The United Nations: Leading Global Purveyor of Anti-Semitism - An Interview with Anne Bayefsky (JCPA-JERUSALEM CENTER FOR PUBLIC AFFAIRS) 01 April 2005)
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The United Nations discriminates against Israel in several ways.
It delegitimizes the self-determination of the Jewish people, denies
Israel the right to defend itself and demonizes it in the framework
of the international regime of human rights protection. The UN also
encourages terrorism directed at Israelis.
The UN has played a major role in the failure to defeat racism.
The organization has become the leading global purveyor of anti-
Semitism - intolerance and inequality against the Jewish people and
In June 2004 the United Nations organized its first conference
on anti-Semitism after almost 60 years of existence. It became just
one more element in the organization´s effort to separate anti-
Semitism and Jews from Israel.
After 60 Years: First Conference on Anti-Semitism
"The United Nations has become the leading global purveyor of anti-
Semitism - intolerance and inequality against the Jewish people and
its state," Professor Anne Bayefsky told participants at the first
UN conference on anti-Semitism held in New York in June 2004.1
After almost 60 years of existence the UN had organized this
conference on anti-Semitism in order to mitigate increasing
criticism of its lack of concern for this scourge. The organizers
were ill prepared for Bayefsky´s speech, in which she also
stated: "The Nuremberg Tribunal taught us that crimes are not
committed by abstract entities. The perpetrators of anti-Semitism
are no more abstract today than were the Nazis of yesterday."
"Today they are the preachers in mosques that exhort their followers
to blow up Jews. They are the authors of Palestinian Authority
textbooks that teach a new generation to hate Jews and admire their
killers. They are the television producers and official benefactors
in authoritarian regimes like Syria or Egypt who manufacture and
distribute programming that depicts Jews as blood-thirsty world
Bayefsky, who has since become a senior fellow at the Hudson
Institute, concluded by challenging the Secretary General and the UN
to prove that they were serious about eradicating anti-
Semitism: "Start putting a name to the terrorists that kill Jews
because they are Jews. Start condemning human rights violators
wherever they dwell, even if they live in Riyadh or Damascus. Stop
condemning the Jewish people for fighting back against their
killers; and the next time someone asks you or your colleagues to
stand for a moment of silence to honor those who would destroy the
State of Israel, say no."
The conference on anti-Semitism, Bayefsky now concludes, was just
one more component of the United Nations´ effort to separate anti-
Semitism and Jews from Israel. "To some extent they succeeded. What
the UN says is a new version of an old motif. It boils down
to: ´Some of my best friends are Jews, but Israel is still the worst
human rights violator in the world today.´ The UN thinks that these
things go comfortably hand in hand. It doesn´t recognize anti-
Semitism when Israelis and the State of Israel are its victims, and
the conference on anti-Semitism was part of that dynamic."
The Jewish People´s Charge Sheet against the UN
When asked about the main items on the charge sheet of the Jewish
people against the United Nations, Bayefsky mentions that several
accusations are interconnected. "The first one is that the UN tries
to deny the effective realization of the Jewish people´s right to
self-determination; that is, the continuity and well-being of the
State of Israel.
"Since the creation of the United Nations, the number of member
states has multiplied. The essential framework for its growth and
membership has been the basic principle of self-determination in
international law - which is coupled with statehood if certain
conditions are satisfied. The principle applies to peoples with
various defining characteristics; a shared history, ethnicity,
language, as well as a historical and physical connection to a
"The Jewish people satisfy all these criteria in the land of Israel.
Yet the UN has, on the one hand, expanded the number of states to
which self-determination applies and, on the other hand, done
everything possible to delegitimize the self-determination of the
Denial of Right to Self Defense
"The second accusation is that the UN denies Israel the right to
effectively protect itself against the mortal threats which it has
faced since its creation. Self-determination is meaningless if a
country does not have the right to defend itself against such
dangers. The role of the UN has been to attempt to tie the hands of
Israeli victims behind their backs, as opposed to affirming their
entitlement to protection.
"The right of self-defense means, in simple terms, the legal ability
to fight back. The immediate enemy Israel has faced in recent years
is not a state entity, although it consists partly of players who
act on behalf of states. Prevailing against such an enemy entails
certain practical necessities.
