France | Syria | Indonesia | Israel/Palestine

Jack Rasmus: France Elects Its Banker (CounterPunch)

On May 7, 2016, France elected Emmanuel Macron, the former banker, as its next president. The voting result was 65% for Macron, a newcomer in the election cycle who didn’t even have a political party, but who did have the massive business backing and traditional political elites united behind him, providing unlimited media and financial assistance to his campaign.
Approximately 25% of all voters in France, the most in nearly fifty years (since 1969), abstained from voting, however. It is also estimated that 25% of Macron’s 65% vote margin were voters who voted ‘against Le Pen’ and the far right national front party, and did not vote ‘for’ Macron. How solid is Macron’s support, and whether the French people support what will be his continuation of European neoliberalism, remains to be seen…
Macron has promised to pick up the baton of ‘labor reform’ in France introduced by Socialist Party Holland. That means laws that will weaken unions, collective bargaining, allow firing of workers, eliminate strikes, cut social benefits, privatize the healthcare and education systems in France. So now the conflict in France moves from the electoral arena to the workplace.

‘Israeli strikes’ hit arms depot in Damascus (AlJazeera)

Arms depot near Damascus International airport goes up in flames after series of overnight strikes blamed on Israel…
In May 2013 Israel struck three areas in Damascus suburbs, allegedly to destroy Iranian rockets being delivered to Hezbollah. Damascus airport was also hit by Israel in May 2013.
The Syrian army said on January 13, 2016 that Israel had targeted the Mezze military airbase. Mezze airbase is just a few kilometers from the presidential palace.
Israel has in the past targeted Hezbollah positions inside Syria where Iranian backed groups are heavily involved in the fighting.

Jack Khoury, Gili Cohen: Syria Confirms Israeli Strike Hit Military Compound Near Damascus Airport (Haaretz)

Explosions hit in the area of Damascus International Airport in Syria early Thursday morning. Syria’s official news agency confirmed that Israel struck a military compound outside the capital’s airport…
Intelligence Affairs Minister Yisrael Katz told Army Radio on Thursday morning that the attack in Syria was “entirely consistent with our policy to prevent the transfer of weapons to Hezbollah.” Katz however did not confirm Israel was behind it.
A spokeswoman for the Israeli military, asked if Israel had been involved in carrying out air strikes targeting Damascus airport, said: “We can’t comment on such reports.”

Norman Solomon: Russia-Baiting Pushed Trump to Attack Syria—and Increases the Risk of Nuclear Annihilation (Monthly Review)

The anti-Russia bandwagon has gained so much momentum that a national frenzy is boosting the odds of unfathomable catastrophe.
Vast efforts to portray Donald Trump as Vladimir Putin’s flunky have given Trump huge incentives to prove otherwise. Last Thursday, he began the process in a big way by ordering a missile attack on Russia’s close ally Syria. In the aftermath of the attack, the cheerleading from U.S. mass media was close to unanimous, and the assault won lots of praise on Capitol Hill. Finally, the protracted and fervent depictions of Trump as a Kremlin tool were getting some tangible results.

Justin Podur: The Much-Maligned Views of Rania Khalek on Syria (Bullet)

I am not a fan of the Syrian government. I’m not out here to support the Syrian government.
What I oppose is the dismantling of the Syrian state which is what several powers have done in the past six years. I oppose that because we’ve seen what it looks like in Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, and I don’t want to see that happen to Syria.
I also oppose the current alternative to the Syrian government which is a patchwork of Salafi Jihadist groups that want to impose strict religious law, kill minorities, and stone women for adultery…
I would love to see a democratic Syria. I would love to see a Syria where parties other than the Ba’ath could flourish and run in elections. The fact now is that there’s a right-wing, far-right insurgency funded by some of the biggest powers in the world trying to destroy the country. Under current conditions it’s impossible for people to demand and get reforms.

Allan Nairn: Trump’s Indonesian Allies In Bed With ISIS-Backed Militia Seeking to Oust Elected President (Intercept)

An army front group linked to ISIS wants to oust Indonesia’s president — and prominent associates of President Donald Trump are supporting them.

