France | Syria | Myanmar

Mehdi Hasan: Marine Le Pen is what happens when you try to meet racism in the middle (Intercept)

The rise of Marine Le Pen in France is due to the failure of mainstream political parties to confront the racism of the National Front. Instead, they tried to co-opt it…
The conventional wisdom says that mainstream French politicians allowed the far right to win votes by letting them monopolize the issue of immigration. The reverse is, in fact, the case: Over the past four decades, both the center-right Republicans and center-left Socialists went out of their way to try and co-opt the xenophobic rhetoric and policies of the Le Pens, which only emboldened — and normalized — both father and daughter.

Patrick Wintour: Russian and western dispute over Syria chemical attack further muddies truth (Guardian)

An increasingly bitter dispute between Russia and the west over an inquiry into the recent chemical weapons attack that killed about 80 people in Syria has revealed the extent to which the two sides are unable to agree on basic facts – or even agree a process to ascertain the truth.
The row has also brought into questions of future international support for the Organisation for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the internationally respected multilateral body responsible for overseeing control of chemical weapons…
At the meeting in the Hague the OPCW executive rejected a Russian-led plan for an OPCW investigation to be restarted, prompting Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov to claim that the west was not interested in the truth of the incident – only in finding excuses to oust President Bashar al-Assad from power…
Lavrov again called for the OPCW to send its experts to Khan Sheikhoun and the Shayrat airfield to look into the alleged chemical incident.
The Russian move was rejected by 21 to 6 with 13 abstentions, …

Rick Sterling: How Media Bias Fuels Syrian Escalation (Consortium News)

The mainstream U.S. media now reports as “flat-fact” the Syrian government’s guilt in the April 4 chemical weapons incident, but the real facts are less clear and some point in the opposite direction.

Robert Parry: Did Al Qaeda Fool the White House Again? (Consortium News)

Despite evidence that Al Qaeda and its allies have staged fake chemical attacks in Syria before, Official Washington asserts with “high confidence” that it’s not being fooled again…
In Official Washington, words rarely mean what they say. For instance, if a U.S. government official voices “high confidence” in a supposed “intelligence assessment,” that usually means “we don’t have any real evidence, but we figure that if we say ‘high confidence’ enough then no one will dare challenge us.”

Philip Giraldi says IC-Military Doubt Assad Gas Narrative (Scott Horton)

Philip Giraldi, former CIA officer and Director of the Council for the National Interest, says that “military and intelligence personnel,” “intimately familiar” with the intelligence, say that the narrative that Assad or Russia did it is a “sham,” instead endorsing the Russian narrative that Assad’s forces had bombed a storage facility. Giraldi’s intelligence sources are “astonished” about the government and media narrative and are considering going public out of concern over the danger of worse war there. Giraldi also observes that the Assad regime had no motive to do such a thing at this time.

Theodore A. Postol: Assessment of White House Intelligence Report About Nerve Agent Attack in Khan Shaykhun, Syria (Global Research)

The only undisputable facts stated in the White House report is the claim that a chemical attack using nerve agent occurred in Khan Shaykhun, Syria on that morning. Although the White House statement repeats this point in many places within its report, the report contains absolutely no evidence that this attack was the result of a munition being dropped from an aircraft. In fact, the report contains absolutely no evidence that would indicate who was the perpetrator of this atrocity…
The data cited by the White House is more consistent with the possibility that the munition was placed on the ground rather than dropped from a plane.

Theodore A. Postol: With Error Fixed, Evidence Against ‘Sarin Attack’ Remains Convincing (Truthdig)
James Carden: The Chemical-Weapons Attack In Syria: Is There a Place for Skepticism? (Nation)

The American media has excluded dissenting expert opinions in its rush to embrace Trump’s war on Syria…
Former British ambassador to Syria Peter Ford told the BBC last week that he seriously doubted that Assad was the culprit. “Assad,” said Ford, “may be cruel, brutal but he’s not mad. It defies belief that he would bring this all on his head for no military advantage.” Ford said he believes the accusations against Syria are “simply not plausible.”
On April 11, the White House released a declassified four-page report meant to prove its case against Assad and serve as a belated justification for the Tomahawk attack on Syria’s Shayrat air base.
The report, which was authored not by US intelligence agencies but by the White House under the supervision of national-security adviser H.R. McMaster, says that “The United States is confident that the Syrian regime conducted a chemical weapons attack, using the nerve agent sarin, against its own people in the town of Khan Shaykhun in southern Idlib Province on April 4, 2017.”…
Yet the administration’s report has come under withering scrutiny from Dr. Theodore Postol, a professor emeritus of science, technology, and national-security policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who once served as a scientific adviser to the chief of naval operations at the Pentagon…
The Nation spoke to Postol over the weekend.
“What I think is now crystal clear,” he said, “is that the White House report was fabricated and it certainly did not follow the procedures it claimed to employ.”

False Flag Attack: Ex-CIA Officer Unravels Idlib Chemical Incident (Sputnik)

While US Defense Secretary James Mattis is pushing ahead with the claim that the Assad government still has chemical weapons, former CIA officer Robert David Steele told Radio Sputnik that the claim bears no relation to reality and added that evidence mounts that the Idlib incident was a false flag operation.

Patrick Martin: US claims of Syria nerve gas attack: The anatomy of a lie (World Socialist Web Site)

The claims by the US government that the Syrian government carried out a chemical weapons attack on the town of Khan Sheikhun, in southern Idlib province on April 4, have been backed by a week of nonstop media propaganda, as well as uncritical support, across the official political spectrum, for the missile strike ordered by President Trump against a Syrian base.
The charges against the Syrian government are absurd and unbelievable. The campaign mounted by the Trump administration, the intelligence agencies, the Pentagon and the Democratic Party demonstrates complete contempt for the intelligence of the people, and a belief that they can lie with impunity, because nothing they say will be challenged by the servile American media.

Mehdi Hasan: Burmese Nobel Prize Winner Aung San Suu Kyi Has Turned Into an Apologist for Genocide Against Muslims (Intercept)

For the past year, Aung San Suu Kyi has been State Counselor, or de facto head of government, in Myanmar, where members of the Rohingya Muslim minority in the northern Rakhine state have been shot, stabbed, starved, robbed, raped and driven from their homes in the hundreds of thousands. In December, while the world focused on the fall of Aleppo, more than a dozen Nobel Laureates published an open letter warning of a tragedy in Rakhine “amounting to ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.”…
And the response of Aung San Suu Kyi? This once-proud campaigner against wartime rape and human rights abuses by the Burmese military has opted to borrow from the Donald Trump playbook of denial and deflection. Her office accused Rohingya women of fabricating stories of sexual violence and put the words “fake rape” — in the form of a banner headline, no less — on its official website. A spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry — also controlled directly by Aung San Suu Kyi — dismissed “made-up stories, blown out of proportion.” In February, the State Counselor herself reportedly told the Archbishop of Yangon, Charles Bo, that the international community is exaggerating the Rohingya issue.

Europe | USA | Israel/Palestine

Glenn Greenwald: Growing Far-Right Nationalistic Movements Are Dangerously Anti-Muslim — and Pro-Israel (Intercept)

The specter of a growing far-right nationalism anywhere, but particularly in Central Europe, immediately — and for good and obvious reasons — raises fears of an anti-Semitism revival. But at least thus far, the leaders of most of these nationalistic parties — increasingly inspired and fueled by one another’s success — have showcased dangerous animosity toward Muslims, accompanied by strong policy support for Israel and a rhetorical repudiation of anti-Semitism…
Austria is the latest example of a far-right xenophobic party on the verge of obtaining what was, until quite recently, unthinkable power… Hofer demagogues animosity toward Muslims in all the standard ways: equating migrants with “jihadists,” warning of the “Islamification” of Europe, and pronouncing that “Islam is not a part of Austria.”
But not only does Hofer repudiate all anti-Semitism and insist it has no place in his party — he made news earlier this year by calling for the demolition of Hitler’s childhood home and his party sponsored “a New Anti-Semitism Conference” starring the Israeli spy who captured Adolf Eichmann — but the Freedom Party has, in the words of an expert cited by the NYT, “made it part of their strategy to draw closer to Israel.”…
Israeli officials have noticed the pro-Israel bent of Hofer’s posture and some have returned the sentiments of support. “They are one of the most pro-Israel parties in Europe,” proclaimed former Knesset member Michael Kleiner …
When Donald Trump named Steve Bannon as his White House chief strategist, some American Jewish groups (such as the Anti-Defamation League) objected by pointing to his flirtation with if not outright endorsement of anti-Semitic themes, but the most important U.S. group — AIPAC — has to this day not uttered a public word about Bannon.

Pamela Duncan: Europeans greatly overestimate Muslim population, poll shows (Guardian)

The average French estimate was that 31% of the population was Muslim – almost one in three residents. According to Pew Research, France’s Muslim population actually stood at 7.5% in 2010, or one in 13 people…
British respondents put the current Muslim population at 15%, three times the 2010 figure… In the US the average estimate was Muslims accounted for one in six people, whereas Pew put the actual figure at one in 100.

Micah Lee, Margot Williams: Drowning in information: NSA revelations from 262 spy documents (Intercept)

A national intelligence officer gave a top-secret “issue seminar” to NSA staff on the question of “where political action fades into terrorism,” according to a seminar announcement published in June 2004. The announcement suggested that the line between “legitimate political activity” and “activity that is the precursor to, or supportive of, terrorism” is fuzzy. The course used the Vienna-based organization Anti-Imperialist Camp as a case study, describing it as “ostensibly a political organization” but noting that “its many ties to terrorist organizations — and its attempts to collaborate with Muslim extremists — raise questions about where political action fades into terrorism.” No further details were given to substantiate the alleged ties; the group’s website remains online. A spokesperson for the group, Wilhelm Langthaler, told The Intercept that the group was targeted for such accusations for political reasons, including its opposition to the war in Iraq and “our public support for the resistance against occupation which we have compared with the antifascist resistance against German occupation.”

Julian Borger: Chinese warship seizes US underwater drone in international waters (Guardian)

The Chinese navy has seized an underwater drone in plain sight of the American sailors who had deployed it in international waters, in a seemingly brazen message to the incoming Trump administration.
According to a US defence official, the unmanned glider had come to the surface of the water in the South China Sea and was about to be retrieved by the USNS Bowditch, an oceanographic and surveillance ship, when a Chinese naval vessel that had been shadowing the Bowditch put a small boat in the water…
As China develops a strategic submarine fleet, with the potential to carry nuclear missiles out into the Pacific Ocean, the US has built up a monitoring network designed to spot Chinese submarines as they leave their bases. Drones are key to the network, and there is a race under way between major naval powers to develop drones that can work together in swarms and “see” long distances through the water. Underwater gliders are drones that can stay underwater on the lookout for submarines for long periods of time.

AP: China and US in talks over seized drone, officials say (Guardian)

The device was being operated by civilian contractors to conduct oceanic research, according to the Pentagon.

