Archive for the Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions Category

SAPA: UJ to mull Israeli university ties

Posted in Apartheid, Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions, Zionism on October 3, 2010 by Marcy Newman

2010-09-29 14:08

Johannesburg – The University of Johannesburg (UJ) senate will hear recommendations from a task team on its relationship with Ben Gurion University (BGU) in Israel on Wednesday.

UJ deputy vice chancellor Adam Habib could not comment on the recommendations, saying he did not want to “pre-empt” the meeting.

The move followed calls from Archbishop Desmond Tutu, academics and the Cosatu for UJ to cut ties with BGU due to its “direct and indirect support for the Israeli military and the occupation”.

On Wednesday, the UJ’s Student Representative Council (SRC) added its voice to the campaign.

“As the Student Representative Council acting on behalf of the student community of UJ, we publicly announce our support for the principled position of over 250 South African academics who have made a statement in favour of terminating the agreement,” the SRC said in a statement.

The SRC said it joined Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University’s vice chancellor Professor Derrick Swartz, Rhodes University’s Professor Saleem Badat, Unisa vice chancellor Professor Barney Pityana and Durban University of Technology’s Professor Dan Ncayiyana in calling for an end to agreements between the two institutions.

The student body recognised its “interconnectedness” with students the world over. It however urged UJ to cut ties with an institution supporting an occupation which had “dehumanising effects” and deprived Palestinians of access to education.

Two SRC representatives were expected to attend the senate meeting taking place at the university’s Soweto campus on Wednesday afternoon.

The Mail & Guardian reported that ties between the two institutions dated back to the 1980s.

Israel National News online said growing pressure on UJ could stop a research agreement between the institutions to collaborate on biotechnology and water purification projects.

The petition, signed by academics, called for the termination of the co-operation, arguing that scholarly work took place within a larger social context.

“The Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories has had a disastrous effect on access to education for Palestinians. While Palestinians are not able to access universities and schools, Israeli universities produce the research, technology, arguments and leaders for maintaining the occupation,” the petition reads.

“BGU is no exception. By maintaining links to both the Israeli defence force and the arms industry, BGU structurally supports and facilitates the Israeli occupation.”

Israel National News online, however, said BGU was headed by two presidents in favour of “expelling most Jews from Judea and Samaria and creating a Palestinian Authority state in their place”.

According to the report the university was a “hotbed for left-wing and Bedouin activists whose views are non-Zionist”.

BGU officials were reportedly “disturbed” by calls for UJ to cut ties with it.

“Those opposed to this collaboration accuse BGU of ‘abusing academic freedom, abusing human rights and being an accomplice to an apartheid government system in Israel’. These accusations and others made in their statements are totally false and based upon ignorance and prejudice,” Israel National News quoted BGU officials as saying.


SA university must reconsider Israel ties – Haidar Eid

Posted in Apartheid, Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions, Why Boycott?!, Zionism on September 28, 2010 by Marcy Newman

As a graduate of the University of Johannesburg and a resident of Gaza, I find it distressing that the university has signed an agreement with Israel’s Ben Gurion University despite the policy of ethnic cleansing and the latest war crimes committed against the people of Gaza by the nation’s government.

Israeli academic institutions are known to be complicit in Israel’s policy of colonization and apartheid. As such, an agreement with an academic institution goes against the words of Nelson Mandela, who said in 1997:

“It behoves all South Africans, themselves erstwhile beneficiaries of generous international support, to stand up and be counted among those contributing actively to the cause of freedom and justice … we know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”

Every day, millions of Palestinians are denied the full right to education in the occupied Palestinian territories and in the refugee camps of the diaspora. Education is denied because of Israeli checkpoints, the siege of Gaza and the apartheid-like discrimination faced by Palestinian students in Israel.

Thousands of Palestinian students and lecturers are in Israeli dungeons often without trial or sentenced by military courts. All credible international human rights and humanitarian organizations have detailed how the Israeli military deliberately targets Palestinian students and schools including UN schools. The recent Goldstone report corroborates these facts.

Palestinians stood with South Africans during the struggle against South African apartheid. We ask you to join us in our struggle against Israeli apartheid. Almost all Palestinian academics and a small but significant number of Israeli academics understand why Israeli institutions must be boycotted in the face of an intransigent, racist and militarized Israeli regime.

It is unconscionable that UJ becomes complicit in Palestinian oppression. I have no doubt that the vast majority of the UJ community based on my experience there, believe in the values of social justice and if they were aware of the appalling
atrocities I have witnessed, would not hesitate to support the petition opposing links with Israeli institutions.

Palestinians are an oppressed people without a state. We increasingly rely on international law and solidarity for our very survival.

Israel with the fourth largest army in the world has violated international law and numerous global conventions. Israel’s latest barbarity is the illegal use of white phosphorus against civilians killing 1,400 people including hundreds of children.

International jurists, including South Africans such as John Dugard consider Israel to have committed war crimes. In a comprehensive and meticulous report, senior researchers from South Africa’s own Human Sciences Research Council consider Israel to be an apartheid state.

The decision of UJ’s management executive committee must be reversed. South Africans, amidst all people, must not be on the “wrong side of history.”

Professor Haidar Eid The author is an independent political commentator and professor in the Department of English Literature at Al-Aqsa University in Gaza.

SCORPIONS: “Wind of Change” for Justice or Apartheid?

Posted in Apartheid, Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions, Cultural Boycott, Zionism on September 28, 2010 by Marcy Newman

An Open Letter from PACBI

Dear Scorpions,

Occupied Ramallah, 28 September 2010 — The Palestinian Campaign for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) has learned from various sources that you are scheduled to perform in Tel Aviv on October 4, 2010. Your performance in Israel was only recently announced on your official tour website. Prior to this, when we contacted your agents and lawyers to inquire about your performance we received ambiguous responses. Your now scheduled performance violates the appeal of the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement [1] which urges people of conscience throughout the world to isolate Israel until it ends its colonial and apartheid oppression against the Palestinian people, as was done against the apartheid regime in South Africa. We urge you, as a band known for its commitment to support the “wind of change” and the falling of the Berlin Wall, not to perform in apartheid Israel that is building a far more cruel and illegal [2] wall on occupied Palestinian land.

