SWING LOW SWEET SHARIA: THE FULL STORY
By Nidra Poller
What decent human being would not have misgivings about the release, in exchange for Shalit, of 1027 murderers, thieves, and thugs determined to use their liberation as a license to renew the persecution of Israeli Jews? And who could not feel, seeing the first images of Gilad roughly handled by Hamas and Egyptian intermediaries, that no price was too dear for the release of one single human being from the tomb in which he was jailed and left to slowly extinguish like a flame without oxygen.
On one side of the border husky men were welcomed triumphantly with bear hugs and slaps on the back, while Gilad Shalit, still wearing the ugly shirt imposed by his jailers, had to endure one last act of torture: an Egyptian TV interview conducted in violation of the swap deal. Freelance journalist Shahira Amin, bare headed and ostensibly modern, prodded the dazed young Israeli with insolent questions.
Every detail counts in the play within the play, every detail speaks volumes. Compounding her lack of journalistic integrity and disregard for the elementary rules of decency, Shahira Amin later complained to a BBC newscaster that she often had to repeat questions because Gilad Shalit seemed to have difficulty understanding her. Elsewhere, defending herself against critics, she is quoted as saying: "I know that he was very eager to go home and see his family, but it only took a few minutes and it was important to let the world know that he was all right." [i] Exquisitely feminine refinement of cruelty! Amin's sham humanity is revealed to be corrosive acid in the light of a photo posted on the Israel Matzav site, showing the interview from the journalist's viewpoint: masked Hamas operatives are standing behind Gilad, breathing down his neck. [ii]
Gilad Shalit, finally dressed in uniform and wearing his glasses, stood straight and tall, saluted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was reunited with his parents, returned to his village in Galilee, where he was welcomed with flowers, Israeli flags, blue and white balloons, and humane discretion. Shalom. The quiet voice of peace and peacefulness. The released hostage enters the family abode in a gesture so light it is almost weightless, so strong that it effaces any image of the Israeli as victim.
October 20, two days after the release of Gilad Shalit, Mouamar Gaddafi is dragged out of a rat hole culvert, sodomized with a knife, [iii] delivered up to the murderous mob, beaten bloody, shot or bludgeoned to death or both. His putrefying body covered with a flashy blanket is exposed for days in the (no-longer) cold storage room of a supermarket in Misrata. Families stand in line to view the body with contempt and take pictures with their cell phones. Fathers holding toddlers in their arms wait patiently in the hot sunshine for the joy of showing the dead dictator to their kids. The stench is almost visible on our TV screens, while, in the foreground, honey-voiced newsreaders describe the scene to the music of Arab springtime. Declarations by National Transitional Council leaders who swear that the Libyan dictator was shot in a crossfire as rebel fighters were bringing him to the hospital alternate with footage of the gory death of Gaddafi at the hands of a savage mob.
Weaving a path through confused statements from the NTC, NATO, and European and American officials, one could reasonably assume that Gaddafi was delivered into the hands of Libyan fighters by a NATO bombardment of his convoy as he tried to escape from the bastion in Sirte, where he had made his last stand.
Scenes of rejoicing in Libya, smug satisfaction in Europe, and retroactive scolding of George W. Bush were orchestrated with unashamed media complicity. The story went like this: unlike the heavy handed unilateral [sic] invasion of Iraq by big bad gun-slinging Bush, this multilateral NATO intervention -- that included Qatar, was approved by the Arab League, and piloted by a United Nations resolution -- was accomplished with consummate skill. We the enlightened, instead of forcing democracy on a reluctant population, deftly assisted courageous fighters who have now liberated their country comme il faut. Mustafa Abduljalil, the cross-eyed rabbit-faced soon to be ex-President of the NTC, was already announcing that Libya will be governed hereafter by Sharia law; it didn't spoil the celebration.
The media hated the Iraq "war." They loved the Libyan "liberation." Allahu akhbar (mistranslated as "God is great") became an advertising jingle. Creepy scraggly fighters shooting into the air and making the V for victory were loveable mascots. Nothing was gruesome enough to seep through and spoil the icing on the cake. Destruction of lives and property were barely a blip on the screen. NATO's mission was not regime change; it was protection of the civilian population. So what if there were 25 to 30,000 dead? [iv] There was no equivalent of the Iraq body count to tally and deplore.
