BBC Arabic’s tendentious Hebron feature – part one

On February 18th a feature titled “Hebron: One street, two sides” (erroneously dated February 14th) appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page.

The link leads to an English language BBC Arabic project, a version of which was also promoted on the BBC Arabic website with additional Arabic and Hebrew versions.

The feature commences by showing three separate screens of ‘background information’, including promotion of the BBC’s usual partisan mantra on ‘settlements’ and ‘international law’ and portrayal of the subject matter as being all about ‘narratives’.

BBC audiences next reach a screen which offers several short videos reached by clicking on arrows termed “hotspots”. In order to see all eight videos it is necessary to click and drag to rotate the screen.

The eight videos include:

1) A video about a tour in Hebron conducted by Dean Issacharoff of the foreign funded political NGO ‘Breaking the Silence’ which is inadequately described thus:

2) A video showing Israeli soldiers being briefed ahead of a Purim procession followed by footage of drunk Israeli residents.

3) A video showing Hebron spokesman Ishai Fleisher in which viewers see the sole superficial mention of the 1997 Hebron Protocol signed by Israel and the PLO.

4) A video about an emergency responder, Ofer Ohana, who notes some of the Palestinian terror attacks that have taken place in Hebron.

5) A video about a 14 year-old girl identified only as Waad who films for an organisation presented as ‘Palestinian Human Rights Defenders’ (PHRD) with no further details of its background and funding.

6) A video about one of the founders of PHRD – Emad (or Imad) Abu Shamsiya – whose footage is used in some of the videos.

7) A video showing some Palestinian youths trying to fly a kite and an unexplained conversation between a Palestinian man and a youth.

8) A video using B’tselem footage showing a confrontation between a Palestinian and an Israeli.

All those videos are taken from two much longer films which can be accessed by clicking on the “film version of this project” on the first screen.

Those films will be discussed in part two of this post.

 

 

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BBC reframes a story about a man denied entry by his own country

On February 18th an article by the BBC’s Addis Ababa correspondent Emmanuel Igunza appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Africa’ and ‘Middle East’ pages under the headline “Niger man deported by Israel marooned in Ethiopian airport”.

“A Niger national who was expelled from Israel has been stuck at the international airport in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, since November after his home country refused to take him back.”

Igunza’s account of the story of “24-year-old Eissa Muhamad” went as follows:

“He had been living in the Middle Eastern state since 2011, having left Niger’s north-western Tilaberi region as a 16-year-old in search of a better life.

He said he paid traffickers to take him across Libya and Egypt before he entered Israel by foot.

Once in Tel Aviv, Mr Muhamad survived by doing odd jobs in hostels and in a sweet factory until April 2018 when he was arrested for being in Israel without proper documents.”

In other words, it is patently clear to the BBC’s correspondent that Eissa Muhamad entered and remained in Israel illegally. He continued: 

“After several months in detention, Israel issued him an emergency travel document and put him on an Ethiopian Airlines plane, via Addis Ababa, to Niger in November. But on arrival in Niamey, Niger’s capital, he was refused entry by Niger’s authorities who alleged his travel document was false.

“They didn’t want me in Niger. They didn’t accept me,” Mr Muhamad said.”

Igunza did not bother to inform readers of the relevant fact that Niger severed diplomatic relations with Israel in 2002 before going on:

“After more than a week of being detained in Niger he was deported back to Israel. But Israel refused to accept him and detained him again for several weeks.

“They tied my hands and legs and forced me into a plane back to Niger which refused to accept me again,” the 24-year-old said.

Then the travel document issued by Israel expired when he was stuck in transit at Addis Ababa’s Bole International Airport after Niger refused to accept him for a second time.”

A month before this BBC article was published Eissa Muhamad told a somewhat different story to another journalist. [emphasis added]

“Muhamad tells me he has been deported twice from Israel in 2018. When he returned to Niger the first time, Muhamad’s Israeli travel documents were still valid, so he turned around and booked another flight back to Israel. When he arrived in Israel, authorities confiscated his travel documents and deported him again back to Niger. When Muhamad returned to Niger the second time, authorities requested proof of citizenship but he failed to produce valid documents, either Israeli or Nigerien, to support his citizenship.

