Patrick Lawrence: Deeper Into Depravity

In the U.S., those who oppose Israel’s atrocities are getting hit by accusations of anti-Semitism. This reflects a nation in decline, that no longer knows how to make sense of itself.

Outside Indonesian Hospital in Jabalia, north of the Gaza Strip, on Oct. 9. (Palestinian News & Information Agency. or Wafa, for APAimages, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0)

By Patrick Lawrence

Diego Ramos, ScheerPost’s managing editor, forwarded me a video clip last week he thought I ought to see. Sending it under the subject line, “Disturbing trend in Israel,” my colleague must have reckoned I have not been sufficiently shocked by the events in Israel and Gaza since Hamas mounted an assault into southern Israel on Oct. 7 and the Israeli Defense Forces began a purposely disproportionate response to the incursion — purposely disproportionate as a matter of official policy since David Ben–Gurion put it in place during his premiership in the 1950s. 

Diego did his disturbing work. The video he forwarded outdoes it all so far by provoking a disgust as profound as any I have ever felt. It features a number of scenes wherein Israelis record themselves sadistically ridiculing Palestinians in the most cravenly cruel manner. They imitate Palestinian children dying or starving. They apply racially offensive makeup. They laugh and dance while switching lights on and off and while ostentatiously drinking water from taps — this last to mock Gazans as Israel deprives them of power, potable water, food and much else.

And I am describing the children in these videos, ranging in age from, maybe, 6 or 7 to somewhere in their teens or early twenties. The mothers stand behind them, smiling with approval and delight. Here is the video as posted by Al Jazeera English last week. I have since seen several others like it.

By common agreement among many lawyers, scholars of international law, special rapporteurs and the like — including Israelis in these fields — what we witness daily now is by all acceptable definitions a genocide. Whether or not Israel is committing war crimes by the hour is not even worth debating.

But I am taken up now by the spectacle of human beings who have allowed themselves to be destroyed in the name of an ideology that proves every bit as racist as it was when, in 1975, the U.N. General Assembly declared Zionism to be so. Resolution 3379 was revoked in 1991; it should not have been.

Nov. 10, 1975: Sekela Kaninda of Zaire addressing the U.N. General Assembly on the day it adopted a series of resolutions on eliminating discrimination, including one saying Zionism is a form of racism. (UN Photo/Teddy Chen)

I am reminded of what I learned years ago when studying the Japanese Imperial Army’s conduct in China and Korea before and during World War II and the long record of the Kempeitai, commonly known as Imperial Japan’s Thought Police. Victimizers, I came to conclude with conviction, are victims, too. This holds for the people in the videos I have recently viewed and for every Israeli wearing an IDF uniform.

They have been stripped of all ordinary decency by the radical ideologues of “the Jewish state.” They can laugh or sneer or pull all the triggers they like: Their lives, too, have been destroyed. Look at the videos: The evidence of this is in every frame.  

“Nothing human disgusts me” is a line I remember well from The Night of the Iguana, the 1961 play by the superbly human Tennessee Williams. I hold to this thought (even while reading the foreign pages of The New York Times).

What has happened to the people in the videos must disgust us. But what they suffer as victims could happen to all but the strongest among us. They are appalling specimens of humanity, but they are human. As we find our way to some morally, intellectually defensible high ground during the atrocities we witness daily, we need to bear this in mind.

Instruments of the State

And this, too: Those videos were not shot in isolation. They reflect a culture of racism, xenophobia, hatred and — we see this now — sadism that has taken pride in itself for many years. These sentiments are instruments of the state, carefully cultivated.

You may remember the videos shot at the time of the Al–Aqsa crisis two years ago. Young Israelis in sparkling school uniforms or stylish clothes leapt up and down in a sort of frenzy in the streets of Jerusalem while shouting, “Death to all Arabs.” I read those images looking back and forward: They were the flowers of the Israeli state’s century of official indoctrination and a prelude to the videos coming out now.

Arnold Toynbee, the great if no longer fashionable historian, argued in his 12–volume  A Study of History that civilizations rise when creative elites respond to new circumstances with imagination and courage, while they decline, in turn, not in consequence of external factors but due to spiritual collapses within.