The self-satisfied declarations of British Foreign Minister William Hague and his French counterpart Alain Juppé were televisually juxtaposed with the gruesome spectacle of the dead dictator exposed as a war trophy. Hip hip hurrah for NATO and hats off to the UN. This is state of the art -- state of the art of what exactly? Rubble in Sirte and Misrata, lawless gunmen everywhere, checkpoints, summary executions, roundups of blacks, all visible to the naked eye.
It was a real life Shakespearian drama. Issues that have been front and center since the dawn of the Twenty-First Century suddenly crystallized in flesh and blood, with dramatic unity, suspense, intense emotions, poetic exaggerations, orations, the fickle crowd; nothing was missing. International opinion was convened to watch the play within the play, a masterpiece of popular theater; the villains looked like villains, their deeds bloodied the stage, the good guys spoke softly and cherished life. Was the crime exposed? Did the criminal betray himself? Was international opinion enlightened?
In the last scene of a Shakespearian tragedy, the stage is littered with dead bodies. In this neo-Shakespearian reality play, the stage is littered with the coming victims of Sharia law. Crudella, who interviewed Gilad Shalit with rapier questions and a stone heart, may eventually be veiled and muzzled, unless she flees to the United Kingdom in time. Alex Crawford (Sky News), Lyse Ducet (BBC), and other cheerleaders of Arab Spring jihadis were lucky to escape the fate of their colleagues Lara Logan and, more recently, Caroline Sinz of state-owned France 3 TV, beaten, stripped, and finger-raped in a 45-minute ordeal in Tahrir Square on the eve of Egypt's first free elections. [vi]
Free elections in Tunisia yield, no surprise, a 40% victory for Nahda, with the same score from dual citizens who voted in France. The King of Morocco, having cleverly sidestepped an Arab Spring uprising, held democratic elections and, fair play, appointed Abdelilah Benkirane, of the Sharia-ambitious Justice and Development Party, as Prime Minister. The crowd that shouted "Islamists, what Islamists?" one year ago -- flaying the likes of Tunisia's Izzedine ben Ali, accused of oppressing freedom-loving citizens under the pretext of holding the Islamists at bay — is now singing the praises of "moderate Islamists." The artificial distinction between Islam and Islamists isn't good enough for these new developments. Democratically elected moderate Islamists will now govern by the law of moderate Sharia, engage in moderate jihad, perform moderate beheadings, commit moderate mass murder, and moderately relegate women to moderate niqab cages.
Working hand in hand, media, government officials, commentators, and experts adopted a Hope and Change attitude to popular uprisings in Muslim countries. Their observations, analyses, and predictions were not only faulty, they were hollow, shallow, and thrown together without any attempt at rational thinking. As evidence piled up, it was rejected with a hope-for–the-best shrug. No matter how ominous the signs for the immediate future, they were disregarded on the pretext that anything would be better than those terrible dictators who just a short while ago were fine enough for most purposes and especially appreciated when they focused their ire on Israel.
Utterly inappropriate schemas were plastered onto a Muslim world that was playing out a recognizable cycle in a distinctly Islamic historical process. [vii] Here in France, our cherished Revolution was offered like a pair of quaint pince-nez glasses: popular revolt, people's government, the Terror, Restoration, etc. all the way to true democracy, and laïcité (1905). Elsewhere, the fall of the Soviet Union looked appetizing. And of course the American Revolution could be appropriated. Allahu akhbar (Allah is the greatest) would be the equivalent of "Give me liberty or give me death!"
While the balance of power in the Middle East and, consequently, worldwide was undergoing radical change that could seriously endanger our life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, public discourse prattled at an incomparable level of inanity. The belief that the foreign policy of Western governments should protect the interests of their citizens has already been scuttled; now, the idea that we should actually think about what is happening has dissolved in treacly sentiments. This is a fatal error. Idle commentary has dominated the collective mind with regard to the current transformation of the Muslim world, which, lest we forget, includes Muslim communities in Europe, the United States, and other lands.
