USA | Korea | Cambodia | Israel | Australia

Andrew Levine: Saving the World Obama-Style (CounterPunch)

When it comes to spying and killing, Barack Obama is Mr. Malevolent.
But every now and then, he gets a notion to go high-minded. Words come first. Sometimes he backs up his words with gestures; sometimes he even puts people on the case – feckless people like John Kerry.
It never comes to anything however, and sooner or later (usually sooner), the notion passes.
He and Kerry have been at it for some time now with the Israel-Palestine “peace process,” and Obama is gearing up to take on inequality next.
The pattern reveals a lot about the Obama presidency and about the man.

Gregory Elich: Korean Conspiracy Trial (CounterPunch)

It made worldwide news when Lee Seok-ki, representative in the South Korean National Assembly, was arrested on charges of treason. South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) fed media outlets with a transcript of a meeting that Lee attended, which appeared to reveal plans by the Unified Progressive Party to take up arms against the South Korean government in the event of war with the north.
The release of the transcript came at the height of national protests against interference by the NIS in the national election of December 2012. The Unified Progressive Party (UPP) was at the forefront of the anti-NIS demonstrations, and the furor that resulted over the accusations against Lee and the UPP succeeded in stifling mass protests.

John Feffer: Kim the Third (Foreign Policy in Focus)

No one performs Shakespeare in the theaters of Pyongyang. Instead, he is enacted in the corridors of power.

John Roberts: Cambodian security forces shoot striking garment workers ‍(World Socialist Web Site)

At least four workers have been shot dead, after Cambodian military police opened fire yesterday on striking workers blocking the road near the Canadia Industrial Park in the southern suburbs of the capital Phnom Penh. The national strike for higher pay involving tens of thousands of garment workers began on December 24.

Tony Cartalucci: More Than Meets the Eye Behind Cambodia’s Growing Unrest (Global Research / AltThaiNews)

The Cambodian people undoubtedly face a tyrannical regime, but US-backed opposition will bring nation only deeper into despair and destitution.
Protests growing in both Thailand and neighboring Cambodia may at first look very similar. Both are against supposedly “elected governments,” but both nations are clearly run by illegitimate dictatorships. Both nations have streets filled with growing numbers of dissatisfied people who are increasingly putting pressure on their respective regimes, lead by one or several opposition parties. And both seek reformed elections.
However, one is heavily backed by the United States’ faux-democracy promoters and offers only further despair and destitution, while the other is heavily opposed by the US and other Western interests, but if successful will restore order to a nation hindered by political instability for years.

Harriet Sherwood: Major US academic body backs boycott of Israeli educational institutions (Guardian)

A prestigious US academic body has joined a growing movement to boycott Israel in protest at its treatment of Palestinians, in a move both welcomed and condemned in a bitterly divisive international arena.
The American Studies Association (ASA), which has more than 5,000 members, is the most significant US academic organisation to back a boycott of Israeli educational institutions following a two-thirds majority vote. Around a quarter of members took part in the ballot.

Call for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI)
American Studies Association Resolution on Academic Boycott of Israel (ASA)
What Does the Academic Boycott Mean for the ASA? (ASA)

Why boycott Israeli academic institutions?
Israeli academic institutions function as a central part of a system that has denied Palestinians their basic rights. Palestinian students face ongoing discrimination, including the suppression of Palestinian cultural events, and there is sanctioning and ongoing surveillance of Palestinian students and faculty who protest Israeli policies. Israeli universities have been a direct party to the annexation of Palestinian land. Armed soldiers patrol Israeli university campuses, and some have been trained at Israeli universities in techniques to suppress protestors.

Omar Barghouti: On Academic Freedom and the BDS Movement (Nation)

An effective isolation of Israeli academic institutions will undoubtedly curtail some privileges that Israeli scholars take for granted, like generous travel subsidies, but that has no bearing on their academic freedom.

