Archive for April, 2009

Boycott this Israeli settlement builder

Posted in Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions on April 28, 2009 by Marcy Newman

The UK Foreign Office will no longer rent from Lev Leviev. Now other states must also boycott this builder of illegal settlements

o Abe Hayeem
o guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 28 April 2009 14.30 BST

The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office must be commended for its decision to cancel renting premises for the UK embassy in Tel Aviv from the company Africa-Israel, owned by Israeli businessman and settlement builder Lev Leviev. This is an encouraging step that should now be backed by stronger sanctions against the building of the separation wall and the building of illegal settlements by Israel. Furthermore, the governments of Norway and Dubai should emulate the example set by the UK and sever their relationships with Leviev’s companies.

The Israeli paper Ha’aretz reported on 3 March 2009 that “Due to the public pressure” several months ago in a special debate in parliament, Kim Howells of the Foreign Office was asked to explain plans to rent the embassy from Leviev.

This pressure, by a letters campaign to the FCO, was initiated by Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine with human rights organisation Adalah-New York, followed by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein, former BBC correspondent Tim Llewellyn and hundreds of others.

Further voices included Daniel Machover of Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights, Palestinian notables including Hanan Ashrawi, Mustafa Barghouti and Luisa Morgantini, vice president of the European parliament.

The move was frozen after ambassador Tom Phillips requested details from Africa-Israel about its activities in the settlements.

Subsequently, on 5 March, the BBC reported the FCO’s Karen Kaufman saying that: “We looked into the issue of Africa-Israel and settlements and settlement holdings and we asked for clarification …. The UK government has always regarded settlements as illegal, but what has happened in recent months is that we are looking for ways to make a difference on this issue.”

Still, despite the FCO decision, Leviev’s companies persist in their goal, backed by the Land Redemption Fund to which Leviev is one the largest donors, of “blurring the Green Line” and connecting the illegally built Zufim settlement with Israeli communities inside the Green Line, retaining 6,000 dunams of the village Jayyous’s land sequestered by the wall. This land grab is being facilitated by the enforced construction of the apartheid wall, which the International Court of Justice firmly judged to be illegal under international law in 2004, and demanded its removal.

There are weekly non-violent protests by the Jayyous villagers, Israeli and international peace groups, together with Bil’in to stop their precious land from being taken to expand settlements and build the wall. These are being suppressed by Israeli forces on a terror rampage with live fire, beatings, tear gassings, mass arrests, house occupations and, more recently, threats of home demolitions, and pogroms.

Following an Israeli supreme court ruling that the route of the wall in Jayyous should be moved slightly, Israeli authorities are trying to blackmail Jayyous’s mayor, saying if he doesn’t accept the new wall route, there will be no gates in it for the village’s farmers to access their lands. The mayor has refused to sign. Without international intervention, Jayyous will not be able to hold on to its lands behind the wall, which contain their four vital agricultural wells and most of their greenhouses. Leviev will then be able to freely expand Zufim on to Jayyous’s stolen lands. Currently, Leviev is building 35 new housing units in Zufim.

At Bil’in, where Leviev companies are also building settlements, mainstream media failed to cover the 17 April murder of Bil’in non-violent protester Bassem Abu Rahmeh, 29, by Israeli forces. A soldier shot him with the same new type of “rocket” tear gas round, as fast and lethal as live ammunition that left US activist Tristan Anderson in critical condition.

The brutal crackdown in Bil’in continues despite three Israeli supreme court orders to move the wall in Bil’in closer to the Matityahu East settlement “outpost” where Leviev’s Danya Cebus built about 30% of the units. Israel’s court has shown itself to be the accessory of this land grab. Israel’s architects, designing these settlements, are also in breach of professional ethics, and will be held to account by their international peers.

While the US, UK and the EU seem to be keen to join Israel, the perpetrator of war crimes, in boycotting the Palestinians who are the victims of crippling sieges, deadly incursions and a prison-like occupation, they are reluctant to take any positive action to stop Israel’s breaches of international law. For instance, the Norwegian government has invested €875m in 2008 in Africa-Israel. By investing its populace’s pension fund in a company at the heart of illegal Israeli settlement building, the country that sponsored the Oslo accords violates its spirit. Norway should follow the precedent set by the UK’s FCO, in one of the latter’s few bold moves, and divest from this company.