It has often seemed in the past year that political leaders are taking their cues from the media. France's Foreign Secretary Michèle Alliot-Marie was forced to resign after spending a family vacation in Tunisia last Christmas with an old friend who was a bit cozy with Ben Ali. Worse, she was accused of offering crowd control material to the Tunisian government in the first days of the uprising that morphed into the Jasmine Revolution. Months later the deputies that virtually skinned Alliot-Marie alive for her willingness to collude in tactics that might touch a hair on the head of Tunisian demonstrators would bask in the gory glory of the Libyan operation without batting an eyelash over collateral damage. Another scuttled expression.
Whatever one might have imagined about the OWS movement, the video of Occupy Atlanta robots "discussing" whether Congressman James Lewis should be allowed to speak to the group, was stunning. [viii] Mindless voices echoing simplistic phrases -- "No individual is more important than any other / No individual is more important than any other" — took fifteen minutes to dismiss the civil rights hero who walked away, visibly perplexed. When, where, and how had these people been lobotomized? Were they trained in Pakistan?
Branded as a popular outcry for economic and social justice, the OWS movement bears telltale signs of the Islamization of the Western world -- a Muslim Brotherhood rally in the heart of Occupy Wall Street, [ix] a surprising encounter with a CAIR-associated lawyer running the Occupy Orlando movement. [x] More dramatically, this fringe movement claiming to speak for the 99% operated as if it were revolting against an absolute tyrant while inchoate Islamic masses in Muslim countries were glorified with democratic values that were nowhere to be seen. Though the Occupy movement was short-lived in the United States -- Americans are sticklers for hygiene and expect the police to protect property -- it may turn up in other shapes in the near future.
Without demeaning the last acts of the desperate, one must still ask what do they want, where are they going, how are they doing it. The articulation of aims, purposes, values, and strategy is lost in the flash of dramatic footage. Or is it deliberately hidden? Because no sooner does the tyrant scram, dead or alive, than the victor arrives, and his name is Sharia.
Apologetics automatically kick in. It's because the Islamists are the only ones who were well-organized, took care of the needy, were persecuted by the tyrant. Not to worry, the true democrats will act as a counter-force and the Islamists will, by necessity, become pragmatists when faced with everyday administrative chores.
And suddenly it's Spring! Arab Spring. What is blooming in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Morocco? What is budding in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Bahrain…? Why should it be difficult to demonstrate that the goal of the Arab Spring was the imposition of Sharia and that is why, in one country after another, the Sharia-imposing party won the biggest share of the votes and will lead the government? After all, jihadis have been promising for years to topple the corrupt leaders that collaborate with the West. While the majority of Western media were in ecstasy over an imagined surge of democracy and all that goes with it, astute observers accurately described the movement and predicted the outcome. A sprinkling of true freedom lovers in the crowd had been used as an alibi to cover the real thrust of the movement, in the same way that Sharia-imposing leaders season their declarations with a sprinkling of cost-free promises of democracy, justice, tolerance, freedom, progress.
This sheds light on another aspect of Occupy Wall Street: Jihad = convert the infidels, make them act as if they are already living in an Islamic society, where there is no political structure through which to express demands. Politics is reduced to gathering in a public square, setting up tents, living in anarchy, mouthing slogans and, ultimately, kill or be killed. Where does the 99% really live? In Egypt, not in the United States. The dhimmified pawns of the Occupy movement literally shit on their own land, pour contempt on the financial system that brings prosperity to the masses, invite Muslim Brotherhood thugs into their midst, glorify the illiterate masses of Tahrir Square, and espouse their values.
In one more cruel twist, Israel is scolded for its apparent lack of enthusiasm for this darling Spring, and accused of wanting to keep Muslims under the heel of dictators whose saving grace was to maintain peaceful, or at least unwarlike relations with Israel. In other words, Israel is expected to acquiesce in its own destruction. Many a journalist gleefully warned that power to the Muslim people would mean a tough and true policy. Israel would have to answer for its mistreatment of Palestinians now that their liberated brothers and sisters were running the show. Today, this is translated into "Kill the Jews." As could have been expected. [xi]
The merits of replacing "Arab Spring" with "jihad" to name what is happening in front of our eyes is that it accurately accounts for events as they occur and correctly predicts successive developments. The widespread inability to recognize jihad in action is, furthermore, induced by contemporary jihad strategy. Terror-stricken peoples were conquered by the sword in the Medieval past. Today, the overwhelming military superiority of Western nations dictates methods that behead rational thought. From the al Dura hoax to the Arab Spring hoax, the same technique has been used: a blinding emotional flash, a magical mystical narrative channeled through Western media that present it as their own; stubborn belief in the commentary that contradicts the image, leading to further erosion of rational thought and an inability to integrate new evidence and relinquish the first impression.