Muhamad remained in Nigerien custody for eight days before being deported back to Israel via Ethiopia on an Ethiopian Airlines flight. When he arrived at Bole International Airport in Ethiopia, Ethiopian authorities, in collaboration with the Israeli government,  prevented him from boarding his connecting flight to Israel. They informed him that Israel was not willing to accept him, and since then, he has been stranded inside the airport, stuck between Niger and Israel.”

Whichever of those versions of the story is more accurate, obviously the core story here is about a man from Niger refused entry by his own country. That story received just one sentence of treatment in Igunza’s report:

“The BBC has repeatedly tried to contact Niger’s foreign ministry and its embassy in Ethiopia without success to ask why their authorities believed the document was false.”

In comparison, the country which Muhamad entered and remained in illegally got four paragraphs of coverage:

“Israel’s immigration department defended itself, saying in a statement issued to the BBC that Mr Muhamad had been deported because he had been in the country illegally.

“He is a citizen of Niger. It has nothing to do with us because he was expelled from here and when he arrived in Niger, he refused to co-operate with the authorities. How is Israel connected? He is not an Israeli,” the statement said.

It rubbished [sic] allegations that the emergency travel document was a fake.

“The Laissez Passer is a transit document for foreigners. It was legally designed precisely for such cases,” the statement said.”

In addition, Igunza gave generous promotion to the view of a campaigning NGO which the BBC has quoted in the past in stories relating to African migrants.

“An Israeli non-governmental organisation working with migrants and refugees said Mr Muhamad’s case was similar to that of other migrants expelled from Israel.

“Other migrants deported from Israel with the Israeli travel document have been refused entry to their countries of origin, or other countries en route, because the authorities claim the Israeli travel documents are false, ” the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants said in a statement.

“In 2016 we published a report, Forgotten in Prison, which details the cases of migrants who are faced with the same problem,” it added

It also wants Israeli officials to investigate Mr Muhamad’s allegation that he was brutally assaulted while in detention.

“What is required now is that Eissa Muhamad be returned to Israel so that his accusations of brutality at the hands of Israeli immigration authorities can be investigated, and a solution found so that he may return to Niger,” said Shira Abo, [sic] the organisation’s spokesman [sic].

Additional signposting to readers of this article comes in the form of an embedded video dating from March 2018 titled “The Eritrean runner fearing deportation from Israel”, an image captioned “Many migrants who enter Israel illegally end up in detention centres” and a link to a report from February 2016 by Kathy Harcombe titled “Israel’s unwanted African migrants”.

It is hence amply clear that BBC audiences were steered towards the view that it is yet another story about Israel’s treatment of African migrants rather than one about Niger refusing to give entry to one of its own citizens following his deportation from a country which he entered illegally.

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BBC News turns media blunder into story about Israeli PM’s ‘comment’

On February 17th the BBC News website published a report titled “Poland PM cancels Israel trip after Netanyahu’s Holocaust comment”.

The story – which had in fact begun several days earlier – was presented to readers as follows:

“PM Mateusz Morawiecki has cancelled a trip to Israel following comments on the Holocaust by Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu.

Mr Netanyahu was quoted in Israeli media as saying “Poles co-operated with the Germans” during the Holocaust.

He later issued a clarification saying he was not referring to the Polish nation or all Polish people.”

Under the sub-heading “What were Mr Netanyahu’s comments?” readers were later told that:

“Mr Netanyahu was on a state visit to Poland on Thursday when his comments were reported in Israeli media, including Haaretz and the Jerusalem Post.

The Jerusalem Post said its version used the term “Polish nation”, which it said it quickly amended.

Mr Netanyahu’s office issued a clarification, saying: “In a briefing, PM Netanyahu spoke of Poles and not the Polish people or the country of Poland.””

Linking to a Tweet, the BBC’s report went on to state that:

“Mr Morawiecki took to Twitter to say there was “no Polish regime” during the Nazi occupation of Poland.”

