Korea | Myanmar | Catalonia

Jon Schwarz: North Korea keeps saying it might give up its nuclear weapons – but most news outlets won’t tell you that (Intercept)

North Korea has been saying over and over again that it might put its nuclear weapons and missiles on the negotiating table if the United States would end its own threatening posture…
This fact has been completely obscured by U.S. and other western media. For the most part, newspapers and television have simply ignored North Korea’s position. When they haven’t ignored it, they’ve usually mispresented it as its opposite – i.e., claiming that North Korea is saying that it will never surrender its nuclear weapons under any circumstances.

Robert Carlin: Door to Negotiations, or No? (38 North)
Jon Schwarz: North Korea says it might negotiate on nuclear weapons. But the Washington Post isn’t reporting that (Intercept)
Julian Borger, Justin McCurry: North Korea sanctions: US drops oil embargo and naval blockade proposals (Guardian)

The US has significantly diluted a package of new proposed sanctions against North Korea, dropping an oil embargo and enforceable naval blockade in the hope of avoiding a Chinese veto at the UN security council.

Julian Borger: Donald Trump threatens to ‘totally destroy’ North Korea in UN speech (Guardian)

“The US has great strength and patience,” Trump said. But he added: “If it is forced to defend ourselves or our allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.”
As alarmed murmurs spread around the hall, Trump had another barb. Using his newly adopted epithet for Kim Jong-un, Trump said: “Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.”

Mike Whitney: Starve Them to Death: Wall Street Journal’s Solution to North Korea (CounterPunch)

Oliver Holmes, Katharine Murphy, Damien Gayle: Myanmar says 40% of Rohingya villages targeted by army are now empty (Guardian)

Scores of villages that were inhabited by Myanmar’s Muslim Rohingya minority are now completely empty, a government spokesman has said.
Of 471 villages targeted in “clearance operations” by the Burmese army since late August, 176 were now empty and at least 34 others partially abandoned, Zaw Htay said.
The violent crackdown, launched in response to attacks by militants, has sent at least 370,000 Rohingya scrambling across the border to Bangladesh…

Oliver Holmes: Fact check: Aung San Suu Kyi’s speech on the Rohingya crisis (Guardian)

“Since 5 September, there have been no armed clashes and there have been no clearance operations.”
False: Setting villages ablaze – which can be seen from Bangladesh – continues, while armed clashes have been heard regularly in Rakhine since 5 September. Aung San Suu Kyi’s own office reported on its Facebook page that security personnel have conducted “clearance operations” since then.

Ramzy Baroud: The Genocide of the Rohingya: Big Oil, Failed Democracy and False Prophets (CounterPunch)

Stories of murder and mayhem remind one of the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people during the Nakba of 1948. It should come as no surprise that Israel is one of the biggest suppliers of weapons to the Burmese military. Despite an extended arms embargo on Burma by many countries, Israel’s Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, insists that his country has no intentions of halting its weapons shipments to the despicable regime in Rangoon, which is actively using these weapons against its own minorities, not only Muslims in the western Rakhine state but also Christians in the north…
Massive deposits of oil that have remained untapped due to decades of western boycott of the junta government are now available to the highest bidder. It is a big oil bonanza, and all are invited. Shell, ENI, Total, Chevron and many others are investing large sums to exploit the country’s natural resources, while the Chinese – who dominated Burma’s economy for many years – are being slowly pushed out.
Indeed, the rivalry over Burma’s unexploited wealth is at its peak in decades. It is this wealth – and the need to undermine China’s superpower status in Asia – that has brought the west back, installed Aung San Suu Kyi as a leader in a country that has never fundamentally changed, but only rebranded itself to pave the road for the return of ‘Big Oil’.
However, the Rohingya are paying the price.

Hereward Holland: Hunting for Myanmar’s hidden treasure (AlJazeera, 17 October 2014)

Western nations are moving into the resource-rich country after decades of disinterest, challenging China’s interests.

Sam Jones: Catalonia to hold independence vote despite anger in Madrid (Guardian)

The Spanish government has accused the Catalan parliament of committing a “constitutional and democratic atrocity” by approving legislation to allow next month’s bitterly disputed independence referendum to go ahead…
The move was denounced by the Spanish government, which once again said it would do everything in its legal and political power to stop the vote from going ahead on 1 October.
The Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, ordered government lawyers to file a complaint with the country’s constitutional court so that the vote could be annulled.
The public prosecutor’s office also said it was preparing a case against Catalan parliamentary officials – including the speaker, Carme Forcadell – for disobeying previous court orders forbidding legislative steps towards independence…
In March this year, the former Catalan president Artur Mas was banned from holding public office for two years after being found guilty of disobeying the Spanish constitutional court by holding a symbolic independence referendum in 2014. Also convicted and temporarily banned from office were the former Catalan vice-president Joana Ortega and former education minister Irene Rigau…
A majority of Catalans are in favour of a referendum to settle the question of independence, but polls suggest they are split on the issue of sovereignty.