The Arab Spring lethal narrative plays on our culture's good wishes for one and all. It seems so much more decent to hope that a long-oppressed people will finally breathe free than to recognize that they are simply exasperated by a ruling caliph that they will soon replace with a new caliph. Instead of combating the mentality that imprisons them in this repressed condition, the narrative renews and reinforces it. It would be truly more humane to acknowledge the extent of their enslavement. Islam is submission. Power is transmitted from Allah to the Prophet to a single individual who rules as long as he can hold power. Power cannot be transmitted to groups that function democratically, but it can be seized by groups that reproduce the one-man rule on a smaller scale. [xii] This pattern has been repeated since the earliest times. The Sunna-Shia split is the first of an endless series of divisions, clashes, assassinations. Doesn't this explain why the socalled Islamist — but truly Islamic — party is always the most well organized? Because it is the only way an Islamic society can be organized.
Hours after the fall of Baghdad in April, 2003, French media were still reporting that American troops were bogged down and likely to remain outside the city for another three months. This time around, exploits of the Libyan rebels were hastily celebrated, though no evidence of their victorious battles was ever produced and glowing reports from their own ranks were usually contradicted within 48 hours by facts on the ground.
The value system that had prevailed since September 11, 2001, no longer applied. The solution, we were told then, must be political, not military. Two days into the 2006 Hizbullah war, France called for an immediate ceasefire and the opening of humanitarian corridors. Israel was ordered to back off and trust in a UN resolution and a beefed-up UNIFIL to restore peace on the border. Candidate Barack Obama was idolized by the French as the President who would end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and close the torture chambers of Guantanamo. The 2009 Cast Lead operation in Gaza found no favor whatsoever in France's pacifist eyes. Nicolas Sarkozy, who succeeded Jacques Chirac in 2007, was slammed for his friendship with the warmonger G.W. Bush. What explains the sudden enthusiasm for war in the days of this Arab Springtime? Is it too far-fetched to conclude that defensive war against jihad is bad, but waging war on the side of jihad is good?
As Mouamar Gaddafi rotted on a concrete floor in Misrata, the French President held a triumphant press conference in the company of the NTC Prime Minister and President, British Prime Minister David Cameron, and the Emir of Qatar. It could be compared to the "Mission Accomplished" speech of George W. Bush after the fall of Saddam Hussein. But it wasn't. It was swallowed whole. Again, the Libyan operation was given as the counter-example to the Iraq war. This is how you should liberate a Muslim country. This is why we won't have the ugly aftermath that beset the invasion of Iraq.
Four-star globe-trotting philosopher Bernard Henri-Levy is credited with convincing President Sarkozy to act forcefully in Libya. It was BHL's dream come true. The philosopher-activist is sincerely convinced that he achieved the perfect union of the philosophical quest for the good, the true, and the beautiful with the ideal of the virtuous man of action. What's more, he performed this feat as a Jew! And dared to say so in front of a mass of revolting Libyans. Invited, in tandem with Chief Rabbi Gilles Bernheim, to give the closing address at the CRIF Convention on November 20, BHL gave an embarrassing account of his adventure, the excitement of running from meetings with the rebels to rendez-vous with French government officials, helping plan strategy, weapons procurement, public relations, and the political future. The philosopher seemed to think that, because the Libyans knew he was Jewish, Zionist and unstintingly devoted to their cause, they will now look kindly on the Jewish people. He described an all-night conversation with a rebel leader, said to be connected to al-Qa'ida, in a remote farmhouse whose location was kept secret from him. The farmhouse was surrounded by pickups mounted with heavy weapons, the warrior was surrounded by body guards, and the slim graying philosopher arrived, armed only with his brilliant mind and honest heart. "We talked all night, no holds barred, each said what he had on his mind, and I know he was changed; tomorrow he will not blame Israel for all his people's ills." [xiii]
The theme of that session of the CRIF Convention was "Tomorrow, the Jews of France." A better brighter future because our man stepped up to the plate, took action, intervened in contemporary history, gave muscle to tikkun olam, and stamped his action "Jewish"? Or is it the height of self-aggrandizing delusion?
