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UN Secretary-General’s Remarks to Security Council on Situation in the Middle East

UN Secretary-General’s Remarks to Security Council on Situation in the Middle East


New York, 26 January 2016

(as delivered)

Sadly, 2016 has begun much like 2015 ended – with unacceptable levels of violence and a polarized public discourse across the spectrum in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory.

Stabbings, vehicle attacks, and shootings by Palestinians targeting Israeli civilians – all of which I condemn — and clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces, have continued to claim lives.

But security measures alone will not stop the violence. They cannot address the profound sense of alienation and despair driving some Palestinians – especially young people.

The full force of the law must be brought to bear on all those committing crimes – with a system of justice applied equally for Israelis and Palestinians alike.

Palestinian frustration is growing under the weight of a half century of occupation and the paralysis of the peace process.

Some have taken me to task for pointing out this indisputable truth.

Yet, as oppressed peoples have demonstrated throughout the ages, it is human nature to react to occupation, which often serves as a potent incubator of hate and extremism.

So-called facts on the ground in the occupied West Bank are steadily chipping away the viability of a Palestinian state and the ability of Palestinian people to live in dignity.

In an effort to overcome the political impasse, Quartet Envoys met Israeli and Palestinian officials on 17 December last year.

They reiterated the urgent need for significant steps, in line with previous agreements, to strengthen Palestinian institutions, security and economic prospects while addressing Israel’s security concerns.

Changing Israeli policies is central to advancing this goal, particularly in Israeli-controlled Area C, which comprises 61 percent of West Bank territory and is home to some 300,000 Palestinians.

Approvals of master plans for Palestinian sectors of Area C would allow for much needed growth in these areas and prevent demolitions.

Progress towards peace requires a freeze of Israel’s settlement enterprise.

Continued settlement activities are an affront to the Palestinian people and to the international community. They rightly raise fundamental questions about Israel’s commitment to a two-state solution.

I am deeply troubled by reports today that the Israeli Government has approved plans for over 150 new homes in illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank.

This is combined with its announcement last week declaring 370 acres in the West Bank, south of Jericho, as so-called “state land”. These provocative acts are bound to increase the growth of settler populations, further heighten tensions and undermine any prospects for a political road ahead.

I urge the Israeli Government not to use a recent decision by the Israeli High Court affirming a large tract of land south of Bethlehem as state land to advance settlement activities.

The demolitions of Palestinian homes in Area C of the occupied West Bank continue. So do the decades-long difficulties of Palestinians to obtain building permits. 

The Bedouin community, in particular, is paying a heavy price. I reiterate the UN’s call for an immediate end to Israeli plans to forcibly transfer Bedouin communities currently living within the occupied Palestinian territory in the Jerusalem area.

At the same time, the humanitarian situation in Gaza remains perilous.

Eighteen months after the end of hostilities, conditions have not significantly improved. I condemn the continuing rocket fire into Israel from militant groups in Gaza.

Chronic security and governance challenges and funding shortages have slowed the pace of reconstruction. Much work remains to be done. Meanwhile, the people of Gaza face dire unemployment, water and electricity needs.

Meeting these concerns must be a top priority. However none of this can be accomplished without critical support from donors, the fulfilment of pledges from the Cairo Conference, as well as the full return of the Palestinian Authority to Gaza.

I continue to strongly believe that conditions in Gaza pose a severe threat to long-term peace and security in the region.

Palestinians must also demonstrate commitment to addressing the divisions among Palestinians themselves.

I strongly urge the Palestinian factions to advance genuine Palestinian unity on the basis of democracy and the PLO principles.

Reconciliation is critical in order to reunite the West Bank and Gaza under a single legitimate Palestinian authority.

Healing Palestinian divisions is also critical so that Palestinians can instead focus their energies on establishing a stable state as part of a negotiated two-state solution.

Genuine unity will also improve the Palestinian Government’s ability to meet pressing economic problems, which are adding to the frustration and anger driving Palestinian violence.

The international community also has a responsibility – not least by responding generously to UNRWA’s recent emergency appeal of over $400 million to support vulnerable Palestinians.