We have also recently learned of previous concerts your group has performed in Israel [3] and the positions Klaus Meine took in the July 2006 war that Israel waged on Lebanon [4]. Your overall positions have made it imperative to call on you to take a morally consistent position in view of your past politics advocating justice and a dream for change. We are also addressing you to call your attention to the growing international movement of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel. We are hoping that you will heed the Palestinian call, and adhere to the international picket line supported by Israeli activists [5] and many international groups and prominent individuals [6].

Not listing the Israel concert on your website as part of your tour may be a slip or a disingenuous tactic to hide from criticism for playing in Israel and to avoid the boycott movement. Regardless, now that the world knows you plan to entertain apartheid Israel, we ask you not to.

Origins of a Movement

Leading to the 2005 Palestinian civil society call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) [7], and inspired by the cultural boycott of apartheid South Africa, PACBI, supported by key unions and cultural groups, issued a call for the academic and cultural boycott of Israel in 2004, appealing to international artists to refuse to perform in Israel [8] or participate in events that serve to equate the occupier and the occupied [9] and thus promote the continuation of injustice. This call is supported by devoted anti-racist activists around the world, from South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu to best-selling African-American author Alice Walker. As Bishop Tutu recently noted in a historic statement unequivocally supporting the Palestinian boycott campaign against Israel:

I never tire of speaking about the very deep distress in my visits to the Holy Land; they remind me so much of what happened to us black people in South Africa. I have seen the humiliation of the Palestinians at checkpoints and roadblocks, suffering like we did when young white police officers prevented us from moving about. My heart aches. I say, ‘Why are our memories so short?’ Have our Jewish sisters and brothers forgotten their own previous humiliation? Have they forgotten the collective punishment, the home demolitions, in their own history so soon? … When we say ‘Never again!’ do we mean ‘Never again!’, or do we mean ‘Never again to us!’? [10]

Reconsider Your Past Positions

Many in the boycott movement are fans of your music and grew up singing and dancing to your songs. The “Wind of Change,” in particular, gave us hope for a better world and future. For this reason it came as a disappointment to learn that you have taken part in cultural propaganda efforts aimed to re-brand Israel, hiding its colonial and apartheid reality [11]. Specifically, your reference to Germany’s past should not serve as a pretext for silence or apathy towards Israel’s crimes, nor should it be used to equate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism. The lessons of Germany’s past should teach us all to reject all forms of racism, racial hatred and discrimination, to support the oppressed in the world lest they suffer from further oppressions by those in power, not to support a state that institutionalizes racism against its “non-Jewish” citizens.

Addressing this taboo issue, long-time Israel lobbyist and current University of London academic Henry Siegman has recently written [12]:

A million and a half civilians have been forced to live in an open-air prison in inhuman conditions for over three years now, but unlike the Hitler years, they are not Jews but Palestinians. Their jailers, incredibly, are survivors of the Holocaust, or their descendants. Of course, the inmates of Gaza are not destined for gas chambers, as the Jews were, but they have been reduced to a debased and hopeless existence.

Fully 80% of Gaza’s population lives on the edge of malnutrition, depending on international charities for their daily nourishment. According to the UN and World Health authorities, Gaza’s children suffer from dramatically increased morbidity that will affect and shorten the lives of many of them. …

Particularly appalling is that this policy has been the source of amusement for some Israeli leaders, who according to Israeli press reports have jokingly described it as ‘putting Palestinians on a diet.’ That, too, is reminiscent of the Hitler years, when Jewish suffering amused the Nazis.

Given your positions, it is important that you understand why the BDS movement is calling on you to boycott performances in Israel and why your positions on peace and on Israel are misplaced. Peace, as you know, is not a word that can be thrown about lightly, nor can it be achieved if those in power refuse to recognize the rights of the oppressed.

Some of the violations your position is supporting are:

– Israel’s brutal and unlawful military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israel restricts Palestinians’ freedom of movement and of speech; blocks access to lands, health care, and education; imprisons Palestinian leaders and human rights activists without charge or trial; and inflicts, on a daily basis, humiliation and violence at the more than 600 military checkpoints and roadblocks strangling the West Bank. All the while, Israel fortifies its colonization of Palestinian lands by expanding the network of illegal, Jewish-only settlements.

– A growing system of Apartheid towards the Palestinian citizens of Israel, with laws and policies that deny Palestinian citizens the rights that their Jewish counterparts enjoy. These laws and policies affect education, land ownership, housing, employment, marriage, and all other aspects of people’s daily lives.

– Israel ethnic cleansing, in 1948, of more than 750,000 Palestinian people in order to form a Jewish state. Since then, Israel has denied Palestinian refugees their internationally recognized right to return to their homes and their lands. It also continues to expel people from their homes in Jerusalem and the Negev. Today, there are more than 7 million refugees, still struggling for their right to return.

Boycott Israel

Israel has used artists, musicians and other cultural workers as part of a campaign to Brand Israel [13], a campaign that has been launched by the Israeli government and promoted by institutions throughout the country in order to whitewash Israel’s violations of international law and project a false image of normalcy. But after Israel’s war of aggression against Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009, which left 1,400 Palestinians dead [14], predominantly civilians, and led the UN Goldstone Report to declare that Israel had committed war crimes [15], and after the flotilla massacre, many international artists have refused to conduct business as usual with a country that places itself above international standards. Elvis Costello [16], Gil Scott Heron, Carlos Santana, Devendra Banhart [17], and the Pixies are but a few of the artists who have refused to perform in Israel in the past year.

As Holocaust survivor and co-author of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Stephane Hessel wrote [18] after Israel’s deadly attack on the humanitarian relief Gaza-Bound Flotilla a few months ago:

The absence of meaningful action from governments to hold Israel accountable to international law leaves open one path for citizens of conscience: to take this responsibility upon themselves, as done against apartheid South Africa. Non-violent citizen-led initiatives, exemplified by the Flotilla and the various boycott and divestment campaigns around the world, present the most promising way to overcome the failure of world governments to stand up to Israel’s intransigence and lawless behavior.