The BBC did not bother to explain that it was not clear whether that Tweet from the Polish prime minister related to Mr Netanyahu’s misquoted statement or to a different story involving an American journalist.

The BBC’s portrayal obviously does not provide readers with a clear understanding of the story. The Times of Israel explains what actually happened:

“Top Polish politicians were thrown into a frenzy Thursday after reports emerged that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in Warsaw for an international conference on the Middle East, had said that “the Poles cooperated with the Nazis” during the Holocaust.

Warsaw was apparently particularly riled by a story in The Jerusalem Post, which initially mischaracterized the Israeli leader’s quote as saying the Polish nation had cooperated with the Nazis. […]

Several reporters in the room reported Netanyahu had said “the.” But the Prime Minister’s Office spokeswoman Shir Cohen later played reporters a recording of the conversation in which it was clear the prime minister had indeed not used the definite article.

As for The Jerusalem Post’s error, Cohen told The Times of Israel: “The prime minister’s comments concerning Poland were misquoted by The Jerusalem Post, which quickly issued a correction clarifying that an error had been made in the editing of the article.””

So this is in fact a story about Polish politicians jumping to conclusions following a media accuracy error.

BBC audiences unfamiliar with the story would however have been unlikely to understand that from the report’s headline – “Netanyahu’s Holocaust comment” – and opening paragraphs which refer to “comments on the Holocaust…by Benjamin Netanyahu”.  

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BBC WS tells listeners to go online for part of a story it didn’t tell

 

 

 

 

Hizballah video brings BBC narrative into focus

The Jerusalem Post reports:

“[The] Terror group Hezbollah published a video of the 2015 attack on an IDF convoy on the Israel-Lebanon border that killed two soldiers and wounded seven others.

The video shows the rocket launcher used in the attack, as well as the launch of a rocket and the explosion when the convoy was hit and Staff-Seargent Dor Nini and Major Yochai Kalengel were killed in January 28, 2015.”

The Times of Israel adds:

“Hezbollah operatives interviewed by al-Mayadeen [the Hizballah linked channel that recently aired the video] said the attack was ordered by the group’s leader Hassan Nasrallah and was meant to demonstrate it had the willingness and ability to respond militarily, according to Israel’s Channel 12 news.

They said the decision to attack at Mount Dov, known to the Lebanese as Shebaa Farms, was because the Israeli territory is claimed by Lebanon. The operatives also said Hezbollah had observed the road on which the vehicles were hit for several days before attacking.”

That reference by the terror group’s operatives to the Shebaa Farms of course stems from Hizballah’s use of that issue as one of the pretexts for its continued existence.

As readers may recall, BBC reporting on the January 28th 2015 attack amplified that Hizballah narrative.

Patchy BBC reporting on Hizballah attacks in northern Israel

How the BBC framed the story of Hizballah’s latest attack

The recently released Hizballah video includes footage shot from a similar angle to that shown in a filmed report by Orla Guerin which is still available online under the interestingly punctuated title “Hezbollah ‘attack site’ near Shebaa Farms identified“ and which likewise promotes the terror group’s  “disputed border” narrative.

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More soft focus BBC presentation of Hizballah

 

 

Revisiting BBC reporting on Palestinian social media incitement

In October 2015 the BBC News website published an article titled “Is Palestinian-Israeli violence being driven by social media?”. The question posed in that headline was addressed in fewer than 200 words which did little to inform readers of the scale and significance of the role of incitement spread via social media in fuelling the wave of terror at the time, of the kind of content appearing on such platforms or of the use of social media by official Palestinian groups other than Hamas – including Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party

In July 2016 the BBC published two articles relating to the topic of Palestinian incitement of terrorism against Israelis on Facebook: “Israel angered by Facebook hatred rules“ and “Facebook sued by Israeli group over Palestinian attacks“. 

In October 2016, listeners to a radio programme broadcast on the BBC World Service relating to the Twitter hashtag ‘Facebook Censors Palestine’ were told:

“And this is really the problem: narrative. With two completely opposing views on events, what Israelis see as inciting violence, the Palestinians see as telling the truth and vice versa.”