This is the Israel of Bibi Netanyahu, the Israel whose plan, we know by way of an official document leaked over the weekend, is to ethnic-cleanse Gaza and incorporate it into the Jewish state. Its leaders are brutes and — as the videos I reference show — they have destroyed Israel’s human spirit. 

I saw an interview Sunday with a Defense Department contractor who has visited Israel dozens of times over many years on DoD work. He recounted the steady decline in any belief in a peaceful settlement of the Israel–Palestine crisis that he has detected since 2007. For most Israelis, he observed, it is down to violence now.

A headline in Monday’s editions of the Times, recording these changing desires and expectations: “I Don’t Have That Empathy. It’s Not Me Anymore.” This is the voice of a nation that has demolished itself in its attempts to destroy others. 

A couple of weeks ago in this space I published a commentary asserting that the two-state solution to the Israel–Palestine question is dead, and a single, secular state is the only way forward. I had some mail afterward to the effect that a one-state solution is too far from reality to think about.

I will reply here that these readers have it upside-down. A one-state solution is now the only realistic idea worth considering. Until Israelis accept that they must live in a single nation wherein Palestinians dwell as equal citizens, there is no more future for them than there is for Palestinians. They, Israelis, will be condemned to live in a walled-off garrison state that will come to look ever more like a commodious version of the “open-air prison” we speak of when we speak of Gaza. 

‘People of the Light’

“We are the people of the light, they are the people of darkness,” Netanyahu said in a much-remarked speech to the nation last week, “and light shall triumph over darkness.” This is the utterance of a destroyer — of people, of hope — a man who cannot find his way out of the Old Testament and nonsensically demands we live in it with him, a man who simply should not be leading anything in the 21st century. 

And we, we Americans, are urged daily to support the depravity into which this man leads Israel ever more deeply. Netanyahu’s depravity, Israel’s, must be ours, too. We are urged now to openly endorse war crimes and a genocide. And so we, too, are in consequence letting an apartheid state’s intentionally terrorizing campaign against Palestinians accelerate our none-too-sturdy nation into the kind of internal collapse Toynbee described as the dynamic of decline.

Dressing Up Systemic Savagery  

Across the country you find confrontations between those who argue in behalf of their consciences and those who censure, name-call, deplatform, or otherwise attempt to ruin them for not supporting open-and-shut murder.

At the University of Pennsylvania, wealthy donors threaten to withhold their support if the administration does not come out in favor of this savagery. The Writers Guild of America West is under attack for similarly refraining. Artforum, the monthly chronicler of the gallery scene, fired its editor for signing an open letter calling for a ceasefire, whereupon collectors now threaten to “deaccession” the works of artists who also signed. Let us add to this a 71–year old man’s murder of a 6–year-old Palestinian boy near Chicago two weeks ago, an incident that left his mother in critical condition. 

These implicit defenses of systematic savagery must be dressed up, of course. And so America plunges into the disgracefully cynical argument that to oppose the Israeli operation in Gaza is anti–Semitic. The Chinese put their hands up to contribute to a ceasefire and talks toward an enduring settlement of one or another kind, but China is anti–Semitic because it has not condemned the Hamas assault. 

A museum bureaucrat named Sarah Lehat Blumenstein is now going after artists who signed the letter that got Artforum’s editor fired. She threatens them with “a deaccession plan to dimmish the artists’ status.” Explaining herself in an interview with the Times, she said her efforts reflect “a fear that rising anti–Semitism was endangering her right to exist.”

The ADL may wish to come after me for this one, such have things come to, but this statement proposes a patently ridiculous equivalence, albeit one emblematic of the post–Oct. 7 climate. If you oppose the Israelis’ genocide operation and merely call for a ceasefire, some museum functionary is frightened that her life is under threat? I view this as more than a vulgar misuse of history and a contemptuous use of the victim card. This reflects a nation that no longer knows how to make sense of itself. 

I loved, in this connection, a piece the Times ran in last Saturday’s editions to dress up, as a matter of personal affection, what has to be the Biden regime’s worst policy failure to date. Joe Biden just loves Israel, Peter Baker, the Times’ White House correspondent, wants us to know, and we should understand this — and along the way accept his “unwavering support.”

