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.

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.

Torture | France | Korea | Israel/Palestine

Amy Goodman, Juan González, Martin Garbus, Michael Ratner: Should Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld & CIA Officials Be Tried for Torture? (Democracy Now)

So far, no one involved in the CIA torture program has been charged with a crime—except the whistleblower John Kiriakou, who exposed it…
President Obama is standing by his long-standing refusal to investigate or prosecute Bush administration officials for the torture program. In a statement, he called on the nation not to, quote, “refight old arguments.” As Obama continues to reject a criminal probe of Bush-era torture, former Vice President Dick Cheney has said he would do it all again…
Cheney’s claim that he would approve torture again highlights a key question: Are top officials above the law, and will the impunity of today lead to more abuses in the future? The question spans a wide chain of command from Cheney, President Bush and other White House officials, who kickstarted the torture program after 9/11; to the lawyers in the Justice Department, who drafted the memos providing legal cover; to the CIA officials, who implemented the abuses and misled Congress and the public; and to the military psychologists, who helped devise the techniques inflicted on prisoners at U.S. military prisons and secret black sites across the globe.

Raheel Hayat: The Torture Industry (CounterPunch)

Mr. Cheney’s statements and our past history with torture demonstrate why it is crucial that we prosecute the architects behind this latest torture tactics used by the CIA. If Mr. Cheney can go on national television and confess to being aware of and approving torture, so can the next vice president.

Anshel Pfeffer: CIA cited Israeli Supreme Court rulings to justify torture, Senate report says (Haaretz)

In a draft memorandum prepared by the CIA’s Office of General Counsel, the “Israeli example” was cited as a possible justification that “torture was necessary to prevent imminent, significant, physical harm to persons, where there is no other available means to prevent the harm.”

Richard Seymour: On Charlie Hebdo (Jacobin)

The murder of Charlie Hebdo journalists is appalling. But we should fear the coming Islamophobic backlash…
Now, I think there’s a critical difference between solidarity with the journalists who were attacked, refusing to concede anything to the idea that journalists are somehow “legitimate targets,” and solidarity with what is frankly a racist publication…
No, the offices of Charlie Hebdo should not be raided by gun-wielding murderers. No, journalists are not legitimate targets for killing. But no, we also shouldn’t line up with the inevitable statist backlash against Muslims, or the ideological charge to defend a fetishized, racialized “secularism,” or concede to the blackmail which forces us into solidarity with a racist institution.

Rüdiger Frank: Rason Special Economic Zone: North Korea as It Could Be (38 North)

I had been to the Industrial Zone near Kaesong in the southwest a couple of times. Whatever that is, it certainly has nothing to do with North Korea. Kaesong is a completely artificial world. South Korean factories, guaranteed free of communist propaganda, stand in a previously sparsely inhabited North Korean plain. About 50,000 selected North Korean women are brought in by buses every morning, work their shifts, and then return to their living quarters outside the zone. The area is off limits for ordinary North Koreans and for Western tourists alike. Call it a zoo or Disneyland. With Rason however…

‘Nothing is Immune’: Israel’s Destruction of Landmark Buildings in Gaza (Amnesty International)
Amira Hass: Why is Israel preventing rights experts from entering Gaza? (Haaretz)

Israel prevented experts from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch from entering the Gaza Strip during Operation Protective Edge, and it still is preventing them. As a result, no independent professionals (for example, a certain retired British military officer) have been able to check in real time the army’s claims and versions; for example, about weapons caches or firing near or from inside UN buildings.
If the Israel Defense Forces and its legal advisers were so sure they were adhering to international law, why were they scared to let these experts enter Gaza – alongside the many journalists who were allowed in? …
The [Israeli Army], its lawyers and its commanders hold a monopoly on information from Israeli theaters of war because of the IDF’s technological superiority. So they also hold a monopoly on concealing information, telling untruths and dismissing the findings of Palestinian and Israeli human rights groups – and of course on ignoring Hamas’ claims.

Gideon Levy: And now apartheid is being sneaked into Israel’s very foundations (Haaretz)

The Jewish nation-state bill is legal preparation for the right wing’s one-state solution, the annexation of the territories and the establishment of the Jewish apartheid state…
This is how the last excuse of the apartheid-deniers, who claim that unlike in South Africa there are no racial (or national) laws here, will fall. The Jewish nation-state law will shape the character of the one state according to its spirit – the spirit of apartheid. The law will ensure what the right wing has always been saying: that this country has room for two peoples, one superior and one inferior. One with all rights, and one with none. From now on, under the protection of the law, according to which everything is done. First in sovereign, occupying Israel, and soon in the annexing and colonialist one, too.