Jack Khoury: Palestinian Hunger Strikers Seek World’s Intervention Three Weeks Into Strike (Haaretz via Google News)

Some 1,200 Palestinian prisoners ask World Health Organization to stop Israel from force-feeding them as international sympathy for the strike steadily grows

Israel Mulls Bringing in Foreign Doctors to Force-feed Palestinian Hunger Strikers (Haaretz)

The Israel Prisons Service is considering bringing foreign doctors to help force-feed hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners because the Israel Medical Association has refused to allow its members to participate in such actions, …

Gideon Levy: Doctors From India, Guards From Chechnya (Haaretz via Google News)

Not far from our home, hundreds of people are starving; thousands can’t sleep at night as they worry over their starving loved ones. They have no idea how they are doing; no one is allowed to visit them. For 21 days now, no food has passed their lips, only salt water.
The Israel Prison Service is abusing them. At first they took away the salt, then they isolated them, fined them and increased the weight of the already cruel load. The Israeli media hardly reports their strike. It knows the heart of its consumers: Most Israelis don’t care about the strike, while some are happy over it; let them die.
Soon they’ll start trying to force-feed them.

A Cornerstone of Apartheid (Haaretz Editorial)

The only explanation for why Israel is advancing this bill is the millions of Palestinians whom it keeps under its control in territories that it fantasizes about annexing. Because Israel is interested in applying its sovereignty to the land but isn’t interested in annexing the Palestinians who live there as equal citizens in a single state, it is forced to create the legal infrastructure for segregating Jews from Arabs and preserving the Jews’ legal supremacy. The nation-state law is the constitutional cornerstone for apartheid in the entire Land of Israel.

Jonathan Lis: Israeli Ministers Greenlight Nation-state Bill: Arabic Isn’t an Official State Language (Haaretz)

A cabinet committee on Sunday gave its support to a new version of the nation-state bill, which revokes Arabic’s “official language” status, holds that the State of Israel is “the national home of the Jewish people,” and that “the right to realize self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.”

Jack Khoury, Jonathan Lis: Israeli Opposition Slams Nation-state Bill as ‘Declaration of War Against Israel’s Arab’ (Haaretz)
B. Michael: The Legend of Israel’s Enlightened Declaration of Independence (Haaretz via Google News)
This Is How Israel Inflates Its Jewish Majority (Haaretz Editorial)

Israeli stats bureau’s annual population report is a ludicrous piece of propaganda that includes settlers but not all Palestinians under Israeli control.

Ofer Aderet, Barak Ravid: Netanyahu Cancels Meeting After German FM Refuses to Snub Israeli Leftist NGOs (Haaretz)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled his meeting with German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel on Tuesday after the latter refused Netanyahu's demand that he not meet with two leftwing NGOs, Breaking the Silence and B'Tselem.
According to Der Spiegel, the meeting was canceled by Netanyahu because the German minister wanted "to meet with critics of the Israeli government."

With Ultimatum to German FM, Netanyahu Gives World a Simple Choice (Haaretz)

The choice Netanyahu has given the world and above all Israelis is simple: maintaining control of the territories, probably through an apartheid regime, or accepting an Israel in its 1967 borders

Anshel Pfeffer: Netanyahu’s Spat With Germany Shows Israel Won’t Be Treated as a Regular Democracy (Haaretz via Google News)

Netanyahu’s anger is understandable. Rarely do foreign leaders meet with representatives of NGOs of functioning democracies, like the German FM did. But Israel is not regular

South Africa’s apartheid economy was based on indigenous cheap labour. Israel since Oslo has managed to replace cheap Palestinian labour with migrants from poor countries in Asia and Europe.
A Chinese Lesson (Haaretz)

“We’re eager to work with you” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the heads of Chinese corporations, during his visit to China last month. This week Netanyahu had an opportunity to demonstrate just how eager we are. On Sunday the cabinet formally yielded to a condition placed by China before signing an agreement on recruiting Chinese workers to Israel’s labor market. This condition stipulates that Chinese construction workers who come here to work will not be employed in the West Bank or in East Jerusalem. By ratifying this agreement the cabinet gave its de facto acquiescence to a boycott of the settlements…
Negotiations between Israel and China have been going on for two years, due to China’s insistence that these workers not be sent to settlements and due to Israel’s unwillingness to sign an agreement in which it expressly upholds a boycott of settlements…
Israel’s quiet and unreported surrender to the Chinese demand provides an important lesson: When our friends around the world insist on matching their actions with their declarations Israel adapts to the exigencies of reality.