The “Wind of Change” is upon us again. You can decide whether you wish to support “change” towards entrenching occupation and apartheid or change towards freedom, justice and upholding international law. If the latter, we hope you shall refuse to entertain Israeli apartheid!




[2] In July 2004, the International Court of Justice issued an advisory opinion condemning Israel’s wall and colonial settlements built on occupied Palestinian land as illegal.

















Eight American Universities Say Yes to Apartheid – An Analysis

Posted in Apartheid, Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions, Why Boycott?!, Zionism on September 28, 2010 by Marcy Newman

Lawrence Davidson

A letter from Gaza appeared on the Web dated September 24, 2010. It was from a group of Gaza academics and students and sought to publicize the fact that eight American universities have recently signed agreements with various Israeli universities to offer U.S. students free semester long programs in Israel. Among the American universities participating in this venture are Harvard, Columbia and Michigan.

The Gaza academics and students expressed shock at this turn of events. And so they might given the fact that they are sitting in an outdoor prison of Israeli making and have seen their educational institutions both starved of resources by an Israeli blockade and literally bombed to rubble by Israeli warplanes. The situation in Gaza is but the worst of a bad situation for all Palestinians, including those in the West Bank and Israel proper. When it comes to education in all of these locales apartheid policies are in place to interfere with Palestinian students and teachers and minimize the educational experience. Actually, this is part of an unspoken strategy of cultural genocide. Such policies are directly or indirectly supported by the Israeli academic institutions to which the participating American universities now want to send their students.

How can these U.S. universities do this? This is certainly a legitimate question in an age when discrimination and racism are, supposedly, no longer socially or politically acceptable. After all Harvard, Columbia, Michigan, etc. are institutions of higher learning housed in a country that prides itself on broad civil rights laws and all of them adhere to social equity rules. Yet here they are climbing into academic bed, so to speak, with a state that practices apartheid against its non-Jewish minority and is attempting to ethnically cleanse the indigenous population of the Occupied Territories.

Well, there are any number of scenarios that might lead them to this sort of hellish arrangement and here I offer only one possibility. It assumes an “Adolf Eichmann context.”

1. The realm of the bureaucrat

The people in control of American universities (and perhaps all universities) are mostly bureaucrats. Some of them are trained in the specialty field of higher education administration, some are professors who have crossed over to an administrative career line, and some are just folks hired from the general population pool to run sub-departments such as public relations and accounting. They are all trained to pay lip service to various sorts of mission statements and assessment markers, however their lives are really very insular and their goals narrow and short term. For instance, even at the highest level, say the office of the university president, there are usually but a few major goals, and the main one in this case is to raise money.

Somewhere in the organizational chart is an office of overseas programs (or some similar title). It is usually a small operation with a director and a secretary. Their job is to set up exchange programs. What they are looking for are programs at overseas schools that are roughly similar in quality to the courses their own institution offers. That way the credits can be legitimately transferred back home and stand in for some of their student’s degree requirements. The people who are arranging these exchanges usually know little or nothing of the social or political situation in the overseas institution’s country. And, they are not likely to educate themselves on these subjects beyond some assurance that the place is relatively safe for the students that will be participating in the exchange. It may be hard for those of us who are so focused on Israeli apartheid to accept this, but for most of the folks in these little offices, Israel has about the same cachet as the Czech Republic or maybe Ireland. There is a lot of ignorance at his level.

2. What else is going on?

Of course, that is not the end of the story. There are other folks out there, most of whom are indirectly associated with the university in question. These people know that there is a war going on against apartheid Israel, and they are not on our side. They want to counter the increasingly effective process of “chipping away at Israel’s legitimacy.” They also have deep pockets and lots of influence. These folks may be big donors to these universities and some of them may well sit on the institution’s board of governors/regents.

When the president or his representative goes out to raise money these donors have what appears to be innocuous conditions for their gifts. So they say to president x or y, “sure we will give you half a million dollars for that new sports complex you so covet, but in return we want you to create this exchange program with Hebrew and Haifa U.” The president thinks that this is little enough to ask for such a generous gift, and his friend on the board of governors/regents seconds the motion. A telephone call is made to the director of overseas programs who is given a contact name and number at the Israeli embassy to get things rolling. And that is how it happens.

3. What comes next?

Soon enough this arrangement becomes public. You have to figure if they know about it in Gaza, they know about in Cambridge, Ann Arbor and upper Manhattan. Given the times there will probably be some sort of public protest, but the ensuing struggle will not be easy for the following reasons:

a. The university position will almost certainly be that to shun Israel is a violation of academic freedom, free inquiry, and the essential non-political status of learning. This sort of argument is age old. The U.S. universities were making it when they were asked to divest from apartheid South Africa and stop research funded by the “Defense” Department during the Vietnam war. One can never lay this argument to rest in any final way because it represents a cherished, if somewhat unreal, ideal.

So you point out for the one thousandth time that there is an inherent contradiction when you take this position relative to Israeli universities just because they do not promote these academic ideals. They are destroyers of free thought and free inquiry as far as Palestinian rights (and particularly the right of education) are concerned. And so if the ideal of a non-political status for learning exists anywhere in the real world, it ain’t in Israel. The whole Zionist academic setup has been criticized by international as well as Israeli human rights organizations for these anti-educational activities. And finally, you try to tell the university decision makers that there is precedent for universities taking a stand against apartheid practices. At this point you notice that they have, figuratively, clicked on their I-pods and are no longer listening.

b. Next you go to the professors of the institution and try to explain the same thing. That is when you come to the stomach wrenching realization that most of them do not care. Most academics are as specialized as the bureaucrats, and live their lives in just as insular a world. They know a lot about their sub-field and very little beyond it. They are dedicated to their families and their local communities and are, on the whole, decent people, but they are not interested, nor are they going to hit the street, for oppressed people far away. This is particularly true when their local news sources have been systematically libeling those people for sixty plus years. They too will hide behind the idea of academic freedom.