Aeyal Gross: In Israel, instead of equal rights, no equality at all (Haaretz)

The poignant question is why can’t Israel’s basic laws expressly recognize equality as a right and fundamental value of the state in the same way that it is recognized in the Declaration of Independence?
Things must be spelled out explicitly then: There is no equality in Israel, and equality cannot be recognized on the constitutional level, since that would challenge the inequality created by the complete identification of the state with only one group. Today, no one urges the country’s Arab citizens to participate in building the state and its institutions based on “complete and equal citizenship” that appears in the Declaration of Independence.
Complete constitutional equality would also undermine the inequality between men and women, which is maintained by the fact that marriage and divorce in Israel are controlled by a religious system that prohibits women from being judges and that doesn’t consider both sexes equal before the law.

Na’aman Hirschfeld: Bringing apartheid through the back door (Haaretz)

Conditions are ripe for the racial apartheid that Israel has been gradually imposing on the territories since 1967 to come out in the open – with a public primed to applaud and accept it…
In South Africa apartheid was publicly visible from the onset, being the official state ideology, underlying its law, policy and actions. In Israel by contrast, apartheid was developed in a way that masks its nature, employing the imposition of martial law and military control on the Palestinian population, to create a geo-social and physical separation between Israelis and Palestinians, while simultaneously facilitating the seizure and settlement of Palestinian [land].
The first clause of [the proposed “Jewish Nation-State Basic Law”] states: “a. The State of Israel is the national home of the Jewish people …; b. The right to realize the national self-definition in the State of Israel is exclusive to the Jewish people; c. The Land of Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people …” It further asserts the significance of “Jewish tradition as a source of inspiration” in legislation, demotes Arabic from being an official language into a secondary language, and sets the “basics of liberty, justice and peace envisioned by the prophets of Israel” as a defining characteristic of the state alongside democracy…
There is little hope for those who wish to stop this process. The political discourse in Israel is so powerfully controlled by the right, that this government – which is the most right-wing in Israeli history – is often criticized publicly for being ‘leftist.’…
[B]y late September it became apparent that the Israeli government is trying to bring about a full scale intifada through aggressive steps in East Jerusalem, the Temple Mount and the West Bank… This is an ‘end-game’ maneuver: The Israeli government closed the door on negotiations and has finally proved that it really is “no partner for peace,” forcing a situation in which there is no longer a solution, only a resolution.

Gideon Levy: Israeli binationalism is old news (Haaretz)

It is true that Israel has never dared to formally annex all its occupied territories and to extend civil rights to its non-Jewish inhabitants. But that does not make it any less binational, and the claim to be temporary has long since expired. True, there is a shocking gap between the rights of the two nations, but that too doesn’t make it any less binational. A Palestinian in Hebron and a Jew in Tel Aviv are subject to the same government, even if that government is democratic for the Tel Avivian and dictatorial for the Hebronite, and even if the former government is civilian and the latter military…
The only question still open is what kind of state it will be: a binational democracy, or binational with an apartheid regime.

Yoram Shachar: Sorry folks, Israel’s Declaration of Independence made no mention of democracy (Haaretz)

The defenders of democracy are using the Declaration of Independence as the main authority in their fight to save the State of Israel’s democratic character. Time and again they repeat the statement that, according to the Declaration, the State of Israel came into being as “a Jewish and democratic state.” But that is not so. While an early draft of the Declaration of Independence proposed declaring the state a democracy, the word “democratic” was deliberately struck off several drafts. In the end, Israel was declared a “Jewish state,” not a “Jewish and democratic state.”

Turkey | Russia | Venezuela | Israel

Patrick Cockburn: Whose side is Turkey on? (London Review of Books)

In September, Isis turned its attention to the two and a half million Syrian Kurds who had gained de facto autonomy in three cantons just south of the Turkish border. One of these cantons, centred on the town of Kobani, became the target of a determined assault. By 6 October, Isis fighters had fought their way into the centre of the town. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan predicted that its fall was imminent; John Kerry spoke of the ‘tragedy’ of Kobani, but claimed – implausibly – that its capture wouldn’t be of great significance…
But the inevitable Isis victory at Kobani didn’t happen. On 19 October, in a reversal of previous policy, US aircraft dropped arms, ammunition and medicine to the town’s defenders. Under American pressure, Turkey announced on the same day that it would allow Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga safe passage from northern Iraq to Kobani; Kurdish fighters have now recaptured part of the town.

Elke Dangeleit: Kurden erklären Gleichberechtigung der Frauen (Telepolis)

Die kurdischen Kämpferinnen der YPJ und PKK spielen eine Vorreiterrolle in der Frauenemanzipation im Nahen Osten.