AP: Philippines to ‘set aside’ South China Sea tribunal ruling to avoid imposing on Beijing (Guardian)

The Philippine president has said he would “set aside” a ruling by an international arbitration tribunal that invalidated Beijing’s claims to most of the South China Sea, because he doesn’t want to impose on China.
“In the play of politics, now, I will set aside the arbitral ruling. I will not impose anything on China,” Rodrigo Duterte said at a news conference on Saturday.

Tom Phillips: Images show ‘significant’ Chinese weapons systems in South China Sea (Guardian)

China appears to have positioned “significant” weapons systems, including anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems, on all seven of the artificial islands it has built in the South China Sea, despite vowing it had no intention of militarising the archipelago, a US thinktank has claimed.

Xinhua: China says deployment of defensive facilities on South China Sea islands legitimate (Global Times)
Tom Phillips: ‘Friends forever’? China wary of Rex Tillerson wooing away Russia (Guardian)

Rex Tillerson’s controversial nomination as secretary of state has delighted Moscow where the Texan oilman has deep and long-standing ties. Donald Trump’s choice of the ExxonMobil chief was “100% good news” for Vladimir Putin, one opposition politician claimed.
But in Beijing, already reeling from Trump’s early forays into foreign policy, the move has inspired no such celebration, instead fuelling fears that the president-elect’s courtship of the Kremlin could be part of a bold strategic bid to isolate China.

John Pilger: The Coming War on China (movie; RT)

A nuclear war between the United States and China is not only imaginable but a current ‘contingency’, says the Pentagon. This film by acclaimed filmmaker John Pilger’s is both a warning and an inspiring story of resistance.
The Coming War on China, filmed over two years across five potential flashpoints in Asia and the Pacific, reveals the build-up to war on more than 400 US military bases that encircle China in a ‘perfect noose’.
Using rare archive and remarkable interviews with witnesses, Pilger’s film discloses America’s secret history in the region – the destruction wrought by the equivalent of one Hiroshima every day for 12 years, and the top secret ‘Project 4.1’ that made guinea pigs of the population of the Marshall Islands.

Matthew Rosenberg: Trump Chooses Hard-Liner as Ambassador to Israel (New York Times)

President-elect Donald J. Trump on Thursday named David M. Friedman, a bankruptcy lawyer aligned with the Israeli far right, as his nominee for ambassador to Israel, elevating a campaign adviser who has questioned the need for a two-state solution and has likened left-leaning Jews in America to the Jews who aided the Nazis in the Holocaust.

Peter Beaumont, Julian Borger: Donald Trump’s Israel ambassador is hardline pro-settler lawyer (Guardian)

Donald Trump has named as his ambassador to Israel a pro-settler lawyer who has described some US Jews as worse than concentration camp prisoner-guards.
David Friedman, a bankruptcy lawyer who represented the president-elect over his failing hotels in Atlantic City, served Trump’s advisory team on the Middle East. He has set out a number of hardline positions on Israeli-Palestinian relations, including fervent opposition to the two-state solution and strong support for an undivided Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
He has called President Barack Obama an antisemite and suggested that US Jews who oppose the Israeli occupation of the West Bank are worse than kapos, Nazi-era prisoners who served as concentration camp guards…
An indication of how Friedman views Israel came in a 16-point action plan he issued with another Trump adviser in November.

Chemi Shalev: David Friedman, Trump’s Radical-right Ambassador, Makes Netanyahu Look Like a J Street Lefty (Haaretz ~ Google News)

By Israeli standards, Donald Trump’s designated Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, is an extreme right-winger. He might find a place in the settler movement or with Naftali Bennett’s Habayit Hayehudi Party, but only on its right-wing fringes. He makes Benjamin Netanyahu seem like a left-wing defeatist. From where Friedman stands, most Israelis, never mind most American Jews, are more or less traitors.

David Schraub: The Grotesque anti-Semitic Turn of David Friedman, Trump’s Pick for Israel Ambassador (Haaretz)

You don’t even have to be a J Street fan to consider calling them ‘Kapos,’ as David Friedman has done, as disqualifying for such a symbolic post for the U.S. Jewish community…
Friedman has called Barack Obama an “anti-Semite” and contended that J Streeters are “far worse than Kapos.” He also asserted, in the course of advocating “allegiance” standards for Israel’s Muslim citizens, that “In the United States, advocating to overthrow the government by force or violence can get you life in prison” (No, it can’t). And of course, he’s an opponent of the two-state solution.

France orders clear labeling of goods from Israeli settlements (RT)

The French guidelines state that in accordance with Commission rules adopted in November 2015, importers must mark the precise place from which the goods originate and not mark them as products of Israel.
Regulations apply to products that originate in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, which are considered occupied territories under international law.
French authorities said that clearly marking the packaging is necessary to not mislead consumers. Goods originating from Palestinian territories must be marked for instance as originating from “the West Bank”, and then, in parenthesis, the package must also be labeled that it comes from “an Israeli settlement.”

Peter Walker: UK adopts antisemitism definition to combat hate crime against Jews (Guardian)
Letter (Guardian)

The new definition has nothing to do with opposing antisemitism, it is merely designed to silence public debate on Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians. Antisemitic incidents comprise about 2% of all hate crime. Why then the concentration on antisemitism and not on Islamophobia, which is far more widespread? The suspicion must be that the real concern is not with antisemitism but with Britain’s support for Israel…
We agree that it is antisemitic to associate Jews with the actions of the Israeli state. Unfortunately this is precisely what the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition will achieve through perpetuating the stereotype that all Jews support the Israeli state. The IHRA will strengthen not weaken antisemitism. There is a very simple definition of antisemitism from Oxford University’s Brian Klug. Antisemitism is “a form of hostility towards Jews as ‘Jews’.” The IHRA definition smuggles in anti-Zionism, in the guise of antisemitism, as a means of protecting the Israeli state and thus western foreign policy.

Israelis, Palestinians Among Most Enthusiastic Supporters of Torture, Red Cross Survey Says (Haaretz)

Only in Israel, Nigeria and the United States do more people advocate torture of an enemy combatant than oppose such behavior, according to a new survey by the International Red Cross.

USA | Refugees | Iraq | Syria | Japan | Israel

T. J. Coles: “Confronting China”: John Pilger Talks about His New Film, America’s ‘Pivot to Asia’, and the Role of Japan and Australia (Plymouth Institute for Peace Research)

The Coming War on China is my 60th film and perhaps one of the most urgent. It continues the theme of illuminating the imposition of great power behind a facade of propaganda as news. In 2011, President Obama announced a ‘pivot to Asia’ of US forces: almost two-thirds of American naval power would be transferred to Asia and the Pacific by 2020.
The undeclared rationale for this was the ‘threat’ from China, by some measure now the greatest economic power. The Secretary of Defense, Ash Carter, says US policy is to confront those ‘who see America’s dominance and want to take that away from us’…
China is encircled by a ‘noose’ of some 400 US bases, yet the news has ignored this while concentrating on the ‘threat’ of China building airstrips on disputed islets in the South China Sea, clearly as a defence to a US Navy blockade.

Alan Travis: Calais’s refugee children are sleeping rough because of Tory policy (Guardian)

As 100 children spend the night outside following the camp clearance, observers count the cost of Theresa May’s tough stance

Amelia Gentleman: More than 1,000 children left in Calais camp, say charities (Guardian)

Charities in Calais have said that more than 1,000 children remain in shipping containers in the demolished camp, with inadequate food and water supplies and no information provided about their future.

Dakota Acces Pipeline (Democracy Now)

Democracy Now! coverage of resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline. If completed, the $3.8 billion pipeline would carry about 500,000 barrels of crude per day from North Dakota’s Bakken oilfield to Illinois. The project has faced months of resistance from the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and members of nearly 100 more tribes from across the U.S. and Canada.

Sam Levin: Over 120 arrested at North Dakota pipeline protests, including journalists (Guardian)

North Dakota police arrested more than 120 people over the weekend at Native American oil pipeline protests, including film-makers and journalists, prompting accusations that law enforcement officials are stifling free speech and using excessive force against peaceful protesters.
There were increasingly tense clashes between police and demonstrators against the Dakota access pipeline, which the Standing Rock Sioux tribe says is a threat to its water supply and cultural heritage.

Sam Levin: North Dakota arrest warrant for Amy Goodman raises fears for press freedom (Guardian)
Sam Levin: Judge rejects riot charges for journalist Amy Goodman after oil pipeline protest (Guardian)

Authorities had issued a warrant for her arrest after Democracy Now! host filmed guards for the Dakota access pipeline using dogs and pepper spray on protesters

Larry Buhl: Destruction of Sacred Burial Grounds Prompts Federal Judge to Protect Some Tribal Sites from Dakota Access Pipeline (Desmog)
Sam Levin: Guards for North Dakota pipeline could be charged for using dogs on activists (Guardian)
Steve Horn: Security Firm Running Dakota Access Pipeline Intelligence Has Ties to U.S. Military (CounterPunch)
David Marchese: Amy Goodman on Why the North Dakota Pipeline Standoff Is Only Getting Worse (New York)

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Luciana Bohne: Crossing the Acheron: Back to Vietnam (CounterPunch)

In classical mythology, the Acheron [Ἀχέρων / Ἀχερούσιος] is one of the rivers of the Underworld. It marks the boundary between the living and the dead. The ferryman Charon ferries the dead across the Acheron to a place where they lose memory. Nothing of what made them human remains—happiness, suffering, love, hatred, guilt, regret, redemption, betrayal, forgiveness…
“In May 2012, President Barack Obama and the Pentagon announced a Commemoration of the Vietnam War to continue through 2025, the fiftieth anniversary of the conflict’s end. Among the Commemoration’s objectives, three stand out: ‘to thank and honor’ veterans and their families . . . ‘to highlight the advances in technology, science, and medicine related to military research conducted during’ the war; and to ‘recognize the contributions and sacrifices made by the allies’.”

John Pilger: Inside the Invisible Government: War, Propaganda, Clinton & Trump (CounterPunch)

Imagine two cities.
Both are under siege by the forces of the government of that country. Both cities are occupied by fanatics, who commit terrible atrocities, such as beheading people.
But there is a vital difference. In one siege, the government soldiers are described as liberators by Western reporters embedded with them, who enthusiastically report their battles and air strikes. There are front page pictures of these heroic soldiers giving a V-sign for victory. There is scant mention of civilian casualties.
In the second city – in another country nearby – almost exactly the same is happening. Government forces are laying siege to a city controlled by the same breed of fanatics.
The difference is that these fanatics are supported, supplied and armed by “us” – by the United States and Britain. They even have a media centre that is funded by Britain and America.
Another difference is that the government soldiers laying siege to this city are the bad guys, condemned for assaulting and bombing the city – which is exactly what the good soldiers do in the first city.
Confusing? Not really. Such is the basic double standard that is the essence of propaganda. I am referring, of course, to the current siege of the city of Mosul by the government forces of Iraq, who are backed by the United States and Britain and to the siege of Aleppo by the government forces of Syria, backed by Russia. One is good; the other is bad.
What is seldom reported is that both cities would not be occupied by fanatics and ravaged by war if Britain and the United States had not invaded Iraq in 2003.