Judith Butler: Academic Freedom and the ASA’s Boycott of Israel (Nation)

Those who may well acknowledge the justice of such claims may still object to the boycott on the grounds that it denies, potentially or actually, the academic freedom of Israeli citizens. But the BDS movement has taken an explicit stand against any discrimination on the basis of citizenship. And a significant number of Israeli academics have themselves joined the movement…
The astonishing fact remains that no major Israeli university or cultural institution has actively opposed the occupation.
That said, American Studies scholars can continue important collaborative work with Israeli filmmakers, sociologists, philosophers, archaeologists or artists outside of Israel. Indeed, their access to independent funding and to international mobility is still substantial. Sadly, the same cannot be said about Palestinian academics whose travel papers and rights to mobility are currently severely restricted…
Let us remember that academic freedom can be exercised only if there is a freedom to speak about political views, to articulate and defend the views we have, but also if there is a freedom to travel, not just from university to university as US academics are used to doing, but also from one’s home to the university. An enormous number of Palestinian university students are put in jail under conditions of indefinite detention because of having espoused political views that are considered unacceptable or because such views were attributed to them without cause. During periods of heightened security control, the periodic shutdowns of Palestinian universities have made it nearly impossible to complete a full semester for most Palestinian students.

Rania Khalek: Does The Nation have a problem with Palestinians? (Electronic Intifada)
Ali Abunimah: Stephen Hawking’s support for the boycott of Israel is a turning point (Guardian)

Boycotting Israel as a stance for justice is going mainstream – Israelis can no longer pretend theirs is in an enlightened country.

Ali Abunimah: Under pressure, PLO tries to limit damage from Abbas attack on Israel boycott (Electronic Intifada)

Rocked by criticism from Palestinian and international activists, the Palestinian Authority (PA) has backed away from comments made by its de facto leader Mahmoud Abbas repudiating the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement…
Last year, Abbas stoked widespread outrage among Palestinians when he told Israeli television that he renounced the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes.

John Pilger: Mandela’s gone, but apartheid lives in Australia (Green Left Weekly)

In 2008, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd apologised … Older Aboriginal people were grateful; they believed that Australia’s first people – the most enduring human presence on earth – might finally receive the justice and recognition they had been denied for 220 years.
What few of them heard was the postscript to Rudd’s apology. “I want to be blunt about this,” he said. “There will be no compensation.”
That 100,000 people deeply wronged and scarred by vicious racism – the product of a form of the eugenics movement with its links to fascism – would be given no opportunity to materially restore their lives was shocking, though not surprising. …
When the Labor government in the 1980s promised “full restitution” and land rights, the powerful mining lobby went on the attack, spending millions campaigning on the theme that “the blacks” would “take over your beaches and barbies”. The government capitulated, even though the lie was farcical; Aboriginal people comprise barely 3% of the Australian population.
Today, Aboriginal children are again being stolen from their families. The bureaucratic words are “removed” for “child protection”. By July 2012, there were 13,299 Aboriginal children in institutions or handed over to white families. Today, the theft of these children is now higher than at any time during the last century…
The incarceration of black Australians here is eight times that of black South Africans during the last decade of apartheid.

Egypt | Kampuchea | Trayvon Martin | Slavoj Žižek | Iraq

This is a long article about the various forces behind the coup that brought down the Muslim Brotherhood president Mursi of Egypt:
Talal Asad, Ayça Çubukçu: Neither Heroes, Nor Villains: Egypt After Morsi (Jadaliyya)
Patrick Kingsley: Egypt’s army chief calls for show of support from citizens (Guardian)

Egypt’s army chief, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, has called for millions of citizens to go out on the streets on Friday to back the military and police, prompting concerns that he is seeking a popular mandate for a violent crackdown on supporters of the overthrown president, Mohamed Morsi.
Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood movement has already planned 35 mass Islamist rallies for Friday. Sisi’s intervention creates the possibility of a bloody factional showdown that evening, and stokes fears that it is the army general, rather than the civilian government he installed, following Morsi’s removal on 3 July, who now has the greatest influence in Egypt.

Agencies: More than 100 Morsi supporters killed in Egypt clashes (Guardian)

Al Jazeera’s Egypt television station reported that 120 had been killed and some 4,500 injured in the early morning violence near Cairo’s Rabaa al-Adawia mosque.
Reporters at the scene said firing could still be heard hours after the troubles started. … The clashes started after police fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of Morsi supporters who tried to extend the sit-in in eastern Cairo. … Well over 200 people have died in violence since the overthrow of Morsi, most of them Brotherhood supporters.