Earlier this month the BBC News website published a report in which Yolande Knell told readers that:

“The PA denies Israeli accusations that it incites militant attacks.”

Several days after the appearance of Knell’s article, Palestinian Media Watch published a report titled “Fatah’s official Facebook page in 2018 A platform for glorifying murder and promoting terror”.

“This Palestinian Media Watch report demonstrates that the Fatah Movement used its official Facebook page throughout 2018 to glorify terror and terrorists, and to support continued Palestinian terror against Israelis. As its fundamental policy, Fatah glorified terrorists from all periods of its history including mass murderers and suicide bombers. Significantly, immediately following terror attacks, Fatah used Facebook to praise the contemporary terror and glorify new terrorists throughout the year. Although Fatah’s use of Facebook for these purposes is in direct violation of Facebook’s guidelines set out in its Community Standards, Facebook has not deleted these terror glorifying and terror promoting posts, and has not closed down Fatah’s Facebook account.”

While Yolande Knell was not wrong when she wrote that “[t]he PA denies Israeli accusations that it incites militant attacks” (as does Fatah) neither she nor her colleagues have made any effort to inform BBC audiences of the type of material regularly posted on Fatah’s official Facebook page and thereby enable them to judge for themselves whether, despite those denials, the Fatah dominated PA does or does not incite terrorism against Israelis.  

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Weekend long read

1) At the Gatestone Institute, Khaled Abu Toameh reports on ‘“Journalism” Hamas Style’.

“Hamas, as part of its crackdown on freedom of the media, has imposed yet another restriction on the work of journalists in the Gaza Strip. The Hamas measure has left many Palestinian journalists worried about their ability to report on what is happening in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. Foreign journalists, for their part, have yet to respond to the latest assault on public freedoms. […]

Earlier this week, the Hamas-controlled Government Press Office issued a directive in which it said that, as of April 1, journalists will not be permitted to conduct interviews or enter government institutions in the Gaza Strip unless they have obtained a “press card” issued by the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Information. […]

The new measure is Hamas’s way of controlling the story. Hamas clearly wants to make sure that the journalists who work in the Gaza Strip report only on issues that make the movement and its leaders look good in the eyes of Palestinians and the international community.”

2) At the INSS, Orna Mizrahi takes a look at “Challenges Facing the New Government in Lebanon, and Implications for Israel”.

“Following nine months of difficult and tiresome negotiations, a new government has been formed in Lebanon that includes 30 ministers: 18 from Hezbollah’s relatively united camp, and 12 from Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s divided camp. Hariri was forced to accept almost all of Hezbollah’s demands, first and foremost control over portfolios that will provide the organization with access to national budgets (the Ministry of Health, with its large budget; and the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs), and the appointment of a Sunni minister from among Hariri’s opponents, which will enable Hezbollah to can gain support from the greater Sunni camp. […] From Israel’s perspective, Hezbollah’s continued takeover of the political system in Lebanon, along with its ongoing military buildup, is a negative development. At the same time, this trend deepens Hezbollah’s responsibility for the Lebanese state and strengthens Israel’s claims regarding Lebanon’s responsibility for the organization’s actions, including Iran’s influence over Lebanon.”

3) At Foreign Policy, Colin P. Clarke proposes that ‘Hezbollah Is in Venezuela to Stay’.

“Hezbollah has long maintained a presence in Latin America, especially in the infamous Tri-Border Area, a semi-lawless region where Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil converge. But even beyond the Tri-Border Area, Hezbollah is well-entrenched in Venezuela, where the Shiite terrorist group has long worked to establish a vast infrastructure for its criminal activities, including drug trafficking, money laundering, and illicit smuggling. For example, Margarita Island, located off the coast of Venezuela, is a well-known criminal hotbed where Hezbollah members have established a safe haven. Under the regime of former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the government took a more active approach to offering sanctuary to Venezuela-based supporters of Hezbollah.”

