TTIP | Philippines | USA | Britain | Korea | Israel/Palestine | Austria

Greenpeace Netherlands releases TTIP documents (Greenpeace)

Today Greenpeace Netherlands releases secret documents of the EU-US TTIP negotiations. On www.ttip-leaks.org the documents will be made available for everyone to read, because democracy needs transparency.

Andrew Griffin: TTIP leak could spell the end of controversial trade deal, say campaigners (Independent)

Hundreds of leaked pages from the controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) show that the deal could be about to collapse, according to campaigners.
The huge leak – which gives the first full insight into the negotiations – shows that the relationship between Europe and the US are stronger than had been thought and that major divisions remain on some of the agreement’s most central provisions.
The talks have been held almost entirely in secret, and most information that is known in public has come out from unofficial leaks. But the new pages, leaked by Greenpeace, represent the first major look at how the highly confidential talks are progressing…
They indicate that the US is looking strongly to change regulation in Europe to lessen the protections on the environment, consumer rights and other positions that the EU affords to its citizens.

Arthur Neslen: Leaked TTIP documents cast doubt on EU-US trade deal (Guardian)

Jorgo Riss, the director of Greenpeace EU, said: “These leaked documents give us an unparalleled look at the scope of US demands to lower or circumvent EU protections for environment and public health as part of TTIP. The EU position is very bad, and the US position is terrible. The prospect of a TTIP compromising within that range is an awful one. The way is being cleared for a race to the bottom in environmental, consumer protection and public health standards.”
US proposals include an obligation on the EU to inform its industries of any planned regulations in advance, and to allow them the same input into EU regulatory processes as European firms.
American firms could influence the content of EU laws at several points along the regulatory line, including through a plethora of proposed technical working groups and committees.
“Before the EU could even pass a regulation, it would have to go through a gruelling impact assessment process in which the bloc would have to show interested US parties that no voluntary measures, or less exacting regulatory ones, were possible,” Riss said.

Leak Confirms Fears: TTIP Is Huge US Threat to EU’s Sovereignty (teleSUR)

The TTIP is possibly the greatest U.S. threat to EU’s sovereignty warned a U.K.-based NGO as leaked documents obtained by Corporate Europe Observatory and the British newspaper the Independent confirmed that United States corporate power could have big sway over laws in the European Union if the controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership goes through.

TTIP: UK Parliament ‘would not be able to stop NHS sell-off if treaty is passed (Belfast Telegraph)

The UK Parliament may not have the power to stop or reverse the privatisation of the NHS if the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership passed at EU level, Unite has warned…
Gail Cartmail, Unite assistant general secretary, said that it was “a scandal” that MPs may not have the democratic power to stop TTIP, which she said “threatens the irreversible sell-off of our NHS”.
“The House of Commons will have the power to delay the trade deal but it would only be a matter of time before TTIP eventually slips through,” Ms Cartmail said.

TTIP: The terrible truth (Morning Star)

Every Time we get a look at the details of EU-US trade deal TTIP and its implications we come away disgusted.
Unelected, unaccountable EU bureaucrats are desperate to keep the inner workings of the treaty under wraps for the simple reason that it will be bad for everyone except big business.
That the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has only commissioned a single risk assessment of TTIP — and only one part of it, three years ago — suggests that officials don’t want to leave a record spelling out the truths that they deny so vigorously in public.

Larry Brown: The TPP: A Corporate Bill of Rights (teleSUR)

What we aren’t told by our governments is that these so-called trade deals are really not very much about trade at all. They are international corporate constitutions, aimed at limiting the ability of our governments to control transnational corporate behavior: an international Corporate Bill of Rights.

Pepe Escobar: NATO on Trade, in Europe and Asia, is Doomed (RT)

Everything civil society across Europe – for at least three years – has been debating, and fearing, is confirmed; this is a sophisticated, toxic US-led corporate racket, a concerted assault across the spectrum, from the environment and animal welfare to labor rights and internet privacy. In a nutshell; it’s all about the US corporate galaxy pushing the EU to lower – or abase – a range of consumer protections…
Predictably, the lobbyist-infested European Commission (EC) fiercely defends TTIP, stressing it could benefit the EU’s economy by $150 billion a year, and raise car exports by 149 percent. Obviously don’t expect the EC to connect these “car exports” to a US-led GMO invasion of Europe.