Patrick Kingsley, Peter Beaumont: Egypt: scores killed as army launches offensive against Muslim Brotherhood (Observer)

Over 100 supporters claimed dead as soldiers are accused of shoot-to-kill policy to clear protest urging Morsi’s release

Patrick Kingsley: Egypt restores feared secret police units (Guardian)

Police brutality also went unchecked under Morsi, who regularly failed to condemn police abuses committed during his presidency. But Ibrahim’s move suggests he is using the ousting of Morsi – and a corresponding upsurge in support for Egypt’s police – as a smokescreen for the re-introduction of pre-2011 practices.
Ibrahim’s announcement came hours before Egypt’s interim prime minister was given the power to place the country in a state of emergency – a hallmark of Egypt under Mubarak.
“It’s a return to the Mubarak era,” said Aida Seif el-Dawla, a prominent Egyptian human rights activist, and the executive director of a group that frequently supports victims of police brutality, the Nadeem centre for rehabilitation of victims of violence and torture.
“These units committed the most atrocious human rights violations,” said el-Dawla. “Incommunicado detentions, killings outside the law. Those were the [units] that managed the killing of Islamists during the 1990s. It’s an ugly authority that has never been brought to justice.”

Martin Chulov: How the Middle East and US have reacted to Egypt’s post-Morsi regime (Guardian)

Despite ruling a conservative Islamic society, underpinned by sharia law, Saudi’s leaders have jumped on the demise of Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood constituency, offering $5bn (£3.2bn) in aid and loans in recent weeks. The rush to offer charity stands in contrast to the past year, when next to nothing flowed from Riyadh’s coffers to Morsi’s government. The democratic process that brought Morsi to power was not welcomed by Riyadh …
The UAE has pledged $3bn in aid, a mix of deposits, grants and support for Egypt’s gas and oil sector. Kuwait has structured its support in a similar fashion. Abu Dhabi and Kuwait had been at best deeply suspicious of the Brotherhood movement, and uncomfortable with political Islam generally. …
Doha has clearly lost a significant constituency with the Brotherhood’s exit from power, having swung its formidable petro-wealth wholeheartedly behind Morsi, the only Arab state to offer such support.

Ramzy Baroud: Hated in Egypt (CounterPunch)

Among all the pretenses that the military junta could have conjured up, they chose to imprison Morsi for ‘links’ with the Palestinian movement Hamas. The leveling of such an accusation is quite telling. Gone are the days where Arab leaders were condemned for their ties with Israel, or affiliation with this western intelligence or that. The fact that Egyptian media and commentators would repeat the ‘accusation’ without any one raising the question “so what?”, is equally expressive of the state of political degeneration that exists in Egypt today.

Savath Pou: Cambodia on the road to civil war (Asia Times)

Cambodia’s thousands-strong community of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have almost universally pledged allegiance to the CNRP and some have even sworn to sacrifice their own lives for the opposition if need be. They are, in fact, an extremely dangerous UXO (unexploded ordnance) planted in Cambodia by the West in general and by the United States of America in particular, to destabilize and destroy the CPP once and for all whenever the opportunity arises.
For instance, CNRP vice president Kem Sokha, a potential prime minister if the opposition wins the election, led the USAID, British Foreign and Commonwealth Office and European Commission-funded Cambodian Centre for Human Rights before entering mainstream politics in 2008. He has since been frequently accused by CPP surrogates of serving as a stooge for Western interests. …
As long as the CNRP is run by Sam Rainsy, the biological son of the same Sam Sary who allegedly plotted with the US Central Intelligence Agency to kill then Prince Norodom Sihanouk in 1959, and Kem Sokha, a rights defender-cum-politician who has consistently used the country’s poor and desperate for his own political ends, the risk of renewed conflict will remain in Cambodia.

Amy Goodman, Seema Iyer: Juror B29 Says Zimmerman “Got Away with Murder” (Democracy Now)
Imani Henry: Jail Zimmerman. Free Marissa Alexander & Cece McDonald! (Workers World)

Slavoj Žižek: Trouble in Paradise (London Review of Books)

And here’s a short history of the Iraqi Communist Part. (It strangely glosses over Soviet support for the establishment of the state of Israel, which is probably the heaviest burden for communists in the Arab world.)
Raza Naeem: The Coup That Destroyed Revolutionary Iraq (CounterPunch)