"For instance, the Geneva Convention and the laws of war anticipate
that civilian populations who are used as human shields by armed
combatants may unfortunately suffer harm as states defend themselves
against such combatants. This is not because those who attempt to
fight back against these combatants deliberately target civilians,
but rather because the latter become the inevitable indirect victims
of warfare. But who is responsible for those civilian casualties?
The answer must be those who use the civilians as human shields and
not those attempting, as in the case of Israel, to defend itself
Kofi Annan Discriminates against Israel
"However, the UN response has been to criticize Israel for fighting
back, even when there are minimal or no civilian casualties. These
criticisms can be heard regularly from Secretary General Kofi Annan
and senior representatives such as Peter Hansen, until recently
Commissioner General of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) or
Terje Roed Larsen, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace
Bayefsky explains: "When Israel targets terrorists the UN says that
Israel is in violation of international law by committing an extra-
judicial execution. On the contrary, the terrorists are illegal
combatants and this is a war. They are not entitled to judicial
process before being targeted. Still, Israel will try to arrest
where it can. But in many cases arrest is not possible without the
likelihood of many more casualties and unacceptable risks. The local
authority, the Palestinian Authority, makes no effort whatsoever to
"When Israel killed Hamas terrorist Abdel Aziz Rantisi, though there
were no civilian casualties, Secretary General Kofi Annan denounced
it as an extra-judicial killing - which it is not. In the last few
years there have been three thousand extra-judicial killings in
Brazil, people shot in the back by forces connected to the
authorities. A UN report on this was presented in 2004 to the
Commission on Human Rights. On these executions Annan remained
"In addition, homes used by terrorists during combat are legitimate
military targets. But the Secretary General and his staff criticize
Israel for targeting such homes. Most importantly, they and the main
UN bodies, including the Security Council, refuse to identify the
terrorists by name, Hamas, Islamic Jihad or the Al-Aksa Martyrs
Bayefsky points out that the United Nations´ even condemns Israel´s
use of non-violent means to protect itself. The UN´s International
Court of Justice denied the legality of Israel´s security
fence. "Among those who voted in favor of the advisory opinion was
Judge Rosalyn Higgins from the UK. One reason she gave was that the
UN Charter´s rule of self-defense did not apply to non-violent
"The Court´s decision makes no attempt to consider the context of
terrorism and decides that self-defense in article 51 of the UN
Charter does not apply to actions taken against non-state actors.
This opinion is problematic for many other democratic nations, not
only for Israel."
UN Demonizes Israel
"The third accusation is that the UN demonizes Israel in the
framework of the international regime of human rights protection.
The UN turns Israel into the archetypal human rights violator in the
"There have been more resolutions and more meeting time spent on the
State of Israel in the history of the UN Commission on Human Rights
than on any other country in the world."
In her lecture at the UN conference on anti-Semitism, Bayefsky
said: "There has never been a single resolution about the decades-
long repression of the civil and political rights of 1.3 billion
people in China, or the more than a million female migrant workers
in Saudi Arabia being kept as virtual slaves, or the virulent racism
which has brought 600,000 people to the brink of starvation in
Zimbabwe. Every year, UN bodies are required to produce at least 25
reports on alleged human rights violations by Israel, but not one on
an Iranian criminal justice system which mandates punishments like
crucifixion, stoning, and cross-amputation. This is not legitimate
critique of states with equal or worse human rights records. It is
demonization of the Jewish state."
The Durban Conference
Bayefsky adds now: "Although the ´Zionism is Racism´ resolution was
formally repealed in 1991, the United Nations Anti-Racism Conference
in Durban in 2001 gave rise to a declaration which says Palestinians
are victims of Israeli racism. Israel is the only country
specifically called racist.
"The Durban Conference´s influence, contrary to popular opinion, is
not past history. It is the centerpiece of the UN´s anti-racism
agenda, and now mandates reports, resolutions and conferences all
over the world. These ´follow-up´ activities are paid for through
regular UN dues, 22% of which are coming from the United States.