“Some confidants,” Baker then writes, “said that Mr. Biden’s Irish heritage makes him relate to the plight of historically marginalized people and that his own family tragedy connects him to the grief of those who have lost so much.”

Readers, take as much time as you wish lingering over this, among the most preposterous sentences written to explain U.S. policy since violence erupted Oct. 7. 

We propose to ban the exercise of conscience, condemnations of the out-of-control violence of an openly racist nation. No, you cannot think that. No, you cannot say that. You must think and say this. We tell ourselves stories about what good, well-intended fellows are those who support atrocities. 

U.S. foreign policy has not for many decades had much to do with the ideals of Western civilization as we were taught to think of them. Now Americans  whose taxes pay for policy are urged to come right out with it: Yes, we approve of war crimes, violence against noncombatants, ethnic cleansing. What is Israel costing Americans? Ourselves and our self-respect, our psychological coherence, our regard of history, our culture, our humanity. 

Israel, the U.S. and the rest of the West cannot bring themselves to acknowledge the grave,  grave error of al–Nakba in 1948, when began the forcible removal of Palestinians from their land. See the Toynbee reference above: Nobody in power has the creativity, imagination, or confidence to confront the present as the consequence of this error and begin acting to correct it.

And so Israel will continue to pull us in the wrong direction — or further in the wrong direction, I ought to say. I hope I am not around if ever Americans start in with the sadistic videos.

Patrick Lawrence, a correspondent abroad for many years, chiefly for the International Herald Tribune, is a columnist, essayist, lecturer and author, most recently of Journalists and Their Shadows.   Other books include Time No Longer: Americans After the American Century. His Twitter account, @thefloutist, has been permanently censored. 

TO MY READERS: Independent publications and those who write for them reach a moment that is difficult and full of promise all at once. On one hand, we assume ever greater responsibilities in the face of mainstream media’s mounting derelictions. I take up this very topic in the commentary you have just read. On the other, we have found no sustaining revenue model and so must turn directly to our readers for support. I am committed to independent journalism for the duration: I see no other future for American media. But the path grows steeper, and as it does I need your help. This grows urgent now. If you are already a supporter, big thanks. If you aren’t, please, to sustain my continued contributions to ScheerPost and in  recognition of the commitment to independent journalism I share with this superb publication, join in by subscribing to The Floutist, or via my Patreon account.

This article is from ScheerPost.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

37 comments for “Patrick Lawrence: Deeper Into Depravity

  1. Susan Siens
    November 3, 2023 at 15:02

    As always, Patrick Lawrence’s writing is spot on. That said, he brings up the question of being human. Are we all human? or is being human something we must strive to become? Without that striving, we so easily become monsters. As a lover of paradox, I believe both statements are true. On both the macro and micro scale, I have seen little evidence that people are actually willing to work to become fully fledged human beings, content to remain semi-comatose and monstrous.

  2. Michael Kritschgau
    November 3, 2023 at 09:59

    This conflict will continue for another thousand years.
    Nothing changed, nothing will change.
    The world that was still exists under new banners or flags but the behaviour is the same.
    That is why I will never ever take sides in this conflict.
    Both parties are insane.

    • Gypsy33
      November 4, 2023 at 08:14

      You’re so incorrect as to be laughable. This situation hasn’t been going on for “thousands of years”.
      It only began when the colonial British took a land in which a certain people resided for thousands of years and gave it away to another people, circa 1948.

  3. firstpersoninfinite
    November 3, 2023 at 00:05

    “We are the people of the light, they are the people of darkness, and light shall triumph over darkness.”

    Bibi is a blithering idiot. Light never triumphs over darkness. Light is a tragic scenario that is never guaranteed of victory. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be light. How is killing people in the name of a racist doctrine of supremacy a gathering of light? No, no, my little criminal – you are as misshapen as darkness itself, roiling madly behind whatever light is still available to us all while hoping to fizzle out the last remnant of any hope for humanity. Life is light, but you are a guardian of death. Darkness always wins eventually, but those who ease its way forward as you do are truly archangels of darkness. It is all of our jobs to keep the lights on just a little bit longer than those of your ilk feel it is necessary.

  4. WillD
    November 2, 2023 at 22:37

    Very apt title ‘Deeper into Depravity’. It speaks volumes about Israel and the Western countries and peoples that back it and support its actions.