Μάρτα Χάρνεκερ, Τάσος Τσακίρογλου: Ο κοινωνικός κατακερματισμός έχει διχάσει την εργατική τάξη (Εφημερίδα των Συντακτών)
Marta Harnecker, Tassos Tsakiroglou: ‘A New Revolutionary Subject’ (Monthly Review)

Ενα από τα πράγματα που έχουν όντως αλλάξει από την εποχή του Μαρξ μέχρι σήμερα είναι η κατάσταση της παγκόσμιας βιομηχανικής εργατικής τάξης και, κυρίως, στη Λατινική Αμερική.
Δεν έχουμε πια μεγάλη συγκέντρωση εργατών σε μεγάλες εργατικές γειτονιές.
Σε μεγάλο βαθμό αυτό οφείλεται στην εφαρμογή νεοφιλελεύθερων οικονομικών μέτρων, όπως οι επισφαλείς εργασιακές συνθήκες και οι υπεργολαβίες, αλλά και στη στρατηγική του κοινωνικού κατακερματισμού, ο οποίος έχει διχάσει εσωτερικά την εργατική τάξη.
One of the things that has really changed from Marx’s time to now is the situation of the industrial working class in the world, and in Latin America especially. We don’t find big concentrations of workers in big working-class neighborhoods. This is due in great measure to the implementation of neoliberal economic measures such as precarious labor conditions and subcontracting, and its strategy of social fragmentation that has divided the working class internally.

Thailand | Nigeria | Ukraine | Korea | Indonesia

Giles Ji Ungpakorn (tɕaj ɯ́ŋ pʰaː kɔːn ใจอึ๊งภากรณ์): Thailand: Judicial coup a blow to democracy (tʰaj sǎŋkʰomníjom ไทย สังคมนิยม / Red Thai Socialist)

Thailand’s unelected, anti-democratic and illegitimate Constitutional Court has staged a coup d’etat, overthrowing Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on a mere technicality. It claims the elected prime minister did not have the right to replace a government official.
It is a mere technicality because she is accused of “abusing her power” to appoint an in-law to the vacant position. Yingluk has been accused of this ridiculous “wrongdoing”, but those who made the 2006 military coup and the Democrat Party politicians who killed scores of pro-democracy demonstrators enjoy impunity. …
The Constitutional Court is part of an alliance of the conservative elite. The alliance is made up of the military, the top bureaucrats, the courts, the Democrat Party, the middle classes and the NGOs. These are the guilty people who have promoted the destruction of democracy.
Since the end of last year, violent right-wing anti-democratic mobs have openly used violence, including the use of fire arms, to wreck the February elections. At the same time, middle-class academics and NGO leaders have joined a disgusting chorus of hypocritical calls for an appointed prime minister and measures to restrict the democratic franchise in the name of “peace”.

Peter Symonds: Thailand’s judicial coup (World Socialist Web Site)

The judicial ousting of the Thai prime minister this week is a sharp warning to workers of the turn to anti-democratic methods of rule by the ruling classes, not only in Thailand, but internationally.
In a nakedly political decision on Wednesday, the Constitutional Court ordered the removal of Yingluck Shinawatra on the spurious grounds that she had replaced a national security adviser with one of her own supporters. While acknowledging that the prime minister had acted within her powers, the court declared that by appointing a relative she had violated “moral principle.”

Tom Peters: Thailand: Ex-PM faces impeachment on bogus “negligence” charge (World Socialist Web Site)

The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) yesterday upheld charges against ousted Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra that she “neglected her duty” by allowing financial losses linked to her government’s rice buying scheme. The NACC recommended that the Senate impeach Yingluck, and ban her from politics for five years.
The ruling follows the Constitutional Court’s removal of Yingluck from office on Wednesday on the equally bogus charge that she violated “moral principle” by transferring the National Security Council chief from his post in order to promote a relative. Nine cabinet ministers who approved the transfer were also removed.