This notwithstanding the fact that the United States walked out of
the Durban conference and refused to be associated with its
Bayefsky observes that in UN contexts the false analogy between
South Africa and Israel is repeated over and over again. "The UN has
turned the racism issue on its head, however contrary this is to the
facts. Arab states have almost entirely emptied their nations of
Jews. In Israel on the other hand one fifth of the population are
Arabs, who have full democratic rights. Arabs have more democratic
rights in Israel than they have in the Arab world.
"This perversion of the racism issue is particularly grotesque in
view of the fact that the United Nations was founded on the ashes of
the Jewish people. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948
acknowledges the debt. In its words, ´disregard and contempt for
human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the
conscience of mankind.´ But over time, the UN has turned the Jewish
victims of the Nazis into their counterparts of the 21st Century."
Deifying the Palestinians
Bayefsky mentions that while Israelis are demonized, the
Palestinians are almost deified. "UN rapporteur John Dugard
described Palestinian terrorists as ´tough´ and said that their
efforts were characterized by their ´determination, daring and
success.´ Every year the UN marks November 29th as International
Solidarity Day with the Palestinian people, because this was the day
the UN partitioned the British Palestine Mandate. The Palestinians
call it the beginning of the onset of Al Naqba, the catastrophe. In
2002, Kofi Annan described the 29th of November as a ´day of
mourning and a day of grief.´
"In November 2003, at the front of the room - in the presence of
representatives of 100 member states - stood the Secretary General,
the president of the Security Council and the president of the
General Assembly. To their right was a Palestinian flag, a UN flag
on the other, and in the middle a map that pre-dated the State of
Israel. All individuals present were asked to rise for a moment of
silence in memory of ´all those who have given their lives for the
Palestinian people.´ This thus included suicide bombers." Bayefsky
notes she was the only attendant who did not rise. On 29 November
2004 the exact same scenario took place, except that the U.S.
Ambassador to the UN, John Danforth, who was president of the
Security Council at the time, contrived to walk in only after these
opening events had taken place.
"This inseparable bond cemented at the UN between demonizing
Israelis and glorifying Palestinians makes it clear that the core
issue is not the stated cause of Palestinian self-determination. If
concern for the welfare of Palestinians was the UN´s driving force,
then its resolutions would decry the practice of the Palestinian
Authority and their media to encourage Palestinian children to
participate in armed conflict. This is contrary to the Geneva
Convention and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
"If the UN were truly concerned about human rights they would also
decry the glorification of suicide bombers, or the calculated use of
the civilian population by terrorists as human shields, or the
refusal by Arab states to integrate long-standing Palestinian
refugees into their societies and offer them the benefits of
citizenship, which is directly inconsistent with policy for every
other refugee around the world.
"The Division of Palestinian Rights within the UN is the only such
entity in the whole organization devoted to a specific people and is
funded by the UN´s regular budget."
"A fourth accusation concerns the encouragement of terrorism.
Resolutions of the United Nations Commission for Human Rights refer,
by incorporation, to an earlier General Assembly resolution (1982
A/RES/37/43) which says that all available means including armed
struggle are legitimate for fighting against foreign occupation and
for self-determination. Though the Commission resolution refers only
to Israel, other nations should realize that this kind of a
statement is a threat to all countries facing terrorism."
Bayefsky points out that this attitude is being promoted in a
context which encourages people to believe that the root cause of
terrorism against Israelis is very different from the terrorism
faced by other democratic societies. "It is a UN driven falsehood
that the occupation is the root cause of violence in the Arab-
Israeli conflict and that if the occupation would end there would be
no more terrorism in the Middle East.
"Sometimes that claim even goes further and says that democratic
societies everywhere face terrorism because of Israel´s occupation.
It is thus stated that Islamic fundamentalist terrorism the world
over would disappear if only Israel were to withdraw from the
territories. However incredible such a claim appears to be, it has
taken hold in the psyche of many in democratic societies.
"In November 2004, the U.S. House International Relations Committee
disclosed that money from the United Nations Oil for Food program
had helped pay the families of Palestinian suicide bombers. This
program was meant to provide humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi
people. This is a further example of UN-related involvement in
terrorism directed at Israelis.
"The UN never mentioned the close relationship between Fatah
terrorism and Arafat as the head of the Palestinian Authority. The
UN doesn´t name entities such as Hamas, Hizbollah or Islamic Jihad
as terrorist organizations. This inhibits the ability of both states
and the UN to take actions against those terrorists through economic
and political measures. By exempting them from unequivocal and
direct criticism, the UN encourages them."