Sam Jones, Daniel Boffey: ‘They’ve called me a traitor’: Catalans divided as independence vote nears (Guardian)

A Spanish government official describes the referendum as a circus and claims Madrid has a democratic duty to protect the “silent majority” of Catalans who oppose independence and to make sure the dispute doesn’t descend into violence.
“It’s very important for a government to create a situation where there is a peaceful relationship among people, and this is not the case in Catalonia now,” he says.
The official defends the confiscation of more than 1.5m referendum leaflets and posters, saying they were part of an illegal poll and adding: “We always react with a cool head, [and in a] measured way; a proportional way.” …
Last Wednesday, Spain’s top prosecutor began investigating the more than 700 Catalan mayors who have agreed to cooperate with the vote, and has ordered police to arrest any who fail to appear for questioning. Madrid has also moved to take control of the region’s finances to prevent the funds being used for the referendum.
Meanwhile, Spanish Guardia Civil officers have raided local newspaper offices and printing shops in Catalonia.

AFP: Spain’s Guardia Civil raids Catalan government HQ amid referendum row (Guardian)

Spanish police officers have raided three Catalan regional government departments and arrested 12 senior officials as Madrid steps up its battle to stop an independence referendum being held in less than two weeks’ time.
On Wednesday morning, a spokesman for the regional government said Guardia Civil officers were searching the Barcelona offices of the presidency and the ministries of economic affairs and foreign relations.
He also confirmed that Josep Maria Jové, the secretary general of economic affairs and an aide to the Catalan vice-president, was among those detained – apparently in connection with the launch of web pages related to the referendum. Catalan ministers are due to hold an emergency meeting…
One pro-independence Catalan MP tweeted: “This is a coup d’état. Illegal detentions and searches. They want to steal our democracy. They won’t be able to. We vote Oct 1.”
The conservative government of the Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, has refused to rule anything out when it comes to preventing the vote from taking place on 1 October. Both the government and the Spanish constitutional court have said the unilateral referendum is illegal and should not go ahead.

Glenn Greenwald: Charlie Hebdo May Now Be Criticized Because It Mocked White Texans Rather Than Muslims (Intercept)

The newfound free speech crusaders borne of the January 2015 murders of 10 Charlie Hebdo cartoonists in Paris sought to promulgate a new and quite dangerous standard. It was no longer enough to defend someone’s right to express their ideas while being free to condemn those ideas themselves — long the central tenet of the free speech movement (I defend their right to free speech even while finding them and their ideas repugnant). In the wake of the Hebdo killings, one had to go much further than that: It was a moral imperative to embrace and celebrate the ideas under attack and to glorify those who were expressing them, even to declare ourselves to be them (#JeSuisCharlie)… A dangerous conflation was thus imposed between the right to express Idea X and one’s opinion of Idea X…
Indeed, most of the political leaders who led the “free speech parade” in Paris (pictured above) had long records of suppressing free speech, and few of these new free speech crusaders uttered a word as the free speech rights of Muslims have been assaulted and eroded throughout the West in the name of the war on terror. What was driving this love of Charlie Hebdo was approval of the content of its cartoons: specifically, glee that it was attacking, mocking, and angering Muslims, one of the most marginalized, vulnerable, and despised groups in the West.
The proof of this was delivered yesterday. Charlie Hebdo published a characteristically vile cartoon depicting drowning victims of Hurricane Harvey in Houston as being neo-Nazis, with the banner that declared “God Exists”: because, needless to say, white people in Texas love Hitler, and it’s thus a form of divine justice if they drown.

Glenn Greenwald: In Europe, Hate Speech Laws are Often Used to Suppress and Punish Left-Wing Viewpoints (Intercept)

France is probably the most extreme case of hate speech laws being abused in this manner. In 2015, France’s highest court upheld the criminal conviction of 12 pro-Palestinian activists for violating restrictions against hate speech. Their crime? Wearing T-shirts that advocated a boycott of Israel — “Long live Palestine, boycott Israel,” the shirts read — which, the court ruled, violated French law that “prescribes imprisonment or a fine of up to $50,000 for parties that ‘provoke discrimination, hatred or violence toward a person or group of people on grounds of their origin, their belonging or their not belonging to an ethnic group, a nation, a race or a certain religion.’”

Myanmar | Syria | Israel/Palestine | China

Jacob Judah: Myanmar: Rohingya insurgents declare month-long ceasefire (Guardian)

Rohingya insurgents declared a month-long unilateral ceasefire last night, saying it would allow aid to reach north-western Myanmar.
The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (Arsa) had launched attacks on police posts and an army base last month, prompting retaliation by Myanmar’s military. The violence led to more than 270,000 refugees from the persecuted Rohingya Muslim community fleeing to Bangladesh over the last two weeks, according to the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR).

Matt Young: Myanmar: Whole villages destroyed as satellite spots devastation from above (Guardian)
K. sent this article:
The Rohingya Of Myanmar – Pawns In An Anglo-Chinese Proxy War Fought By Saudi Jihadists (Moon of Alabama)

While the ethnic conflict in Rankine state is very old, it has over the last years morphed into an Jihadist guerilla war financed and led from Saudi Arabia.

Mike Whitney: What the Media isn’t Telling You About North Korea’s Missile Tests (CounterPunch)

Last Monday, the DPRK fired a Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile over Japan’s Hokkaido Island. The missile landed in the waters beyond the island harming neither people nor property.
The media immediately condemned the test as a “bold and provocative act” that showed the North’s defiance of UN resolutions and “contempt for its neighbors.” …
What the media failed to mention was that, for the last three weeks, Japan, South Korea and the US have been engaged in large-scale joint-military drills on Hokkaido Island and in South Korea. These needlessly provocative war games are designed to simulate an invasion of North Korea and a “decapitation” operation to remove (Re: Kill) the regime. North Korea’s supreme leader, Kim Jong-un has asked the US repeatedly to end these military exercises, but the US has stubbornly refused. The US reserves the right to threaten anyone, anytime and anywhere even right on their doorstep…
Imagine if Russia engaged in a similar operation over the border in Mexico while the Russian fleet conducted “live fire” drills three miles outside of San Francisco Bay.