And as we continue to uphold the right of Palestinians to self-determination, let us be equally firm that incitement has no place, and that questioning the right of Israel to exist cannot be tolerated.

In an already tense regional environment, it is imperative to promote and consolidate stability wherever possible.

In Lebanon, I urge all political leaders to work with Prime Minister Tammam Salam and to intensify efforts to resolve the presidential crisis.

The Syria Donors Conference on 4 February in London will be an important opportunity to mobilize support. This must include meeting neighbouring countries huge humanitarian, infrastructure and stabilization needs in light of the refugee crisis. We are all aware of the strains on Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.

I welcome the resumption of calm along the Blue Line and in UNIFIL’s area of operations following the serious incidents of 20 December and 4 January.

All parties have a responsibility to uphold the cessation of hostilities and to ensure full respect for Security Council resolution 1701.​​

On the Golan, it remains critical that parties to the Disengagement Agreement maintain liaison with UNDOF. They must refrain from actions that could escalate the situation across the ceasefire line.

Some may say the current volatility across the region makes it too risky to seek peace. I say the greater peril is not seeking a solution to the Palestinian question.

Some say the two sides are entrenched in their respective positions. I say that we must not succumb to passivity, resignation or hopelessness that a comprehensive resolution of the conflict is not achievable.

A lasting agreement will require difficult compromises by both the Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

Yes — but what are the alternatives?

The continuing deadly wave of terror attacks and killings?

The possible financial collapse of the Palestinian Government?

Ever greater isolation of the Israeli Government?

A further deterioration of humanitarian conditions in Gaza and the agonizing build-up to another terrible war?

A hollowing of the moral foundation of both Israeli and Palestinian societies alike, a creeping moral blindness that ignores the suffering – and indeed the humanity — of one’s neighbour?

More unilateral acts by each side, intentionally designed to pre-empt negotiations and provoke the other side?

The parties must act – and act now — to prevent the two-state solution from slipping away forever.

[Upholding] and implementing this vision – two states living side-by-side in peace and security – offers the only means by which Israel could retain both its Jewish majority and democratic status.

As the wider Middle East continues to be gripped by a relentless wave of extremist terror, Israelis and Palestinians have an opportunity to restore hope to a region torn apart by intolerance and cruelty. I urge them to accept this historic challenge in the mutual interest of peace.

The support of regional partners in this pursuit is essential. The Arab Peace Initiative provides a valuable basis for broader support.

And finally, the whole international community must be ever more committed to actively help Palestinians and Israelis to rebuild trust and achieve an enduring peace before it is too late.

Thank you. Muchas gracias.

Original link to statement:


Cover photo: A young shepherd tends his flock of sheep and goats at the imposed barrier of Palestinian lands. Dec. 28, 2013. West Bank, Palestinian Territories. (Photo by Gabriel Romero/Alexia Foundation ©2014)


Solar Power Is Great, Unless You Are a Bedouin in the West Bank

Solar Power Is Great, Unless You Are a Bedouin in the West Bank

By Zafrir Rinat
Originally published in Haaretz – January 7, 2016 [Photo by Amira Hass]

Environmental defense organizations have invested enormous resources in recent years to promote solar power usage in Israel. They would do well to make a small effort to help the West Bank Bedouin community, which wanted to exploit this type of energy but have been blocked by the Civil Administration, which has deemed their efforts illegal.

The residents of the village of Khan al-Ahmar, adjacent to Kfar Adumim, petitioned the High Court of Justice a few weeks ago to oblige the state to explain why it does not rescind the order it made to confiscate 20 solar panels that were donated to them. About 200 people live in the village, according to the petition. The Civil Administration rejects their right to live at the location and has issued dozens of demolition orders against structures in the village. Still, the state six months ago informed the High Court during a hearing on the village’s fate that it did not intend to carry out the demolition orders at that stage…

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Bedouin Couples Seeking to Build a Home in Their Village Face Kafkaesque Nightmare, Courtesy of Israel

Bedouin Couples Seeking to Build a Home in Their Village Face Kafkaesque Nightmare, Courtesy of Israel

By Amira Hass
Originally published in Haaretz – December 27, 2015 [Photo by Amira Hass]

Twenty-seven Bedouins living east of Jerusalem petitioned the High Court of Justice to let them live close to their parents, but not in the same tent. The state argued they should relocate to the Palestinian Authority.