It should be noted that this is not quite the same thing as Julien Benda’s “treason of the intellectuals.” There is very little spouting of national chauvinism or the racism of Islamophobia (except for the Zionists professors among them). No, it is just co-option into the system. It is just natural localism–I really just want to live my life and work in my lab or library cubicle, etc. I am reluctant to get too annoyed at my fellow academics for this attitude, because theirs is the immemorial stance of all ordinary folks everywhere.

c. So that leaves the students, and here there is a much better chance to gather a crowd and take a stand. There is always a socially conscious group among the youth who are willing to fight for a good cause and risk defying the powers that be. This is because they have yet to become ensconced in the system, bogged down with career, family, mortgage and the like. In other words, some of them have not yet shrunk into an insular world of very local interests and goals. And those are the people who will protest, if anyone will, at the ivy towers of Harvard, Columbia, Michigan and the five other schools which have willed their own corruption.

4. What are the odds of victory?
Whether anyone will listen to the protesters depends on how many there are, how loud they protest and how far they are willing to go with it. Are they willing to go into the dormitories and spread the word? Are they willing to picket not only the ordinary centers of power on campus, but also the admissions office when prospective students come to visit, or demonstrate on home-coming day and at all the football games? Are they willing to hunt for donors who might say they will not give if their institution partners with Israel? Are they willing to occupy the president’s office and thereby risk arrest? Are they willing to keep all of this up for weeks on end? It might take all of these sorts of activities to even have a chance at winning this contest.

And even so the odds are not good. Essentially, you have to create such a cost to the institution in trouble and bad publicity that it outweighs that donor’s half a million dollars and/or the anger of the fellow on the board/regents. If in the end you do not win, you have to understand that it is not wholly a defeat. After all, you have certainly raised consciousness. In other words, you have set the stage for the next battle and made that one a little easier to win. So you have to have the energy to fight again and again. It is a scenario wherein youth is a definite plus.

There is another way in which the mounting a serious protest at any of these schools must constitute a victory. And that is the fact that such a protest will demonstrate to the academics and students in Gaza and the rest of Palestine that the world has not abandoned them, that they have allies and their struggle is now a worldwide one. In the short run, that might be the most important victory of all.

In Conclusion

Here is quote from the American academic Richard Hofstadter, “A university’s essential character is that of being a center of free inquiry and criticism–a thing not to be sacrificed for anything else.” If this so (and all the leaders of the institutions involved in these exchanges will undoubtedly agree) then why are these eight universities sending their students off to Israeli schools that cooperate with state policies that deny just these sacrosanct pursuits to persecuted Palestinians? Why are they sending their students to a country that seeks to silence, at all levels of society, any free inquiry and criticism of its racist and oppressive national ideology? Why are they cooperating with institutions that have state dictated policies (for instance, admissions policies) that would be illegal in the United States? Do they condone such behaviors? If they go through with these exchange programs the answer is, for all intents and purposes, yes, they do. Essentially, they now lend themselves to the destruction of the very educational virtues they claim to cherish.

Full text of the interview with Richard Falk, U.N. Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Israeli-Occupied Territories of Palestine

Posted in Apartheid, Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions, Why Boycott?!, Zionism on September 25, 2010 by Marcy Newman

C. Gouridasan Nair

Interview with Richard Falk, U.N. Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Israeli-Occupied Territories of Palestine

Richard Falk, the United Nations Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Israeli-Occupied Territories of Palestine, is sceptical whether the negotiations between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, guided by the U.S., would produce results, unless the Hamas is taken on board and Israel returns to the pre-1967 position. The best hope for Palestinians is a ‘legitimacy war’ similar to the campaign that undermined the apartheid government in South Africa, says the Professor Emeritus of international law and practice at Princeton University. The text of an interview he gave The Hindu in Thiruvananthapuram, while in Kerala’s capital city for a conference on climate change:

Although you’ve been functioning as the U.N. Rapporteur to the Occupied Palestinian Territories since 2008, you’ve not been allowed to enter Israel or the Israeli-occupied areas of Palestine. How, then, do you propose to deliver on your mandate?

The U.N. is not regarded by Israel as a critical voice. They feel that they can ignore or refuse to cooperate with the U.N., even though as a member they are legally obligated to cooperate. They’re backed almost invariably by the U.S. government. So they feel diplomatically secure in being defiant towards the U.N. and the international community. This issue has become more pronounced in the last two-three years because of the Gaza war, which has led to a lot of international criticism and a sense of outrage about the degree to which Israel had used its military superiority against an essentially defenceless people who had no capacity really to fight back. It was more like a massacre than a war, in that sense.

Then the recent incident of the flotilla in the Mediterranean again showed that Israel feels it can act without regard to international law and to use its aggressive military style in international waters to interfere with a humanitarian mission that was trying to bring food and medicine and reconstruction materials to the people of Gaza that had been under a blockade for three years. So you have that basic relationship. And then, you have the somewhat troubled relationship between the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian people, that of the people of Gaza not being really represented by the Palestinian Authority because Hamas is their elected government and they’ve been excluded from any kind of participation at the international level.

Then there’s also this sense that the Palestinian Authority is kept in power by U.S. and Israeli money and influence rather than by the will of the people on the West Bank and East Jerusalem. So it’s a very difficult set of circumstances. Then, on the Israeli side, you have this very extreme right-wing government that seems to want everything for itself that is supposed to be the subject of international negotiations. So one wonders what a peace process can achieve if the Israeli government is clear about its commitment to maintain and expand the settlements on the West Bank and East Jerusalem, to continue to occupy the whole of Jerusalem to re-establish borders that take away from the Palestinians their land. It’s now only 22 per cent of the historic Palestine. And if the present settlement boundaries and the security walls and the roads connecting the settlements are all taken into account, the Palestinians would lose 38 per cent of the 22 per cent they have. So they would have no land sufficient for a genuine Palestinian state.

And, finally, you have inside pre-1967 Israel, 1.3 million Palestinians who live as second class citizens in a self-proclaimed Jewish state and have been denied all kinds of rights. The international community has more or less forgotten them. And then, finally, you have the problem of four to five million exiled refugee Palestinians living outside the territory of the occupied Palestine, but still living in a condition that results from their expulsion from their homeland way back in 1948 or later in 1967. So those are the basic conditions. So, one has to wonder: why are these international negotiations taking place? It doesn’t seem to be the preconditions for negotiations. There’s the problem on the Palestinian side of representation, and on the Israeli side there’s the problem of the substantive position: do they really want to give up what they now possess?