Reuters: Israel strikes Syria’s Hama from Lebanese airspace (Daily Star)

Syria’s army said Israel targeted one of its positions in Hama province from Lebanese airspace early Thursday, which a war monitor said was a branch of the government agency accused by the U.S. of producing chemical weapons.

Amos Yadlin: How to Understand Israel’s Strike on Syria (New York Times)

Revital Hovel: Justice Minister Slams Israel’s Top Court, Says It Disregards Zionism and Upholding Jewish Majority (Haaretz)

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked criticized the Supreme Court on Tuesday, claiming that the justice system gives insufficient consideration to Zionism and the country’s Jewish majority…
“Zionism should not continue, and I say here, it will not continue to bow down to the system of individual rights interpreted in a universal way that divorces them from the history of the Knesset and the history of legislation that we all know,” Shaked told her audience, which included Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, Supreme Court President Miriam Naor, State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan and Military Advocate General Sharon Afek.
Shaked’s speech was momentarily interrupted when some of the lawyers in the audience yelled that Israeli was an apartheid state.

The Justice Minister Versus Democracy (Haaretz)

Alarm bells ring when the minister appointed to defend Israel’s courts announces that Zionism will ‘no longer bow its head to a system of individual rights’

Gideon Levy: Israel’s Minister of Truth (Haaretz)

Israel Justice Minister Shaked said the truth loud and clear: Zionism contradicts human rights, and thus is indeed an ultranationalist, colonialist and perhaps racist movement…
What are today’s Zionist challenges? To “Judaize” the Negev and Galilee, remove the “infiltrators,” cultivate Israel’s Jewish character and preserve its Jewish majority. The occupation, the settlements, the cult of security, the army — which is primarily an occupation army — that is Zionism circa 2017. All its components are contrary to justice. After we were told that Zionism and justice were identical twins, that no national movement is more just than Zionism, Shaked came to say: just the opposite. Zionism is not just, it contradicts justice, but we shall cleave to it and prefer it to justice, because it’s our identity, our history and our national mission. No activist for the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement would say it more sharply.

Gideon Levy: The Zionist Tango (Haaretz via Google News)

Why the racist honesty of Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked is preferable to the fake views of the Israeli left

Rogel Alpher: Israeli Minister Shaked Takes After Mussolini (Haaretz via Google News)

Don’t call the justice minister a fascist metaphorically, as hyperbole or a provocation – call her that because it’s literally what she is.

Israeli Minister: Independent Kurdistan Would Benefit Israel and the West (Haaretz)

Ayelet Shaked’s comments come exactly two weeks before Kurdistan’s planned independence referendum, which the U.S. and Russia fear will lead to regional destabilization.
Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked told an international counter-terrorism conference on Monday that Israel supports Kurdish independence, “at least in the Iraqi part.”

AFP: China to ban production of petrol and diesel cars ‘in the near future’ (Guardian)

China, the world’s biggest vehicle market, is considering a ban on the production and sale of fossil fuel cars in a major boost to the production of electric vehicles as Beijing seeks to ease pollution.
The move would follow similar plans announced by France and Britain to outlaw the sale of petrol and diesel cars and vans from 2040 in order to clamp down on harmful emissions.

Israel

Union Juive Française pour la Paix: An Intolerable Europeanization of ‘Antisemitism’ Blackmail (CounterPunch) / Une insoutenable européanisation du chantage à l’antisémitisme (UJFP)

On 1 June, the European Parliament voted, by a very large majority, for a new resolution on antisemitism. It goes without saying that we deplore, yet again, the singling out of antisemitism from other manifestations of racism. Not a word on the others, whereas, for example, Islamophobia is rampant and Romophobia is deadly. But it’s more serious. At closer inspection, it’s not so much a matter of reining in antisemitism as of restricting free speech and of criminalizing any criticism of Israel.

Palestine

Ryan McNamara: No Power in Gaza (Jacobin)

New pressures on Hamas signal a realignment of political forces in the Middle East — and may foreshadow another summertime assault on Gaza.
On Monday, Israel began a 40 percent reduction of electricity to the occupied Gaza Strip, where Palestinian residents already average only three to four hours of electricity a day.
The electricity cuts were requested by Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas to further escalate the sanctions already imposed on Gaza in an effort to wrest control of the coastal enclave away from Hamas, the PA’s primary political rival…
While Abbas collaborates with Israel to punish Gaza, it should be noted that Israel, as the military occupier of Gaza, is legally obligated to provide residents with services like electricity and health care, but refuses to do so. As a form of leverage, Israel even consistently withholds taxes owed to the PA that pay for such services.

Israeli Cabinet Decides to Reduce Gaza Electricity Supply at Palestinian President’s Request (Haaretz via Google News)

The security cabinet decided Sunday to respond to the request of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and reduce the supply of electricity to the Gaza Strip.
An Israeli official familiar with the details of the meeting said that the ministers accepted the Israeli army’s recommendation against leniency toward Hamas and to act in accordance with Abbas’ decision to reduce the amount of money he is transferring to Israel for the supply of electricity.
The official said that during the meeting, Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, head of the Military Intelligence Directorate Herzi Halevi and Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Yoav Mordechai described a worsening economic and humanitarian situation in Gaza. Military commanders believe that further reductions in the electricity supply to Gaza are likely to hasten escalation in violence. However, the official said that Israeli army officials who participated in the meeting did not advise leniency toward Hamas. According to him, Mordechai proposed that Israel adopt a policy that would not contradict Abbas’ position.