“If the petitioners need housing, let them go to the Palestinian Authority, whose subjects they are,” Yitzhak Bart from the State Prosecutor’s Office told the court when it heard the petition earlier this month…

Read more at:

Demolished, Rebuilt and Razed Again: A Bedouin Community Left Without Shelter

Demolished, Rebuilt and Razed Again: A Bedouin Community Left Without Shelter

By Gideon Levy and Alex Levac
Originally published in Haaretz – December 11, 2015 [Photo by Alex Levac]

Dozens of pigeons, white and gray, now flock together on a small tin roof, pressed up against one another, as though protecting each other. They survived by flying off before the demolition, but their chicks were crushed alive by the bulldozers that razed this hamlet. The pigeons’ lofts, made from plastic olive oil containers, are now scattered on the ground, like the living survivors in Al Hadidya.

The local mukhtar, or headman, 65-year-old Abu Saker – whose full name is Abdel Rahim Basharat – says he hears the pigeons crying. With his toothless mouth, he too cries for his pigeons, his home, his three wives, 24 children and multitude of grandchildren, some of whom remain here after the demolition, without a roof over their heads, unsheltered in the biting cold of the Jordan Rift Valley’s nights. When the villagers had the temerity to cover their infants with strips of plastic sheeting, personnel from the Israeli Civil Administration arrived and burned the sheeting.

The sheer inhumanity of it is breathtaking…

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Perspectives: Institutional Evil

Perspectives: Institutional Evil

Above Photo: Demolitions at Al Azaria and Jabal a-Baba, May 19, 2014. Photo by Rami Allaria, via the archive.

By Amos Gvirtz
Originally posted to ActLeft for Israel-Palestine

I write these lines in a days-long state of agitation. Israeli soldiers came to the Palestinian hamlet of Al Hadidiya, in the Jordan Valley next to the Jewish settlement of Ro’i, and began to destroy the gravel track accessing the hamlet. Thanks to a temporary court injunction postponing this act of destruction, the soldiers were ordered to cease their destructive work. The next day, Israeli soldiers came again and demolished all dwelling and farming structures of three families there. On subsequent days soldiers came again and again, destroyed and confiscated the Red Cross tents that the inhabitants had received as an act of first aid. Under duress, the inhabitants covered themselves with plastic sheets to find minimal shelter from the cold and the rain. Again Israel’s soldiers arrived in the middle of the night and removed those plastic sheets, leaving men, women and children completely exposed.

Sadly, this is not a singular case. We constantly witness such goings-on in the Palestinian Jordan Valley, in the South Hebron Hills, in Area E1 (near Jerusalem) etc. It is not an individual case of a wicked psychopath. It is State policy, aspiring to remove as many Palestinians as possible from Area C (which is under full Israeli domination) and force them to move into Areas A and B (partially in Palestinian control) of the West Bank. All this is done so that eventually Israel will annex Area C with as few Palestinians as possible.

Such acts happen not only in the Occupied Territories, but also in the Negev where Israel’s government is demolishing hundreds of Bedouin homes every year. There too, this is done in order to uproot them from their villages and concentrate them in state-constructed townships.

Note that all of these evil deeds are done in the name of “the law”. Israel has chosen not to recognize dozens of hamlets that were there in the West Bank long before it occupied the area. Later the Israeli army declared vast areas as firing zones. Surprisingly many of these hamlets are situated within these firing zones. Both unrecognized and within firing zones In short, there is no chance for both old and new construction to become legal. The army has stripped Palestinian planning committees of their authority and authorized itself in their stead. Naturally the army avoids issuing permits for construction, so that every attempt to build anything becomes illegal. Now the soldiers come equipped with “legal” demolition orders and ruin homes and villages, so that the inhabitants finally break and leave. And indeed, the system works. Slowly people do break and leave. It is called ‘voluntary transfer’…

