jihadi killed people in the Jewish Museum in Brussels. None of this has satiated the antisemites in France: they want more.

Here in Britain, the situation is less severe, but remains highly volatile. It is understandable that Jews, Muslims and others have strong opinions about the conflict. Nevertheless, it is neither inevitable nor excusable for people to express their strong feelings by attacking Jews or by using antisemitic language. We call on all people, from all communities and authorities, to use their influence to put a stop to this growing escalation before it becomes even more threatening.

A truth for a truth

July 10th, 2014 by Mark Gardner

The current violence between Israel and Gaza has prompted two very different anti-Israel voices to utilise Judaism in their propagandist attacks upon the Jewish state.

The Independent cartoonist Dave Brown has twisted the wording and meaning of the biblical “eye for an eye” quotation in a cartoon of Israeli jets attacking Gaza (see here). It reads:

An eye for a tooth…a hand for an eye…a life for a hand …a people for a life…

Meanwhile, on his own blog (see here), Muslim community activist Inayat Bunglawala rhetorically asks:

Is Judaism the most racist of the world’s great monotheistic religions?

Bunglawala is a former spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain, so what he says matters. (Not as much as it used to, but he is no antisemitic twitter loon – of whom there have of course been plenty in recent days.)

Bunglawala’s piece is a statement not an article. It mainly features his quoting an infamous vitriolic diatribe by Richard Dawkins against “The G-d of the Old Testament”: before and after which Bunglawala asks his question about Judaism being the most racist religion. (Chief Rabbi Sacks told Dawkins he was antisemitic for his diatribe. Dawkins denied it.)

In fact, Bunglawala makes no mention of Israel, none whatsoever. It may simply be an attack on Judaism. Nevertheless, let us be charitable and say that the timing suggests it is aimed at Israel, rather than at British Jews, or at all Jews.

Returning to Dave Brown, this is not the first time he has quoted the Bible. For example, in 2002, another of his anti-Israel cartoons (see here) depicted Ariel Sharon in biblical garb, beating Yasser Arafat over the head, literally using George Bush as a bludgeon. Sharon was saying:

Its our traditional weapon…the jaw of an ass.

However witty its attack upon George Bush as “an ass”, the cartoon’s wording (“our traditional weapon”) also emphasised Sharon’s Jewishness. It strongly echoed the antisemitic charge about Jews controlling politicians.

Many people regarded Brown’s “After Goya” cartoon from 2003 (see here) as far worse. It adapted the Goya painting Saturn Devouring his Children (see here), with Saturn replaced by Sharon, literally devouring a child, whilst saying “what’s wrong…you never seen a politician kissing babies before”. Brown was widely accused of having aped the antisemitic blood libel, but firmly denied this and won a Press Complaints Commission case.

In Brown’s latest offensive cartoon (and also in his Sharon/Saturn one), the Israeli jets do not bear Star of David markings. If they did, it may have caused more offence. The jets have no markings, so nothing in this latest picture explicitly tells you that it is about Israel. Instead, you infer it from the cartoon’s timing and from its Jewish biblical quotation. Consequently, whatever anti-Jewish aspect was conspicuously avoided by the Star of David omission is subliminally delivered by the salience of the Jewish paraphrasing.

Should the current conflict further deteriorate, we can expect to see much more of the above. As a rule of thumb, anti-racists could usefully ask themselves how they usually react when Islam is depicted like this.

Specifically, Dave Brown should note that “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a hand for a hand, a foot for a foot” refers to monetary compensation for an injury, or missing limb, and specifically not the amputation of the limb as a punishment. Dull as it may sound, the Jewish tradition is one of non-literal Biblical interpretation, with the Torah or Tanach (the Written Law) contemplated alongside the Oral Law as per the Mishna, Talmud and rabbinic teachings.

Nevertheless,  there are far worse cases of its perversion than this. For example, that of Michael Adebalajo. Raised as a Christian, this Jihadist declared “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” after butchering Drummer Lee Rigby on the streets of London.

No branch of Judaism advocates – far less perpetrates – chopping off body parts, be that hands, feet, heads or whatever. Just as Christians long abused the phrase “Chosen People” to wrongly allege that Jews regard themselves as superior beings, so has “eye for an eye” long been a similar calumny.

 

 

Current situation: security note

July 2nd, 2014 by CST

Due to current tensions in Israel and the Palestinian Authority, CST has issued an advisory notice to all UK Jewish communal venues, stating that security procedures should be rigorously followed.

CST is in close contact with Police and Government. They are aware of our concerns that an escalation in the current overseas situation may heighten the risk of antisemitic incidents occurring here in the UK.

CST requests that all visitors to Jewish communal venues and events comply with security procedures and personnel. We will continue to closely monitor the situation, and ask that any instances of antisemitism or suspicious behaviour are reported to CST and Police. In case of emergency, call 999.

We thank you for your cooperation at this time.

 

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