Stop Abusing Gaza (Haaretz)

About an hour’s drive from central Israel a widespread humanitarian disaster is taking place and Israel, which is largely, even if not solely, responsible for it, is dragging its feet. Instead of renewing the full power supply to the Gaza Strip, Israel plays along with the Palestinian Authority’s political considerations, using them as an excuse to continue the abuse. But no excuse will diminish Israel’s role in the approaching catastrophe.

Bradley Burston: Israel’s Plague of Darkness for Gazans Is an Act of Terrorism (Haaretz via Google News)
Gideon Levy: Who’s in Favor of a Massacre in Gaza? (Haaretz via Google News)

Israel and Gaza are not facing another war, nor are they heading for another “operation” or “round.” This false terminology is intended to mislead and dumb down the remnants of conscience.
What’s at stake now is the danger of another massacre in the Gaza Strip…
A war won’t be conducted in Gaza, because there’s nobody in Gaza to fight against one of the most heavily armed militaries in the world, even if TV military affairs commentator Alon Ben David reports that Hamas can field four divisions. Nor will there be any (Israeli) bravery in Gaza, because there’s no bravery in attacking a defenseless population. And, of course, there will be no morality or justice in Gaza, because there is no morality or justice in attacking a shuttered cage full of inmates who don’t even have where to run, if they could.
So let’s call a spade a spade: This is what’s known as a massacre. That’s what they’re talking about in Israel now. Who’s for a massacre and who’s against it? Will it be good for Israel? Will it contribute to its security and interests or not? Will it bring down Hamas’ rule or not? …
And what other way does Gaza have to remind the world of its existence and inhuman distress, except the Qassam rocket? They were quiet for three years and now they’re the subjects of collaborative research by Israel and the Palestinian Authority: a great experiment on human beings. Is one hour of electricity enough for human existence? Perhaps 10 minutes will do? And what happens to humans without electricity altogether? The experiment is in high gear, the scientists are holding their breath. When will the first rocket fall already? When will the massacre follow?

Britain | Refugees | Iraq | Israel/Palestine | USA

Jonathan Cook: The Facts Proving Corbyn’s Election Triumph (Defend Democracy Press)

Corbyn received 41 per cent of the vote, against May’s 44 per cent. Given the UK’s inherently flawed, first-past-the-post electoral system, he won some 50 fewer seats than the Conservatives, but that was still a big improvement on Labour’s share of seats in the last election, under Ed Miliband. There is now a hung parliament, and to survive May will need to depend on the votes of a small group of Northern Irish Ulster unionists, creating a deeply unstable government.
But how did Corbyn do in terms of the Labour vote compared to his recent predecessors? He won many more votes than Ed Miliband, Gordon Brown and Neil Kinnock, who were among those that, sometimes noisily, opposed his leadership of the party.
They lost their elections. But what about Corbyn’s share of the vote compared to Tony Blair, his most high-profile critic, whose many allies in the parliamentary Labour party sought relentlessly to subvert Corbyn’s leadership over the past two years and tried to bring him down, including by staging a leadership challenge last year.
Here are the figures for Blair’s three wins. He got a 36 per cent share of the vote in 2005 – much less than Corbyn. He received a 41 per cent of the vote – about the same as Corbyn – in 2001. And Blair’s landslide victory in 1997 was secured on 43 per cent of the vote, just two percentage points ahead of Corbyn last night.
In short, Corbyn has proved himself the most popular Labour leader with the electorate in more than 40 years, apart from Blair’s landslide victory in 1997. But let’s recall the price Blair paid for that very small margin of improvement over Corbyn’s vote. Behind the scenes, he sold Labour’s soul to the City, the corporations and their lobbyists. That Faustian pact secured Blair the backing of most of the British media, including Rupert Murdoch’s stable of papers and TV channel. The corporations mobilised their entire propaganda machine to get Blair into power. And yet he managed it with only 2 percentage points more than Corbyn, who had that same propaganda machine railing against him.
Also, unlike Corbyn, Blair did not have to endure a large section of his own party trying to destroy him from within.

Robert Mackey: After Election Setback, Theresa May Clings to Power in U.K. Thanks to Ulster Extremists (Intercept)

At the end of an election campaign that was nasty, brutish and short, British voters punished Prime Minister Theresa May at the polls on Thursday, depriving her Conservative Party of its governing majority in Parliament, and forcing her to rely on the support of a small party of extremists from Northern Ireland to stay in office.

Anna Momigliano: Italian forces ignored a sinking ship full of Syrian refugees and let more than 250 drown, says leaked audio (Washington Post)

Almost four years ago, 268 Syrian refugees — including 60 children — lost their lives in a shipwreck about 60 miles south of Lampedusa, a small Italian island that sits between Sicily and Tunisia. It was considered one of the worst tragedies of the European refugee crisis, but a leaked audiotape published Monday by the magazine L’Espresso suggested that Italian authorities let the Syrians drown despite being alerted several hours earlier that the refugees’ ship was in danger.