Caroline Sinz, covering the events for state-owned France 3 TV, was brutally assaulted. [xiv] The circumstances of what she describes as "finger rape" are worthy of note. Working with cameraman Salah Agrabi on Mohamed Mahmoud Street, she did an item on teenage demonstrators. The boys seemed to be operating under the wing of a man identified as a 33 year-old tour guide who had quit his job to join the Tahrir Square nation. He boasted about the courage of these callow youths. "If they get hit in the head with a projectile, they get it bandaged, and go right back into the fray." As usual in Arab Spring reports, the journalist stood with and for the interested parties, more of a spokesperson than an observer. As the report drew to a close, I noticed the men and boys clustering behind the blond journalist, pressing against her back. Back to the studio. Before going on to the next item, the newscaster laconically mentioned that Sinz and her cameraman were assaulted after filming the youths. But a detailed account of the attack was already available on the site of the Figaro daily: [xv] The journalist and cameraman were grabbed and dragged into Tahrir Square where they were separated. He was roughed up. She was beaten, stripped, and raped. Her ordeal lasted 45 minutes. "I thought I was going to die," she declared with unusual candor for a French journalist, …unless the designated culprits are Israeli.
Feeble attempts to attribute the assault to army or police thugs — vaguely described as plainclothes men — were dropped, as it became obvious that it could be any man in the Square. The journalist is pressing charges against X. An initial, rather sensible statement from Reporters without Borders, advising media to be more careful about sending female journalists into this kind of dangerous situation, provoked an outburst of indignation from the interested parties and was immediately withdrawn.
Is this an affirmation of female courage and right to "equality," or a continued denial of reality? Israel HaYom editor and former ambassador Boaz Bismuth, interviewed on Radio J, was asked if he entered Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt with his Israeli passport. He replied that a European journalist can get a visa at the Egyptian border with no delay and a big welcome. With an Israeli passport it might take hours. But that's the least of the problem. At the entry to Tahrir Square he was stopped at a checkpoint set up by the protestors. Asked why they checked passports, he was told: "So that no Israeli journalists can come and report on what is happening here."
Why do Israeli journalists accept and adapt to reality when female journalists insist on flying in its face? Will they use bodyguards? It would take a dozen armed men to protect a woman in that mob. Would they disguise themselves as men? Will they, with typical media hypocrisy, slip out of the slot without ever admitting that, in fact, it's no place for a woman?
What strikes me is that, in the case of Caroline Sinz, a clear warning of imminent assault was visible on camera. The subjects of the report, seen with tender sympathy, were moving into place to become actors of the assault. Did the cameraman recognize it? Did he warn his colleague? Did it happen too fast or did it happen because neither of them had any street smarts. Their personal ordeal fits right into the play within the play. The curtain of the lethal narrative of Arab Spring is ripped away to reveal with raw brutality the place of women under the Sharia rule. The flesh and blood truth.
The West is epitomized in the female journalist gushing over an illusory democratic revolution and, minutes later, reduced to a piece of meat in Tahrir Square. In everyday life, a woman who can't tell a killer from a cad from a decent guy pays a heavy price. These female journalists who have been selling the Arab Spring like it was a snazzy automobile are enticing the citizens of the free world to dance for their own demise.
Then it was the government of Ehud Olmert, and now of Benjamin Netanyahu. The criticism was supposedly based on immutable rules of behavior for civilized nations.
Well, that's washed away in the Libyan mudslide. The only rules that are truly respected are: We do what we can get away with and deny what is too shameful to admit. Nothing is too brutal to be given the spin. There is no lack of willing accomplices, as if valor and virtue were decided from day to day by a show of hands.
When the Arab street was chanting "Death to the Jews" in Paris, London and Berlin, when Jews were insulted, bashed, and sometimes slaughtered in European cities, it was said to be regrettable payback for crimes against humanity committed by Israeli soldiers in "Palestine." The sight of bloodied Palestinian civilians was too horrible to bear. Israel, it was said, was losing the war of images.