The United Arab Emirates is also shamefully equivocating after a year-long campaign against Leviev selling his diamonds in the emirate of Dubai. Dubai’s government, despite repeated assurances that Leviev would not be allowed to open two diamond boutiques in the emirate, has allowed Leviev to open stores under another name while his website advertises a Leviev store-in-store at one of the “Levant” shops of his Dubai partner, Arif bin Khadra. A second Levant store in Dubai’s Atlantis hotel boldly touts the Leviev brand.

If Dubai does not wish to be become known as the “emirate that supports settlements”, it should take immediate action, and follow the UK’s lead and demonstrate it will not allow Leviev to profit from this indirect funding of his settlement building, that steals the future of Jayyous’s children who are growing up in the shadow of Leviev’s ever-expanding Zufim settlement.

While the new Netanyahu/Leiberman government is doing all it can to obfuscate the issue of a proper peace settlement to establish a viable Palestinian state, a clear message must be sent to Israel. The sanctions against Leviev should be the start of a wider boycott of all who profit from the enforced acquisition of Palestinian land.

Mountain Equipment Co-op may ponder Israel boycott

Posted in Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions on April 28, 2009 by Marcy Newman

A major Canadian outdoor-equipment chain with an outlet in Calgary could be setting up camp on the thorny soil of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. A motion is expected to be presented next week at Mountain Equipment Coop’s annual general meeting in Vancouver, calling for a boycott of all products produced in Israel.

“We just don’t think(MountainEquipmentCo-op)should be doing business with Israel until it changes its behaviour,” said Patrik Parkes, a spokes-man for BC Teachers for Peace and Global Education.

“Many of us are MEC members, and because MEC promotes itself as an ethical company, we believe their actions need to reflect that.”

The chain, whose website lists it as “a retail co-operative that sells exclusively to members,”gets two products through Israeli companies: seamless underwear and a hydration system for hikers and bikers.

Mountain Equipment Coop spokesman Tim Southam said Tuesday the organization is aware of the pending motion.

“We will strive to ensure that the meeting is conducted in an orderly and civil manner,” Southam said.

“One of the concerns we’re hearing from people that are opposed to the resolution is that this appears to be an attempt to politicize the organization. . .

“We need to take that very seriously.”

The co-op has an ethical sourcing program aimed “to improve the human condition in factories.”
© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald

Norway gov’t, banks investing in settlement construction company

Posted in Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions on April 28, 2009 by Marcy Newman

Adri Nieuwhof, The Electronic Intifada, 28 April 2009

As the pressure on companies to pull out from business facilitating Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip grows, it has been recently revealed that in Norway three private banks and the state pension fund invested in one such company.

Norwatch, the Norwegian financial watchdog, reported at the end of March that the Norwegian Government Pension Fund had invested $850,000 in Africa-Israel Investment Ltd. last year. Africa-Israel Investment is an international holding and investment company operating in the area of real estate, construction and infrastructure, energy and related industries sectors. Israeli business magnate Lev Leviev is chair of the company’s board of directors. Africa-Israel is currently the target of a boycott campaign by Palestine solidarity activists because of the company’s involvement in violations of international law in the West Bank. The company has been involved in the construction of several Israeli settlements in the West Bank through its subsidiary construction firm Danya Cebus. It also offers apartments and houses in various settlements in the West Bank through its Israeli franchise of the real estate agency Anglo Saxon, with a branch in Ma’ale Adumim, the largest Israeli settlement.

The occupied West Bank village of Bilin has been holding weekly nonviolent demonstrations against the Israeli wall and settlement construction for more than four years. In a 21 April letter to the Norwegian State Pension Fund village leaders write, “Lev Leviev’s Africa-Israel is building Israeli settlements on our village’s land, and is destroying our olive groves and any hope for justice and peace in Palestine.” The village of Bilin has called on the government and people of Norway to take decisive steps to end all business relationships with Lev Leviev because his companies are constructing settlements.

Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are illegal under international law. Numerous UN resolutions and the 2004 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on Israel’s wall in the West Bank confirm this. The settlements violate Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention — which forbids the transferring of the occupying power’s civilian population onto the occupied territory — as well as Article 53 forbidding destruction of property.

Africa-Israel has come under increased scrutiny as a result of a campaign modeled off of the boycott, divestment and sanctions tactics that are credited with helping end apartheid in South Africa. Last year, the UK government considered relocating the British Embassy to Kirya Tower in Tel Aviv which is partly owned by African-Israel Properties, a subsidiary of Africa-Israel Investments. Attorney Daniel Machover of London-based Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights warned the British government in an open letter published in the Independent on 20 September 2008 that “renting space from Africa-Israel Properties was tantamount to the government condoning Israel’s settlement-building, supporting clear violations of international law, which in some cases amount to grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and hindering the possibility of peace in the Middle East.” In March, British Ambassador Tom Phillips decided not to move the embassy to Kirya Tower. The issue of Africa-Israel’s involvement in settlements and settlement holdings is reported to have played a role in the decision.

In addition to exposing the Norwegian State Pension Fund’s relations with Africa-Israel, Norwatch also revealed that three private Norwegian banks are involved with Africa-Israel through BlackRock Emerging Europe Fund (EEF). According to Norwatch, the banks Storebrand Link and Skandiabanken offer customers the investment product BlackRock EEF. Fokus Bank invites customers to save for their pension in the Danica Link pension scheme with investments in BlackRock EEF. British fund manager BlackRock refused to clarify to Norwatch whether it still invests in Africa-Israel. The last available report on the portfolio of Blackrock EEF dates from October 2008. Storebrand bank told Norwatch that BlackRock, indeed, had investments in Africa-Israel in the third quarter of 2008. The bank promised to carry out an ethical analysis of the company. Depending on the outcome, Storebrand bank will put pressure on BlackRock to divest from Africa-Israel.

An Internet search showed that there are additional European banks offering the BlackRock Emerging Europe fund, including Dutch SNS bank. This bank has already come under serious pressure to divest from the French transport company Veolia for its activities in the occupied West Bank.

On its website, BlackRock claims its commitment to socially responsible investment and the company states it will in the first place seek to understand the social, environmental and ethical policies of companies in which it invests. However, activists argue, this is hard to reconcile with Africa-Israel’s direct involvement in Israel’s illegal settlements.

Zurich-based BlackRock official Jeffrey Provencal did not deny outright the inclusion of Africa-Israel in the Emergency Europe Fund investment portfolio. He responded to an email query, “To date I’m not aware of the fund having a significant holding of the below mentioned company [Africa-Israel Investments].” However, the fund’s investment report of 31 October 2008 shows that BlackRock invested almost $4 million in Africa-Israel.

Adri Nieuwhof is consultant and human rights advocate based in Switzerland.

Military exports to Israel reviewed following Gaza conflict

Posted in BDS Success on April 27, 2009 by Marcy Newman

* Nicholas Watt, chief political correspondent
* The Guardian, Wednesday 22 April 2009

Britain announced last night that it is to review all its military exports to Israel in the light of the recent offensive in the Gaza Strip which killed around 1,400 Palestinians.

In a written statement to MPs, the foreign secretary, David Miliband, announced that all current and future licences permitting the export of military equipment would be reviewed in the light of the three-week Operation Cast Lead.

Miliband said Britain provided less than 1% of Israel’s military imports. But he acknowledged that some components supplied by Britain were “almost certainly” used by Israel in its military offensive. These were:

• Israeli reconnaissance satellites, for which Britain supplies minor components, which could have been used to provide information to the Israeli army. Miliband said: “We assess that these might have been used to prepare the operation but would not have played a significant part in the operation itself.”

• F16 aircraft were “widely used” to deliver precision-guided bombs, and incorporate British components. Britain has banned the export of F16 components directly to Israel since 2002. But British F16 components are exported to the US “where Israel was the ultimate end user”.

• Apache attack helicopters, which incorporate British components, exported to the US for use on helicopters “ultimately destined for Israel”.

• Saar-class corvette naval vessels, which incorporate a British 76mm gun, and took part in operations from waters off Gaza.