Mitch Potter, Michelle Shephard, Bruce Campion-Smith: Bound. Tortured. Killed. (Toronto Star)

Iraqi photojournalist Ali Arkady was embedded with who he thought were the good guys — an elite unit of Iraqi soldiers battling Daesh in the name of a united Iraq, strong and free once and for all. But as the battle for Mosul intensified, the Iraqis lost the plot, descending into torture and murder of civilians.

Mehdi Hasan: A 50-Year Occupation: Israel’s Six-Day War Started With a Lie / 50 anos de ocupação: A Guerra dos Seis Dias de Israel foi baseada em uma mentira (Intercept)

Fifty years ago, between June 5 and June 10, 1967, Israel invaded and occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and the Golan Heights. The Six-Day War, as it would later be dubbed, saw the Jewish David inflict a humiliating defeat on the Arab Goliath, personified perhaps by Gamal Abdel Nasser’s Egypt.
“The existence of the Israeli state hung by a thread,” the country’s prime minister, Levi Eshkol, claimed two days after the war was over, “but the hopes of the Arab leaders to annihilate Israel were dashed.” Genocide, went the argument, had been prevented; another Holocaust of the Jews averted.
There is, however, a problem with this argument: It is complete fiction, a self-serving fantasy constructed after the event to justify a war of aggression and conquest…
Above all else, the war … forced another 300,000 Palestinians from their homes and ushered in a brutal military occupation for the million-odd Palestinians left behind.
The conflict itself may have lasted only six days, but the occupation that followed is now entering its sixth decade — the longest military occupation in the world.

Gideon Levy: Fifty Years, Fifty Lies (Haaretz via Google News)

It began with the question of what to call the West Bank and Gaza. On Israel Radio it was decided to use the term ‘temporarily-held territories.’ This was lie No. 1

Gideon Levy, Alex Levac: What I’ve Seen in 30 Years of Reporting on the Israeli Occupation (Haaretz via Google News)

The occupation has its own language: An Arab is a ‘terrorist,’ detention without trial is ‘administrative,’ the occupying power is forever the victim and writing about its crimes is treason

Michael Sfard: Israel Is Not a Democracy (Haaretz via Google News)

A regime that allows only some of its subjects to take part in politics is not a democracy. True, Israel has an elected legislative branch, separation of powers and freedom of the press (all three of which, it should be said, are currently in danger). But for the past five decades, Israel has ruled millions of people who do not have the right to vote or to be elected to the systems that govern them. Israel not only denies them their civil rights, it plunders their land and resources, and transfers them to the most privileged of its citizens, and deprives them brutally and cruelly of independence and of a say in deciding their future.

Matthew Shaer: The Long, Lonely Road of Chelsea Manning (New York Times Magazine)

Her disclosure of classified documents in 2010 ushered in the age of leaks. Now, freed from prison, she talks about why she did it — and the isolation that followed.

Korea | Palestine | Syria

Justin McCurry: South Korea set to change policy on North as liberal wins election (Guardian)

Moon Jae-in, a left-leaning liberal who favours engagement with North Korea, has won South Korea’s presidential election, raising hopes of a potential rapprochement with Pyongyang.
The former human rights lawyer won 41.4% of the vote, according to an exit poll cited by the Yonhap news agency, placing him comfortably ahead of his nearest rivals, the centrist software entrepreneur Ahn Cheol-soo and the conservative hardliner Hong Joon-pyo, both of whom have conceded defeat…
Moon, a former student activist who was imprisoned in the 1970s for protesting against Park’s father, the former dictator Park Chung-hee, declared a decade of hardline policy towards Pyongyang a failure…
Moon’s other foreign policy priority will be to repair relations with China, which opposes the deployment in South Korea of a US missile defence system – known as Thaad – and says Seoul should stop joint military drills with the US to encourage Pyongyang to halt its nuclear programme.

Tim Shorrock: The United States Should Listen to South Korea—or It Will Reap the Whirlwind (Nation)

Recent US actions underscore a deep-seated problem: refusal to see South Korea as an independent nation with interests of its own.

Leo Chang: US Hegemony on Korean Peninsula Challenged (CounterPunch)

The North does not want war. Neither do South Korea and China. There will be a war only if US wants it…
The North’s goals are: 1) recognition of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) as a legitimate political entity and a nuclear state; 2) stopping the US conspiracy of regime change, biannual “decapitation” exercises along with South Korean military; 3) lifting sanctions; and 4) replacing the armistice of 1953 with a permanent peace treaty…
The red line for North Korea is: sovereignty and self-determination. And if it takes nuclear weapons to deter the great powers, so be it.

Christine Ahn: The High Costs of US Warmongering Against North Korea (Truthout)
Mehdi Hasan: Why Do North Koreans Hate Us? One Reason — They Remember the Korean War. (Intercept)
US right wing is foaming at the mouth over the election of Mun Chae-in in south Korea:
Ethan Epstein: Bad Moon Rising (Weekly Standard)

Moon has said he’s eager to travel to Pyongyang to meet North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un —suggesting, at one point, he’d like to visit North Korea before the United States—and even re-open the Kaesong joint industrial complex, a ridiculous facility where South Korean companies employ North Korean laborers to build products. Kaesong was a financial boon to the North Korean regime, and was shuttered by President Park. But Moon wants to re-open the spigot, flooding Pyongyang with cash to fund its missile and nuclear programs, and keep the gulag humming.
All of this sets up something of a conflict between South Korea and its stalwart ally, the United States. The Trump administration is pressuring other countries to crack down on North Korea, just as South Korea has elected a president who wants to do just the opposite. And President Trump has not made many friends in Korea since his inauguration, particularly by suggesting that Seoul should foot the bill for THAAD, the U.S. missile defense system that was recently installed there. (Moon, for his part, has said he’d like to reevaluate THAAD’s deployment, perhaps a rare agreement he can find with Trump.)