Martin Fackler: Sinking a bold foray into watchdog journalism in Japan (Columbia Journalism Review)

“In Japanese journalism, scoops usually just mean learning from the ministry officials today what they intend to do tomorrow,” said Makoto Watanabe, a former reporter in the section who quit the Asahi in March because he felt blocked from doing investigative reporting. “We came up with different scoops that were unwelcome in the Prime Minister’s Office.”
Abe and his supporters on the nationalistic right seized on missteps by the Asahi in its coverage of Fukushima and sensitive issues of World War II-era history to launch a withering barrage of criticism that the paper seemed unable to withstand. The taming of the Asahi set off a domino-like series of moves by major newspapers and television networks to remove outspoken commentators and newscasters.
Political interference in the media was one reason cited by Reporters Without Borders in lowering Japan from 11th in 2010 to 72nd out of 180 nations in this year’s annual ranking of global press freedoms, released on April 20, 2016.

John Pilger: Provoking Nuclear War by Media (CounterPunch)

The exoneration of a man accused of the worst of crimes, genocide, made no headlines. Neither the BBC nor CNN covered it. The Guardian allowed a brief commentary. Such a rare official admission was buried or suppressed, understandably. It would explain too much about how the rulers of the world rule.
The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague has quietly cleared the late Serbian president, Slobodan Milosevic, of war crimes committed during the 1992-95 Bosnian war, including the massacre at Srebrenica.

Jonathan Lis: Coalition Chairman Threatens to Strip Citizenship of Israeli Activist Who Criticized Occupation at UN (Haaretz)

In a further escalation of the backlash against the anti-occupation nonprofit B’Tselem after it addressed the UN Security Council, the chairman of the coalition said Friday that he will seek to have the citizenship of the group’s CEO revoked.
Likud lawmaker David Bitan told Channel 2 that B’Tselem head Hagai El-Ad’s remarks were an “explicit breach of trust by an Israeli citizen against the state, and as such he should find himself another citizenship.”

France | USA

Glenn Greenwald, Nermeen Shaikh, Amy Goodman: “Shameless” U.S. Officials Exploit Paris Attacks to Defend Spying & Attack Snowden (Democracy Now)

As France and Belgium move to expand state power in the aftermath of the Paris attacks, top U.S. officials have renewed a push to defend mass surveillance and dismiss those who challenge it. On Wednesday, FBI Director James Comey said intelligence and law enforcement officials need to have access to encrypted information on smartphones, despite no evidence that the Paris attackers used encryption. Meanwhile, others have used the Paris attacks to criticize NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. In recent days, CIA Director John Brennan has suggested revelations about mass spying have made it harder to find terrorists, while former CIA Director James Woolsey has said Snowden has blood on his hands. “We have not heard such blatant, shameless lying from intelligence and military officials since 2002 and 2003 when they propagandized the country into invading Iraq based on utterly false pretenses,” says The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald, the Pulitzer-winning journalist who exposed NSA mass surveillance based on Snowden’s leaks.

Amy Goodman, Nermeen Shaikh: Glenn Greenwald on “Submissive” Media’s Drumbeat for War and “Despicable” Anti-Muslim Scapegoating (Democracy Now)
Grey Anderson: The French Emergency (Jacobin)

From Algeria to the Paris attacks, French elites have used state of emergency legislation to consolidate power and repress dissent.

Ian Birchall: The Wrong Kind of Secularism (Jacobin)

The French secular ideal of laïcité is not a misused noble idea — it is deeply flawed at its roots…
Today laïcité serves as a justification for a variety of things — from banning headscarf-wearing mothers from accompanying their children on school outings to telling Muslim and Jewish schoolchildren that they must eat pork or go hungry.
But laïcité is not simply an idea that has been appropriated by the Right for political or cultural ends; it is also a value claimed by the Left, even the far left…
In 1886 Lafargue published a satire entitled La Religion du capital (The Religion of Capital). He imagined a conference in London with economic and political representatives of European capitalism — Clemenceau, Rothschild, Gladstone, Herbert Spencer, von Moltke, etc. Among those attending were Ferry and Paul Bert, who as education minister had been one of Ferry’s main allies in establishing laïcité. Their concern was to enable the survival of capitalism. And for that, a religion of some sort was required…
Some of the sharpest criticism of laïcité came from the anarchist and syndicalist currents; the anarchist position could be summed up as “neither the church nor the state.” As Sébastien Faure put it, the Christian school was “organised by the Church and for it, while the “école laïque” was “organised by the state and for it.” He counterposed the idea of “the school of the future . . . organised for the child.” André Lorulot put it rather more crudely, calling state schoolteachers “intellectual cops of the capitalist class.”…
Despite some opposing voices, laïcité largely achieved its goal of solidifying a national identity backed by military might…
The traditions of criticism of laïcité persisted after the First World War. The journal Clarté, close to but not entirely controlled by the Communist Party, reported on educational developments in post-revolutionary Russia that might offer an alternative to church or state education. An educational conference held in Moscow in 1919, for instance, dismissed academic neutrality and laïcité as a “mug’s game” (attrape-nigaud) designed to serve the interests of the bourgeoisie…
Today, with the concept being used in the service of Islamophobia, it is especially important to knock laïcité down from its elevated status. And that requires understanding laïcité not as a noble ideal that has been misinterpreted and distorted, but as deeply flawed from the outset.

The media after Paris: from fear to loathing, by way of made-up facts (Guardian)

Anti-immigration sentiment across Europe begins to make more sense when you realise that Brits and Spaniards think they have twice as many immigrants in their country as they actually do, the Italians, Belgians and French assume there are three times as many as there are, the Hungarians eight times and the Poles more than 30 times.

Gilbert Achcar: France Returns to the State of Exception (Jacobin)

The discourse of war is already upon us. But it must be resisted.

Don’t let them use Paris as a pretext! (International Action Center)
John Catalinotto: Historic crimes of the French military (International Action Centre)

Many young people in Paris were innocent victims of the Nov. 13 attack, but that doesn’t mean that the French imperialist state is innocent. While the 1789 French Revolution raised the idealistic slogans of liberty, equality and fraternity, French imperialism, which developed from that bourgeois revolution, has a bloody history across the world…
When imperialist France had just emerged from German occupation after World War II, the Arab and Berber peoples began carrying out mass demonstrations and uprisings in Algeria against French colonial rule. To suppress that rebellion, for several days French troops and police, acting on orders from the French president issued on May 8, 1945, massacred as many as 45,000 Algerians who peacefully demonstrated in the cities of Setif, Guelma and Kherrata. The French occupiers killed as many as a million Algerians trying to hold onto that nation, until the people finally won their liberation in 1962.
In 1947, French colonial troops slaughtered 89,000 people to “pacify” a rebellion in Madagascar, an African island in the Indian Ocean. During the long French war in Indochina, the French military killed many more Vietnamese, Laotians, Cambodians and some Chinese until French imperialism was finally driven out in 1954.
Even in Paris itself, on Oct. 17, 1961, French police opened fire on a demonstration of 30,000 Algerians, killing between 70 and 300 people …
This history of imperialist military intervention continues. French jets are bombing today in Syria and Iraq, along with the U.S.-led “coalition.” French jets opened the air war against Libya in 2011, leading NATO’s barbaric destruction of that country.

Mass Surveillance Isn’t the Answer to Fighting Terrorism (New York Times)

It’s a wretched yet predictable ritual after each new terrorist attack: Certain politicians and government officials waste no time exploiting the tragedy for their own ends. The remarks on Monday by John Brennan, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, took that to a new and disgraceful low…
It is hard to believe anything Mr. Brennan says.

The Drone Papers (Intercept)

The Intercept has obtained a cache of secret documents detailing the inner workings of the U.S. military’s assassination program in Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia. The documents, provided by a whistleblower, offer an unprecedented glimpse into Obama’s drone wars.

Nicole Aschoff, Connor Kilpatrick, Paul Heideman: The Socialism of Bernie Sanders (Jacobin)

The novelty of Bernie Sanders has long been his adoption of the term “democratic socialist” to describe his political beliefs. On the presidential campaign trail, by way of definition, he’s repeatedly pointed to European countries with relatively robust welfare states.
On Thursday, in a major campaign address, he turned back stateside. Sanders cast himself not as the heir of Eugene Debs — a portrait of whom hangs in his congressional office — but of Franklin Roosevelt. In short, for Sanders, democratic socialism means New Deal liberalism.

Refugees | Venezuela | Palestine/Israel | France

Vijay Prashad: Regime Change Refugees: On the Shores of Europe (CounterPunch) / Avrupa’nın kıyılarında (BirGün)

The West believes that it is acceptable for it to intervene to influence the political economy of the Third World – to force IMF-driven “reforms” on these states. Capital is allowed be borderless. That freedom does not apply to labour – to people. Migration is forbidden. It is hateful. Racist ideas allow fortresses to be built against the natural movement of people. Barbed wire fences and concentration camp towers outline the US-Mexico border, just as such fences and the Mediterranean Moat block the passage into Europe. If Capital destroys the society here, its people cannot be allowed to migrate there.
The West believes that it is acceptable for it to overthrow governments and bomb its enemies in the lands of the Third World. It sees this as the limit of its humanitarianism. It calls this humanitarian interventionism or, in the language of the UN, “responsibility to protect” (R2P). When it breaks states, as it did in Libya, the West takes no responsibility for the broken lives of the people in those zones. Bombs are borderless. But war refugees must stand in queues and be held in concentration camps. They are not allowed freedom of movement…
There is also the people’s ethics – banners in Germany unfurled at football games to welcome refugees, convoys of ordinary British nations to Calais (France) to help feed and clothe the refugees, demonstrations of radical internationalists in Eastern Europe against the neo-fascists and the racists. There are also, in the United States, the Dream Defenders and United We Dream who fight for undocumented residents, who formed part of the massive pro-immigrant rallies that have now adopted May Day as their day.

Dan Williams: Amid Migrant Crisis, Europeans Interested in Israeli Border Barriers (Haaretz)

Hungary, Bulgaria make inquiries to Israel about the design of its border barriers with Egypt.

Roberto Lovato: The Making of Leopoldo López (Foreign Policy)

A closer look at the democratic bona fides of the rock star of Venezuela’s opposition.

Roberto Lovato, Juan González, Amy Goodman: The Making of Leopoldo López: An Investigation into Venezuela’s Most Prominent Opposition Figure (Democracy Now)
Joe Emersberger: The Unmaking of Leopoldo Lopez (TeleSur)

A Foreign Policy article by Roberto Lovato represents a crack in a huge propaganda edifice.