• Armoured personnel carriers, which included conversions of British-supplied Centurion tanks, and were used as mobile headquarters. The Centurions were sold to Israel in the late 1950s.

Miliband said that exports of military equipment to Israel require export licences which are subject to strict criteria. The most important state that the equipment must not be used for internal repression, must not provoke or prolong armed conflicts, and that the equipment will not be diverted within the buyer country.

Miliband said that the US provides 95% of Israel’s military equipment, with the EU supplying the rest. Britain provides 1%.

All licences covering this would be reviewed in the light of the Israeli military action. “It is inherent … that judgments are in part based on past practice, so evidence from Operation Cast Lead will be used in all future applications. I can confirm that we are looking at all extant licences to see whether any need to be reconsidered in light of recent events in Gaza,” he said.

Palestinian students push BDS in universities and cities

Posted in Palestinian Economy, Palestinian Education on April 27, 2009 by Marcy Newman

Latest news , Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, 8 March 2009

IAW events for the past several days in the West Bank focused on strengthening the internal BDS movement and promoting Palestinian products. Considerable progress was made from March 4 – 5 in moving the boycott forward in Palestinian universities. Students are not only working to institutionalize a boycott of Israeli goods inside the university, but also bringing the BDS call into their local shops and communities.

Events took place in Nablus, Tulkarm, Jericho, Qalqilya, and Ramallah colleges and universities, as well as in the Jenin camp. At an-Najah in Nablus, a talk and discussion was held entitled, “The global BDS campaign: Comparing the South African and Palestinian experience.” Student activists are also busy preparing a workshop for the coming week, and will host a speaker from Stop the Wall who will hold a session on the Wall and the BDS movement.

At al-Khadouri college in Tulkarm, activities were scheduled on Wednesday and Thursday. On Wednesday, a representative of the BNC gave a talk to students entitled, “BDS as a weapon against the Occupation and the importance of the youth movement.” Actions moved outside the schools the next day, when students went into Tulkarm shops to discuss with shopkeepers the importance of the boycott and supporting Palestinian products.

At al-Quds University in Qalqilya, students and faculty issued a signed commitment to BDS on the campus. In Jericho, six young women from al-Quds University dressed in traditional costume, promoted BDS around the campus while the student council voted to cut any ties with Israeli academics and implement the boycott of Israeli goods at the cafeteria.

In the past few days, IAW events also began at Birzeit, where the student council renewed its commitment to the internal boycott. Students are also preparing a showcase of Palestinian replacements to well-known Israeli products. This includes alternatives to the Israeli Tapazina brand of juices, Palestinian cosmetics from the Dead Sea as alternatives to Israeli brands, and West Bank dairy and meat products.

Outside of the universities, in the Jenin refugee camp, Kay La Nasa (Lest We Forget) womenÂ’s association organized a talk by three former Palestinian political prisoners. The three addressed the youth of camp and spoke about the importance of the BDS campaign.

IAW events are scheduled to continue into the next week, with students preparing final exhibits, actions, and continuing community outreach and organizing.

UK campaigners score victory towards arms embargo

Posted in BDS Success on April 26, 2009 by Marcy Newman

Yasmin Khan, The Electronic Intifada, 24 April 2009

It came as no surprise to campaigners in the United Kingdom to hear the British Foreign Minister David Miliband reveal this week that components supplied by Britain were “almost certainly” used by Israel in its recent military assault on Gaza. Despite Israel’s continued human rights abuses, the UK government has licensed millions of pounds’ worth of military equipment to Israel over the last few years including components for tanks and combat aircraft, in direct conflict with its own arms policy.

The British government’s announcement that it will be reviewing arms sales to Israel in light of the atrocities committed in Gaza earlier this year was, however, surprising. The move represents a real victory for the Stop Arming Israel coalition, which began its campaign for a two-way arms embargo against Israel during its invasion of Lebanon in July 2006 and serves as a potent example of public pressure forcing governments to review their policies towards Israel.