Peace is war. More froth:
Todd Royal: The election of Moon Jae-in could mean war in Asia (Asia Times)
Bradley K. Martin: Moon’s right-hand man former friend to the North (Asia Times)

A Document of General Principles and Policies (Hamas)

Palestine is a land that was seized by a racist, anti-human and colonial Zionist project that was founded on a false promise (the Balfour Declaration), on recognition of a usurping entity and on imposing a fait accompli by force.

Hamas accepts Palestinian state with 1967 borders (AlJazeera)

Hamas has presented a new political document that accepts the formation of a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders, without recognising the statehood of Israel, and says that the conflict in Palestine is not a religious one…
While Hamas’ 1988 founding charter called for the takeover of all of mandate Palestine, including present-day Israel, the new document says it will accept the 1967 borders as the basis for a Palestinian state, with Jerusalem as its capital and the return of refugees to their homes…
Hamas has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007, after winning elections and forcefully pushing its Fatah rivals out. Since then, Gaza has suffered three major Israeli assaults, whick killed more than 3,500 Palestinians, and a crippling 10-year-long siege…
Israeli officials rejected the document before it was made official, calling it an attempt by Hamas to trick the world into believing it was becoming a more moderate group.

Rawan Damen: The Price of Oslo (AlJazeera)
Nathan Thrall: Israel-Palestine: the real reason there’s still no peace (Guardian)

The possibility of a lasting deal seems as far away as ever – and the history of failed negotiations suggests it’s largely because Israel prefers the status quo.

Evan Dyer: Syria’s al-Qaeda affiliate escapes from Canada’s terror list (CBC)

The Syrian branch of al-Qaeda, currently calling itself Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), has succeeded in getting itself off Canada’s list of designated terrorist entities following its latest identity shift.
That complicates the task of prosecuting Canadians who travel to join the group, send it money or propagandize on its behalf.
It also illustrates the pitfalls of Canada following the lead of the U.S. in designating terror groups…
The United States put the group on its terrorist list in 2012, as the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda, and Canada followed suit…
Al-Jawlani’s group remained loyal to the mother organization founded by bin Laden, and Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS have been at each other’s throats ever since. Meanwhile, the U.S.-led coalition focused its bombing on Islamic State, not al-Nusra…
[I]n January of this year, the group shifted again, nominally dissolving itself and joining with four other jihadi groups. It altered its name, changing the word “Jabhat” (Front) to “Hay’at” (Organization), and “Fateh” (Conquest) to “Tahrir” (Liberation).
And yet HTS has not been designated in the U.S. Canada, which usually follows the U.S. listing closely, has also not listed the group.
The change is significant, and the U.S. State Department confirmed to CBC News that HTS members are no longer considered terrorists…
The reasons for the reluctance to list the new al-Qaeda formation may have to do with one of its new members, the Nour ed-Dine Zenki Brigade, a jihadi group from the Aleppo governorate.
The Zenki Brigade was an early and prominent recipient of U.S. aid, weapons and training…
For the U.S. to designate HTS now would mean acknowledging that it supplied sophisticated weapons including TOW anti-tank missiles to “terrorists,” and draw attention to the fact that the U.S. continues to arm Islamist militias in Syria.

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.

Syria | Iraq | Rwanda

Matthew Allen: US Proxies Set Stage for Syria Balkanization (Russia Insider)

A leading Kurdish politician has confirmed that “the northern Syrian city of Raqqa is expected to join a decentralized system of government being set up by Syrian Kurdish groups and their allies once it is freed from Islamic State,” according to Reuters.
Saleh Muslim, the co-chair of the Syrian Kurdish PYD party, made his comments on the same day that a U.S.-led operation near Raqqa blocked “any advance by Syrian government forces from the west”. In other words, the U.S. has reserved Raqqa for its proxies.

Simon Tisdall: The west condemned Russia’s bombs – now coalition attacks are killing civilians in Mosul (Guardian)

The leaders who denounced Putin for deadly airstrikes in Syria are not speaking out over the siege of the Iraqi city.
America and the UK condemned Russian airstrikes that killed or injured hundreds of civilians during last autumn’s siege of Aleppo, accusing Vladimir Putin of war crimes. The question now is whether the US, backed by British air power, is committing similar atrocities against civilians in Mosul.
[In Mosul,] misdirected US airstrikes caused a massive explosion that reportedly killed at least 150 civilians sheltering in a basement. The Americans say they were targeting Islamic State fighters. The Russians said much the same about Aleppo – that they were attacking jihadi terrorists. Many people, not least the relatives of the Mosul dead, will struggle to see the difference…
[T]he high death toll places the Mosul carnage, if confirmed, among the worst such incidents since the US invasion in 2003. It also serves to highlight a new pattern of behaviour by US forces since Donald Trump took office in January. Since then, the monthly total of recorded civilian deaths from coalition airstrikes in Iraq and Syria has more than doubled, according to independent monitors.

Margaret Kimberley: Is Trump the DNC Hacker? (Black Agenda Report)

The Democratic Party is going all out with its charge of Russian involvement in the 2016 election. In doing so they achieve two very important goals. First, they distract their voters from asking why Hillary Clinton lost and why they are perennial losers at every level of government across the country. Secondly, they can wage war by other means as they attempt to exact regime change in Russia. That is the desired endgame as they attempt to crush the sovereignty and independence of that resource-rich nation which spans Eurasia.