Max Fisher: Is this disturbing video Israel’s Eric Garner moment? (Vox)

For a few years now, Palestinians in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh have held a weekly demonstration to protest the Israeli occupation that has confiscated village land for a nearby Israeli settlement. These protests don’t usually make international news.
But last week’s was different. Friday’s demonstration in Nabi Saleh escalated into a violent confrontation between an Israeli soldier and a young child — all caught on camera by the press who had attended the protest. The result was a video of an IDF soldier placing an 11-year-old child in a chokehold, holding a gun near his head, and then sitting on him as he screamed in fear and pain.

Asher Schechter: Israel’s ‘Eric Garner Moment’ Entrenches Its Habit of Victim-blaming (Haaretz)

Even when arresting children, Israel insists it has the moral upper hand: In the Nabi Saleh incident, Israel’s ‘Eric Garner moment’ cast the soldier, not the kids, as the innocent victim…
Judging from the responses in Israeli media, politics and social networks, the true culprit in Nabi Saleh was not (as the brainwashed world media would have you believe) the soldier using excessive force against a 12 year-old with a broken arm. It was the boy himself (who may or may not have thrown rocks at the soldiers, depending on who you ask) and his slightly-older sister who, as right-wing bloggers were quick to point out, were known “troublemakers.” Meaning: they had attended other demonstrations in the past, and were therefore more enemy combatants than preteens.
Channel 2 News, Israel’s premier TV news broadcast, cast the event as “Palestinians documented beating IDF soldier in Nabi Saleh.” Ynet, Israel’s most popular news site, proclaimed in the headline, “Little girl bites soldier.” … Culture Minister Miri Regev suggested that in the future, soldiers should be “permitted to return fire” during similar events.

Amira Hass: Armed Robbery: The Israeli Army’s Policy in the West Bank (Haaretz; also via Google News)

The soldier who choked 12-year-old Mohammad Tamimi last week belongs to the organization that carries out and ensures the continued armed robbery of land in Nabi Saleh, employing various methods to terrorize the residents. He is not the first and not the last; the armed robbery is not conducted solely on the lands of this village, and the spring at Nabi Saleh is not the only one in the West Bank taken over by Jewish settlers.

Amy Goodman, Peter Willcox,: Rainbow Warrior: 30 Years Later, Will France Ever Apologize for Fatal Bombing of Greenpeace Ship? (Democracy Now)
Kim Willsher: French spy who sank Greenpeace ship apologises for lethal bombing (Guardian)

Binoy Kampmark: Sieges in an Age of Austerity: Monitoring Julian Assange (CounterPunch)

It is, we are told, an age of bitter austerity, where belts are being tightened with dedication, and services cut with thrifty diligence. There are, however, always exceptions to the rule. The surveillance state needs succour; the intelligence services need their daily bread from the bakers in Downing Street. The dogs of war similarly need to be fed. And then, there is Julian Assange.
Assange would be pleased to know that he is an exception to the rules of austerity. He figures in a singular category in the book keeping of Her Majesty’s Government. The British security establishment continue monitoring him with eagle-eyes. There are three Scotland Yard officers on the task at any one time. One is stationed at the steps to the Ecuadorean embassy, just to make sure no daredevilry is entertained. As they do so, the bill mounts.
The site govwaste.co.uk lists the costs in live time – as at this writing, the amount is 12,173,575 million pounds…
The site also lists what the equivalent amount might have funded: 60,868 vaccinations for children; 47,740 hospital beds for one night; the salaries for 558 teachers for a full year. As for food, the figure comes to over 10 million meals for the needy. If one is to lose a sense of priorities, join government.

Greece | Myanmar | Torture | Israel/Palestine | Russia

The 70th anniversary of the Trinity Test is coming up. There is a fascinating account in the biography of Joan Hinton and Sid Engst by Dao-yuan Chou: Silage Choppers and Snake Spirits: The Lives and Struggles of Two Americans in Modern China, Chapter 8.
Joseph Mangano, Janette Sherman: Trinity: 70 Years Later (CounterPunch)

It was 70 years ago, on July 16, 1945, that the first atomic bomb, named Trinity, was exploded at the White Sands Proving Ground, the nuclear test site near Alamagordo, NM. It was an event that changed world history forever, and created new health and security threats that still plague all life on this planet.

Stathis Kouvelakis: Greece: The Noose Tightens (Jacobin)

At this stage, the options remaining for the Syriza government seem to be restricted to the three following ones.

  1. The “good scenario,” the one which is still favored by the Greek government, is that the Europeans will make concessions, and a compromise will be reached very soon. However, as the IMF president made clear, in order to get the €7.2 billion at stake in this four-month bridge agreement, Greece needs to get a positive “review” and to conform fully to the “reforms” agreed by to its predecessors. In any case, this possibility has already been explicitly ruled out by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, German Finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble and others, who made repeated statements these last days saying that the only deadline to be considered is now June 30, and that no money will be transferred to Greece before a “big deal” — in other words, another “rescue package” coming with the usual conditions.
  2. The Greek government gives up. This is of course the avowed aim of the Europeans. But in a recent interview with Reuters, Tsipras made it clear that there are “political, not technical disagreements” on four key issues: labor legislation, pension reform, a hike in value-added taxes, and privatizations, which he referred to as “development of state property” rather than asset sales. Making concessions on that bottom line would amount to surrender and to political suicide for Syriza.
  3. The Greek government defaults on the debt. In a recent interview with the Huffington Post, Varoufakis said that if the government had to choose between paying its creditors and paying salaries and pensions, it would prioritize the second option. But of course such a choice means a decisive rupture and exiting the eurozone (the scenario of a double currency within the euro cannot last for more than a few weeks at the very best).

Sara Perria: Rohingya Muslims brave death at sea to escape ‘open-air prison’ in Burma (Guardian)

Members of the Rohingya ethnic minority have taken to the sea to flee persecution in Burma, but their options are narrowing as Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia refuse new migrants. Residents of the cramped Aung Ming Lar ghetto reveal a bitterly hard life with many willing to risk everything to get away…
The Rohingya, who were estimated to number around one million, or about one third of the state’s population, have been described by the UN as one of the “most persecuted” ethnic minorities in the world, from a conflict that dates back decades.
In 1982 the military junta under Ne Win stripped them of their citizenship. A succession of post-colonial regimes has refused to recognise their claim to be identified as Rohingya – a term of relatively recent political coinage adopted by an astute leadership, mostly in exile.
Instead the government insists most are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and classifies them as Bengalis, even though some claim roots before the colonial era – when thousands did arrive – to as far back as the 15th century when the Arakan kingdom was famed for its cosmopolitan openness.

Amy Goodman, Steven Reisner, Nathaniel Raymond: Emails Show American Psychological Association Secretly Worked with Bush Admin to Enable Torture (Democracy Now)

New details have emerged on how the American Psychological Association, the world’s largest group of psychologists, aided government-sanctioned torture under President George W. Bush. A group of dissident psychologists have just published a 60-page report alleging the APA secretly coordinated with officials from the CIA, White House and the Pentagon to change the APA ethics policy to align it with the operational needs of the CIA’s torture program. Much of the report, “All the President’s Psychologists: The American Psychological Association’s Secret Complicity with the White House and US Intelligence Community in Support of the CIA’s ‘Enhanced’ Interrogation Program,” is based on hundreds of newly released internal APA emails from 2003 to 2006 that show top officials were in direct communication with the CIA. The report also reveals Susan Brandon, a behavioral science researcher working for President Bush, secretly drafted language that the APA inserted into its ethics policy on interrogations.

Geoff Gray: The Ethical Demise of the American Psychological Association (CounterPunch)

The conscience of the American Psychological Association (APA) is slowly dying as it facilitates torture, cheats its own members, and hussles junk science boondoggles to the defense industry…
In 2005 the leadership of the APA violated its governance rules to allow psychologists to support the Bush era torture program. This was critical because the Justice Department had ruled that a health professional needed to be present during “enhanced interrogations” and because other professional organizations such as the America Medical Association and the America Psychiatric Association had unequivocally declared these programs unethical and out of bounds for their members…

Israel’s new and dangerous government (Haaretz)

Devoid of any platform, Israel’s new government will lead racist legislation while working to gut the courts – but razor thin majority gives opposition a fighting chance.
The government Benjamin Netanyahu will present next week appears to be, even before it has been sworn in at the Knesset, one of the worst, most harmful governments ever to have been formed in Israel. Its members’ top priorities are deepening the occupation, expanding the settlements, weakening democracy and increasing the subsidies for the Haredi society of scholars.

Carolina Landsmann: The Bennett-Bibi era of ‘no solution’ (Haaretz, also via Google News)

Since 1967, it had been an accepted assumption that Israel was holding onto the occupied territories as a bargaining chip for a future peace agreement. That was not only Israel’s official position, but also the conclusion that could have been drawn from the country’s decision not to annex most of the territories that it had conquered.
Control over the Palestinian people always appeared to be a temporary situation that Israel was seeking ways to end. When the left claimed that the right wing didn’t want peace, the right explained that it in fact did want peace and was interested in ending Israeli control over the Palestinians, but only when security arrangements were worked out that would allay its fears. In other words, the right was simply seeking to be the one to represent the country’s interests in negotiations with the Palestinians.
The political system organized around this narrative, which from a critical, retrospective view looks like a methodical lie. But all of this was shattered when Bennett revealed his view that Israel and the Palestinians are not in a process leading anywhere. Israel will not return territories, and the Palestinians – other than about 50,000 whom Bennett proposes giving Israeli citizenship to – are to simply remain under Israeli control. In other words, millions of stateless people will live under Israeli military rule.

This is what the new Israeli minister of justice had to say last year:
Ali Abunimah: Israeli lawmaker’s call for genocide of Palestinians gets thousands of Facebook likes (Electronic Intifada)

Israeli lawmaker Ayelet Shaked published on Facebook a call for genocide of the Palestinians.
It is a call for genocide because it declares that “the entire Palestinian people is the enemy” and justifies its destruction, “including its elderly and its women, its cities and its villages, its property and its infrastructure.”
It is a call for genocide because it calls for the slaughter of Palestinian mothers who give birth to “little snakes.”

Aeyal Gross: Politicized judiciary looms under new justice minister (Haaretz, also via Google News)

[T]hree bills Shaked has pushed would undermine the legal system’s independence and its ability to defend human rights: a bill defining Israel as a Jewish nation state, a bill to change the composition of the Judicial Appointments Committee and a bill enabling the Knesset to override Supreme Court rulings declaring laws unconstitutional.
The first could undermine the rights of Israeli Arabs. The second would give politicians more seats on the appointments panel, which would encourage the appointment of judges who are less “activist” and thus more “comfortable” for the politicians. The third would enable the Knesset to override not only court rulings, but also the human rights those rulings are meant to protect.