I’ve just made a report to the U.N. which argues that the prolonged occupation combined with the expansion of the settlements amounts now to de facto annexation. There’s no longer just temporary legitimate occupation after 43 years. Israel has been establishing more or less permanent settlements throughout the whole of occupied Palestine. It is more realistic to look at it as a situation of de facto annexation, de jure occupation. So you have this tension between what is the factual reality and what is the supposed legal situation. At the present time I’m very sceptical [whether] inter-governmental diplomacy can achieve any significant result. And the best hope for the Palestinians is what I call a legitimacy war, similar to the anti-apartheid campaign in the late-1980s and 1990s that was so effective in isolating and undermining the authority of the apartheid government. I think that is happening now in relation to Israel. There’s a very robust boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign all over the world that is capturing the political and moral imagination of the people, the NGOs and civil society and is beginning to have an important impact on Israel’s way of acting and thinking. And Israel says itself, what they call the de-legitimisation project is more dangerous to their security than the violence on the part of Palestinian resistance. So it’s a big change that way in the overall situation.

Does this have any impact on the actions of Western governments?

It’s disappointingly ineffective in changing in any fundamental way the European or the North American approach to this issue, particularly in the U.S. where the Israeli lobby is so strong. President Obama, who came to Washington with a commitment to be more balanced in the conflict, has disappointed many people because he seems unable to resist the domestic pressures to always support Israel, no matter what they do, and to give continuous large-scale military and economic assistance to Israel. The United States gives half of its economic assistance worldwide to Israel. It has been doing that for many years, as you know. It’s a very distorted situation. Actually, American public opinion is ready to shift to a more balanced position, but the opinion in Washington, in Congress, in the so-called American think tanks, around the government and in the White House itself, is much more frozen in the past on this one-sided Israeli position. Basically, that’s the diplomatic situation at the present time, I think.

What about the European governments?

The European governments are partly following the U.S. leadership. And it is a sense, particularly during the economic recession, that they don’t want to have additional political friction. The public opinion in all of these European countries would favour a more balanced approach. Some of the important countries like Germany are very sensitive about the accusation of anti-Semitism. That probably plays a role in the European thinking of a false equation between being critical of Israel and being anti-Jewish or anti-Semitic. That’s used very much by Zionist pressure to make people believe that if you criticise Israel you are basically endorsing anti-Semitism, and anti-Semitism leads indirectly to an endorsement of Nazi policies and the Holocaust and all of those things in the historical past.

What do you expect the U.N. to do on the report that you’ve submitted?

As I said, I’m very sceptical that the U.N. as an inter-governmental body will be responsive to a political and legal analysis of the existing realities of the occupation. And my analysis, I think, is widely shared by independent opinion that has examined these issues; by the reliable NGOs that are active in the region and so on. It’s an intensely politicised issue at the inter-governmental level, and even within the U.N. bureaucracy. Ironically, even though Israel is very defiant towards the U.N., the U.N., in its bureaucracy, is quite deferential to Israel, partly through the U.S. influence within the organisation. So you’ve this double reality, that on the one side Israel makes a great public display of things saying that the U.N. is biased against it, and on the other side, it joins with the U.S. in manipulating the U.N. to do very little, if anything, that is effective in supporting the implementation of international law with respect to the occupation of the Palestinian territories. And this situation is accentuated by the degree to which the Palestinian Authority will not take any position that is deeply opposed by the U.S. or Israel. So you don’t have adequate representation for the Palestinian struggle within the U.N. system.

That seems to be a very crucial issue. You spoke about apartheid and the global legitimacy war that was fought against apartheid, successfully, by Nelson Mandela and others. But we don’t see that happening at the global level now. Isn’t that a little distressing?

Yes. Of course, one would love to have a ‘Palestinian Mandela.’ [The] Palestinian leadership has been disappointing, particularly after the death of [Yasser] Arafat. Israel is partly responsible for that. They’ve assassinated and imprisoned the most qualified Palestinians to be leaders. And they’ve deliberately either repudiated the kind of leadership that Hamas offers, or they’ve co-opted the kind of leadership that the Palestinian Authority offers. So one has a leadership vacuum that’s damaging in a legitimacy war because a legitimacy war really depends on gaining and holding the high moral ground, the way the Dalai Lama has done for the Tibetan people in their efforts to get more independence within China. The Palestinians don’t have that capability right now, but they do have a lot of public support around the world. It’s an important symbolic moral and political issue for many people, even in the United States. And in that sense they’re all having an effect… on boycotting products, especially those that come out of the settlements and the West Bank. I think there’s an effect. Cultural figures like musicians and artistes are refusing to perform in Israel.

You do have some of the same symbolic and substantive patterns of rejection of Israeli policies, like you had in the late-1980s and early-1990s for South Africa. But how this will play out in the future is very uncertain. As you say, although there are some similarities because… Since the occupation has many of the characteristics of apartheid, separate roads where only Jews are allowed to travel, passes that restrict the mobility of Palestinians, they can’t go even from one part of the West Bank to the other without passing through very difficult check-points. They can’t go to Gaza without a permit that is not restricted. They can’t leave the territory for education and other reasons. So there’s a kind of apartheid system there. But Israel is much more diplomatically capable so long as it has this U.S. backing, which is crucial to its taking the position that it has taken.

Then in its own internal politics it has moved farther and farther to the right. So it has a very extremist government in power, and even the Opposition is quite extreme. So you’ve a situation where the Israelis themselves are now talking about a one-state solution where Palestinians in the so-called occupied territories would be given Israeli citizenship, but it all would become a Jewish state. Palestinians, on their side, are saying that the settlement process is going too far and that the only thing that would work would be a single Palestine that is a secular democratic state where no religious identity would be given a privileged position. The idea of a Jewish state is an anomaly in the 21st century. It does not fit in the modern world where states have to accept the fact that there are different ethnicities, different religions and each is entitled to equal protection of human rights and participation in society. Israel is not set up that way. It is set up in such a way that the Jewish majority has formal and informal privileges and rights that the Palestinians and the Christian minorities do not possess.