Ann Garrison: Israel’s African Darling: Paul Kagame: An Interview with Robin Philpot (Black Agenda Report)

Rwandan dictator Paul Kagame, who recently addressed AIPAC, in Washington DC, is Israel’s favorite African, a man the Zionists permit to use the term “genocide.” Both nations claim their wounds give them a special status in the world. “Rwanda and Uganda could be called mad dog states – they’re highly militarized, and they serve as sheriffs for the U.S. at the same time as they pursue their own interests.”

Korea | Palestine | USA

Mel Gurtov: Diplomatic Remedies for THAAD Madness: The US, China and the Two Koreas (Japan Focus)

The US decision, supported by the South Korean government, to deploy an antimissile system known as THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) may be one of the most thoughtless strategic moves in a generation. The official US justification is that close-in defense against North Korean missiles is necessary to protect South Korea. But the deployment is having more than a few negative repercussions: an argument in China for increasing its nuclear weapons stockpile; an incentive in North Korea for continuing to develop its long-range missile capability; a deep fissure in China-South Korea relations; a roiling of South Korean politics at a time when its corrupt president has been impeached; and a new source of tension in already fraught Sino-US relations.

U.S. Deploys Missile System Amid Rising Tensions with N. Korea (Democracy Now)

Tensions are rising between the United States, North Korea and China, threatening to create the first significant national security crisis of the Trump presidency. This week, the United States began deploying a missile defense system to South Korea, sparking warnings from Chinese officials who say the U.S. is escalating a regional arms race. The U.S. says the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System, known as THAAD, seeks to protect South Korea amid a series of recent missile tests launched by North Korea…
The deployment of the U.S. missile system is widely opposed by both South Koreans, who have been protesting against U.S. militarization, and by Chinese officials, who say the missile system actually aims to counter China’s military power in the region, not to contain North Korea.
Chinese officials are calling for both an end to North Korea’s nuclear program and an end to joint U.S. and South Korean military drills.

Bruce Cumings, Amy Goodman: North Korea Timed Recent Missile Test to Take Place During Trump-Abe Dinner (Democracy Now)

North Korea tested a ballistic missile last month, sparking widespread international condemnation. The test was a violation of a United Nations Security Council resolution. North Korea claimed the test was a successful launch of an intermediate-range missile. The test came while Trump hosted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe over the weekend at the Trump-owned Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida.

Christine Ahn, Bruce Cumings, Amy Goodman: China Warns U.S. & North Korea Are Set for “Head-On” Collision Amid Rising Tensions & Provocations (Democracy Now)

The political upheaval in South Korea comes shortly after North Korea test-fired several ballistic missiles. In response, the Trump administration announced it would deploy a missile defense system to South Korea. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of South Korean and U.S. troops, backed by warships and warplanes, are currently engaging in a massive military exercise. Last week, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi warned that the U.S. and North Korea are like two “accelerating trains coming toward each other.” He called on both sides to de-escalate tensions.

David E. Sanger, William J Broad: Trump Inherits a Secret Cyberwar Against North Korean Missiles (New York Times) / 트럼프가 물려받은 유산: 북한 미사일에 대응하는 비밀 사이버戰 / 特朗普接手的秘密计划:网络攻击破坏朝鲜导弹?

Three years ago, President Barack Obama ordered Pentagon officials to step up their cyber and electronic strikes against North Korea’s missile program in hopes of sabotaging test launches in their opening seconds…
An examination of the Pentagon’s disruption effort, based on interviews with officials of the Obama and Trump administrations as well as a review of extensive but obscure public records, found that the United States still does not have the ability to effectively counter the North Korean nuclear and missile programs…
In two meetings of Mr. Trump’s national security deputies in the Situation Room, the most recent on Tuesday, all those options were discussed, along with the possibility of reintroducing nuclear weapons to South Korea as a dramatic warning…
The White House is also looking at pre-emptive military strike options, a senior Trump administration official said, …

Vijay Prashad: Crimes of apartheid (Hindu)

Apartheid is a powerful word, and the United Nations does not use it loosely. But now, in a report released on March 15 in Beirut, Lebanon, the UN has proclaimed that Israel ‘is guilty of the crime of apartheid’. This is a very significant judgment, one with important ramifications for the UN, for the International Court of Justice and for the international community…
Palestinians who have Israeli citizenship (ezrahut) do not have the right to nationality (le’um), which means that they can only access inferior social services, face restrictive zoning laws, and find themselves unable freely to buy land. Palestinians in East Jerusalem are reduced to the status of permanent residents, who have to constantly prove that they live in the city and that they do not have any political ambitions. Palestinians in the West Bank live ‘in ways consistent with apartheid’, write the authors of the UN report.

John Reynolds: Israel and the A-Word (CounterPunch)

The word resonated loud and clear from South Africa. Hendrik Verwoerd, widely described as a key architect of apartheid, was the far-right National Party’s propagandist, political strategist and, ultimately, party leader. In 1961, as South African Prime Minister, he noted that Israel was built on land taken ‘from the Arabs after the Arabs lived there for a thousand years.’ The point was to express his approval and to highlight Zionism’s common cause with the Afrikaner pioneers: ‘In that, I agree with them. Israel, like South Africa, is an apartheid state.’
Verwoerd was able to make this diagnosis without needing to live to see the brutality of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza after 1967. Israel’s apartheid foundations were laid in its dispossession of the Palestinians in 1948. They were reinforced by the immediate erection of colonial constitutional structures that cemented the exclusion of the colonised.
Since then, Israeli law and policy has only deepened the state apparatus of separation and segregation, discrimination and domination.