4) Philip Mendes presents a case study in ‘How the BDS movement is poisoning academic discourse’ at the Fathom Journal.

“In September 2018, the respected journal Critical and Radical Social Work (Policy Press, University of Bristol) published a remarkably simplistic and arguably non-scholarly paper by an academic from Scotland about the controversy concerning left-wing anti-Semitism within the British Labour Party (Maitles 2018). The paper, whilst of minimal importance in itself, can be seen as symbolising the extent to which sections of the academic Left, influenced by the Boycott, Divestment and Sections (BDS) movement, have abandoned even the pretence of applying core academic standards to debates regarding the Israeli-Palestine conflict. Instead, the presentation of historical facts and empirical evidence concerning Jewish history and experiences, and indeed the determination of political strategies towards anti-Jewish racism, is increasingly subordinated to the higher priority of fighting what is labelled ‘Zionism’ and to aiding the Palestinian nationalist agenda.”

 

BBC Monitoring’s Warsaw Summit hashtag ‘research’ gets mixed reception

On February 12th BBC Monitoring put out a Twitter thread about a hashtag relating to the Warsaw Middle East Summit.

Interesting use of a photograph which is not related to the Warsaw summit at all but was in fact one of several taken in Tel Aviv in April 2018 is seen in the second Tweet.

As can be seen in the replies to those Tweets, many disagreed with BBC Monitoring’s analysis and one response was particularly detailed.

Interestingly, BBC Monitoring’s thread was taken up by an outlet called ‘Persia Digest’ which told its readers that BBC Monitoring revealed that “these tweets are artificial and not the real view of Iranians”. The founder of that outlet, Mohammad-Hossein Khoshvaght, was formerly head of Iran’s international press bureau and is apparently related by marriage to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

At least now we know who does appreciate BBC Monitoring’s ‘research’.

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Revisiting a BBC report from November 2018

On November 13th 2018 the BBC News website published a report which included the following statements:

“…the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) carried out what it called a wide-scale attack against military targets belonging to the Hamas and Islamic Jihad groups.

It said they included Hamas’s military intelligence headquarters in northern Gaza and “a unique vessel” in a harbour in the south of the territory.

The building housing Hamas’s Al-Aqsa TV was also bombed after being evacuated. The IDF said the outlet “contributes to Hamas’s military actions”.”

A report published by the Israeli Security Agency on February 13th clarifies the background to that quoted IDF statement concerning the strike on the Al Aqsa TV building.

“The Shin Bet security service on Wednesday accused the Palestinian Al-Aqsa broadcaster and Gaza-based journalists of acting as agents of the Hamas terror group’s military wing in an effort to recruit young Palestinians with Israeli ID cards to carry out terror attacks inside Israel.

According to the security service, the Al-Aqsa television station was used to pass clandestine messages to Hamas operatives in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, using quotes from the Quran or subtle gestures by the presenters. […]

In one case, a 21-year-old from the Hebron suburb of Yatta was “asked by Hamas operatives in the [Gaza] Strip to carry out a suicide bombing with an explosive vest on a bus in the city of Lod,” the Shin Bet said. […]

The Shin Bet said the recruitment plot was a key factor in the decision made by the Israel Defense Forces to bomb Al-Aqsa TV’s headquarters in Gaza in November. […]

Shortly after the razing of the station’s building, the Hamas-affiliated outlet appeared poised to close, but was kept on air at the last minute because of an influx of money from the terror group.

Hamas political chief Ismail Haniyeh declared in a statement that Al-Aqsa TV’s broadcast would not be halted. He also said a “clear and direct decision” was made to keep the channel on air, without elaborating.”

During the November 2012 conflict BBC staff accused Israel of “targeting journalists” when a communications antenna on the roof of the building used by Al Aqsa TV (which was designated in 2010 by the US Treasury Department) was struck by the IDF.

Whether or not BBC audiences will be provided with any coverage of Hamas’ effort to recruit terror operatives with the help of journalists’ working for its TV station which is the background to the reporting it produced last November remains to be seen.  