Lorenz Niel Santos: As Filipinos vote for change, will they heed Aquino’s warning? (Asia times)

On Monday, Filipinos will choose their new leader. The question is will they listen to President Benigno Aquino III’s warning that a vote for frontrunner Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte would mean a vote for the possible return of dictatorship.
Aquino has been campaigning against Duterte saying he is showing signs of being a dictator. His mother, the late President Corazon Aquino led the people power revolution in the 80s and toppled strongman Ferdinand Marcos.

Josh Hoxie: American Tax Havens: Elites Don’t Have to go to Panama to Hide Their Money–They’ve Got Delaware (CounterPunch)

Notably, few American names have been listed [in revelations from the Panama Papers] to date. That could change in revelations to come, but it also might not. States like Delaware offer very similar hands-off approaches to regulation that individuals and companies can exploit to hide their business dealings without going overseas.
One single address in Wilmington, for example — 1209 North Orange Street — is listed as the headquarters for 285,000 separate businesses exploiting Delaware’s lax laws. Indeed, both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have firms registered in that two-story office building.
In fact, the Tax Justice Network ranks the United States third in the world for financial secrecy, behind only Switzerland and Hong Kong. Panama is No.13.

Margaret Kimberley: Dishonoring Harriet Tubman (CounterPunch)

The history of American presidents is one long tale of criminality and Andrew Jackson was one of the worst of the lot. Jackson grew rich on his Tennessee plantation made profitable by the unpaid labor of 200 enslaved people…
Jackson was perhaps more responsible than any other person for driving indigenous people out of the southern states. The Indian Removal Act and the Trail of Tears were his handiwork…
With great fanfare the Treasury Department announced that new faces will appear on the $5, $10 and $20 notes. Currently George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Alexander Hamilton, Andrew Jackson, Ulysses S. Grant and Benjamin Franklin appear on the almighty dollar in the most commonly used denominations. With the exception of Abraham Lincoln it is a list of slave holders. Some, like Washington and Jackson, owned hundreds of people, Franklin and Grant a few, but they were all participants in one of the worst evils of human history. Alexander Hamilton gets false credit from popular culture as an abolitionist although he held slaves too. At first the public were told that Tubman would replace Jackson as the new face of the $20 bill. Instead she and Jackson will appear together and make an even greater mockery of her legacy.

David Wagner: When Liberals Run Out of Patience: the Impolite Exile of Seymour Hersh (CounterPunch)

Seymour Hersh’s The Killing of Osama bin Laden a pocket-size collection of stories written for the London Review and printed during the second Obama administration arrives at an awkward moment for the expatriate journalist who not so long ago was esteemed as the finest investigative reporter in the United States. Hersh now publishes abroad because his talent, though undiminished, no longer fits into the publication plans of the nation’s newspaper and magazine publishers. He has, it appears, failed to adapt to the times. His revelations about deceit and brute force in the conduct of foreign affairs that delighted his editors when he raised a torch over Dick Cheney lost its shine when he reported on President’s Obama’s not-so-different Cold War liberalism.

Anshel Pfeffer: Sadiq Khan’s Victory in London Is Also a Victory for a Different Style of Politics (Haaretz; also via Google News)

While Labour was mostly punished by Jewish voters outside of London, Khan’s proactive engagement with city’s Jewish community while also distancing from Corbyn earned him – more than his party – a landslide victory.
The first election of a Muslim politician to a prominent political position in Britain, actually in the entire western world, is in itself of course a historical event. As fears of the rise of populist and racist politicians and parties, from the left and the right, abound in both the United States and Europe, Sadiq Khan’s victory in London gives grounds for some optimism.

Aeyal Gross: Decision to Outlaw Islamic Movement Criminalizes Thousands (Haaretz; also via Google News)

There is no evidence that the northern branch was involved in terrorist activities; banning the organization will serve to radicalize Israeli Arabs [i.e. Palestinians who hold Israeli citizenship].
The defense minister’s decision to outlaw the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel is based on the Defense (Emergency) Regulations from 1945, a draconian Mandatory law and relic of the colonial era that gives state authorities far-reaching powers.

Mel Gurtov: Sanctions and Defiance in North Korea (Japan Focus)

North Korea has now been sanctioned five times by the United Nations Security Council for its nuclear and missile tests: resolutions 1718 (2006), 1874 (2009), 2087 (2013), 2094 (2013) and 2270 (2016). UNSC Resolution 2270 is the strongest one yet, spelling out in great detail the proscribed goods and requiring that all parties neither import them from nor export them to North Korea. Each resolution obliges the members to carry out the terms of the sanctions and (as the April 15 press statement of the UNSC says) “facilitate a peaceful and comprehensive solution through dialogue.” This is a case of mission impossible for two fundamental reasons: the sanctions will not work, and the fact of them impedes any chance for a “peaceful and comprehensive solution.”

