Wikileaks | Iran | Kurdistan | Palestine

Owen Bowcott, David Crouch: UN panel calls on UK and Sweden to end Julian Assange’s ‘deprivation of liberty’ (Guardian)

The WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been arbitrarily detained by the UK and Sweden for more than five years and should be released immediately with compensation, according to a United Nations report…
The panel calls on the Swedish and British authorities to end Assange’s “deprivation of liberty”, respect his physical integrity and freedom of movement and offer him compensation…
A UK government spokesperson said: “This changes nothing. We completely reject any claim that Julian Assange is a victim of arbitrary detention. The UK has already made clear to the UN that we will formally contest the working group’s opinion…”

Glenn Greenwald: U.S. Radically Changes Its Story of the Boats in Iranian Waters: to an Even More Suspicious Version (Intercept)

Martin Chulov: Iraqi Kurdistan president: time has come to redraw Middle East boundaries (Guardian)

Massoud Barzani claims era of Sykes-Picot is over and a new international agreement is needed for the Middle East

Pepe Escobar: Why Israel is in love with Kurdistan (RT)

What Big Oil in the US – and also Israel – sees, most of all, is the mirage of a Western-friendly major oil exporter in the long run. That’s why Balkanization sounds so juicy. This has nothing to do with the welfare of the historically wronged Kurdish people. It’s hardcore business. And yet another Divide and Rule power play.

Deepak Tripathi: Why Israel is backing Kurdish independence (Middle East Eye)

Ban Ki-moon: Don’t Shoot the Messenger, Israel (New York Times)

In Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, 2016 has begun much as 2015 ended — with unacceptable levels of violence and a polarized public discourse. That polarization showed itself in the halls of the United Nations last week when I pointed out a simple truth: History proves that people will always resist occupation.

Michael Schaeffer Omer-Man: IDF admits spraying herbicides inside the Gaza Strip (+972)

The Israel army has confirmed that it used crop-dusters to kill off vegetation — and perhaps inadvertently, agricultural crops — inside the Gaza Strip last week. According to Palestinian officials, over 420 acres of land were damaged by the spraying.
For years now, the IDF has unilaterally maintained a lethal “no-go zone” on the Palestinian side of the border with Gaza. Now, it seems, it has also implemented a “no-grow zone.”

Belal Aldabbour: Israel spraying toxins over Palestinian crops in Gaza (AlJazeera)

On January 7, a low-flying agricultural aircraft sprayed herbicides on to Palestinian farmlands along the eastern border, eradicating or damaging up to 162 hectares of crops and farmland along the Israeli border fence.
“Herbicides are sprayed in high concentrations. Thus, they remain embedded in the soil, and then find their way to the water basin. This constitutes a real hazard for the population,” said Anwar Abu Assi, manager of the chemical laboratory at the Ministry of Agriculture.
The sprayed areas belong to Israel’s unilaterally imposed and poorly delineated “buffer” or “no-go zone”.
The zone, which amounts to an estimated 17 percent of the entire territory of the Gaza Strip and a third of its agricultural lands, erodes into the Strip’s most vital and fertile soils…
With the Strip being merely five kilometres wide in some areas, a few hundred metres prove essential to the Strip’s food security…
A few days ago, Israeli warplanes bombed Gaza’s main agricultural experiment station, causing $300,000-worth of damages and destroying the station’s building, laboratories, vehicles and a large power generator.
The station developed new seeds and strains for use by local farmers. Bombed and completely destroyed during the 2014 war, Israel seems insistent on keeping the station out of service, effectively stifling every Palestinian attempt to attain self-sufficiency or independence, even agriculturally.

Peter Beaumont: Palestinian families homeless as Israeli military demolishes West Bank houses (Guardian)

Israeli military bulldozers have demolished 23 houses in two impoverished southern West Bank villages, including structures that were home to more than 100 people…
According to Israeli NGO Peace Now, among the 110 people made homeless during the demolitions were dozens of children from 12 different families.

Gideon Levy: Don’t Celebrate the Israeli Occupation’s Impending Demise Just Yet (Guardian)
Gideon Levy: Yes, Israel Is Executing Palestinians Without Trial (Haaretz)

We should call it like it is: Israel executes people without trial nearly every day. Any other description is a lie. If there was once discussion here about the death penalty for terrorists, now they are executed even without trial (and without discussion). If once there was debate over the rules of engagement, today it’s clear: we shoot to kill – any suspicious Palestinian.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan outlined the situation clearly when he said, “Every terrorist should know he will not survive the attack he is about to commit” – and almost every politician joined him in nauseating unison, from Yair Lapid on up. Never have so many licenses to kill been handed out here, nor has the finger been so itchy on the trigger…
The firing squads are active every day. Soldiers, police and civilians shoot those who stabbed Israelis, or tried to stab them or were suspected of doing so, and at those who run down Israelis in their cars or appear to have done so.
In most cases, there was no need to shoot – and certainly not to kill. In a good many of the cases, the shooters’ lives were not in danger. They shot people to death who were holding a knife or even scissors, or people who just put their hands in their pockets or lost control of their car.
They shot them to death indiscriminately – women, men, teenage girls, teenage boys. They shot them when they were standing, and even after they were no longer a threat. They shot to kill, to punish, to release their anger, and to take revenge. There is such contempt here that these incidents are barely covered in the media.

Leandros Fischer: The German Left’s Palestine Problem (Jacobin, December 2014)
Shany Littman: Tel Aviv Museum Nixes Ai Weiwei Exhibit; Israeli Artist Says Censorship at Play (Haaretz)

The exhibit by the Chinese artist and dissident, which was also expected to show portraits of Palestinians by Israeli photographer Miki Kratsman, was delayed repeatedly until being nixed.

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