Ethnic cleansing is continuing in Palestine:
Oudeh Basharat: It’s 1948 again for Bedouin tribe (Haaretz, also via Google News)

The Abu Alkian were expelled in 1948 from their Negev lands, which went to Kibbutz Shoval. A few years later they built Umm al-Hiran, which is now slated to become a new Jewish town named Hiran.

Shirly Seidler: Supreme Court allows state to replace Bedouin village with Jewish one (Haaretz)

Israel’s Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a petition by residents of the unrecognized Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran against their removal and the demolition of the community – in order to construct a new town for Jewish residents in its place. The court ruled the land belongs to the state and the Bedouins have no legal rights to it…
The petitioners claimed they did not squat on the land, but were transferred to the area in the Yattir Forest in 1956 by direct order of the military administration of the time. … The government has never denied that the residents were moved to Umm al-Hiran by state authorities. Umm al-Hiran is now home to about 700 people, say residents, but like other Bedouin villages that lack official recognition as local municipal communities, it lacks infrastructure and electricity.

Aeyal Gross: Israel’s discrimination of Bedouin gets high court stamp of approval (Haaretz, also via Google News)

[O]n both sides of the Green Line, the High Court has given the stamp of approval to dispossession, eviction and the demolition of Arab communities for the sake of Jewish ones. Just as long as it doesn’t give rise to chaos. Order must be preserved.

John Brown: Next head of ‘Civil Administration’ said Palestinians are sub-human (+972 magazine)

After the Oslo Accords, the Israeli army renamed the Military Government of the West Bank the Civil Administration. MK Eli Ben-Dahan was just appointed to oversee the Administration, which oversees the theft of Palestinian land, settlement expansion and controls the movement of millions of Palestinians.

  • “[Palestinians] are beasts, they are not human.” — MK Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan, Aug 1, 2013.
  • “A Jew always has a much higher soul than a gentile, even if he is a homosexual.” — MK Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan, Dec 27, 2013.

Rabbi Ben-Dahan will be Israel’s next deputy defense minister, responsible for the army’s “Civil Administration.”
The Civil Administration is responsible for all aspects the occupation that don’t involve boots-on-the-ground security operations — it administers planning, building, and infrastructure for both Jews and Palestinians in Area C of the West Bank. It also administers the Palestinian population database and is responsible for granting and revoking entry and travel permits for Palestinians, controlling every aspect of their movement.

Chaim Levinson: 2,026 settlement homes built on private Palestinian land, right-wing study finds (Haaretz)

Some 2,026 structures in the West Bank were built on privately owned Palestinian land, according to a study conducted by the right-wing organization Regavim and submitted to Knesset members ahead of deliberations on legislation aimed at expropriating land from Palestinian owners.

Paul de Rooij: Amnesty International: Whitewashing Another Massacre (CounterPunch)

July 2014 marked the onset of the Israeli massacre in Gaza (I will dispense with the Israeli sugar-coated operation names). The Israeli army trained for this attack for several months before finding a pretext to attack Gaza, shattering an existing ceasefire; this was the third such post-“disengagement” (2004) attack, and possibly the worst so far. At least 2,215 were killed and 10,000+ wounded, most of them civilians. The scale of destruction was staggering: tens of thousands of houses rendered uninhabitable; several high-rise buildings struck by huge American-supplied bombs; schools and hospitals targeted; 61 mosques totally destroyed; water purification and sewage treatment plants damaged; Gaza’s main flour mill bombed; all chicken farms ravaged; an incalculable devastation…

Whose violence is indiscriminate?
Fatalities during the Massacre in Gaza 2014
Fatality type Israeli caused deaths Palestinian caused deaths
Civilian 1,639 74% 7 10%
Military 576 26% 66 90%
Total 2,215 100% 73 100%

M.K. Bhadrakumar: The Sino-Russian entente in Eurasia (Asia Times)

The presence of the Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Victory Day parade in Moscow on May 9 signifies a significant step forward in the strategic partnership between the two big powers.

Dmitri Trenin: From Greater Europe to Greater Asia? The Sino-Russian Entente (Carnegie Moscow Center)

The rupture between Russia and the West stemming from the 2014 crisis over Ukraine has wide-ranging geopolitical implications. Russia has reverted to its traditional position as a Eurasian power sitting between the East and the West, and it is tilting toward China in the face of political and economic pressure from the United States and Europe. This does not presage a new Sino-Russian bloc, but the epoch of post-communist Russia’s integration with the West is over. In the new epoch, Russia will seek to expand and deepen its relations with non-Western nations, focusing on Asia.

Seymour M. Hersh: The Killing of Osama bin Laden (London Review of Books)

It’s been four years since a group of US Navy Seals assassinated Osama bin Laden in a night raid on a high-walled compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The killing was the high point of Obama’s first term, and a major factor in his re-election. The White House still maintains that the mission was an all-American affair, and that the senior generals of Pakistan’s army and Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) were not told of the raid in advance. This is false, as are many other elements of the Obama administration’s account. The White House’s story might have been written by Lewis Carroll: would bin Laden, target of a massive international manhunt, really decide that a resort town forty miles from Islamabad would be the safest place to live and command al-Qaida’s operations? He was hiding in the open. So America said.
The most blatant lie was that Pakistan’s two most senior military leaders – General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, chief of the army staff, and General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, director general of the ISI – were never informed of the US mission.

Phillip Carter: Sigh, Sy (Slate)
Carlotta Gall: The Detail in Seymour Hersh’s Bin Laden Story That Rings True (New York Times Magazine)

Eric Aeschimann: « Les idéaux républicains sont devenus des armes de discrimination et de mépris » (Billets du Temps Perdu)

Le philosophe Jacques Rancière analyse le rôle des intellectuels et de la gauche dans l’essor du FN. Entretien.

Greece | Spain | France | Korea | Israel | Palestine

Catarina Príncipe: First Days, First Decisions (Jacobin)

Syriza has only been in power for a week, but debates are already raging inside and outside the party.

Serge Halimi: A modest and crazy dream (Monde diplomatique)

Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain offer a chance at change in Europe’s politics, possibly the only escape from a despair which is inflaming the nihilism and extremism that led to the events in Paris.

Renaud Lambert: Now can Podemos win in Spain? (Monde diplomatique)

Syriza in Greece has a natural ally in Spain’s Podemos, the leftwing party that grew out of the demonstrations of 2011 and challenges the political status quo.

Panagiotis Sotiris: A Strategy of Ruptures: Ten Theses on the Greek Future (Viewpoint)
Mehreen Khan: The biggest debt write-offs in the history of the world (Telegraph)

A small southern eastern European country has announced a widescale programme of debt cancellation. No, it’s not Greece, but Croatia.
The Croatian government will be wiping off the liabilities of around 60,000 of its poorest citizens in a move to provide a “fresh start” for its indebted low-earners and get the economy moving again.
Although much of the current debate among Europe’s policymakers seems to regard debt relief as the ultimate taboo, the move for a government to cancel their citizens’ liabilities, or for a sovereign to be forgiven by its creditors, is not nearly as unprecedented as we might think…
Following the end of WWII, the London Debt Agreement of 1953 saw the abolition of all of Germany’s external debt. The total forgiveness amounted to around 280pc of GDP from 1947-53, according to historian Albrecht Ritschl…
In the words of historian Ursula Rombeck-Jaschinski, Germany’s “economic miracle would have been impossible without the debt agreement.”…
Greece’s new government is pushing for a debt conference on the lines of that which saved Germany from its post-war abyss. At more than €300bn, the Syriza-led coalition wants a nearly half of its debt pile to be permanently wiped off. So far, the country’s Troika of creditors are not playing ball.

„Deutschland ist der größte Schuldensünder des 20. Jahrhunderts“ (Spiegel)

Deutschland hat im 20. Jahrhundert zwei Weltkriege begonnen, den zweiten davon als Vernichtungs- und Ausrottungskrieg geführt – und anschließend haben die Feinde die Reparationszahlungen ganz oder in beträchtlichem Umfang erlassen. Dass die Bundesrepublik ihre wirtschaftliche Blüte der Gnade anderer Völker verdankt, hat auch in Griechenland niemand vergessen.

Russia might bailout Greece – finance minister (RT)

Jan Erik Wetzel: Space shrinking for freedom of expression in South Korea (Open Democracy)

The right to freedom of expression in South Korea is under renewed attack. On 19 December, the Constitutional Court dissolved the opposition Unified Progressive Party (UPP), finding it had violated the country’s “basic democratic order”. The court also ordered that all UPP lawmakers in the National Assembly should lose their seats.
The court found that the UPP had the “hidden objective of realising North Korean style socialism”, based on party activities which purportedly included “assemblies to discuss insurrection”. The court’s decision referred, among other things, to “acts of refusing the national anthem and not raising the national flag” as indicative that the UPP “advocates the positions of North Korea”…
The UPP judgment has to be seen in conjunction with the widened and arbitrary application of South Korea’s infamous National Security Law (NSL) over recent years, which has diminished the space for freedom of expression…
The latest clampdown involves two women who organised and talked about North Korea during a speaking tour in South Korea in November. The US national Shin Eun-mi was deported earlier this month for speaking positively about North Korea, while the South Korean citizen Hwang Seon was arrested on 14 January and has been charged under the NSL for causing “social confusion” by holding the talks, and praising the North Korean regime on YouTube and in blog posts.

Hyun Lee: A Korean American Housewife Confronts South Korea’s National Security Law (Japan Focus)

On January 10, after detaining her for questioning on charges of violating the National Security Law (NSL), South Korea deported U.S. citizen Shin Eun-mi and barred her from returning to the country for the next five years. For the past two months, the Korean American housewife made daily headlines in South Korea after her speaking tour on her travels to North Korea sparked controversy and became the target of right-wing attacks. At one of the events, the detonation of a homemade bomb forced the evacuation of 200 people. South Korean authorities interrogated Shin for more than 50 hours before deporting her and arresting activist Hwang Sun who emceed the speaking tour.
“The gap caused by national division runs very deep in South Korean society,” says Shin. Indeed, in a year, 2015, that marks the 70th anniversary of the division of the Korean peninsula, the Park Geun-hye government seems intent on silencing all those who advocate peaceful unification. The deportation of Shin and the arrest of Hwang follow on the heels of South Korea’s dissolution of the opposition Unified Progressive Party and growing concerns about intensifying government crackdown on free speech. The South Korean Ministry of Justice recently announced that it will push to strengthen the controversial NSL to allow the Supreme Court to disband organizations it deems “anti-government.”

Houria Bouteldja, Malik Tahar Chaouch: The Unity Trap (Jacobin)

After the armed attack on the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, the political and media exploiters of the emotional reaction to these events made a catchphrase of the words “national unity.” In so doing, they masked the attack’s social and geopolitical causes, and began a witch hunt against anyone who refused to submit to their agenda.
The “war on terror” — a weapon of theirs based on the supposed defense of “freedom” against “obscurantism” and “barbarism” — thus serves to consolidate the social and political order that contributed to this violence in the first place. Indeed, it suppresses any struggles that challenge these structures — including the fight against Islamophobia.