    By definition, depravity implies lack of humanity, lack of compassion and of course lack of morals. All traits that these countries, and some of their people – not all fortunately, display in abundance, dressed up to appear righteous with all sorts of twisted reasoning and emotions.

    I wonder if they can ever return to full humanity, or whether they will all live their lives going deeper and deeper into that moral abyss.

  5. doris
    November 2, 2023 at 21:01

    Their lack of humanity in the name of their God is truly disgusting.

  6. anon
    November 2, 2023 at 18:37

    The US and its assorted jackals and poodles will pay a very high price for a long time to come as sponsors, paymasters, cheerleaders and apologists for this genocide. They are delegitimising themselves by the day and the other seven eighths of humanity will no longer accept it. They are consigning themselves to isolation and irrelevance.

    Another casualty will be the loathsome, fawning, lickspittle bought and paid for lying whores of the legacy media, who have shredded what little remains of their credibility.

    The world is changing rapidly. The would be masters of the universe have sown the wind over many years, and they are going to reap the whirlwind. An almighty reckoning is coming. There is a very weighty account to be settled.

  7. Bill Johnson
    November 2, 2023 at 18:36

    I don’t believe that the people who crucified Jesus have changed; today they cry “crucify the Palestinians”.
    They are very good at mocking people; they mocked Jesus and today they make videos which mock the Palestinians.
    We need to think carefully why it was that the philosophy of one man, Jesus, was perceived to be such a threat by the power structure of his time.
    Based on the horrifying actions of Israel, I would suggest rereading the following poem:

    First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a socialist.

    Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a trade unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Jew.

    Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

    • Susan Siens
      November 3, 2023 at 14:42

      Jesus arose out of Hebraic tradition, the tradition of the prophets. The LEADERS, however, were another matter, clinging to their status and power as all leaders do. Jesus spoke against status, money, prestige, and the people who mouth his name today cling to status, money, prestige. Even his disciples didn’t understand what he was trying to say, they just knew he was charismatic and preached a deeply meaningful message. One of our problems today is that we have no actual leadership, no one willing to speak the truth, just minions of the hidden power structure who have nothing but evil in their souls.

  8. Rob
    November 2, 2023 at 16:54

    What was the Vietnam War if not a gigantic war crime that resulted in the deaths of several million people? The same can be said of 21st century wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya. History shows how the United States has long practiced and approved of such barbarity. Gaza is but the latest crime to be added to the list.

  9. Vera Gottlieb
    November 2, 2023 at 15:20

    The Zionists will smear anyone, anywhere, any time to cover up their gruesome acts. Without resorting to violence I must have the right to a different opinion and voice it. If you can’t stand the heat…get out of the kitchen.

  10. jean maxime
    November 2, 2023 at 15:01

    “the ideals of Western civilization as we were taught to think of them”
    We are witnessing their complete unfurling as campaign after campaign and policy after policy these ideals prove to be talking points for self aggrandizement, never put into practice. When western and Israeli leaders see “pure evil” it is only because they are looking in the mirror and cannot accept the enormity of the nightmare created by their folly.

  11. Lois Gagnon
    November 2, 2023 at 14:39

    Psychopaths will be the death of us all. What is it about the rest of humanity that is unwilling or unable to reign in this small group of blood thirsty power hungry lunatics that always manage to fool the majority into giving them power? Look where we are now? Cowardice exacts a price. This time, the price may be all life on earth exterminated. What a sorry state we have been reduced to.

  12. lidia
    November 2, 2023 at 14:04

    Western civilization is based on colonization, slavery and imperialism. NOTHINHG new there. And Hitler belongs to Western civilization as much as Washington and Churchill.

  13. Rudy Haugeneder
    November 2, 2023 at 12:27

    These things will never end. Sapiens are genetically violent. Hopefully this has not been permanently bred into artificial intelligence (AI) which Sapiens created and, until now, continue to rule. Unfortunately, AI is likely to be even worse than us.

    • Valerie
      November 2, 2023 at 19:21

      Interestingly enough, i just read this. So Rudy, it looks like you are correct on the genetically violent theory:


      “AI is likely to be even worse than us.” And correct on this too:


      Professor Stephen Hawking warned about this many years ago, long before sunak.