Oren Ziv: Israel releases 12-year-old Palestinian girl, highlighting dual legal systems (+792)

A Jewish child arrested for an identical crime in the same location would not have been sent to prison. Israeli authorities released the girl after the case got attention and a request from her parents.
Twelve-year-old Dima al-Wawi, the youngest Palestinian in Israeli prison, was released after two-and-a-half months on Sunday. Israeli authorities delivered her to the Jabara checkpoint in the West Bank in the early afternoon hours, where she was met by her parents and waiting journalists.

Eli Clifton: AIPAC gave $60K to architect of Trump’s Muslim ban (+972)

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has been noticeably quiet about the Trump administration’s slowness to denounce the spike in anti-Semitic attacks and bomb threats, its nomination of an ambassador to Israel who described J Street as “worse than kapos,” and its ties to ethno-nationalists like White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon and senior adviser Stephen Miller. But AIPAC has done more than just tolerate the U.S. tilt toward extreme and often xenophobic views. Newly released tax filings show that the country’s biggest pro-Israel group financially contributed to the Center for Security Policy, the think-tank that played a pivotal role in engineering the Trump administration’s efforts to impose a ban on Muslim immigration.

Tom Clifford: Playing with Fire in the South China Sea: the Voyage of the Izumi (CounterPunch)

An aircraft carrier that dare not be named one and a show of military force by a country in contravention of its own constitution herald the consequences of a decision taken some years ago signaling that post-war certainty is no longer such a sure thing.
The Izumo, a 250-meter-long “flat-topped destroyer’’, is being dispatched to the South China Sea by Japan in May in a show of force not seen since 1945.
Named after a cruiser that was sunk by the US in 1945, the warship is in reality an aircraft carrier by any other name. However, aircraft carriers imply a force projection well beyond Japan’s shores, therefore it must be called a destroyer or a helicopter carrier.
After stops in Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka, the Izumo will then take part in the Malabar joint naval exercise with Indian and US naval vessels in the Indian Ocean in July.

Israel/Palestine

Rick Gladstone: Tempest at U.N. Over Report Saying Israel Practices Apartheid (New York Times)

A United Nations commission said in a report on Wednesday that Israel practices apartheid against Palestinians, a politically explosive assertion that led to furious denunciations by Israel and the United States.
The secretary general of the United Nations quickly disassociated himself from the report, which seemed bound to aggravate the already tense relationship between the world body and the Trump administration.
It also could provide momentum to advocates of an international movement to boycott Israel. Just over a week ago, Israel’s Parliament passed a law barring entry to foreigners who have publicly supported that movement, known as B.D.S. — boycott, divestment and sanctions.
One of the authors of the report was Richard Falk, an American law professor and former United Nations human rights investigator…
An executive summary of the report on the United Nations commission’s website called it a study to examine, “based on key instruments of international law, whether Israel has established an apartheid regime that oppresses and dominates the Palestinian people as a whole.”
The report concluded that the answer was yes, based on what it called the fragmentation of the Palestinian population, Israeli restrictions on Palestinians’ movements and other limits imposed on Palestinians but not on Israelis.
Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador to the United Nations, complimented the report’s authors and suggested that the criticism of their conclusions had been misguided.
“Rather than attacking the report, it would be best to reflect on the realities that the report addresses and how they can be remedied,” he said in a statement.
It appeared to be the first time in a United Nations report that the term apartheid had been used as a central description of Israeli policies toward Palestinians. But other critics of Israel at the United Nations have used the term. In 2007, for example, John Dugard, a South African law professor who was a United Nations human rights investigator, said Israeli laws and practices in the occupied territories “certainly resemble aspects of apartheid.”

Reuters: UN Agency Accuses Israel of Being an ‘Apartheid Regime’ (Haaretz)

A UN agency published a report on Wednesday accusing Israel of imposing an “apartheid regime” of racial discrimination on the Palestinian people, and said it was the first time a UN body had clearly made the charge.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry spokesman likened the report, which was published by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), to Der Sturmer – a Nazi propaganda publication that was strongly anti-Semitic.

JTA: U.S. Urges U.N. to Withdraw Report Accusing Israel of Apartheid (Haaretz)
Rick Gladstone, Somini Sengupta: U.N. Diplomat Behind Report Accusing Israel of Apartheid Quits (New York Times)

The top official of a United Nations commission that published a report describing Israel’s treatment of Palestinians as apartheid quit on Friday, saying the organization’s leader insisted that she withdraw it. The report provoked outrage from Israel and the United States.
The official, Rima Khalaf, a Jordanian diplomat who is executive secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, defended the report…
Without identifying Israel or its allies by name, Mr. Mansour said, “we reject the atmosphere of bullying and blackmail by some member states, particularly those that violate international law and U.N. resolutions every day.”

Uri Blau: Documents Reveal How Israel Made Amnesty’s Local Branch a Front for the Foreign Ministry in the 70s (Haaretz via Google News)

The Israeli government funded the establishment and activity of the Amnesty International branch in Israel in the 1960s and 70s. Official documents reveal that the chairman of the organization was in constant contact with the Foreign Ministry and received instructions from it.