Vasily Koltashov, Boris Kagarlitsky: Will Putin abandon eastern Ukraine’s rebels? (Links) / Кто понесет голову Путина (

It seems that Russian authorities have found a way towards accommodation with the West. Liberals have become more powerful and are leading the talks. They are ready to make concessions and see no problem in the sacrifice of Novorossiya, and, if necessary, even Russia’s own interests. There’s just one remaining question: who will remove the Russian president’s head and present it on a platter to the USA? …
In the autumn world oil prices sank unexpectedly sharply. In mid-October the price of a barrel of “black gold” fell to US$85. Russia’s economic situation worsened swiftly, but no one in the government intends changing course. Although, in effect, precisely that course — long before the economic sanctions pushed Russia to its own economic sanctions — is the fundamental reason for the current difficulties…
Sanctions imposed by the USA, EU and other governments have proven to be effective. But it was not this that undermined the economy, but because they scared the elites. They showed Russia’s governing class its financial vulnerability…
However much we are told of “Russian imperialism”, contemporary Russia is above all a dependent, peripheral country, whose ruling class does not wish to carry out a transformation that would permit genuine independence and influence in the world — because these transformations would inevitably hurt the interests of the contemporary elite. At least, the interests of an important part of it.
The Russian authorities have already made clear to the USA and the EU that they reject any possibility of the uprising being victorious throughout the whole of Ukraine. They have blockaded it on the territories occupied by the militias…
Sacrificing Novorossiya, relying on European ruling circles and appeasing the USA—such is the current plan of the domestic elites in order to end the conflict.

Василий Колташов: Кому в России жить хорошо? (
Ulrich Heyden: Ist Putin wirklich so stark wie immer behauptet? (Telepolis)

Edgardo Lander: Venezuela: terminal crisis of the rentier petro-state? (Transnational Institute)

Venezuela’s failure to develop an effective strategy to reduce its economy’s dependence on gas and oil threatens the social successes and future viability of the Bolivarian project.

Leandros Fischer: The German Left’s Palestine Problem (Jacobin)

Die Linke’s position on Palestine has isolated it from the global solidarity movement and strengthened the party’s worst elements…
That a German party, even a left-wing one, should be somewhat cautious in criticizing Israel, in a country where the definitions of Judaism, Israel, and Zionism have been consciously conflated for half a century, should not come as a surprise. But that parts of its top brass should actively work with the media to smear two internationally known Jewish anti-Zionists as “antisemites” is truly alarming and casts serious doubts on the party’s ability to relate to the global Palestine solidarity movement.

Open Letter to German Left Party (ZNet) / Widerspruch gegen linkes Lavieren (Neues Deutschland)

Barak Ravid: Israel denies Colombian foreign minister entry to Ramallah (Haaretz)

Israel this week denied a request by Colombian Foreign Minister The Maria Angela Holguin to visit Ramallah.
According to a statement by the Foreign Ministry in Bogota, Israel would only permit Holguin to visit Ramallah if she agreed to visit Jerusalem on the same visit to the region. A senior official in the Israeli Foreign Ministry confirmed the matter, stating that the directive was ordered by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
It is highly unusual for the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem to give such a directive, and it appears that the move was made in an effort to harden its policy with regards to visits by foreign ministers to the Palestinian Authority, which are normally carried out without any difficulty.

John Bellamy Foster and Michael D. Yates: Piketty and the Crisis of Neoclassical Economics (Monthly Review)

Not since the Great Depression of the 1930s has it been so apparent that the core capitalist economies are experiencing secular stagnation, characterized by slow growth, rising unemployment and underemployment, and idle productive capacity. Consequently, mainstream economics is finally beginning to recognize the economic stagnation tendency that has long been a focus in these pages, although it has yet to develop a coherent analysis of the phenomenon. Accompanying the long-term decline in the growth trend has been an extraordinary increase in economic inequality, which one of us labeled “The Great Inequality,” and which has recently been dramatized by the publication of French economist Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Taken together, these two realities of deepening stagnation and growing inequality have created a severe crisis for orthodox (or neoclassical) economics.

Ed Vulliamy, Helena Smith: Athens 1944: Britain’s dirty secret (Guardian)

Thailand | Ukraine | EU elections | torture | Palestine/Israel

Kate Hodal: Thai king endorses army chief as new leader (Guardian)

Thailand’s king has endorsed the army chief who seized power in a coup last week, amid widespread international criticism and increasing detention of those considered to be opposed to the takeover.
General Prayuth Chan-ocha (pràjút tɕanʔoːtɕʰaː ประยุทธ์ จันทร์ โอชา) told journalists on Monday morning that the much revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej (pʰuːmípʰon ʔàdunjádèːt ภูมิพลอดุลยเดช), 86, had officially backed him as the leader of the military council now running the country…
Prayuth has enacted sweeping changes in the four days since he deposed the democratically elected government.
More than 200 journalists, academics, politicians and activists have been rounded up and many of them detained in undisclosed locations, ostensibly to give them “time to think”, as Prayuth said last week.