      The way i see it now, there are 3 scenarios in play (forget the 4th, because that’s a given indisputable fact) to determine our extinction in the short-term: Climate Chaos; Nuclear Annihilation; Artificial Intelligence.

    • J Anthony
      November 3, 2023 at 09:05

      You may be right that these conflicts will never end, at least not in this lifetime, but the oft-repeated notion that we are naturally violent is a falsehood. The violence has been conditioned into us since the first organized societies came to fruition, even earlier, more because of those societies’ or tribes’ leaders and their own selfish interests and ignorance than because of anything inherent. The average citizens of any society do not long for war or violence, they are manipulated into believing it is necessary for whatever reason. Humans are easily malleable creatures and can be easily led off of a cliff, like so many sheep. Our primary instinct(as well as almost every other living creature) is survival, so assuming that we are born violent and self-destructive contradicts that main instinct. The modern forms of tribalism and primitive behavior is in fact a willful regression, perpetuated by regressive leaders whose thought-processes remain stuck in a bygone era. Thus the mass cognitive-dissonance we are witnessing today, made more tragic by the fact that we’ve managed to create technology that would otherwise enable us to solve most if not all of our most pressing issues, but is not being applied that way because of obsolete ideologies still propagated by the so-called elite. I can understand why people would assume this considering thousands of years of the same-old-shyte, and while we may have some level of innate self-destruction in our genes, for the most part it is against our nature to destroy ourselves and each other. We either evolve or we die.

  14. Jeff Harrison
    November 2, 2023 at 12:26

    The Israelis did not learn the importance of humanity from their experience in the holocaust, they learned how to perpetrate it themselves. It’s also why we as a society fail.

    • lidia
      November 2, 2023 at 14:05

      Zionists were helpers of Nazis, in exchange for help in colonization of Palestine. Hitler was a colonizer too, by the way

    • Susan Siens
      November 3, 2023 at 14:45

      You can be sure that the best people died in the Holocaust as Victor Frankl pointed out. He said no good person survived the camps and he included himself in that list.

  15. Richard Burrill
    November 2, 2023 at 12:15

    A dictionary tells us that Hebrews and Arabs and others are semitic people..

  16. Caliman
    November 2, 2023 at 12:04

    Much like the censorship/disinformation issue, it’s interesting how out there and open the argument is becoming … not nearly as covered by doublespeak, innuendo, etc. as it used to be. Genocidal and ethnic cleansing thoughts are unabashedly expressed and fully acted upon, not just by common people on the street indicating the national mood, but also by the prime minister and president of “the only democracy in the ME” and its sycophants in the US and western Europe.

    The ends envisioned by the powers that be are beyond me … really, the only thing left after we lose our whole civilizational reason to be is force … just the boots stomping on faces endlessly.

    • Renate
      November 2, 2023 at 13:47

      Decades of indoctrination have brought us here. In all that time Israeli officials could blatantly tell blatant lies in interviews on TV and no journalist would ask follow-up questions and correct the lies. Now the hate is on display, the leaders of big Democracies justify war crimes, in France and Germany, they even banned peaceful demonstrations in support of the Palestinian people.
      Advanced wealthy civilized nations are openly governed by war criminals.

  17. Carolyn L Zaremba
    November 2, 2023 at 11:59

    Thank you for this, Patrick. I have read your recent book and liked it so much I sent a copy to a like-minded friend to read.

  18. Carolyn L Zaremba
    November 2, 2023 at 11:33

    Patrick, “we” are not “letting” the Israelis and the U.S. government do anything. We are protesting in the streets. I will be attending a massive protest in San Francisco on Saturday. There have already been a few here. Hundreds of thousands of citizens of countries all over the world have been demanding an end to this genocide, but the governments of the collective West are not listening. They are obeying the United States’s sadistic support for the Israeli murderers.

  19. Robert
    November 2, 2023 at 11:21

    The current political arrangement has not worked for 75 years so I would think the opposing factions would at least agree that SOMETHING must change and that the change can only occur at a negotiations table. Sadly the UN remains as the best prospect for a changed arrangement. The next best bet would be for Saudi Arabia and China to get involved, along with the UN. First and foremost, whoever determines who fills the seats at the table, it must be made clear that there is NO seat available for anyone from the USA. Blinken, Sullivan, and Nuland are the most poisonous people ever to inherit positions of “diplomacy” in our countries history.