The Stop Arming Israel campaign revealed a detailed analysis of export licenses approved from Britain to Israel, including components for: combat aircraft, electronic warfare equipment, helmet mounted display equipment, military aero-engines, naval radars, surface-to-air missiles and equipment for the use of weapon sights and military communication. A significant number of UK components are also used for missile triggering systems for American-made Apache helicopters and “head-up displays” for the similarly US-made F-16s. Israel has repeatedly used F-16 fighter aircraft and Apache combat helicopters to bomb Lebanese and Palestinian towns and villages. In recent years, the UK has licensed arms exports to Israel worth between 10 million and 25 million pounds a year. However, figures available for the first nine months of 2008 show that military equipment worth more than 27 million pounds had been approved.

The campaign in the UK highlighted on exposing how how the licensing of military equipment to Israel contradicts the UK government’s very own arms export policy. Since October 2000, the UK government has used the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria to judge whether arms export licenses should be granted. These set out a series of considerations, including whether the country of destination is in breach of international law or is involved in armed conflicts and respects human rights. On each of these counts Israel is seriously wanting, yet the number of arms licenses applications which have been denied has actually decreased (from 84 in 2002 to 17 in 2007) as the number of Palestinian deaths continue to increase.

In 2006, Foreign Office Minister Kim Howells reaffirmed that it was British government policy not to allow the export of equipment or components which could be “deployed aggressively” in occupied Palestinian territory. Speaking before the UK’s Parliamentary Quadripartite Committee, Howells also acknowledged that “almost any piece of equipment, I suppose, could be used aggressively.” Thus, Howells confirmed the campaigners’s long-standing argument that given that aircraft and tanks for which UK companies make components are regularly used against Palestinians, the government’s practice has made its own export standards meaningless.

Israel has its own arms industry which is well integrated into the global arms trade, so an effective and credible arms embargo needs to operate in both directions. Israeli companies such as Israel Aircraft Industries, Israel Military Industries, Rafael and Elbit Systems built their businesses selling arms to regimes which other countries refused to supply, such as apartheid-era South Africa and Burma today. Military exports are a key part of Israel’s economy and Israel Aircraft Industries is the country’s biggest private employer. Europe is now also an important market for Israeli companies, and the UK is no exception.

During Israel’s recent invasion of Gaza, UN special rapporteur Richard Falk challenged “those countries that have been and remain complicit, either directly or indirectly, in Israel’s violations of international law. That complicity includes those countries knowingly providing the military equipment including warplanes and missiles used in these illegal attacks.” By selling arms to Israel, the UK is giving direct material support for Israel’s aggression and sending a clear message of approval for its actions.

The bombing and invasion of Gaza intensified calls for an arms embargo. Members of parliament from across the political spectrum signed an Early Day Motion (a type of parliamentary petition) condemning British arms sales to Israel. In addition, The Liberal Democrats, the third biggest political party in the UK and Amnesty International joined the call for an arms embargo. Furthermore, Amnesty International produced a damning report on the assault on Gaza and called for an arms embargo. And the Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq launched legal proceedings with Public Interest Lawyers in the UK to judicially review British policy of engaging in “business as usual” with Israel.

Meanwhile governments all over the world have actively supported the continued subjugation of the Palestinian people by providing Israel with the military means to enforce and entrench its increasingly brutal occupation. With many countries including human rights clauses in their arms exports policies, campaigning on arms exports to Israel is a highly effective tool with which to expose expose the hypocrisy of governments in implementing their own ethical standards.

As the global movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions grows, an arms embargo strategy is a key element of the wider sanctions call. Refusing to trade weapons with Israel sends a powerful message of disapproval for its actions, and the current review being undertaken by the British government demonstrates how grassroots campaigning can make a real difference in forcing governments to justify their actions. In the UK we will now be putting pressure on the government to ensure this review leads to concrete action and a binding decision to stop arming Israel. This should be stepped up globally and all governments that reward Israeli aggression with military support should be exposed.

Yasmin Khan is the Senior Global Justice campaigner at War on Want, a UK-based charity that fights global poverty and a co-coordinator of the Stop Arming Israel coalition.