The 21 announcements of the National Peace and Order Maintenance Council (Prachatai [pràtɕʰaːtʰaj ประชาไท])
Associated Press: Thailand: ousted cabinet minister surfaces from hiding to condemn coup (Guardian)

Former education minister Chaturon Chaisang (tɕaːtùron tɕʰǎːjsɛ̌ːŋ จาตุรนต์ ฉายแสง) detained after warning military coup could lead to ‘a disaster’. (Cāturont̒ C̄hāys̄æng was a leader of the leftist student uprising against the ruling junta in 1973.)

Thaweeporn Kummetha (tʰá wiːpʰɔːn kʰúm meːtʰaː ทวีพรคุ้มเมธา): Alternative parties in polarized Thai politics (Prachatai, November 2013)

Thomas Gaist: New Ukraine government launches airstrikes, prepares austerity measures (World Socialist Web Site)

The character of the new Ukrainian government headed by billionaire oligarch Petro Poroshenko has been quickly revealed in the day since presidential elections held over the weekend: violent repression of opposition to the regime, particularly in the east, combined with brutal austerity measures directed at the entire working class.

Sitzverteilung der Fraktionen in den EU-Staaten (Distribution of seats in the EU parliament) (Standard)
Helena Smith: Leftwing Syriza party triumphs in European elections in Greece (Guardian)
Ian Traynor: Front National wins European parliament elections in France (Guardian)
Patrick Wintour. Nicholas Watt: Ukip wins European elections with ease to set off political earthquake (Guardian)Philip Oltermann: Germany: Merkel’s CDU wins European election despite worst ever result (Guardian)

Nick Barrickman: US judge allows for continued force feeding of Guantanamo Bay prisoner (World Socialist Web Site)

US District Court Judge Gladys Kessler on Thursday ruled to allow the continued force-feeding of 42-year-old Abu Wa’el Dhiab at the Guantanamo Bay prison complex in Cuba, reversing her previous injunction against the practice…
Dhiab, a father of four, has been detained without charges at the complex for over 12 years. He was cleared for release from the camp in 2009, but has continued to languish in the camp at the hands of the Obama Administration.

Palestinian youths shot dead on camera (CNN)
Peter Beaumont: Footage of Palestinian boys being shot is genuine, says Israeli rights group (Guardian)

The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem has concluded that footage capturing the moment two Palestinian teenagers were shot dead by Israeli soldiers despite posing no risk to them is “genuine and consistent”, contradicting Israeli army claims that the footage is likely to have been forged.
A short section of edited CCTV footage was released earlier this week showing Nadim Nawara, 17, and Mohammad Salameh, 16, being shot and killed. Since then Israeli military sources have been quoted anonymously on several occasions in the local media trying to undermine the tape’s credibility…
Neither of the youths was throwing stones when they were killed, and one was walking away from the Israeli position, with his back to soldiers, when he was shot.

B’Tselem’s initial findings on Nakba Day incident at Bitunya: grave suspicion that forces willfully killed two Palestinians, injured two others (B’Tselem)
Ali Abunimah: After snipers kill children, US affirms “deep respect” for “Israeli army’s moral code” (Electronic Intifada)

The US government has reaffirmed its “deep respect for the Israeli army’s moral code” days after video emerged of the cold-blooded sniper killings of two Palestinian boys…
The comments, from US State Department spokesperson Jennifer Psaki praising the Israeli army, came as Associated Press journalist Matt Lee pressed her on her earlier call for Israel to investigate the killings.

Syria | Honduras | Nelson Mandela

Ghaith Abdul-Ahad: ‘Syria is not a revolution any more – this is civil war’ (Guardian)

Rivalry between rebels and Islamists has replaced the uprising’s lofty ideals, leaving veteran commanders despairing.

Chris Looney: Al-Qaeda’s Governance Strategy in Raqqa (Syria Comment)

Since ISIS came to power in May, its abuse of Raqqa’s citizens has been well documented. It has begun to enforce its extreme interpretation of Islam upon the city’s residents, forcing women to “cover their beauty,” banning tobacco products, and brutally repressing dissident voices.
On the surface, this violence appears to be indiscriminate and irrational. Yet, it is also organized and tactical. For a group that has never before fully controlled a large city, the transition from insurgent to administrator has hardly been smooth. Still, ISIS has managed to develop a robust, systemic strategy of governance for Raqqa that links the city to sister strongholds in Iraq. Through the control of goods and services, ISIS has made the city’s residents dependent on it. As intricate as it is oppressive, this strategy is serving ISIS well; ISIS has consolidated its authority in Raqqa as it expands its reach over much of eastern Syria and Iraq.

Richard Sisk: Hagel Says America’s Syria Policy in Turmoil (

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Thursday that infighting among rebel factions in Syria left the U.S. in doubt on how to continue support for rebels in the ongoing civil war that has killed more than 120,000 and sent millions of refugees into neighboring countries.
“It’s not an easy choice between the good guys and the bad guys here,” Hagel said at a Pentagon briefing. “This is a problem — what has occurred here — a big problem,” Hagel said.