Your position on the Palestinian question has been very clear. In fact, one would say your loyalties have been very clear. You’ve come under attack from the time of your appointment as U.N. Rapporteur, both from Israel and from the U.S., both within and outside the U.N. And also, your conceptualisation of the legitimacy wars has come under attack. Your comments on the Goldstone report too have come under attack. Now, how do you take these attacks?

I view them as part of this unbalanced approach. I think that if you look at the reality and say how my report has been accurate, or is it objectively the case that I’m reporting in a one-sided way, I believe that it would be clear that I’ve been objective and truthful. I’ve a Jewish background myself and I’d like to see a future in which both the peoples live in peace and justice. I don’t think you can find such a solution without justice for the Palestinian people, and on justice I’m critical often of the U.S. government, my own government. It doesn’t mean that because I’m critical of Israel I’m anti-Jewish or anti-Semitic. Some people accuse me of being a self-hating Jew. You know that it just isn’t true, it’s just propaganda. You’ve to live with that kind of criticism if you’re trying to be objective and professional within this territory. It’s a dirty game. And Goldstone himself, who I know quite well, is a life-long Zionist.

I’m not a Zionist. I don’t believe in the idea of a Jewish state, or any kind of state where a person has to take a religious stand. But he’s a life-long Zionist and when he made a report critical of Israel’s behaviour in Gaza, they attacked him more than me. They called him a self-hating Jew and all of those things. He had his family there. He had been on the board of the Hebrew University. He had much closer connections. So, if he could be attacked in this way, anyone on the planet can be attacked. He was the most pro-Israel person who had international credibility that you could have found in the world. I cannot think of anyone else. And yet he came under attack. Anyone with a fair mind would come to the same conclusion. In fact, it is better for Israel if someone like myself who has been critical for a long time, they can at least attack as biased. If I had had no past background, it would’ve been a little difficult for them to criticise. So they should be happy with me because I’m a better target for this kind of propaganda.

You’ve not been allowed to enter Israel since your appointment as U.N. Rapporteur. Then how were you able to prepare your report?

Well, there are a lot of people outside the country who come from there. There are very good NGOs that are reporting on different aspects of the situation, like the health conditions and the employment conditions there. It would not be anything that I could get if I were to go there myself. Anyway I would have to rely on the collection of data and information. Then the U.N. itself has offices in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza and they prepare very good reports on the conditions that exist there. So I have the information, and the patterns of behaviour are more or less matters of public record. The real challenge is to interpret the information that’s available or, in other words, to convert the information into knowledge. That’s really the challenge that I found as Rapporteur.

Coming to the Abbas-Netanyahu negotiations sponsored by the U.S., there’s the accusation that the Hamas is trying to torpedo the negotiations by mounting repeated attacks on Israel and Israelis… How do you respond to that accusation?

I think the Hamas has made it clear that unless it is included in the process of negotiations, it will repudiate the process, and it is acting in such a way as to show that. Without bringing them into the process, no negotiation can succeed. I don’t agree with the tactics of killing civilians and terrorist tactics. Of course, the armed settlers are an ambiguous category…

There were 37 reported incursions into Palestinian areas too in the last week of August…

You’ve to see what’s happening on both sides. There’s a tendency in the Western press to just look at Hamas’ violence and never look at the Israeli violence in the same way. And so, in all of these situations I think one needs a balance between the criticism of terrorism by those organisations of Hamas and state terrorism being organised on behalf of the government.

There was a time when Palestine was a very major foreign policy issue as also a domestic policy issue for governments in India. There is this accusation within this country, particularly from the Left, that of late there is a definitive pro-Israeli shift in the Indian stand…

I think there is no question that there has been a shift in the position. It has partly to do with the changing role of India within the world system. Its search for nuclear technology and its counter-insurgency warfare related to the Kashmir issue and the Naxalite issue have led India, I think, into a position almost quite supportive of Israel. And Israel, of course, has tried very energetically to promise that it can do things that would be useful for India and can help India with its problems. So you have a mixture of considerations that has led a more globalised India and left India more concerned with economistic criteria of statehood and progress than was the case with the Nehru era, which was more concerned with its moral standing in the world and its political relations with all the countries in the South, the Non-Aligned Movement, etc. India has moved away from that identity as far as I can tell.

It’s a loss for the world because India played a unique role in the Nehru era, creating a kind of moral voice in international affairs. You’re going back to the Gandhi legacy but Nehru carried it forward into the inter-governmental sphere. It’s missing now. Nothing has taken the place of India, either in the South or with the decline of social democracy in the North — Europe, Sweden, Scandinavia and so forth. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, you don’t have this moral voice in international affairs. Part of the problem of the Palestinians… diplomatically is that they don’t have the kind of strong governmental support that they used to enjoy in the South any longer. And, of course the Arab world is very conflicted itself [on] how to address the Palestinian issue. Their worries about political Islam, the connection of Hamas with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt… There are many problems, of course very complicated.

And the attempt to link it with the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran by the U.S… Isn’t this complicating matters quite a bit?

It’s complicated. But there would be a way of making it much simpler if you did not have this one-sided policy towards Israel. For instance, the larger good thing for the region is to establish a nuclear-free zone that would include Iran and Israel. But Israel persuades the U.S. to act as if it can keep the weapons, and no one else in the region is allowed to acquire it. It’s an unacceptable world where you have two types of countries — those that can have the weapons and those that are not allowed to have them. Going back a little, India always rejected a proliferation approach on this basis. They were prepared to join the nuclear disarmament process but not a proliferation regime. And I think that’s a correct view. You’ve to treat equals equally. You can’t have this discriminatory regime. So if you want peace and security in that region, including Iran, you’ve to create a regional security solution and you’ve to be just and fair towards the Palestinians. Those two shifts in policy seem to be the simple and larger goal if it wasn’t for this political inhibition that you can’t go against the political vision of the Israeli lobby and the Israeli government.

What could be driving the Obama administration into these sponsored negotiations? Is it just a sham dialogue where President Obama is trying to brush up his image, or is there some other motive as in the link-up with Iran?