Indeed! International opinion was so distraught -- for example, by the approval of housing construction in Gilo in October, 2011 -- that it could hardly be distracted by shaky cell phone images of Syrian protestors mowed down by tanks or snipers and sharp professional footage of Egyptian Copts burned alive in churches, crushed under the wheels of military vehicles.
Now we know how to win the war of images. Not by improving hasbara, retelling the history of the "holy land" from Abraham to last week, replacing pictures of soldiers in tanks with shots of pinups in bikinis, publishing weekly lists of Israel's high-tech exploits, along with the medical records of Arabs and Muslims treated at Hadassah hospital. The way to win the war of images is — don't be Jewish.
This is the puzzle that has been constantly jiggling in my head since the end of September, 2000, when the al Dura blood libel inaugurated an international wave of neo-pogroms that persists, expands and worsens, reaching terrifying proportions and, simultaneously, becoming so commonplace that an accurate appraisal sounds like a hysterical false alarm.
I have sought to use the advantages of an intuitive literary approach here to seize events in their just proportions and build a hopefully compelling narrative that can counter the lethal narrative of jihad. Breaking through the stylistic limitations of intellectual discourse opens the way to a multitude of singular approaches that can reveal deep truths in a great variety of ways, some of which might be surprisingly effective. The prudent skepticism about the Arab Spring which is accepted as serious analysis unfortunately reinforces the illusion that the "springtime" narrative bears some resemblance to reality.
We need a rich arsenal of anti-jihad strategies that would bring about a real Spring, an authentic liberation for Jews and free people everywhere, based on noble values. How do we do it? What is holding us back? We don't need to topple any caliphs or overturn any tyrannical order. We don't need to gather by the millions in any public square. One by one and each one alone we could find the idea that springs this latch.
The simple facts are in. Yes, we are the bad guys, in terms of what we expect of ourselves. But, in this Great Big Nasty Reality Show, we are the good guys! Why can't we make this operational?
[v] Reportedly Gaddafi family survivors want to take the case to the ICC.
[vii] Bat Ye'or, Bostom Andrew, The Legacy of Jihad; Fenton, Paul and Littman, David, Exil au Maghreb
[viii] http://www.theblaze.com/stories/john-lewis-is-not-better-than-anyone-occupy-atlanta-refuses-to-allow-civil- rights-icon-to-speak-at-protest/
[x] (VIDEO) www.TheUnitedWest.org October 17, 2011
[xii] Bostom, Andrew, Sharia Versus Freedom—The Legacy of Islamic Totalitarianism, with a Foreword by Andrew C. McCarthy, forthcoming September 2012. Indeed, Qaradawi's triumphant February 18th "khutbah", or sermon to the adoring Muslim throngs that day was symbolic of an Islamic revival begun by the so-called "Al-Manar modernists" — Jamal Al-Din Afghani, Muhammad Abduh, and Muhammad Rashid Rida — more than a century before he took the stage at Tahrir Square.
[xiii] Details cannot be verified because the CRIF has deleted BHL's contribution
[xv] Figaro newspaper
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Nidra Poller, an Associate Fellow of the Middle East Forum, is an American writer and translator who has lived in Paris since 1972. She has contributed to English-language publications such as the Middle East Quarterly, the Wall Street Journal, Front Page Magazine, National Review, and the New York Sun.
Poller has been described as a novelist, an author of illustrated books for young people, and a translator, notably of the philosopher, Emmanuel Levinas. Her writings include commentary and analysis regarding culture, society and politics, including the Muhammad al-Durrah incident and the Ilan Halimi trial. Her most recent book is Karimi Hotel and Other Novels of Africa.
The foregoing article by Nidra Poller was originally published in the New English Review, April, 2012, and can be found on the Internet website maintained by the Middle East Forum, a foreign policy think tank which seeks to define and promote American interests in the Middle East, defining U.S. interests to include fighting radical Islam, working for Palestinian Arab acceptance of the State of Israel, improving the management of U.S. efforts to promote constitutional democracy in the Middle East, reducing America's energy dependence on the Middle East, more robustly asserting U.S. interests vis-à-vis Saudi Arabia, and countering the Iranian threat. (URL: http://www.meforum.org/3213/swing-low-sweet-sharia)
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