Mohammed bin Nawaf bin Abdulaziz al Saud: Saudi Arabia Will Go It Alone (New York Times)

Saudi Arabia has been friends with our Western partners for decades; for some, like the United Kingdom where I serve as ambassador, for almost a century. These are strategic alliances that benefit us both. Recently, these relationships have been tested — principally because of differences over Iran and Syria.
We believe that many of the West’s policies on both Iran and Syria risk the stability and security of the Middle East. This is a dangerous gamble, about which we cannot remain silent, and will not stand idly by.

Paul Sperry: Inside the Saudi 9/11 coverup (New York Post)
Amy Goodman, Seymour Hersh: Obama “Cherry-Picked” Intelligence on Syrian Chemical Attack to Justify U.S. Strike (Democracy Now)

Amy Goodman, Juan González and Nermeen Shaikh at Democracy Now had a whole series of interviews and stories on Nelson Mandela:
Piero Gleijeses: The Secret History of How Cuba Helped End Apartheid in South Africa (Democracy Now)
Ronnie Kasrils: The Anti-Apartheid Underground: Ronnie Kasrils on Meeting Nelson Mandela in an ANC Safe House in 1962 (Democracy Now)
Ronnie Kasrils: From Marxism to Neoliberalism. Ronnie Kasrils on How Mandela & ANC Shifted Economic Views (Democracy Now)
Andrew Cockburn: “One of Our Greatest Coups”: The CIA & the Capture of Nelson Mandela (Democracy Now)
Lisa Graves: ALEC’s “Institutional Corruption,” From Backing Apartheid to Assault on Clean Energy, Public Sector (Democracy Now)

Mark Weisbrot: Why the world should care about Honduras’ recent election (Guardian)

Hondurans are revolting against the US-backed outcome. There are too many reports of rampant vote-buying, fraud and violence.

Alberto Arce: Honduras candidate makes case for election fraud (Associated Press)

The opposition presidential candidate in last week’s elections in Honduras is citing allegedly altered tally sheets, ballots cast by dead or absent people, and inadequate monitoring of polling stations in her bid to have a recount of a vote she calls fraudulent.

Giorgio Trucchi: Resultados das eleições em Honduras foram alterados, diz observador da União Europeia (Opera mundi) / The Results of the Elections in Honduras were Changed, Says European Union Observer (Upside Down World)

Leo Gabriel, Austrian journalist and member of the EU-EOM, stated that the vast majority of the members of the mission were in strong disagreement with the preliminary report. According to him, the disagreements about what happened on November 24th provoked a heated internal debate. Nonetheless, political calculations and business interests prevailed and [the EU-EOM] preferred to close their eyes and ignore the obvious changes made to the results and the violation of the Honduran people’s will as expressed at the ballot box.

EFE: UE desautoriza a observador que dice elecciones en Honduras fueron tramposas (ABC)
APA: Honduras: Kritik am Bericht der EU-Mission (Standard)
Honduras Election Monitoring Report (Alliance for Global Justice)

A delegation of 55 North Americans, including numerous lawyers, academics, and a sitting judge has issued a report challenging claims that the Honduras election was “peaceful” and “transparent.” The 28-page report documents vote buying, voter intimidation, bias in voting table officers, violence and threats of violence occurring on and before election day, November 24, 2013.

Kim Willsher: French soldier wears Nazi slogan on uniform in Central African Republic (Guardian)

French military chiefs have launched an investigation to after a soldier serving in the Central African Republic was pictured wearing a Nazi slogan on his uniform.
The man, reportedly from an elite parachute regiment, was photographed in fatigues carrying his rifle. On the right sleeve of his uniform was sewn a round patch carrying the number 32 on a French flag and the words “Meine Ehre heisst Treue” (“my honour is loyalty”). The motto was used by Nazi Waffen-SS soldiers during the second world war and is banned in a number of countries including Germany and Austria…
The controversy follows a similar row in November, when a French soldier in Mali was photographed wearing a scarf printed with a death mask. In 2008, three French soldiers from another parachute regiment, also based in south-west France, were photographed making a Hitler salute while wrapped in a Nazi flag bearing a swastika.

USA–Syria–Egypt | NSA | Myanmar

Kevin Connor, Amy Goodman, Juan González: The Military-Industrial Pundits: Conflicts of Interest Exposed for TV Guests Who Urged Syrian War (Democracy Now)

New research shows many so-called experts who appeared on television making the case for U.S. strikes on Syria had undisclosed ties to military contractors. A new report by the Public Accountability Initiative identifies 22 commentators with industry ties. While they appeared on television or were quoted as experts 111 times, their links to military firms were disclosed only 13 of those times. The report focuses largely on Stephen Hadley, who served as national security adviser to President George W. Bush. During the debate on Syria, he appeared on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News and Bloomberg TV. None of these stations informed viewers that Hadley currently serves as a director of the weapons manufacturer Raytheon that makes Tomahawk cruise missiles widely touted as the weapon of choice for bombing Syria. He also owns over 11,000 shares of Raytheon stock, which traded at all-time highs during the Syria debate. We speak to Kevin Connor of the Public Accountability Initiative, a co-author of the report.