Bayefsky also mentions that Israel is the only state which is not
fully a member of a UN regional group. "That means it is denied
entry into meetings, important negotiating sessions, in UN
organizations and agencies elected outside New York. Many UN bodies
are elected in Geneva or elsewhere. This state of affairs is also
the case for those which are elected in New York but which meet in
"When the UN Human Rights Commission convenes for six weeks every
year, each morning from nine to ten, the regional groups meet. Even
the PLO representatives are permitted into one of the regional
group. Only Israel is left standing in the halls."
Bayefsky adds a further accusation. "The demonization of Israel
amounts in effect to anti-Semitism. The latter, after the creation
of the State of Israel, is no longer just about discrimination and
demonization of individual Jews, but also about that of the Jewish
State. The demonization of Israel is not an abstraction. It fuels
terrorism and encourages the enemies of human dignity to target and
kill Israelis. It is anti-Semitism of the worst kind because is a
violation of the Jews´ right to life.
"Since its creation the United Nations has never, despite its
historical indebtedness to the Jewish people and the victims of the
Holocaust, had a single solitary resolution of the General Assembly
dedicated to the subject of anti-Semitism or a single report focused
on this subject. It has omitted mention of anti-Semitism and of the
Holocaust deliberately in UN treaties and declarations for the past
40 years. Over the past decade, minor references to the one
word "anti-Semitism" have been buried in resolutions without being
clearly tied to a demand for detailed study and reporting on the
subject - in contrast to UN reports on discrimination against Arabs
"The UN has not made any effort to investigate systematically anti-
Semitism in all its forms. If one does not do that, one cannot
explore and describe it as a global phenomenon and one that is
endemic in Muslim societies. Israel´s enemies in the Arab world and
the UN play a major role in failing to defeat the racists of our
time. On the contrary, they turn racism on its head, blame the
victim and fuel intolerance."
The 2003 General Assembly
"One example of this occurred at the 2003 General Assembly. The
issue arose of including the word "anti-Semitism" in a resolution on
religious intolerance in a preamble. Ireland, which had been the
lead state on the subject of religious intolerance for many years,
was determined to keep mention of anti-Semitism out.
"So Israel decided that it would move an amendment to add it from
the floor. The Irish were unnerved. Irish Foreign Minister Brian
Cowen and Israel´s Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom made a deal that
Israel would withdraw its threatened amendment to the resolution on
religious intolerance. In exchange Ireland would introduce for the
first time in UN history a resolution on anti-Semitism.
"Israel was delighted by the prospect. The Irish delegation sat on
the third committee, waited for the resolution on religious
intolerance to pass through the committee without the mention of
anti-Semitism. Then they withdrew their promised resolution on anti-
Semitism. Their excuse was the lack of consensus. Among others,
Ireland went to the Iranians for their support. They afterwards
claimed that they were surprised at the opposition. To sum it up:
there was no resolution on anti-Semitism."
The Dilution of Resolutions
In an article, Bayefsky described developments after the June 2004
conference on anti-Semitism at the UN. She wrote once again that the
June conference served the UN´s two track approach: "Put the Jews on
one side, Israel on the other, and divide and conquer."3
Bayefsky observed that for several months there were discussions
about a UN resolution dedicated to anti-Semitism. "The battle
associated with presenting a new and substantive stand-alone anti-
Semitism resolution, however, scared off every democratic UN member
state. The next idea was to have the European Union (EU) sponsor a
resolution on anti-Semitism modeled on the Berlin Declaration, which
was adopted in April 2004 by the Organization for Security and Co-
operation in Europe (OSCE). In that document there was a small
reference to Israel, though Europeans could not quite bring
themselves to say that terrorism aimed at ethnically cleansing
Israel of Jews was also a form of anti-Semitism.
Another failed expectation was that Germany would play a leadership
role in presenting a specific resolution condemning anti-Semitism.
Writes Bayefsky: "In true gangland style, Germany was given to
understand that such a role would jeopardize its hoped-for permanent
seat on the Security Council, and any sense of historical
responsibility vanished. Nor was any other EU member prepared to
confront Arab and Muslim opposition. Ultimately the word anti-
Semitism was allowed into the resolution on religious intolerance.