    • Selina Sweet
      November 2, 2023 at 15:18

      Wholly agree. Biden’s triplets – Nuland, Blinken, and Sullivan- must be fired. On- goingly, they have demonstrated exceptionally in possessing a one note sound. War! War! War! Blind each is to the capacities of a George Mitchell to genuinely respect “enemies” in conflict. To hear the deeper strains in each and with creative imagination and sensitivity guide them into an understanding embodying peace. That geography where mutual needs may be acknowledged and addressed. Biden’s triplets are constitutionally without the talents and without the yearning to construct a “middle road” compatible for peace. Nuance? Their specialty is War! Power! And Win! at any cost. Pitiful, really.

  20. November 2, 2023 at 11:07

    Inadvertently this article provides a foundation on which to understand how so many decent, socially conscious Germans became the now universally condemned Nazis, a path the United States and the other countries that comprise the fascist NATO alliance also seems dead set on following.

    • Susan Siens
      November 3, 2023 at 14:58

      But they were not decent people. One of the things I like about living rurally is that you see EXACTLY what people are like because you get to know them. And people always let things slip so you know who they truly are.

      If Americans were decent people, why don’t we have adequate public housing? genuine health care for all? good schools for all? sufficient, quality food for everyone? Why do we see ads on TV about St Jude’s treating children with cancer and no mention at all of preventing childhood cancer? Why do we see no effort at conserving precious fossil fuels?

      Once you are willing to face the reality of human beings, the sight is not pleasant, but denying it changes nothing.

  21. Doug
    November 2, 2023 at 11:00

    So true….so heartbreaking….thank you

  22. November 2, 2023 at 10:56

    Verity and human decency are anachronistic when it comes to Palestine, or to any enemy of the NATO alliance (i.e., the United States military industrial complex against which Ike warned sixty-three years ago). Of course, reading the Tanakh, perhaps in an Abrahamic context verity and human decency have always been anathema.

  23. Sol
    November 2, 2023 at 10:05

    Thank you for the article and precious links.
    My friend Vittorio Arrigoni who worked as human shield in Gaza from 2007 2011
    he was the only foreigners permitted to stay during cast lead massacre of 2008 from which beside writing and working as human shield and protector for Palestinian children, maintained its blog which I was moderating for him, told me that the casualties numbers given by Palestinian authorities are usually 1 tenth of the real number.
    He told me that the officials are threatened by the zionist regime, which tells them to wind down the numbers or they will kill Palestinians held in the israeli prisons.
    What is going on is genocide and we are not being shown the real extent of this ongoing holocaust.
    We must demand an end to this insane genocide.

  24. dfjslblty
    November 2, 2023 at 09:34

    Bravo, Mr Lawrence.
    Keep writing.

    And I read and identify with your statement …not to be alive when the western world begins showing sadistique videos. What we witness is not life as I am want to be part of.

    That an eighty-year-old man would not endorse a cessation to violence is disgusting to me.

    Stop War!
    Protest Loudly!

  25. Thomas J Laney
    November 2, 2023 at 08:21

    I am ashamed to be an American.

    • Carolyn L Zaremba
      November 2, 2023 at 11:35

      I am ashamed of my government. The empire is dying and rotten. This is its response. More and more frenzied violence. More death and destruction. And its lackeys in the mainstream corporate media censor as many opposing voices as they can. This is why we must support independent journalism wherever we can find it. Journalism like that of Patrick Lawrence and Consortium News.

    • Francis Lee
      November 4, 2023 at 12:23

      You may well add the other imperial bloc out of the rest of the 5-eyes. These being the follows as: 1. The USA, 2. UK, 3. Canada, 4. Australia and 5. New Zealand. All making up the imperialist bloc – but then comes the opposition of the of the global south, which needs urgent attention in the shape of China, Russia and India leading the bunch. Which way is the wind blowing I wonder?

  26. Valerie
    November 2, 2023 at 04:37

    It’s a “freak” show, and the Zionists/Israelis invite us to watch it. (No admission fee.)

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