Anjali Kamat, Amy Goodman, Juan González: U.S. Weapons and Arms Parts Continued to Flow to Egypt (Democracy Now)

The United States recently announced plans to scale back aid to Egypt’s military government three months after the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi. Last week, the State Department said the United States will withhold hundreds of millions of dollars in military assistance until “credible progress” is made toward “an inclusive, democratically elected civilian government.” But a new investigation from Al Jazeera’s “Fault Lines” program shows that the recent aid cuts might be more symbolic than anything else.

Merkel is not amused. And a British paper discovers another German word than blitzkrieg.
Andrew Rosenthal: Clapper and Carney Get Slippery on Surveillance (New York Times)

The White House press secretary, Jay Carney said, “The president assured [Merkel] that the United States is not monitoring and will not monitor the communications” of the chancellor.” Please note: IS not monitoring and WILL NOT monitor. The allegation, unaddressed, was that the United States HAD been monitoring her calls (until it was caught in the act).

Philip Oltermann: Angela Merkel bugging claims met with schadenfreude in Germany (Guardian)

Reports of Angela Merkel’s phone being monitored by the US National Security Agency were met in Germany not just with outrage, but a more familiar German emotion: schadenfreude.
Many Germans thought the chancellor, below, had been too restrained in her criticism when the extent of NSA surveillance on ordinary citizens emerged. Now they believe Merkel is getting a taste of her own medicine.

James Ball: NSA monitored calls of 35 world leaders after US official handed over contacts (Guardian)

The National Security Agency monitored the phone conversations of 35 world leaders after being given the numbers by an official in another US government department, according to a classified document provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Jacques Follorou, Glenn Greenwald: Comment la NSA espionne la France (Le Monde)

L’avenir dira peut-être, un jour, pourquoi Paris est resté si discret, par rapport à Berlin ou Rio après les révélations sur les programmes d’espionnage électronique américain dans le monde. Car la France a été tout autant ciblée et dispose aujourd’hui de preuves tangibles que ses intérêts sont quotidiennement visés.

Sam Jones: Snowden leaks: France summons US envoy over NSA surveillance claims (Guardian)
Mari Luz Peinado: Snowden afirma que la NSA tuvo acceso al correo electrónico de Felipe Calderón (El país)

Las nuevas informaciones reveladas por Eduard Snowden vuelven a apuntar a que el Gobierno estadounidense espió a su vecino mexicano. Según revela este domingo el semanario alemán Der Spiegel una división de la Agencia de Seguridad Nacional (NSA) consiguió acceder al correo de la Presidencia mexicana y a la cuenta del expresidente Felipe Calderón. La NSA calificó la información que obtenía como una “fuente lucrativa”.

Jens Glüsing, Laura Poitras, Marcel Rosenbach, Holger Stark: Fresh Leak on US Spying: NSA Accessed Mexican President’s Email (Der Spiegel)

The NSA has been systematically eavesdropping on the Mexican government for years. It hacked into the president’s public email account and gained deep insight into policymaking and the political system. The news is likely to hurt ties between the US and Mexico.

David Baulk: Economic reform as flawed ideology (Asia Times)
David Baulk: Myanmar’s not so special economic zones (Asia Times)

Angelique Chrisafis, Helena Smith, Philip Oltermann, Lizzy Davies: Roma fear witch hunt after Greek case (Guardian)

The 10 to 12 million Roma people in Europe already make up one of the largest, most disadvantaged minorities on the continent. They frequently live in makeshift camps with no water or electricity, face routine evictions, become victims of violence, are discriminated against over jobs, and find their children segregated at school.
Rights groups are now, however, concerned about a knock-on effect across Europe of an anti-Roma witch hunt gathering pace following the frenzy over the case of Maria, the fair-haired child found in the Roma camp near Farsala, Greece.

Philippines | Venezuela | Iran | Korea | Spain | France/Algeria | Chomsky in Gaza | Palestine/Israel | Finkelstein

Richard Javad Heydarian: US ‘pivots’ on the Philippines (Asia Times)

Gabriel Hetland: Why Chavez Won (CounterPunch)

On October 7th, Venezuelans voted to give Hugo Chavez a fourth term as president. With a historic turnout of over 80% of the electorate (a remarkable figure in a country where voting is not mandatory), Chavez handily defeated opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski by an eleven-point margin: 55.14% to 44.24%.i In seeking to account for why this has occurred, mainstream media have studiously avoided the most straightforward explanation: a majority of Venezuelans support Chavez and the policies his administration has implemented over the last fourteen years.