Richard Seymour: Sandbox Security (Jacobin)

In France, police bravely defend liberal democracy from an eight-year-old boy.
That “free speech” again. French press brings us news of a little boy named Ahmed who “glorified terrorism,” and was duly shipped to the police by the teacher and head of school.
Apparently, when asked in class on January 8 if he was “Charlie,” he replied that he was not. He didn’t like Charlie Hebdo‘s cartoons, and that his feelings were with the terrorists. “I am the terrorists, because I am against the cartoonists of the Prophet.”
The head of the school later apprehended Ahmed while he played in a sandbox, saying “stop digging in the sand, you will not find a machine gun there to kill us all with.” Subsequently, the boy’s father accompanied him to school on a couple of occasions, Ahmed being rather distressed and out of sorts by the treatment he was subjected to.
Then on January 21, the head of the school decided to press charges against the little boy and his father. The boy was reported to police for “glorification of terrorism,” and the father for “trespassing” when he accompanied the boy to the school. Both father and son were forced to report to the police station in Nice to answer these charges.

Shlomo Sand: A Fetid Wind of Racism Hovers Over Europe (CounterPunch)

[T]here exists a fundamental difference between challenging a religion or a dominant belief in a society, and that of attacking or inciting against the religion of a dominated minority. If, in the breast of ‘Judeo-Muslim’ [no less ridiculous than the Judeo-Christian label] society – in Saudi Arabia, in the Gulf Emirates – there is a groundswell of protests and warnings against the dominant religion that oppresses workers in their thousands, and millions of women, we have the responsibility to support the persecuted protestors. Now, as one well knows, Western leaders, far from encouraging the would-be disciples of Voltaire and Rousseau in the Middle East, maintain their total support to the religious regimes the most repressive.

Walden Bello: How the Left Failed France’s Muslims (CounterPunch)

The real breeding ground for extremism stems from the treatment of immigrant groups within Europe. Racial, ethnic, and religious discrimination have driven a generation of young migrants to radical movements as a solution to an absence of job prospects, poor education, deteriorated neighborhoods, lack of respect, and repeated bouts in jail. Ironically, the crackdown on these communities in the aftermath of the attacks could potentially escalate the problem.

Gideon Levy: A Labor win will only entrench the occupation / רק לא הרצוג (Haaretz)

On the most fateful issue, another term for Netanyahu would be a disaster, but a victory for Zionist Camp could be a worse disaster…
The Labor Party is the founding mother of the settlement enterprise; it never considered stopping it.
Its historical responsibility for the occupation is greater than Likud’s. The Labor troika of Golda Meir, Yisrael Galili and Moshe Dayan founded it, Shimon Peres continued it, and Herzog will go down the same path.

Gideon Levy: Zionist Camp reveals its true, racist face / המחנה הביזיוני (Haaretz)

The party that some hoped would defend Israeli democracy from attacks by the right wing has now joined the assault…
In the case of Zionist Camp it’s the decision to support the disqualification of MK Haneen Zoabi (Joint List) from running for the Knesset. With a left like this, we don’t need Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman anymore…
If Zionist Camp disqualifies Zoabi, a brave, authentic and legitimate candidate who hasn’t hurt a fly and who reflects the views of her voters, the Arabs of Israel and lovers of democracy will know: On this issue too, there is no difference between the right wing and this left wing…
But in its decision, Zionist Camp proved something much deeper and more significant: In Israel of 2015, Zionism and democracy cannot go hand in hand; there is an inner contradiction, inherent and unavoidable, between contemporary Zionism and the rights of Israel’s Arab minority, and there is of course also a deep contradiction between “Jewish” and “democratic.”
From that point of view, Zionist Camp has made a great contribution to the truth: There is no such thing as “Jewish” and “democratic.” In its decision, Zionist Camp has chosen “Jewish” at the expense of “democratic”: Zionist Camp knows that behind the decision to disqualify Zoabi is the transparent desire to remove all the “Zoabis” from the Knesset. There is no such thing as a democracy, where elected officials are prohibited from criticizing, as Zoabi is accused of doing, a member of their own people for serving in a police force that kills other members of their people.

Zeev Sternhell: Why the election in Israel will change nothing (Haaretz)

A radical change will not happen here as long as the present regime does not bring about a major national crisis. A failure such as Operation Protective Edge is not enough, since the heavy price of that conflict was paid primarily by the Palestinians.
Therefore, the realistic alternative lies in external intervention that will be massive enough to shake Israelis out of the placidity of their comfortable lives.
Only when everyone among us can feel the price of the occupation in their flesh, will the end to blue-and-white colonialism and apartheid come. Only when the economy is hit in a way that affects the overall standard of living, or when security is undermined as a result of a serious threat to American interests in the region, will the real treatment for eliminating the occupation and guaranteeing our future begin.

Mike Whitney: 40 Years of Economic Policy in One Chart (CounterPunch)

Growth of Real Hourly Compensation for Production/Nonsupervisory Workers and Productivity, 1948–2011
Is America in the throes of a class war?
Look at the chart and decide for yourself. It’s all there in black and white, and you don’t need to be an economist to figure it out.

Greece | Inequality | Israel/Syria | France | Australia | Torture | Nicaragua | Ukraine

Tariq Ali: Greece’s Fight Against European Austerity (CounterPunch) / Ο ΣΥΡΙΖΑ να αντιμετωπίσει τους Έλληνες ολιγάρχες, την μαφία των εφοπλιστών και την Εκκλησία (Νόστιμον ήμαρ)

If SYRIZA wins it will mark the beginnings of a fightback against austerity and neo-liberalism in Europe. Two concurrent processes will be in motion from the beginning of the victory. There will be a strong attempt by the EU elite led by Germany to try and tame SYRIZA via a combination of threats and concessions. The aim of this operation is simple. To try and split SYRIZA at a very early stage.

Welcome, Sýriza! / Willkommen Syriza (Anti-Imperialist Camp)

Sýriza will very soon be faced with a choice: either they turn into a prized reseller of some prettified austerity and transmogrify with lightning speed into a new Pasók – that would be the choice of the European social-democrats. Or they leave the Greeks in no doubt and prepare the people for a violent clash with the EU oligarchy, a clash with an undecided outcome.

Sebastian Budgen, Stathis Kouvelakis: Greece: Phase One (Jacobin)

Syriza was set up by several different organizations in 2004, as an electoral alliance. Its biggest component was Alexis Tsipras’s party Synaspismos — initially the Coalition of the Left and Progress, and eventually renamed the Coalition of the Left and of the Movements — which had existed as a distinct party since 1991. It emerged from a series of splits in the Communist movement.
On the other hand, Syriza also comprises much smaller formations. Some of these came out of the old Greek far left. In particular, the Communist Organization of Greece (KOE), one the country’s main Maoist groups. This organization had three members of parliament (MPs) elected in May 2012. That’s also true of the Internationalist Workers’ Left (DEA), which is from a Trotskyist tradition, as well as other groups mostly of a Communist background. For example, the Renewing Communist Ecological Left (AKOA), which came out of the old Communist Party (Interior).

Paul Krugman: Ending Greece’s Nightmare (New York Times)

To understand the political earthquake in Greece, it helps to look at Greece’s May 2010 “standby arrangement” with the International Monetary Fund, under which the so-called troika — the I.M.F., the European Central Bank and the European Commission — extended loans to the country in return for a combination of austerity and reform. It’s a remarkable document, in the worst way. The troika, while pretending to be hardheaded and realistic, was peddling an economic fantasy. And the Greek people have been paying the price for those elite delusions…
If anything, the problem with Syriza’s plans may be that they’re not radical enough. Debt relief and an easing of austerity would reduce the economic pain, but it’s doubtful whether they are sufficient to produce a strong recovery. On the other hand, it’s not clear what more any Greek government can do unless it’s prepared to abandon the euro, and the Greek public isn’t ready for that.
… Mr. Tsipras is being far more realistic than officials who want the beatings to continue until morale improves. The rest of Europe should give him a chance to end his country’s nightmare.

Larry Elliott, Ed Pilkington: New Oxfam report says half of global wealth held by the 1% (Guardian)

Billionaires and politicians gathering in Switzerland this week will come under pressure to tackle rising inequality after a study found that – on current trends – by next year, 1% of the world’s population will own more wealth than the other 99%…
Oxfam said the wealth of the richest 80 doubled in cash terms between 2009 and 2014, and that there was an increasing tendency for wealth to be inherited and to be used as a lobbying tool by the rich to further their own interests. It noted that more than a third of the 1,645 billionaires listed by Forbes inherited some or all of their riches, while 20% have interests in the financial and insurance sectors, a group which saw their cash wealth increase by 11% in the 12 months to March 2014.
These sectors spent $550m lobbying policymakers in Washington and Brussels during 2013. During the 2012 US election cycle alone, the financial sector provided $571m in campaign contributions.

Hayden Cooper: Israeli airstrike kills six Hezbollah fighters in Syria’s Golan Heights, including son of former commander (ABC)

An Israeli airstrike inside Syria has killed six members of the Hezbollah military force, including the son of assassinated senior commander Imad Mughniyeh.
The deaths were announced after an Israeli helicopter conducted a strike near Quneitra, on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights.

Israel Joins Forces With ISIS? Tel Aviv Bombs Syria for Sixth Time in 18 months (21st Century Wire)

Under direct pressure from the US, UN Security Council members do not appear to be willing to suggest sanctions, or hold Israel responsible in any way for any its repeated attacks against its neighbors, for fear of what misfortunes and diplomatic difficulties might befall them. As a result, Israel has been acting with impunity in the region. Since 2006, Israel has conducted several air strikes on Syria. Below is a description of those attacks:
Al Quneitra (18 January 2015) – Missile attack near the Golan Heights, killing 6 Hezbollah and Iranian anti-ISIS soldiers, including one al Quds commander.
Damascus and Dimas attack (7 December 2014) – Alleged Israeli airstrikes in Syria against a warehouse of advanced S-300 missiles, which were en route to Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Missile Strike at Golan Heights (23 September 2014) – IDF Patriot Missile battery shot down a Syrian MIG21, allegedly because it violated Israeli airspace.
Beqaa Valley airstrike (24 February 2014) – Two airstrikes against an alleged Hezbollah missile base in Lebanon near the border with Syria.
2nd Latakia attack (26 January 2014) – Alleged Israeli airstrike against a Syrian warehouse of S-300 missiles.
Snawbar airstrike (30 October 2013) – Alleged Israeli airstrike at an air defense site in Snawbar.
Latakia explosion (5 July 2013) – Alleged Israeli airstrike on a Syrian depot containing Russian-made Yakhont anti-ship missiles.
Airstrikes on Syria (3-5 May 2013) – Airstrikes on Syria against alleged long-ranged weapons sent from Iran to Hezbollah.
Jamraya airstrike (30 January 2013) – Alleged Israeli airstrike on a Syrian convoy allegedly transporting weapons to Hezbollah. Other sources stated the targeted site was a military research center in Jamraya responsible for developing biological and chemical weapons.
Operation Orchard (6 September 2007) Israeli airstrike on a ‘suspected’ nuclear reactor in the Deir ez-Zor region of Syria. The Israeli and U.S. governments imposed virtually total news blackouts immediately after the raid that held for seven months.
Ain es Saheb airstrike (5 October 2003) – Israeli Air Force operation against an alleged Palestinian militant training camp in Ain es Saheb, Syria.