Reuters: Migration crisis: Italians protest over Austria border fence plan (Guardian)

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Korea | Austria

Stephen Haggard: Tensions Update III: Talks (Peterson Institute for International Economics)
Stephen Haggard: Winners and losers – what the North Korean deal really means (Guardian)

Another whirl in the now familiar dance between the two Koreas has ended with Pyongyang expressing regrets over the wounding of South Korean soldiers, Seoul agreeing to halt anti-North propaganda broadcasts, and heavy sighs of relief around the world as war talk dies down.

71 refugees were found dead, suffocated in an abandoned refrigerated lorry in Austria.

Luke Harding: Police fear as many as 50 migrants dead inside lorry left by Austrian motorway (Guardian)

The badly decomposed remains were discovered on Thursday morning on Austria’s A4 motorway between Neusiedl and Parndorf. The truck had been abandoned on the hard shoulder of the road near Parndorf. It had apparently been there since Wednesday. The refugees, who appeared to have suffocated, died before they entered Austria, police said.

A Refugee Tragedy in Austria (New York Times)

The grim geography is this: As the route to Italy via Libya and the Mediterranean has become more difficult and costly, refugees have increasingly headed to Greece, trying then to reach Western Europe via the Balkans. So far this year, 181,000 have gained a first European foothold in Greece after crossing a narrow stretch of sea from Turkey. From there, they make their way across Macedonia and Serbia, rushing to cross the Hungarian border before it becomes impassable, and hope to proceed from there to Germany and other points in Western Europe…
Greece and Italy are overwhelmed. Serbia and Macedonia, which aspire to European Union membership, are struggling to cope.

In the Traiskirchen refugee camp near Vienna, the government has conciously created a humanitarian desaster as a pretext for further measures against refugees. At the camp, people are sleeping in buses and outside, they don’t get enough food, and sanitary conditions are appalling.

Austria refugee camp branded ‘shameful’ by Amnesty International (BBC)

The head of the Austrian branch of Amnesty International, Heinz Pazelt, told the BBC the conditions in Traiskirchen were “shameful”, particularly in a rich country like Austria.
He said hundreds of unaccompanied minors were being severely neglected.
“They are just left alone and have to survive there. They are the last ones who get to eat, and this is a really heavy human rights violation of the convention for children,” he said.
The Amnesty report (in German) says many of the problems could be easily dealt with if there was better cooperation between the federal government and the provincial authorities in Austria.

Hazel Southam: 80,000 will seek asylum in Austria in 2015 – and for many, this former barracks in Traiskirchen is the end of the road (Independent)

The centre is an old Army barracks that was intended to house around 1,000 people…Today 4,800 people are housed in this imposing cream-painted building in conditions that Amnesty International declared “inhumane” and “shameful” last week.
The camp at Traiskirchen is run by ORS, a Swiss firm, reputed to have earned some €21m (£15m) from the camp in the last four years.

Burundi | Korea | Israel/Palestine | Myanmar | Britain

Odomaro Mubangizi: Burundi: From ethnicized militarism to militant civilians (Pambazuka)

Burundi would not be much known had it not been for its recurrent ethnicized political conflicts since independence. It is a small country of about 27,834 square kilometres, with a high population density of about 300 people per square kilometre. Political violence seems to have set the tone for Burundi’s political landscape right from the early struggles for independence. In 1961, a year before independence, UPRONA party won legislative elections with Prince Louis Rwagasore, son of King Mwambutsya, appointed as Prime Minister. Unfortunately, Louis Rwagasora was assassinated a month later. Ethnic tensions flared. Burundi’s independence in 1962 was followed by political unrest leading to a coup attempt from 1965-1966. As a result of this failed coup the military took over the ruling party and the government effectively militarizing Burundi politics.

AP: South Korea test-fires missiles capable of striking all of North Korea (Guardian)

South Korea has successfully test-fired two domestically built ballistic missiles that can hit all of North Korea, officials said, amid continuing animosity between the countries over the North’s push to bolster its nuclear and missile capabilities.
The missiles, which have a reported range of more than 300 miles, were fired from a southern launch pad, said an official at Seoul’s defence ministry. President Park Geun-hye watched the launches, according to her office.
There was no immediate response from North Korea, which is heavily sanctioned for its past long-range rocket and nuclear tests and considers US and South Korean military drills and tests preparation for an attack.