So here is a story of stubborn Bedouins who refuse to understand the system, Israeli law. In the early 1950s the military governor came to the Sheikh of the Al Turi tribe living in the Al Arakib area and announced that the army intended to hold maneuvers in the tribe’s living area. For their own safety, they must leave, and half-a-year later, when the maneuver are over, they would be able to return. They were not allowed to return but a law was passed establishing that lands which remain unused – while the Bedouins were away – would become state land. Simply put: landgrab under legal guise. Some of the tribe members would not accept the state’s act of robbery and returned to their stolen land. The return, in the eyes of the state, is a violation of the law. And whoever breaks the law must be removed from his land… It does not look good for the State to transfer its own citizens in peacetime. So what does it do? Destroys crops, demolishes homes, destroys the village! Wonder of wonders, some stubborn individuals refuse to understand that they are violating state laws and insist on remaining on their land. Thus they expose the true face of the State which commits immoral acts in the name of the law. Since transfer is bad for the State’s reputation, the show of “law enforcement” is carried out until the inhabitants should break and leave “of their own free will”.

The interesting part in all of this is that all of these evil acts do not entail casualties. And when there is no “blood” shed, the mainstream media simply do not show any interest in the victims. And when the media does not report, no one opposes these evil acts. And thus, unseen and nearly unprotested, a slow process of voluntary transfer is taking place – “legally”.

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What Happens When a Bedouin Builds a Gravel Path So His Kids Can Get to School on Rainy Days

What Happens When a Bedouin Builds a Gravel Path So His Kids Can Get to School on Rainy Days

By Dafna Banai
Originally published in Haaretz – November 30, 2015 [Photo by Eliyahu Hershkovitz]

The military has forbidden construction in Area C of the West Bank, which is under total Israeli military and civilian control. Anyone violating this ban risks the demolition of their building, sometimes without warning. That’s why Abu Sakr and his children, who live in the Bedouin village of Al-Hadidiya in the Jordan Valley, had to work like thieves in the night to build a gravel path. They need it so the kids can get to school on rainy days.

Every week I go to the Jordan Valley with my friends from Machsom Watch. That’s how I know that, for years, the children of Al-Hadidiya lived on their own in the neighboring village of Tamoun without parental supervision. Why? Because all the routes to the central West Bank were blocked with earth mounds, checkpoints, gates, huge boulders and more. No one could enter or leave. This meant the children could not study because there is no school for them in the northern Jordan Valley…

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Call for International Presence: High Court Hearing on Wadi al Qteyf Community (Sateh al Bahar)

Call for International Presence: High Court Hearing on Wadi al Qteyf Community (Sateh al Bahar)

Date: Monday, November 9th at 09:00

At: The Israeli High Court of Justice, Case number HCJ 8115\12  (Judges panel led by Chief Justice Miriam Naor)

Address: Kiryat Ben-Gurion, 1 Sha’are Mishpat St., Jerusalem


Attendance by international and local observers is requested


On Monday 9 November 2015, the Israeli High Court of Justice will hold a key hearing in relation to the forcible transfer of the Wadi Qteyf Bedouin community near Jericho.  The community are currently living in an area allegedly designated as a ‘closed military zone’ by Israeli authorities and are facing demolition of their structures which have been provided as part of an international humanitarian response. 

The community have petitioned the Israeli Supreme Court to cancel demolition orders which were issued in 2012.  It is understood that the Israeli Civil Administration may propose that the community ‘relocate’ to the Nweima site near Jericho in return for a freeze on the demolition orders, pending approval of the Nweima plan. If the Court were to accept this arrangement, it would facilitate the forcible transfer of the community in violation of international humanitarian law. 

The community wish to remain in their present location and do not wish to be ‘transferred’.   International law experts have noted that the ‘relocation’ of a community in a coercive environment when the community has no real choice constitutes the offence of forcible transfer under international humanitarian law.  Recent reports have noted the frequent misuse of Palestinian land as ‘closed military zones’ by Israeli authorities. 


Background to the community

The Bedouin community of Wadi al Qteyf is located in the Jericho governorate next to the Sea Level lay-by on Highway 1 and is home to 13 families (15 households) who have lived permanently in their current location since 1982. The community have used the location as a seasonal migration stop-off since prior to 1948 and the areas constitutes part of the traditional territory of the Jahalin tribe of which the Wadi al Qteyf community are members.