Vijay Prashad: Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iran (CounterPunch)

What was Netanyahu’s case against Iran? That Iran is close to having a nuclear bomb. This is an old saw from Bibi. In 1992, as a Member of the Knesset, Netanyahu predicted that Iran was “three to five years” from a nuclear weapon. He was wrong in 1992, and he is wrong now. Take the case of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) recent reports on Iran. The Director General of the IAEA provided a report to the IAEA’s Board of Governors on August 30, 2012. If you are able to get through the bureaucratic and legalistic verbiage, you’ll get to the two important sentences: (1) that the IAEA is confident about “the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran”; and (2) that the IAEA can “conclude that all nuclear materials in Iran is in peaceful activities.”

Markus Kompa: Iran könnte „in wenigen Monaten“ die Atombombe haben – seit 1979 (Telepolis)

Rüdiger Frank: An Atmosphere of Departure and Two Speeds, Korean Style: Where is North Korea Heading? (38north)

Juan Antonio Anunión: Wert quiere “españolizar” Cataluña (El país)

Reuters: François Hollande acknowledges 1961 massacre of Algerians in Paris (Guardian)

James Green: An Interview With Norman Finkelstein (CounterPunch)

Rami Almeghari: Chomsky in Gaza: academic boycott “will strengthen support for Israel” (Electronic Intifada)
Rana Baker: Reflections on Noam Chomsky’s visit to Gaza (Electronic Intifada)
Jonathan Cook: The full story behind the war against free speech in Israel’s universities (Electronic Intifada)
Harriet Sherwood: Israel’s cranes reprove Barack Obama’s failure to pursue two-state solution (Guardian)
Budour Youssef Hassan: Protests and strikes as Israel raids Bedouin villages, threatens to destroy homes (Electronic Intifada)
Yitzhak Laor: הווילה בג’ונגל / Wealth without borders (Haaretz) / Wealth without borders (via Google) / Wealth without borders (via DuckDuckGo)

The Israeli economy and all its elites were built up and exist via continuous “foreign aid.” Of the 46 donors to Benjamin Netanyahu before the Likud party primary, 37 were Americans. In these pages last week, Shlomo Avineri called on “organizations that fear for the fate of Israeli democracy, such as the Israel Democracy Institute,” to take up cudgels against this trend. (And where does the institute’s money come from?) …
But the outrage over the American donors derives from a hallucination: that our democratic institutions represent all citizens in exactly the same way the parliament in Stockholm represents the people ruled by the Swedish state. Alas, for 45 years, Israeli democracy has been ruling over an occupied population, which has no representation and is not entitled to determine any issue connected to its life.

Angela Davis: Jim Crow and the Palestinians (CounterPunch)
Oudeh Basharat: The original Morris (Haaretz) / The original Morris (via DuckDuckGo / Google News) / בני מוריס האמיתי (Haaretz)
Coby Ben-Simhon: Benny Morris on why he’s written his last word on the Israel-Arab conflict (Haaretz) / Benny Morris on why he’s written his last word on the Israel-Arab conflict (via Google News)

Greece | France | Afghanistan | CIA | Chomsky | Israel

Eric Toussaint: The Seismic Results in Greece (CounterPunch)

At the May 6 polls, the radical left-wing coalition Syriza becomes the second “party” in numbers of voters as it moves from 4.5% at the previous elections (2009) to 16.8% (52 MPs instead of 13). It is the first party in the major agglomerations and among people aged 18-35.
The Socialist Party (PASOK) lost 2/3 of the votes it had received in 2009 (from 44% to 13.2%, a loss of 119 MPs, from 160 to 41!). PASOK pays ‘cash on the nail’ their rigorous austerity programme and subjection to the ‘Troika’ and big private business interests.
New Democracy, the main right-wing party that entered the government in December 2011, still comes first but with an enormously reduced score down from 33.5% to 18.9%. However, it gains seats because of an iniquitous disposition that grants 50 seats as a bonus to the party that pooled most votes. So while it lost 40% in votes New Democracy wins 17 MPs (from 91 to 108).

Mike Whitney: Triangulating France (CounterPunch)

François Hollande hasn’t even been sworn into office and already he’s backpeddling on his campaign promises.

Afghan Peace Volunteers: An Afghan Okinawa (CounterPunch)

‘No permanent military base in Afghanistan’? The reality is that the U.S. bases will be “Afghan” bases, but housing as many as 20,000 U.S. “trainers“ and Special Ops forces, actually numbering more than the U.S. troops currently stationed at the controversial Futenma airbase in Okinawa, Japan, and double the number that will remain there after the troop withdrawal recently (and heatedly) negotiated with Japan.