Related Articles:

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The BBC examines conspiracy theories – but not its own

Once in a while the BBC produces content relating to the topic of conspiracy theories – for example here, here, here and here.

The latest item in that genre was commissioned from an academic contributor from Oxford University and it appeared on the BBC News website on February 12th under the title “Why so many people believe conspiracy theories”.

The article provides readers with several examples:

Given its long-standing interest in the topic, one would of course assume that the BBC would by now be able to recognise conspiracy theories for what they are and avoid promoting them – and the people who peddle them – in its own content.

One prime example of BBC promotion of conspiracy theories is its relentless amplification – most recently in November 2018 – of the notion that Israel poisoned Yasser Arafat. In November 2013 alone visitors to the BBC News website saw nine separate reports which amplified that conspiracy theory.

Another example is the BBC’s amplification of the dangerous notion that Israel intends to change the status quo on Temple Mount and even destroy the al Aqsa mosque.

In 2015 and 2016 BBC audiences saw amplification of the ‘Mossad stole my shoe’ conspiracy theory. BBC Monitoring has amplified conspiracy theories found in Middle East media and on social networks.

The BBC has amplified Middle Eastern conspiracy theories pertaining to wildlife and in June 2016 the BBC News website promoted a conspiracy theory formulated by a Bangladeshi official.

A 2007 BBC report promoting the notion that “Israel itself was behind” the Entebbe hijacking is still available online.

In July 2018 the BBC amplified misinformation concerning the ‘White Helmets’ put out by Russia and the Syrian regime – despite having previously categorised it as conspiracy theory.

Conspiracy theorists are not considered too outlandish to be quoted or interviewed by the BBC and BBC phone-in shows do not eschew callers who promote conspiracy theories either.

In December 2015 BBC Radio London allowed a phone-in conspiracy theorist thirteen minutes of air-time and the same station repeated the exercise – in the name of ‘free speech’ – just months later.

“In relation to the Brussels attack two days previously, from around 22:17 ‘Steve in Streatham’ told listeners that:

“This is a terrorist false flag. Anyone who knows about false flags will know that these covert operations include Israel’s Mossad, the CIA and MI5 to blame other countries for their agenda in the Middle East and this is what’s going on time and time again. […] Those Zionists out there that are doing all this, they wanna blame certain sections of people to achieve their agenda of taking over the Middle East….””

So before the BBC publishes its next article purporting to inform audiences on the topic, perhaps it should take a long look at its own record of mainstreaming a variety of Middle East related conspiracy theories and seriously consider the question of how that practice contributes to meeting its obligations to audiences.  

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BBC double standards on disputed territory in evidence again

An article published on the BBC News website’s ‘Europe’ page on February 13th under the title “Debt misery hits students as dream turns sour in northern Cyprus” provides another example of a double standard in BBC reporting which has been documented here in the past.

Readers saw the location at the centre of the article described as follows:

“…Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus, a self-declared republic recognised only by Turkey.” 

“Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded the north, in response to a military coup backed by nationalists ruling Greece at the time.

Since declaring independence in 1983, the north has been under international embargo, so it is propped up by Turkey and its currency, the lira.”

“…northern Cyprus is not recognised internationally…”

Readers were also provided with a map:

As has been the case in past BBC reporting on Cyprus (see ‘related articles’ below), the words ‘occupied’ and ‘occupation’ did not appear at all in the report: readers were merely told that northern Cyprus is “Turkish-controlled”. As usual there was no reference in the report to “illegal settlements” or “international law” despite the fact that it was Turkish state policy to facilitate and encourage the immigration of Turkish nationals to the island during the latter half of the 1970s.

In contrast to BBC coverage of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, readers did not find any pronouncements allocating disputed territory to one side or the other in the style of the frequently seen terminology “occupied Palestinian land” and “Palestinian territory” and no mention was made of the presence of Turkish troops in northern Cyprus.

As we have seen in the past, the BBC is able to report on the enduring territorial dispute in Cyprus in a manner which refrains from promoting a particular political narrative. Unfortunately for the corporation’s audiences the same editorial standards are not evident in BBC reporting on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

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