But the opposition was public and considerable, and managed to
dilute the mention to a minor add-on in the midst of a range of
other issues including Islamophobia. On the other hand, there is an
annual resolution of the Commission on Human Rights focusing on the
defamation of Islam."
Bayefsky observes: "Besides all this there is also sometimes
blatantly overt anti-Semitism. At the United Nations Human Rights
Commission, the UN´s major human rights body, Palestinian
representatives have claimed that Israel can only happily celebrate
holidays like Yom Kippur by shedding Palestinian blood, and have
accused Israel of injecting Palestinian children with HIV positive
blood. The Algerian delegate at the 2002 and 2003 Commission on
Human Rights said that Israeli actions repeat Kristallnacht daily.
He also said that Palestinians have numbers put on their arms and
wondered how long one was going to wait for the Israelis to commit a
massacre like Babi Yar. No state, except for Israel, drew attention
to that statement."
Asking Racists for Opinions on Anti-Semitism
Bayefsky says that in November 2004 one UN special rapporteur - on
racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance -
convened a meeting to gather material for his forthcoming report,
and anti-Semitism was on the agenda. "The Office of the UN High
Commissioner for Human Rights and UNESCO invited experts to
Barcelona. They were asked to provide Doudou Di?ne, the UN
rapporteur, with advice on anti-Semitism, Christianophobia and
Bayefsky, in an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal,
wrote: "From whom did the UN get advice? There was Tariq Ramadan of
Switzerland´s Fribourg University, who was denied entry to the U.S.
in August on the basis of a law concerning aliens who have used
a ´position of prominence within any country to endorse or espouse
terrorist activity´ or are considered a ´public safety risk or a
national security threat.´ But apparently the UN thought it was
worth listening to the views on racism of someone who said on 25
September 2001, that ´[Osama] Bin Laden is perhaps a useful straw
man, like Saddam Hussein, whose diabolical representation perhaps
serves other geo-strategic, economic or political designs.´"4
Bayefsky mentions that among the invitees were also some Israelis at
the extreme fringes of the country´s society. "These people are
avowedly anti-Zionist and believe that the destruction of the Jewish
state would make the world a better place. The UN invited people,
who have views that are antithetical to combating anti-Semitism, to
a conference that was supposed to be about the defeat of anti-
In her article Bayefsky summarized the message of the draft report
of the UN meeting: "According to the draft report it is the
perception of unconditional Jewish support for Israel that leads
people to attack a Jewish cemetery, and that anti-Semitism was
absent from the Muslim world prior to the Arab-Israeli conflict (the
mufti of Jerusalem and his ally Hitler notwithstanding). The draft
report therefore suggested that the way to defeat anti-Semitism is
for Jews to cut loose of the defense of the State of Israel. And
anti-Semitism will diminish if jews stop emphasizing the unique
horror of the Holocaust.
The same UN rapporteur who convened this conference, Doudou Di?ne,
wrote in his October report to the General Assembly that Israel´s
actions ultimately contributed to the rise in anti-Semitism.
Bayefsky quotes him in her Wall Street Journal article: "´The cycle
of extreme violence triggered by the dynamics of occupation…has
fuelled profound ethnic antagonism and hatred…The Palestinian
population…is…suffering discrimination. Even if Israel has the right
to defend itself…a security wall…constitutes a jarring symbol of
seclusion, erected by a people…marked by the rejection of the
ghetto. One…effect of this conflict is its…contribution to the rise
Bayefsky identifies the real message as: "Simply put, Jews are
responsible for anti-Semitism. Or, if it weren´t for Israel´s
insistence on defending itself on the same terms as would be applied
to any other state faced with five decades of wars and terrorism
aimed at its obliteration, Jews would be better off."
The Actors Involved
When asked about the actions of specific UN functionaries against
Israel, Bayefsky mentions Peter Hansen, the former head of
UNRWA. "He recently came to the defense of Hamas members who are
employees of UNRWA. He has repeatedly distorted and misrepresented
the facts, starting with the Operation Defensive Shield in Jenin.