Paul Harris and Ed Pilkington: ‘Underwear bomber’ was working for the CIA (Guardian)

Bomber involved in plot to attack US-bound jet was working as an informer with Saudi intelligence and the CIA, it has emerged

Ed Pilkington: Foiled Al-Qaida bomb plot likely to lead to changes in US airport security (Guardian)
Knut Mellenthin: Schleifspuren der CIA (junge Welt)

Noam Chomsky: Plutonomy and the Precariat (Tomgram)

Neve Gordon: Zionist History: a Short Quiz (al-Jazeera)

Palestine | Islamophobia | West Bengal | Occupy Wall Street | Media | Steve Jobs | Egypt | Syria | Britain | US elections | EU | China

This is what we’ve been discussing over the past several weeks:


Ilan Pappe: At the UN, the funeral of the two-state solution (Electronic Intifada)
James Ball: Palestinians: we are already recognised as a state by two-thirds of the globe (Guardian)

The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, is pressing forward with plans to formally request UN membership this Friday, despite attempts at a diplomatic compromise by many western states and a US pledge to veto the membership bid. Raising Palestine to full statehood would need to pass the UN security council – where it is subject to veto – and then a vote at the general assembly, comprising all 193 UN member states.

However, the general assembly can raise Palestine’s status from “permanent observer” to “non-member observer state”, a largely symbolic vote, without security council approval. …

The countries that recognise Palestine comprise around 5.5bn of the world’s population of 7bn – more than 75% – but based on World Bank GDP figures make up less than 10% of the world’s economy, highlighting the global rift on what remains a highly contentious topic.

Editorial: A Palestinian state is a moral right (Observer)
Noam Chayut: Israeli occupation is neither moral nor legitimate (Independent)
Zvi Bar’el: U.S. should recognize Palestinian state / ככה בונים מדינה (Ha’aretz)
Chris McGreal: Palestinian statehood: plan emerges to avoid UN showdown (Guardian)
Raoul Rigault, Mustafa Barghouti: »Bedeutung der nationalen Einheit nicht unterschätzen« (junge Welt)
Mikaela Levin: Expert UN Panel Declares Israeli Blockade of Gaza Illegal (Alternative Information Center)

Two weeks after a team of politicians especially chosen by the UN General Secretary declared legal the Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip and legitimate the deadly attack on the first Freedom Flotilla, another team, this time of independent experts that work for the United Nations, came to the exact opposite conclusion.

Linah Alsaafin: Mahmoud Abbas: the Second Coming (Electronic Intifada)
Jonathan Cook: Israel’s Jewishness: Precondition for Palestinian Statehood (al-Akhbar)
Jonathan Cook: Mosque Torching: When Extremist Attacks Against Arabs Cross the Green Line (al-Akhbar)


Angelique Chrisafis: France’s burqa ban: women are ‘effectively under house arrest’ (Guardian)

Since France introduced its burqa ban in April there have been violent attacks on women wearing the niqab and, this week, the first fines could be handed down. But a legal challenge to this hard line may yet expose the French state as a laughing stock.

Thomas Hammarberg, the Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights, blogged this summer: “The way the dress of a small number of women has been portrayed as a key problem requiring urgent discussion and legislation is a sad capitulation to the prejudices of the xenophobes.”

West Bengal

Kheya Bag: Red Bengal’s Rise and Fall (New Left Review)

Occupy Wall Street

支持美国人民伟大的”华尔街革命” (乌有之乡/Utopia)
Translation: Message from Chinese activists and academics in support of Occupy Wall Street (China Study Group)
Joanna Walters: Occupy America: protests against Wall Street and inequality hit 70 cities (Guardian)
Jesse Jackson: Don’t Sleep Through the Revolution – Winning the Class War (CounterPunch)
Steve Fake: An American Fall (ideas&action)
International Action Center
Workers World Party
Party for Socialism and Liberation

Occupy Wallstreet @ Salon, @ Guardian, @ Huffington Post


Maximilian C. Forte: Al Jazeera and U.S. Foreign Policy (MRzine)
As’ad AbuKhalil: Change at Al Jazeera (al-Akhbar)
Jonathan Cook: A Thought Police for the Internet Age – The Dangerous Cult of the Guardian (Counterpunch)

Steve Jobs

As’ad AbuKhalil: Beyond the Personality Cult (al-Akhbar)


Jack Shenker, Barry Neild: Cairo riots leave at least 24 dead (Guardian)
Sharif Abdel Kouddous: Bloodbath in Cairo: An Eyewitness Account (Nation)


Basheer al-Baker: Michel Kilo: Syria’s Prudent Dissident (al-Akhbar)
Martin Chulov: China urges Syria regime to deliver on promised reforms (Guardian)


Shiv Malik: Unicef criticises Britain for jailing children over riots (Guardian)

US elections

Richard Adams: GOP presidential debate: Herman Cain steps into the spotlight (Guardian)


Marshall Auerback: Why Greece Should Not Default – Is Merkel Right on Greece? (CounterPunch)
Vijay Prashad: A New Bretton Woods? Battling Capital (CounterPunch)


Heiko Khoo: Xinhai Revolution: the view of a Western Marxist (