The land of Wadi al Qteyf is reportedly owned by the waqf (religious endowment) as part of the Nabi Musa heritage site. The community reports that the military zone begins 0.5 km from the community and state that they are not located within its boundaries. The group is not registered with UNRWA as refugees.

According to latest information, the ICA has offered to  allow the community to build new structures at locations in the Nweima area near Jericho, in return for the non- issuance of any demolition orders against existing community structures until the Nweima plans are approved.  The Nweima plan remains pending with the Israeli Civil Administration following the lodgment of a large number of objections to the plan as as well as legal proceedings challenging the process leading to the plan.  During the upcoming session the Court will provide its opinion regarding this proposal. It is possible that the Court will accept the ICA offer, especially if it finds that the community are resident in a closed military zone.

Adv. Shlomo Lecker, who represents the Jahalin Bedouin, emphasises that it is practically impossible for Bedouin to build in a “lawful” manner and avoid the issuance of demolition orders. Throughout decades of military control of the area, Israel, as Occupying Power, has refrained from establishing mechanisms that would allow Bedouin residents to build lawfully as ‘protected persons’ in international law. Consequently the Bedouin live with the constant fear of demolition and evacuation from their homes.

Prohibition of forcible transfer under international humanitarian law

Under international law, the Israeli relocation plan may constitute an “individual or mass forcible transfer” of a protected civilian population under occupation.  Forced population transfers are considered grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention and a war crime under international law. The term ‘forcible’ is not restricted to physical force, but may include threat of force or coercion, or taking advantage of a coercive environment.  The international community has expressed its strong objections to the Bedouin relocation plan.  The UN Secretary-General has stated that the implementation of the proposed relocation “would amount to individual and mass forcible transfers and forced evictions” in violation of international law. IHL expert Professor Marco Sassoli notes that ‘The current plans to displace the remaining Bedouin communities would amount to forcible transfer under IHL if carried out.”

Recent research indicates a high level of misuse of Palestinian land as ‘closed military zones’ by Israeli authorities.  Whilst nearly one third of Palestinian land in the West Bank (1,765,000 dunams or about 436,000 acres) has been declared as closed military zones, approximately 78% of this land is not used for military purposes at all.  (Kerem Navot: A Locked Garden: Declaration of Closed Military Areas in the West Bank, September 2015).

For more information please call NRC on:  054-4384266

Invitation: High Court Hearing on Wadi al Qteyf community (Sateh al Bahar) November 2015

Cover photo: Members of the Jahalin tribe at Wadi al-Qatif (west of Jericho) given 48-hour eviction orders, April 30, 2014. Photo by Neal Badache.

[Haaretz] Tracking Terrorists and Smugglers Just Like the Bedouin Do

[Haaretz] Tracking Terrorists and Smugglers Just Like the Bedouin Do

This article was originally published in Haaretz – October 5, 2015 [Photo by Tal Shofman-Schejter]

By Judy Maltz

SALAMEH, Upper Galilee – Ziad Sawaid, a Bedouin tracker, bends down and draws a circle in the earth with his stick. After a brief examination, he rules: “It’s not the footprint of a goat. Not a human footprint either. This one belongs to a wild boar.”

The Bedouin’s legendary skills at sighting and deciphering imprints on the ground, often indiscernible to the average eye, are put to use in the Israeli army, where many Bedouin volunteers dominate the ranks of trackers patrolling the borders. Passed down from generation to generation and honed through years in the outdoors, this sixth sense has helped foil many attempts by terrorists and smugglers to infiltrate into Israel over the years…

Article continued on

[AP] West Bank Bedouin Fight Israeli Order to Demolish Homes

[AP] West Bank Bedouin Fight Israeli Order to Demolish Homes

This report and associated video footage was originally filed by AP Television – September 15, 2015

Video Link:
*English translation of Arabic footage available in the audio transcript. 

Bedouin children have a kick about in Abu Nuwar. But these football games may soon be a thing of the past. Israel’s Civil Administration (ICA) has drafted a plan to demolish houses in the community, saying they have been illegally built. Residents say they already face problems as a result of nearby Israeli settlements.