Israel’s pre-election aerial bombing (Haaretz)

The examples are many, and they cut across party lines: the escalation in retaliatory actions prior to the 1955 Knesset election; the bombing of the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981; Operation Grapes of Wrath in Lebanon in 1996; Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in 2008; Operation Pillar of Defense in Gaza in 2012; and on Sunday the helicopter attack in Syria “attributed to Israel” was added to the list. All of these operations require advanced preparations. There will always be the explanation that the enemy was the one to start it and that Israel was only responding to a provocation or heading off a greater danger. In any event, however, it is difficult not to get the impression that politicians tend to take risks and approve military action with greater ease when some of the polls paint a gloomy picture over their standing with the voters.

Tal Niv: The Israeli general who spoke the truth about the Syria strike’s timing (Haaretz)

Thank you very much, Yoav Galant, for one thing: that you spoke the truth. Thanks for saying that it’s possible that the timing of Sunday’s assassination of six Hezbollah militants, including Jihad Mughniyeh, son of the slain Hezbollah military leader Imad Mughniyeh, could be connected with the current Israeli election campaign (or as you put it, “not unconnected”).

Nathan Thrall: Rage in Jerusalem (London Review of Books)

What the government of Israel calls its eternal, undivided capital is among the most precarious, divided cities in the world. When it conquered the eastern part of Jerusalem and the West Bank – both administered by Jordan – in 1967, Israel expanded the city’s municipal boundaries threefold. As a result, approximately 37 per cent of Jerusalem’s current residents are Palestinian. They have separate buses, schools, health facilities, commercial centres, and speak a different language…
All Jerusalemites pay taxes, but the proportion of the municipal budget allocated to the roughly 300,000 Palestinian residents of a city with a population of 815,000 doesn’t exceed 10 per cent… More than three-quarters of the city’s Palestinians live below the poverty line…
Restrictive zoning prevents Palestinians from building legally. Israel has designated 52 per cent of land in East Jerusalem as unavailable for development and 35 per cent for Jewish settlements, leaving the Palestinian population with only 13 per cent, most of which is already built on. Those with growing families are forced to choose between building illegally and leaving the city. Roughly a third of them decide to build, meaning that 93,000 residents are under constant threat of their homes being demolished.

Ben Doherty: Manus Island detention centre at risk of another riot as 500 join hunger strike (Guardian)

Manus Island detention centre is on the verge of another riot, with more than 500 men now joining a mass hunger strike and at least two men having stitched their lips together.
Water pumps at the centre have broken, meaning there is no access to running water for showers.
The 1,000 men in detention and staff have been given bottles of water to shower with, and staff have been told they cannot shower, flush toilets, or wash their clothes. It could be weeks until water is restored.

Glenn Greenwald: France arrests a comedian for his Facebook comments, showing the sham of the west’s “free speech” celebration (Intercept)

Forty-eight hours after hosting a massive march under the banner of free expression, France opened a criminal investigation of a controversial French comedian for a Facebook post he wrote about the Charlie Hebdo attack, and then this morning, arrested him for that post on charges of “defending terrorism.” …
The arrest, so soon after the epic Paris free speech march, underscores the selectivity and fraud of this week’s “free speech” parade. It also shows why those who want to criminalize the ideas they like are at least as dangerous and tyrannical as the ideas they targeted.

Zack Whittaker: Europe’s answer to France terror ‘attack on free speech’ is greater Internet censorship (ZDnet)
Ruadhán Mac Cormaic: France arrests 54 for anti-Semitism and backing terror (Irish Times)

In a message sent to all prosecutors and judges, the justice ministry laid out the legal basis for arresting those who defend the attacks that killed 17 people in three incidents in Paris last week. The circular also covers those responsible for racist or anti-Semitic words or acts…
The ministry said it was issuing the order to protect freedom of expression from comments that could incite violence or hatred. It said no one should be allowed to use their religion to justify hate speech…
[T]he government [is planning] its response to the attacks, which is expected to include broader laws on phone tapping and other intelligence gathering…

Stéphane Kovacs: Attentats : 54 interpellations pour apologie du terrorisme (Le Figaro)

Les premières condamnations, lundi, ne les ont pas dissuadées. La garde à vue de Dieudonné, ce mercredi, non plus. Depuis l’attentat contre Charlie Hebdo il y a une semaine, pas moins de 54 personnes sont visées par une procédure pour apologie du terrorisme ou menaces verbales d’actions terroristes. Trente-sept procédures, précise le ministère de la Justice, concernent l’apologie du terrorisme et 17 des menaces.

Ann Telnaes: France’s free speech double standard (Washington Post)

The French comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala was arrested for posting a Facebook comment appearing to condone terrorism. He wrote “I’m feeling Charlie Coulibaly”, in a reference to gunman Amedy Coulibaly, who killed four hostages in a Kosher supermarket in Paris on January 9th.

Kim Sengupta: Locking up Muslims for extreme views turns prisons into recruitment pools (Independent)

Muslims make up 70 per cent of France’s prison inmates despite being only eight per cent of the population.

Mohamedou Ould Slahi: Guantánamo Diary (Guardian)
Oh Canada …
Murtaza Hussain: Prison Dispatches from the War on Terror: Former Child Gitmo Detainee Going Blind (Intercept)

Nearly 13 years after he was first captured as a child soldier in Afghanistan, Omar Khadr remains behind bars in a Canadian prison where he is losing his remaining eyesight, according to his lawyer.

Jonathan Watts: Land of opportunity – and fear – along route of Nicaragua’s giant new canal (Guardian)

In an era of breathtaking engineering feats, there is unease about what this mega project will mean for people and their homes, wildlife and ecosystems. Will it bring wealth and growth or confusion and destruction?

Reuters: North Korean defector changes story after seeing father in video (Guardian)
AFP: UN dismisses North Korea’s claim that damning human rights report is invalid (Guardian)

Shaun Walker: Kiev ‘punishes’ civilians in Donetsk with travel permits and drugs blockade (Guardian)

France | Korea | Torture | Palestine

Patrick Martin: Racist provocation and the “war on terror” (World Socialist Web Site)

The French government has wasted no time in utilizing the January 7 attacks to promote its war drive in the Middle East. Following Tuesday’s 488 to 1 vote in France’s National Assembly to extend air strikes in Iraq, French President François Hollande, until recently the most unpopular official in France, appeared on the deck of the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle to address its crew as they set sail for the Middle East. He cited the events of the previous week, which left 20 dead in Paris, saying the situation “justifies the presence of our aircraft carrier.” …
While claiming to defend “freedom of speech” at Charlie Hebdo, the French authorities have arrested at least 54 people for “defending terrorism”—that is, for speech, including posts on social media. Four of those arrested are minors, and some have already been convicted and sentenced under legislation that provides for expedited trials.

Jeremy Scahill: “Circus of Hypocrisy”: How World Leaders at Paris March Oppose Press Freedom (Democracy Now)

[T]his is sort of a circus of hypocrisy when it comes to all of those world leaders who were marching at the front of it. I mean, every single one of those heads of state or representatives of governments there have waged their own wars against journalists. You know, David Cameron ordered The Guardian to smash with a hammer the hard drives that stored the files of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. Blasphemy is considered a crime in Ireland. You had multiple African and Arab leaders whose own countries right now have scores of journalists in prison. Benjamin Netanyahu’s government in Israel has targeted for killing numerous journalists who have reported on the Palestinian side, have kidnapped, abducted, jailed journalists…
[A]nd then … you have General Sisi, the dictator of Egypt, who apparently is showing his solidarity for press freedom by continuing to preside over the imprisonment of multiple Al Jazeera journalists whose only crime was doing actual journalism and scores of other Egyptian journalists that never get mentioned in the news media…
[L]et’s remember that the United States bombed Al Jazeera in Afghanistan very early on after 9/11, then bombed the Sheraton Hotel in Basra, Iraq, where Al Jazeera journalists were the only journalists. Then they killed one of the most famous Al Jazeera correspondents in Baghdad in April of 2003, when Victoria Clarke, George Bush’s Pentagon spokesperson at the time, basically said if you’re an unembedded journalist, you’re with the terrorists, and if you die, it’s not our fault. They shelled the Palestine Hotel, killing a Reuters cameraman and the Spanish cameraman José Couso.

Tariq Ali: Short Cuts (London Review of Books)

French law allows freedoms to be suspended under the threat of unrest or violence. Before now this provision has been invoked to forbid public appearances by the comedian Dieudonné (well known for making anti-Semitic jokes) and to ban pro-Palestinian demonstrations – France is the only Western country to do this. That such actions are not seen as problematic by a majority of the French people speaks volumes. It isn’t just the French: we didn’t see torchlight vigils or mass assemblies anywhere in Europe when it was revealed that the Muslim prisoners handed over to the US by many EU countries (with the plucky Poles and Labour-run Britain in the forefront) had been tortured by the CIA. There is a bit more at stake here than satire.

Adam Shatz: Moral Clarity (London Review of Books)
It turns out this show in Paris was even more of a farce than Jeremy Scahill and Tariq Ali said:
Behind the photo op (Twitter)

It may be true that you can’t fool all the people all the time, but you can fool enough of them to rule a large country. (Will Durant)

Philip Perdue: Je Suis Photo-Op: On the Paris World Leader Solidarity Fail (BagNews)
David Boroff: World leaders take heat for Paris photo op during march that some say is deceiving (New York Daily News)

The photos may have made it seem as if David Cameron, Benjamin Netanyahu and François Hollande and the other heads of state were standing at the head of the pack, but at the time they were in fact alone on an empty street, surrounded by security.