Tony Iltis: Nigeria: Hypocritical West exploits Boko Haram’s crimes (Green Left Weekly)

More than 270 female secondary students were kidnapped on April 14 as they sat matriculation exams in the north-east Nigerian town of Chibok.
The kidnappers were members of a religious cult that calls itself Jama‘at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-[D]a‘wa wal-Jihad — Arabic for Congregation of the People of Tradition for Proselytism and Jihad.
The group is more commonly known by its Hausa nickname, Boko Haram, which translate — very loosely — as “Western education is filthy”, although this is not a name that the group itself uses.
For the next fortnight the kidnapping was largely ignored by the global media and the Nigerian state.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan was more focused on the World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in the capital Abuja staring May 7. Jonathan was planning to spin Nigeria to visiting global political and corporate leaders as a neoliberal success story, boosted by the April 7 announcement that Nigeria had overtaken South Africa as the continent’s largest economy. …
[B]y the time the WEF meeting started, the government had accepted military assistance from the US, Britain, France, Canada and China. US military, police and intelligence forces were already in the country. …
Just like the Kony 2012 campaign failed to contextualise the violence of the Lord’s Resistance Army, outside of Nigeria the #BringBackOurGirls campaign and the accompanying media campaign have ignored the context in which Boko Haram emerged.

Jean Shaoul: Nigeria: Boko Haram kidnappings used to justify US military build-up in Africa (World Socialist Web Site)
Xavier Best: Nigeria, Boko Haram & Fantasies of Benevolent Intervention (CounterPunch)

John sent these links:
Simon Denyer, Anna Nemstova: Residents oEastern Ukrainians vote for self-rule in referendum opposed by West (Washington Post)

Residents of two regions of eastern Ukraine turned out in significant numbers Sunday to vote in support of self-rule in a referendum that threatens to deepen divisions in a country already heading perilously toward civil war. …
Both the European Union and the Obama administration said they would not recognize the results of the balloting in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, which they called illegal.

Associated Press: Armed men in eastern Ukraine open fire on crowd (Washington Post)

Armed men identified as Ukrainian national guard opened fire Sunday on a crowd outside a town hall in eastern Ukraine, and an official for the region’s insurgents said there were fatalities.
The bloodshed in the town of Krasnoarmeisk occurred hours after dozens of armed men shut down voting in a referendum on sovereignty for the region. One of them identified the group as being national guardsmen.

UkraineCrisisEnglish: May 11, Krasnoarmeysk: Ukrainian “army” shoots unarmed people (YouTube)
More on Ukraine:
Slavoj Žižek: Barbarism with a Human Face (London Review of Books)

Again and again in television reports on the mass protests in Kiev against the Yanukovich government, we saw images of protesters tearing down statues of Lenin. It was an easy way to demonstrate anger: the statues functioned as a symbol of Soviet oppression, and Putin’s Russia is perceived as continuing the Soviet policy of Russian domination of its neighbours. Bear in mind that it was only in 1956 that Lenin’s statues started to proliferate throughout the Soviet Union: until then, statues of Stalin were much more common. But after Krushchev’s ‘secret’ denunciation of Stalin at the 20th Congress of the Communist Party, Stalin’s statues were replaced en masse by Lenin’s: Lenin was literally a stand-in for Stalin. …
There was nonetheless a historical irony in watching Ukrainians tearing down Lenin’s statues as a sign of their will to break with Soviet domination and assert their national sovereignty. The golden era of Ukrainian national identity was not tsarist Russia – where Ukrainian national self-assertion was thwarted – but the first decade of the Soviet Union, when Soviet policy in a Ukraine exhausted by war and famine was ‘indigenisation’. Ukrainian culture and language were revived, and rights to healthcare, education and social security introduced. Indigenisation followed the principles formulated by Lenin in quite unambiguous terms: “The proletariat cannot but fight against the forcible retention of the oppressed nations within the boundaries of a given state, and this is exactly what the struggle for the right of self-determination means. The proletariat must demand the right of political secession for the colonies and for the nations that ‘its own’ nation oppresses. Unless it does this, proletarian internationalism will remain a meaningless phrase; mutual confidence and class solidarity between the workers of the oppressing and oppressed nations will be impossible.*”

Chris Marsden: US, Europe issue further threats over self-rule referenda in eastern Ukraine (World Socialist Web Site)
Mike Head: Mariupol killings: US backs Ukrainian regime’s reign of terror (World Socialist Web Site)
Katie Engelhart: To Understand What’s Really Happening in Ukraine, Follow the Gas Lines on This Map (PolicyMic)
Verena Nees: Grüne schüren Konflikt mit Russland (World Socialist Web Site)
William Blum: The Myth of Soviet Expansionism (CounterPunch)
David North: In the service of imperialism: Right-wing “intellectuals” gather in Kiev (World Socialist Web Site)