“Ma’ale Adumim settlement is to our north and Kedar settlement is from the south and from the east is a bypass road that connects Ma’ale Adumim and Kedar,” says Younes Hamadeen, an Abu Nuwar community leader.

“This road forms a barrier to our sheep from crossing and grazing and our kids cross this road with great difficulty to get to school in Wadi Abu Hindi,” he says. Hamadeen was born and raised in this community. He points out the areas under threat.

“I have a sewing room here and the kindergarten where we were sitting are all under a demolition order but with God’s help none will be demolished,” he says. Activists say the Bedouins are being relocated to make way for Israeli settlements.

“Israel is basically displacing people in order to expand its settlements and it’s expanding its settlements in this region more than anywhere else in order to take the whole of Jerusalem,” says Angela Godfrey Goldstein, an Israeli peace activist. But the authorities reject those claims and say the plans have been drafted as a result of talks with Palestinian parties. A UN agency says the Bedouin people must either be allowed to return to original land in the Negev desert or be able to build in the areas they now live. Nader Dagher, a UNRWA public information officer, lists the demands his organisation is making on behalf of these people. “Freedom to build, to develop their places, build homes, build infrastructure, build public buildings and to participate in the planing in these areas instead of attempting to transfer them to other areas,” he says.

An Israeli NGO that provides planning assistance to Palestinian communities in the West Bank has come to the aid of the Bedouins. BIMKOM has dispatched teams to draw up a plan to present to the Israeli authorities which takes into consideration the needs of the community. “At this stage we are practically conducting a full survey of the Abu Nuwar community in order to study and produce a preliminary plan for the community that addresses two points,” says Amal Zoabi, a planner.

“First, to prove that it is possible that they can remain in this community (continue living in this location) and to prevent transfer, of course, and to live in a way that meets their lifestyle’s basic requirements,” she says. The Bedouin are concerned they will be moved to an area where they can not herd their animals. But Hamadeen is determined to stay put in Abu Nuwar. “We were born here, we said it clearly that we are not going to abandon this place even if they demolish our homes once or twice. We’re not a state, we’re a people,” he says. “We are aware this is a state of occupation that controls the entire world, they are not afraid of Abu Nuwar community. But our weapon is resilience,” Hamadeen adds.

Authorities have earmarked land next to the Palestinian town of Abu Dis for the Bedouin. The land has been bulldozed ready for the Bedouin for when their current homes are gone. But lawyers acting for the community say they have secured an appeal and an injunction that prevents the Israel Civil Administration from carrying out demolitions. The Israeli High Court has given the ICA until 27 October to answer the objections raised. “The international community shouldn’t just be making statements, they should actually be doing much more so that Israel understands it cannot get away with this for its own good,” says Goldstein. “I speak as an Israeli, this is not healthy for us. We’re becoming an incredibly inhuman society, arrogant, careless, lacking in all the basics of Judaism,” she continues.

In a statement, the ICA says: “The Civil Administration is promoting a plan for regularising the communities of the Palestinian Bedouin, many of whom live in illegally built housing. The plan has been drafted after discussions and dialogues with the Palestinian interlocutors. The plan allocates to the Bedouin land that includes essential infrastructures such as electricity, water and sewage systems. It was formulated following meetings with delegates of the Bedouin population and takes into consideration the desire to preserve the traditional Bedouin lifestyle.”

There are more than 11,000 outstanding demolition orders in the West Bank, according to official data obtained from the Israeli authorities by the UN. 570 orders are ‘ready for execution’.

For corresponding video footage and additional details, please visit:

[+972 Magazine] In five-year high, Israel demolishes 143 Palestinian structures in single month

[+972 Magazine] In five-year high, Israel demolishes 143 Palestinian structures in single month

This article was originally published in +972 Magazine – September 5, 2015 [Photo by Oren Ziv/ActiveStills]

By Natasha Roth

Israel demolished 143 Palestinian structures in the West Bank and East Jerusalem in the month of August, the highest such total in five years, according to statistics released by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Occupied Palestinian Territory (OCHA-oPt). The wave of demolitions has displaced nearly 200 Palestinians, many of them children. Some of the highest concentrations of demolitions occurred during a record-breaking heatwave that swept the country and displaced children are now starting their school year homeless

Article continued at +972 Magazine