On Charlie Hebdo itself:
Olivier Cyran: “Charlie Hebdo”, not racist? If you say so… (Daphne Lawless) / « Charlie Hebdo », pas raciste ? Si vous le dites… (Article 11)

The obsessive pounding on Muslims to which your weekly has devoted itself for more than a decade has had very real effects. It has powerfully contributed to popularising, among “left-wing” opinion, the idea that Islam is a major “problem” in French society. That belittling Muslims is no longer the sole privilege of the extreme right, but a “right to offend” which is sanctified by secularism, the Republic, by “co-existence”. And even – let’s not be stingy with the alibis! – by the rights of women. It’s widely believed today that the exclusion of a veiled [i.e. wearing a headscarf] girl is a sign, not of stupid discrimination, but of solid, respectable feminism, which consists of pestering those whom one claims to be liberating…
You claim for yourself the tradition of anticlericalism, but pretend not to know the fundamental difference between this and Islamophobia. The first comes from a long, hard and fierce struggle against a Catholic priesthood which actually had formidable power, which had – and still has – its own newspapers, legislators, lobbies, literary salons and a huge property portfolio. The second attacks members of a minority faith deprived of any kind of influence in the corridors of power. It consists of distracting attention from the well-fed interests which rule this country, in favour of inciting the mob against citizens who haven’t been invited to the party, if you want to take the trouble to realise that – for most of them – colonisation, immigration and discrimination have not given them the most favourable place in French society. Is it too much to ask a team which, in your words “is divided between leftists, extreme leftists, anarchists and Greens”, to take a tiny bit of interest in the history of our country and its social reality? …
“Encoding racism to make it imperceptible, and therefore socially acceptable”, is how Thomas Deltombe defines the function of Islamophobia, also described as a “machine for refining crude racism”. These two formulas fit you like a glove. So don’t get on your high horse when your critics use strong language against you.

Diana Johnstone: What to Say When You Have Nothing to Say? (CounterPunch)

Charlie Hebdo was not in reality a model of freedom of speech. It has ended up, like so much of the “human rights left”, defending U.S.-led wars against “dictators”.
In 2002, Philippe Val, who was editor in chief at the time, denounced Noam Chomsky for anti-Americanism and excessive criticism of Israel and of mainstream media.

Moreover:
Shlomo Sand: A Fetid Wind of Racism Hovers Over Europe (CounterPunch)

Nothing justifies an assassination, all the more a mass murder committed in cold blood. What has happened in Paris, the beginning of January, constitutes an absolutely inexcusable crime.
To say that involves nothing original: millions of people think and feel likewise on this account. However, in the light of this appalling tragedy, one of the first questions that occurrs to me is the following: in spite of the profound disgust experienced by the murders, is it obligatory to identify oneself with the victims’ actions? Must I be Charlie because the victims were the supreme incarnation of the ‘liberty of expression’, as the President of the Republic has declared? Am I Charlie, not only because I am a secular atheist, but also because of my fundamental antipathy towards the oppressive roots of the three principal Western monotheistic religions? …
I continue to take as a reference point the ‘original Charlie’: the great Charlie Chaplin who never mocked the poor and the little-educated.
Moreover, and knowing that one’s writings always occur in context, how to not raise the fact that, for more than a year, so many French troops are present in Africa to ‘combat the jihadists’, when no serious debate has taken place in France on the usefulness or the damage of these military interventions? The colonial gendarme of yesteryear, who carries an incontestable responsibility in the chaotic heritage of [arbitrary] borders and regimes, is today ‘recalled’ to reinstall ‘law and order’ by means of its latterday neo-colonial gendarmerie.
France joins the military coalition in Iraq, beside the US military, firefighting pyromaniac, responsible for the chaos created in the region, and notably in the rise to power of the frightful ‘Daesh’. Allied with the ‘enlightened’ Saudi leadership, and other ardent partisans of the ‘liberty of expression’ in the Middle East, [France] shores up the illogical border carve-up that it had imposed a century ago according to its imperialist interests. It is summoned to bombard those who threaten the precious oil reserves whose product it consumes, without understanding that, in doing so, it invites the risk of terror attacks in the heart of the metropolis.

K. J. Noh: Republic of Torture, Republic of Terror (CounterPunch)

It’s been established that the South Korean National Intelligence Service (NIS), interfered in the 2012 Presidential elections, using its psychological/cyber warfare division to propagandize for the current incumbent, and to denounce the opposition…
When the UPP, a progressive coalition of opposition parties, took up the mantle of challenging the legitimacy of the election and the cyber interference, organizing mass demonstrations and calling for the appointment of a special prosecutor, retribution was not long in coming.
The UPP law maker, Lee Seok-Ki, a former student radical and vocal critic, was suddenly arrested on charges of sedition…
Lee Seok Ki was tried and found guilty of sedition—first for “organizing” to overthrow the government; then later for “incitement” to revolution. The others were also found guilty.
With fresh blood in the water, the authorities then went after the party, arguing that the UPP presented a threat to society, was attempting to impose a North Korean socialist regime on South Korea, through stealth and organized violence.
The UPP’s platform for “peace and reunification”, “a people-centered world…for the working class”, where people can “live together with human dignity”, its resistance against austerity, neoliberal policies, and for labor rights were twisted into the charge that the UPP was “against the basic order of democracy”, “secretly trying to achieve North Korean style socialism”, and that the “progressive democracy they pursue is the same or very similar to the North’s revolutionary strategy”.
Following rapidly on the heels of Lee Seok-Ki’s arrest, the South Korean constitutional court ordered the disbanding of the UPP. Its assets have been seized, its members have been stripped of seats in the National assembly and local councils. Its 100,000 members are also at risk of prosecution for association with the UPP for violating national security laws. The ministry of justice has also stated its intention of also going after other “anti-state groups”: labor movements, anti-base movements, peace movements, environmental activists, and to prevent the creation of any political party with a progressive platform similar to the UPP.

David Bromwich: Working the Dark Side (London Review of Books)

Apologists for torture come in two sorts. There are the contingent defenders (‘We were beside ourselves in a time of emergency; understand us and forgive us!’). And there are the unabashed (‘War is hell and we play by the rules of hell’). A whole subset of the argument on torture has asked whether it works – whether any confession extracted by such means can supply a useful lead or serve as reliable evidence at a trial. With the same propriety, one might ask whether slavery works.

Jonathan Cook: Palestinians at The Hague (CounterPunch)

Right now, Palestinian security forces are committed to coordinating with the very people the PA is intending to indict as war criminals. And by maintaining calm in the West Bank, the PA is furthering the building of the very settlements the Rome Statute defines as a war crime.
Abbas is in a bind. If he ends coordination and goes on the offensive, why would Israel allow the PA to continue functioning? But if his security forces continue to collaborate with Israel, how can he retain credibility with his people?

Sri Lanka | France | Palestine/Israel

Deepal Jayasekera: The outcome of the Sri Lankan election and its international implications (World Socialist Web Site)

The outcome of the Sri Lankan election last Thursday, with Maithripala Sirisena ousting Mahinda Rajapakse as president, has ominous implications for the working class, not only in Sri Lanka and South Asia but throughout the world…
What has unfolded since Sirisena deserted Rajapakse’s government and was endorsed as the joint opposition candidate by the right-wing United National Party (UNP) and a range of other political tendencies is a US-sponsored regime-change operation. It was publicly orchestrated in large part by former President Chandrika Kumaratunga, who has close ties with the Obama administration and US foreign policy establishment through the Clinton Foundation.
Rajapakse’s crime from the standpoint of Washington was not the mass murder of Tamil civilians during the civil war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), but the relations his government developed with China.

Dayan Jayatilleka: The fall of Mahinda and ‘The end of History’ (Island)

Having argued for years that (a) Sri Lanka under Mahinda Rajapaksa is no dictatorship but a unipolar democracy because of the meltdown of the centre-right UNP under its leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, and (b) that the Opposition should put forward a liberal nationalist instead, my perspective has been at least partly vindicated. Why then was Mr. Sirisena my second choice rather than my first – which remained President Rajapaksa? An obvious reason is the Ranil-Chandrika factor (or factors). The second was his program of fast-track radical political reform and its possible centrifugal consequences.

No, we are not defending Western civilization / Nein, wir verteidigen die westliche Zivilisation nicht (Anti-Imperialist Camp) / Hayır, Biz Batı Medeniyetini Savunmuyoruz! (Haksöz Haber)
David North: “Free Speech” hypocrisy in the aftermath of the attack on Charlie Hebdo / Le discours hypocrite de la «liberté d’expression» au lendemain de l’attaque contre Charlie Hebdo / Stimmungsmache im Namen der „Meinungsfreiheit“ nach Attentat auf Charlie Hebdo (World Socialist Web Site)
Robert Fisk: Charlie Hebdo: Paris attack brothers’ campaign of terror can be traced back to Algeria in 1954 (Independent)
Kabir Chibber: These are the biggest hypocrites celebrating free speech today in Paris (Quartz)
(Chibber forgets to mention Netanyahu and Liberman.)
Djamila Ould Khettab: Charlie Hebdo : Reporters sans frontières ironise sur la présence de l’Algérie à la marche républicaine (Algérie-focus)
Mark Tran: Presence at Paris rally of leaders with poor free press records is condemned (Guardian)
Slavoj Žižek: Are the worst really full of passionate intensity? (New Statesman)

Jack Khoury: Three dead in Gaza due to reezing temperatures, including two infants (Haaretz)

Delays in reconstruction leave tens of thousands of Palestinians without shelter in enclave devastated in summer war…
One of the infants, four-months-old girl Ghahef Abu Aasi, was living with her family in a building partly destroyed by Israeli bombings during the war. The child’s father said it was impossible to heat the house. “Suddenly she turned blue and stopped breathing, and we were helpless,” the father said.
The family of the other infant, one-month-old boy Aadel Lakham, has been residing in a caravan since their home was bombed during the war. The family had no way to ward off the cold, and the child stopped breathing and died…
About 100,000 buildings or structures were damaged in the 50-day-long war between Israel and the Palestinian factions of the Gaza Strip last summer. The UN says this includes over 18,000 housing units that were entirely destroyed.

Mor Efrat: Divide & Conquer: Inequality in Health (PDF; Physicians for Human Rights, Israel)

The “Divide and Conquer” report analyzes the gaps between health indicators and social determinants of health in Israel and the Occupied Territories and demands health service equality between Israelis and Palestinians in light of Israel’s control of these factors.

New Physicians for Human Rights Report – “Divide & Conquer: Inequality in Health” (Communist Party of Israel)

[T]he average life expectancy for Palestinians is about 10 years less than for Israelis; … infant mortality is five times higher in the O[ccupied] P[alestinian] T[erritories] than in Israel (…); and … maternal mortality is four times higher in the Occupied Territories than in Israel … [T]he national expenditure on health care per person in the OPT is about one eighth of that in Israel…
The report also reviews the Israeli mechanisms of control which prevent the Palestinian Ministry of Health – which has its own faults – from providing full health services to the residents of the Occupied Territories, to the detriment of the latter’s health. One such mechanism of control is the limitations Israel imposes on the freedom of movement of patients, medical staff, and medications. Another is control of the Palestinian budget, including the health budget, through Israel’s control of the customs and Value Added Tax revenue for goods entering the Occupied Territories. Israel often makes use of this control level, and denies the transfer of these funds to the Palestinian Authority as a punitive measure. By doing so, Israel interferes with the financing of the Palestinian healthcare system and condemns it to exist in a state of uncertainty.
The Palestinian health system is in a state of chronic crisis, one which does not allow it to provide an appropriate response to the needs of the population.

Ido Efrati: Huge disparities between Israeli, Palestinian health-care systems, says rights group (Haaretz)

New report finds that government expenditure per person is nearly 10 times higher in Israel than in territories.