I think it’s all of those. I think he came to Washington with the idea that he could show that he’s a different kind of leader. And one way of showing that was by being active in trying to solve the Israel-Palestine problem. From the beginning of his Presidency, from his Cairo speech of 2009, [he] seemed to open a new path. But then there was the backlash from the Israeli lobby in the United States and the government in Tel Aviv, and he backed down — which reinforced the image that the U.S. is more subject to Israeli influence than Israel is subject to U.S. influence. And now I think he wants to show he’s dedicated to peace, that he has done all that is possible, and that it’s the fault of the Palestinians that they’re not willing to accept what Israel has to offer. And generally I think there’s very little serious expectation that these talks would come to any meaningful result.

Talks’ve been on for the last 20 years. You’ve said in your report that Palestine is in a state of annexation. That is a fundamental issue here.

I agree.

Given that, how can there be a negotiated settlement unless Israel agrees to go to the 1967 borders…?

Yes, I think that the only negotiated settlement that would work in this time in history is a single democratic secular state. But that would require a Zionist government to abandon Zionism — which is not going to happen. So if you think a negotiated settlement has to produce a two-state solution, then there is no prospect that can come about through these kinds of negotiations.

How can anybody trust Mr. Netanyahu? His own government is divided. Mr. Lieberhman is totally against this. Mr. Netanyahu himself has always been against the Palestinians. So what’s the point?

The point is [the] public relations of Israel, the domestic politics of the U.S. It’s all a kind of cosmetic diplomacy to show a nicer face. The reality is quite ugly. Underneath all of this is the ordeal of the Palestinian people living under this prolonged occupation, who have been living under this prolonged occupation. Living 43 years under occupation is something unthinkable for those of us that have lived in open societies. I’ve met people in Palestinian refugee camps that are fifth-generation refugees. And you’ve no idea, the conditions have been very bad in Gaza. They are poor, too crowded. The addition of [the] blockade has made it a prison camp, with the guards on the borders and the internal prison conditions handled by the prisoners. Even British Prime Minister David Cameron used that terminology when he visited the region.

Do you think that your role as the U.N. Rapporteur, and the U.N. intervention, can at some point of time, may be not tomorrow or in a year, make a difference for Palestine? What can make a difference for Palestine?

I think there’s no one thing [that can by itself make a difference]. I do think that the struggle for the high moral ground is on in the U.N. The U.N. is an important arena of that struggle and my report, and the general debate within the U.N., is one battlefield within the legitimacy war. And it’s a place where, with all its limitations, the approach or the consensus in world public opinion can be registered and has been registered.

One of the reasons that Israel feels so vulnerable to criticism from the U.N. is that the U.N., despite the U.S. influence, still reports the reality. And it’s reality that they don’t want. They’re not afraid of anti-Israeli bias. They’re afraid of truth-telling. That’s what they want to oppose and resist. And so long as the U.N. is a place where you have some opportunity to report the reality as it is, it’s one way that the international community gets information and knowledge and forms its judgment and determines its policy. Churches and other groups are increasingly talking about divesting from companies that do business with Israel, that sell weapons to Israel, or that give them bulldozers for the demolition of houses. There’s a lot of that activity now going on, even in the United States.

Letter from Gaza Academics and Students: Eight American Universities Normalize Occupation, Colonization and Apartheid!

Posted in Apartheid, Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions, Normalization, Take Action on September 25, 2010 by Marcy Newman

Besieged Gaza,


At a time when the Israeli ongoing crimes against us the Palestinians are at their most visible, their most documented and their most condemned by civil society around the world, we were shocked to learn of the plans by the Universities of Harvard, Columbia, Michigan, Maryland, Florida, Washington, Miami and New Jersey City to offer semester long free programs to American students in Israel at the Jerusalem Hebrew University, Haifa University, The Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center and Carmiel.[1]

Where do we Palestinian students fit into these plans? How are we supposed to believe that such reputed US academic institutions abide by their own codes of conduct when they embrace Israeli academic institutions that contribute on various fronts to the ongoing injustices committed against us each day? The very institutions that remained quiet while their government for three weeks over the New Year of 2009 dropped white phosphorous bombs over us in Gaza, killed over 1443 civilians, including 430 children, bombed our hospitals, roads and bridges and violently attacked an array of our own educational institutions?

Facts speak for themselves: more than 37 primary and secondary schools including 18 schools serving as shelters for the internally displaced were hit, the American International school was turned to rubble, and four buildings of the Islamic University of Gaza (IUG) demolished.[2] Israeli claims that the IUG’s science laboratories were used “to make weapons” was categorically refuted by forensic evidence. There is on the other hand no dispute about the American origin of the F15s, F16s, and Apache helicopters used to bomb and kill the 1443 Palestinians, the vast majority civilians according to the UN Goldstone report [3] and every other human rights report. No dispute on the use of white phosphorous, ‘flechette’ nail bombs and tungsten, all deemed illegal by International Human Rights law and the Geneva Conventions. The Goldstone report listed count after count of international law contraventions, Israeli “war crimes” and “possible crimes against humanity,” not that we should need such a qualification given the horrific numbers of children and women slaughtered in the attack, or crippled thereafter.

Moreover, the collaboration between Israel’si academy and its military and intelligence services has now reached the point of establishing strategic studies institutions, think tanks and entire security studies departments and institutes, many of which are located at or affiliated with the universities involved in this collaboration.

This might explain why Israeli academic Institutions have for so long remained silent on the crimes their state is committing. A report released by the Alternative Information Center in October 2009 titled “Academic Boycott of Israel and the Complicity of Israeli Academic Institutions in Occupation of Palestinian Territories”[4] concludes that, “Israeli academic institutions have not opted to take a neutral, apolitical position toward the Israeli occupation but to fully support the Israeli security forces and policies toward the Palestinians, despite the serious suspicions of crimes and atrocities hovering over them.”