One of the UN press releases said ´Stop the killing in the camps.´
Another senior functionary who grossly exaggerated events on the
ground in Jenin was Terje Roed Larsen.
"Kofi Annan and his close associates fail to denounce terrorism
against Israelis by naming the terrorists and those responsible for
the terrorism. The way the United Nations deals with terrorism when
Israelis are its victims is to issue general statements which say
either that the two parties should cease all violence or that the
Palestinian Authority should work harder to end the violence. They
never say who is specifically responsible for the violence directed
"UN special advisor to the Secretary General Lakhdar Brahimi called
Israel - a member state of the United Nations - ´the great poison of
the Middle East.´ Such comments are not about Palestinians. They are
about hatred of the Jewish state."
Commemorating the Liberation of Auschwitz
Bayefsky responds to the January 2005 commemorative session of the
General Assembly and corresponding exhibit on the 60th anniversary
of the liberation of Auschwitz this way: "One week before the
session and the opening of the exhibit, the Secretary General went
forward with the General Assembly´s plan to create a register of
Palestinian damages said to result from Israel´s security fence. If
developed, it could have serious political and economic
implications. There are no plans to register Israeli damages from
"One month before the Holocaust exhibit, there was an annual exhibit
connected to the UN ´solidarity day with the Palestinian people,´
long suffering from the catastrophe (Al Naqba according to many UN
members) of the creation of the State of Israel. This year the UN
displayed a series of photos of Palestinians both real and stylized
with clothing revealing their midriffs, the point of which was to
establish wanton Palestinian humiliation at Israeli hands. Nothing
in the exhibit provided a context for the display. The General
Assembly session itself was crafted so as not to have a lasting
result; there is, for example, no final document or agreed statement
of intent. In short, while the UN may commemorate long dead Jews,
the recently deceased or the real and present danger of more Israeli
dead - targeted because they are Jews in the Jewish homeland - are
not connected to the message of Auschwitz or of serious concern."
Bayefsky summarizes her opinion on the UN: "The evil of anti-
Semitism today moves through its UN host like an opportunistic
pathogen. First, discrimination of Israel followed by its
demonization; the deification of the enemies of the Jewish state;
the denial of Jewish victimhood; denunciation of the Israeli who
fights back; and finally, the refusal to identify the assailants.
"Yet there are many who still deny that this is anti-Semitism. They
point to commercial interests, to regional politics, to group
identity, to opportunistic solidarity - and the aim to prevent the
scrutiny of human rights violations closer to home - or to
enhancement of individual careers.
"Political scientists see a hard core of Arab and Muslim states with
a political agenda; a network of developing countries which count
Arab and Muslim states among their friends or align themselves
against a long list of Western interests; liberal democracies that
are paralyzed by the critique of colonialism and racism, and
collaborators among non-governmental organizations and self-
appointed representatives of civil society.
"UN actors and supporters remain almost uniformly in denial of the
pathogen and its nature. In the final analysis, however, while the
motives of international actors do vary, the terrible consequences
of these combined forces of cowardice, of opportunism, of anti-
Semitism - mobilized and empowered through the UN - are the same."
Interview by Manfred Gerstenfeld
1. Anne Bayefsky, "Perspectives on Anti-Semitism Today," Lecture at
Conference ´Confronting Anti-Semitism: Education for Tolerance and
Understanding,´ United Nations Department of Information, New York,
21 June 2004. "One Small Step," WSJ.com, Opinion Journal, Wall
Street Journal, June 21, 2004, http://www.opinionjournal.com/extra/?
2. E/CN.4/2004/7/Add.3, 28 January 2004.
3. Anne Bayefsky, "Fatal Failure," National Review online , 30
4. Anne Bayefsky, "Your Tax Dollars at Work," Wall Street Journal ,
18 November 2004.
Anne Bayefsky is a senior fellow with the Hudson Institute and a
visiting professor at both Metropolitan College and Touro Law
School. She has also taught at Columbia University Law School and
the University of Ottawa. She is currently on leave from York
University. In 2001 she published a report in collaboration with the
office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Bayefsky has
written extensively on the UN. She has been on several Canadian
delegations to the General Assembly and the UN Commission for Human
Rights in the 80´s and 90´s.
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