Village of Bil’in asks Norway to divest from Leviev’s Africa-Israel

Posted in Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions, Profiting from Zionism on April 26, 2009 by Marcy Newman

April 21, 2009

The Council on Ethics
Norwegian Government Pension Fund
Government of Norway

Dear Members of the Council on Ethics,

It is with great dismay that we learned that Norway, a strong supporter of human rights and peace in the Middle East, has invested its citizens’ pensions in a company, Lev Leviev’s Africa-Israel, that is building Israeli settlements on our village’s land, and is destroying our olive groves and any hope for justice and peace in Palestine. Our village of Bil’in has carried out a four year campaign of creative, nonviolent protests against the construction of Israel’s wall and the Israeli settlement of Mattityahu East on our village’s land, Last Friday, one of our residents, 31 year-old Bassem Abu Rahma, was shot and killed by Israeli soldiers during a nonviolent protest in Bil’in. We have also endured countless beatings from Israeli soldiers as a result of our protests,as well as bullets, teargas, invasions and arrests. We are sure that the people of Norway do not want to support the seizure of our farmland, and violence against our community. Therefore, we call on the government and people of Norway to take decisive steps, as the government of the United Kingdom has recently done, to end all business relationships with Lev Leviev due his companies’ construction of settlements.

Our nonviolent campaign to prevent the seizure of 57.5% of our village’s land for the construction of the settlement of Mattityahu East (part of the Modi’in Illit settlement bloc:http://bilin-village.org/francais/xmedia/cartes/bilin-saffa.jpg) has included more than 250 creative protests over the last four years. We are joined in these protests by Israeli and international supporters. Last week, Bassem Abu Rahma, a committed nonviolent protester from Bil’in, was killed when an Israel soldier shot him in the chest from about 30 meters with a high velocity tear gas canister as Bassem was standing with a group of journalists who were filming our peaceful protest to save our land. Also during the course of these demonstrations, the Israeli military has injured around 1,300 civilian protesters, and arrested 60. Around 400 of those injured and 15 of those jailed were children from Bil’in.

We have chosen a strategy that shows unequivocally who is the victim and who is the victimizer. We know the Israeli army can choose to deal with our protests in two ways. When the army chooses violence, everyone sees what we are up against. And should the army refrain from violence, we achieve our aim of stopping their bulldozers. But even if the soldiers put down their weapons,which so far they haven’t done, that would not make us equals. We would always be stronger, because we have the power of justice on our side.

We are connected to this land. Our mothers took us to harvest olives before we could speak. We remember playing under the olive trees which have since been uprooted by the Israeli settlers who have moved here. There is now a huge and growing Israeli settlement bloc called Modi’in Illit, which includes the settlement of Mattityahu East, where we played as children. It is hard for us to accept the idea that our children cannot play on the land where we played in our childhood.

Israeli settlements like Mattityahu East violate international law and countless United Nations resolutions. Our village is currently suing the Canadian companies Green Parkand Green Mount in Canadian courts for War Crimes for the construction of Mattityahu East. According to numerous press accounts, Danya Cebus, a subsidiary of the company Africa-Israel, is building the homes in Mattityahu East for Green Parkand Green Mount. Media reports also say that Danya Cebus has built homes in the settlements of Maale Adumim and Har Homa, settlements that separate the West Bank from East Jerusalem, our capital.

This week Bil’in hosts our Fourth International Conference on Grassroots Popular Resistance. As a center of the popular nonviolent struggle against Israel’s wall and settlement for the last four years, Bil’in has hosted thousands of international and Israeli visitors who have come to witness, learn and join ourstruggle. We would welcome Norwegian representatives to visit us at any time in order to learn about the terrible impacts of Africa-Israel’s settlement on Bil’in and other communities.

It is unconscionable that Norway is supporting a company that is helping to steal the land of Bil’in and other Palestinian villages and is destroying hopes for peace. Please stand with us in our struggle for justice and divest from Africa-Israel.

Sincerely,

The Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements – Bil’in Village

Cc: Kristin Halvorsen, Minister of Finance
The Office of the Prime Minister
Henriette Westhrin, Deputy Minister
Roger Sandum, Deputy Minister
Geir Axelsen, Deputy Minister
Roger Schjerva, Deputy Minister
Ole Morten Geving, Deputy Minister

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