All the Israeli universities were found to be involved in supporting the illegal occupation of East Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank in a myriad of ways. The report describes how 2 of the potential partner institutions to the 8 US Universities; Haifa and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, have sponsored various academic programs for Israeli military reserves, granted scholarships to students who served in the Israeli attack on Gaza, and maintain ties to leading Israeli weapons manufacturers. One of the two campuses of the Hebrew University was built in occupied East Jerusalem, in direct violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

In contrast, the ongoing Israeli siege has shattered Gaza’s education system. There is a dire shortage of books and educational equipment, prevented from entering the Gaza Strip. Students awarded scholarships to universities abroad continue to be blockaded within the strip turning their deserved prospects of academic achievement into a lost dream. Within Gaza, those seeking an education are limited by increasing poverty rates and a scarcity of fuel for transportation, again direct results of Israel’s medieval siege.

Israel’s ongoing occupation of Palestinian lands is the most enduring since WWII. The Israeli Occupation Forces have demolished over 24,000 Palestinian homes [5] since 1967 and continue this policy in the name of expansion of Jewish neighborhoods at the expense of the local Palestinian Arab population. Israel is in full violation of UN Security Council resolution 242[6] by occupying Palestinian lands, UNSC resolution 194[7] by denying the 7 million Palestinian refugees their right to return to their homes, the Geneva Conventions Article 49[8] by settling these occupied lands and article 33[9] through its current collective punishment of 1.5 million Gazans placed under a siege denounced by the European Union, the United Nations and all Human Rights groups, but ongoing nevertheless. Since the United Nations in 1948, dominated by the colonial powers of the era, agreed to Israel’s founding on the ruins of Palestinian refugees and the destruction of 531 Palestinian towns and villages[10], Israel has since violated more United Nations Resolutions than any other UN member state.[11]

Most recently the UN Human Rights Council’s fact-finding mission on the Freedom Flotilla raid[12] has concluded that Israel’s naval blockade of the Palestinian territory was unlawful due to the humanitarian crisis there and that during and after the raid, Israeli forces committed, “a series of violations of international law, including international and human rights law,” including, “willful killing and torture”. The report concluded that, “The conduct of the Israeli military and other personnel toward the flotilla passengers was not only disproportionate to the occasion but demonstrated levels of totally unnecessary and incredible violence. It betrayed an unacceptable level of brutality.”

The U.S. in theory has some of the strictest arms export laws. On arms and human rights, Section 502B of the Foreign Assistance Act[13] mandates that “no security assistance may be provided to any country the government of which engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.” Yet the US continues to give 6 billion $ of aid and weapons grants to Israel every year, more than is received by the entire continent of Africa.

In light of these ongoing, yet unanswered crimes and in the immediate aftermath of Operation Cast Lead, the United States Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USCABI)[14] was launched. Based on the 2004 call issued by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI)[15], and the Palestinian Boycotts Divestment (BDS) call of 2005[16], the movement has grown relentlessly. Today, over 500 US-based academics have endorsed their call for boycotts Writers such as Johan Berger, Archbishop Desmund Tutu, Arundhati Roy, Ahdaf Soueif, universities, trade unions, companies, and international artists including Elvis Costello, Gil Scott-Heron, the Pixies, Carlos Santana, Ken Loach and Massive Attack have all joined the BDS movement.

This boycott, modeled upon the global BDS movement that put an end to South African apartheid, is to continue until Israel meets its obligation to recognize the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with the precepts of international law by:

1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall;

2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality;

3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.

We demand boycotts of Israel until it complies with international law, and until justice and accountability are reached. Like the Blacks of South Africa and African Americans, we can never accept compromise on basic human rights.

The history of American academic institutions against apartheid is telling. During the South African divestment efforts, Columbia University disinvested from the Apartheid regime as early as 1978 after a major student mobilization. Harvard University on the other hand did not disinvest until the final year of Apartheid in 1989. The consensus since has fortunately proved that until the last the latter institution stood on the wrong side of history. There is now an opportunity to cut all ties with Israeli academia, to join the call for boycotts of what the United Nations Special Rapporteur John Dugard described as the only remaining case after South Africa, “of a Western-affiliated regime that denies self-determination and human rights to a developing people and that has done so for so long.”[17]

Given Israeli academia’s entrenched involvement in such a long-running subjugation of a people along medieval lines of race and religion, we would expect the US institutions and all those around the world to follow the call of Archbishop Desmond Tutu; to Boycott, Divest and Sanction Israeli Academic Institutions. Normalizing and accepting another apartheid regime and Israel’s full spectrum of well documented crimes against humanity is a threat to justice anywhere, and another wretched endorsement of denying basic human rights from us, the expelled, imprisoned, and still grieving Palestinians. We hope that these institutions will reconsider their decision.

Besieged Gaza,

University Teachers’ Association in Palestine (UTA)

Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel (PSCABI)



















Boycott Israel and make a difference

Posted in BDS Success, Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions on September 22, 2010 by Marcy Newman

Dutch rejection of colony ‘mayors’ is part of a worldwide refusal to tolerate Tel Aviv

The Dutch government should be strongly congratulated on standing up for international law, and stopping five ‘mayors’ of illegal Israeli colonies on the West Bank from joining other Israeli mayors in taking part in a professional study tour in the Netherlands in October. All 40 mayors have since cancelled their trips. The Dutch approach is logical: these colonies are illegal and the authorities who oversee them are breaking international law and taking part in the continuing brutal occupation of Palestine. They should not be included in the accepted international network of communities.

Such checks to Israeli arrogance may seem small, but thousands of such actions will add up to a ringing international condemnation of terror. Israel has become accustomed to being the supreme military power in the region: its forces act without restraint; it arrests whoever it wants with little reference to law; and it continues programmes of collective punishment on the Palestinian civilian population with horrifying consequences. It feels that it can do what it wants without fear of retribution or consequence.

As part of this arrogance, the Netanyahu government has a policy of continuing to support the illegal colonies. As it goes through the motions of the direct talks with the Palestinians, it is not talking of withdrawing from any Palestinian land, nor is it talking of knocking down any buildings. In fact, it is talking of ending the moratorium and starting to build yet more colonies.

In response to this situation, 180 Palestinian organisations and unions have called for a campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Apartheid Israel. This BDS movement deserves widespread support and all people should be encouraged to join in. The Trades Union Congress in Britain passed some powerful motions in support of the BDS movement at its annual meeting this week. Around the world, people in all walks of life have the opportunity to show they reject Israel’s occupation.

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