A group of right-wing academics, journalists, pro-war human-rights activists, and specialists in “discourse” is gathering in Kiev this coming weekend (May 16–19). The purpose of the meeting—headed by Professor Timothy Snyder of Yale University and Leon Wieseltier, the neo-con literary editor of the New Republic—is to bestow political and moral respectability on the Ukrainian regime that came to power in February, through a putsch financed and directed by the United States and Germany…
Back in the 1960s, intellectuals who had participated in the Cold War’s anti-communist Congress for Cultural Freedom were somewhat chagrined when the operations of that organization were publicly linked to the machinations of the Central Intelligence Agency. In those days, to be seen collaborating with the CIA and other state intelligence agencies was considered harmful to one’s intellectual and moral reputation. Tempi passati! The participants of the Kiev assembly are entirely unabashed by the obvious fact that they are part of an event endorsed and stage managed by governments that were heavily involved in the overthrow of the Yanukovych government.

Vice President Joe Biden’s son joins Ukraine gas company (BBC)

Burisma, a private oil and gas company in Ukraine, announced this week that it has appointed Hunter Biden, the youngest son of US Vice President Joe Biden, to its board of directors. …
The move has raised some eyebrows in the US, given the Obama administration’s attempts to manage the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.
“Joe Biden has been the White House’s go-to guy during the Ukraine crisis, touring former Soviet republics and reassuring their concerned leaders,” writes the National Journal’s Marina Koren. “And now, he’s not the only Biden involved in the region.” …
The younger Mr Biden isn’t the only American with political ties to have recently joined Burisma’s board. Devon Archer, a former senior advisor to current Secretary of State John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign and a college roommate of Mr Kerry’s stepson HJ Heinz, signed on in April.

Why shouldn’t Hunter Biden join the board of a gas company in Ukraine? (Guardian)

The son of the US vice-president has been chosen to take charge of energy firm Burisma’s legal unit – a decision based purely on merit, of course. …
Do say: “Somebody needs to get involved in Ukraine’s corporate governance, and it might as well be a clutch of rich, well-connected American dudes with weird first names.”
Don’t say: “Thanks, Dad.”

Henri Feron: Doom and Gloom or Economic Boom? The Myth of the “North Korean Collapse” (Asia Pacific Journal)

The DPRK is said to be an economist’s nightmare. There are almost no reliable statistics available, making any analysis speculative at best. The few useable figures that we have, though, fly in the face of the media’s curious insistence on a looming collapse. Food production and trade volumes indicate that the DPRK has largely recovered from the economic catastrophe of the 1990s. Indeed, Pyongyang’s reported rising budget figures appear more plausible than Seoul’s pessimistic politicized estimates. Obviously, sanctions, while damaging, have failed to nail the country down. There are signs that it is now beginning to open up and prepare to exploit its substantial mineral wealth. Could we soon be witnessing the rise of Asia’s next economic tiger?

Rossie Indira, Andre Vltchek: Indonesians Need Revolution! (CounterPunch)

Now, the situation is much worse than 10 years ago. It is because then, there was still some hope. The progressive Muslim leader Abdurrahman Wahid, (known as Gus Dur) was alive and so was Pramoedya Ananta Toer. Mr Wahid, a former President of Indonesia, was a closet Socialist. He was deposed by a judicial coup constructed by the Indonesian elites and military, but many Indonesians still believed that he would manage to make a comeback.

Johannes Stern: European election debate: Conservative, social democratic leaders praise austerity, sanctions vs. Russia (World Socialist Web Site)

Maureen Clare Murphy: Hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners punished by Israel (Electronic Intifada)

Nearly one hundred Palestinians held without charge or trial by Israel under indefinitely renewable administrative detention orders are about to enter their third week of an open-ended hunger strike to demand their freedom. …
Addameer reported today that Israel is punishing the hunger-striking prisoners by isolating them, handcuffing them for ten hours a day, and denying them salt, putting their lives at risk.

Ali Abunimah: Disturbing photos show militarization of Israeli children (Electronic Intifada)
The Israel-apartheid debate (972mag)