Foday Darboe: Stopping the Violence in Burundi (Common Dreams)

With the recent mass political unrest and failed military coup against Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza–after he announced his run for an extraconstitutional third term–the African Union along with the United Nations appealed for ethnic harmony there. This addressed fears that weeks of political unrest could prompt another round of fight between Hutus and Tutsis in the center of Africa’s Great Lakes region.

Gideon Levy: Israeli propaganda isn’t fooling anyone – except Israelis (Haaretz; also via Google News)

‘Hasbara’ [“explaining”] is the Israeli euphemism for propaganda, and there are some things, said the late ambassador Yohanan Meroz, that are not ‘hasbarable.’ One of them is Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.
And propaganda shall cover for everything. We’ll say terrorism, we’ll shout anti-Semitism, we’ll scream delegitimation, we’ll cite the Holocaust; we’ll say Jewish state, gay-friendly, drip irrigation, cherry tomatoes, aid to Nepal, Nobel Prizes for Jews, look what’s happening in Syria, the only democracy, the greatest army. We’ll say the Palestinians are making unilateral moves, we’ll propose negotiations on the “settlement bloc borders,” we’ll demand recognition of a Jewish state and we’ll complain that “there’s no one to talk to.”…
The policy of denial and disconnection from reality is rising to a dangerous level, and the illness is getting worse. When the world starts to show encouraging signs of stirring to action, Israel further entrenches itself in its imaginary reality and erects more and more separation barriers for itself.

Gideon Levy: The false arrest of Khalida Jarrar: Israeli ‘justice’ put to shame (Haaretz)

The charge sheet against the Palestinian legislator – in jail now for two months – ought to be studied in every law school: This is how you slap together false accusations and fabricate an indictment.
Here’s a case after which nobody will seriously be able to make any of the following five claims anymore: one, that Israel is a state of law; two, that the regime in its occupied territories isn’t a military dictatorship; three, that Israel has no political prisoners; four, that the military court system in the territories has any kind of connection, however weak, to law and justice; and five, in light of all of the above – that Israel is a democracy.
Does that sound overblown? Sometimes, one case suffices to prove a point.

A Kafkaesque perversion of military law: Khalida Jarar must be released now (Haaretz)

What’s the point of a military justice system if a court decision to release an accused is met with a threat by the prosecution to hold her without trial?
The continued incarceration of Palestinian parliament member Khalida Jarrar becomes increasingly outrageous. Here is a synopsis of this Kafkaesque occupation farce: The Israel Defense Forces tried to exile Jarrar to Jericho for six months because of her political activities in the Palestinian Legislative Council and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine…
After essentially canceling the order, the IDF decided to take revenge on Jarrar and ordered her held in administrative detention for six months without charges or trial. When the arbitrary arrest of the Palestinian elected official attracted protest from overseas, the Military Advocate General’s office decided to press charges against her.
The 12 counts in the indictment, as published by Gideon Levy in Haaretz, are nearly all hollow and ridiculous…
Jarrar, who has been behind bars for two months, is a legitimate parliamentarian chosen in a democratic election. She has a clean security record and her trial looks like an attempt to punish her for her political activity. What’s the point of a military justice system if a court decision to release an accused is met with a threat by the prosecution to hold her without trial? The whole indictment against Jarrar should be thrown out, but in any case she should be released from custody immediately.

Chaim Levinson: Torture of Palestinian detainees by Shin Bet investigators rises sharply (Haaretz; also via dlvr.it)

In the second half of last year, there were 51 instances of torture reported, compared to eight in the first half of 2014…
The Shin Bet is required to report to the court that torture were [sic] used, so that the judges will know what weight to give evidence gathered under such means. Defense attorneys are not allowed to make copies of the reports, but only to read them. The documents themselves are kept in a safe.
Until 1999, thousands of Palestinian prisoners were tortured every year. The Public Committee against Torture in Israel estimates that most Palestinians questioned experienced at least one kind of torture.
In September 1999, following a petition to the High Court of Justice, the court prohibited the systematic use of torture, but left a small opening to interrogators: An interrogator who used violence could claim after the fact that there was an “urgent need” to violate the law. Then-High Court President Aharon Barak left it to the discretion of the attorney general whether to press charges.
“Urgent need” is something that is decided in retrospect, if a complaint is filed, but in extreme cases permits to torture are still issued. The attorney general has set rules as to when “urgent need” is present, but these rules are not made public.

Peter Beaumont: Israel brands Palestinian-led boycott movement a ‘strategic threat’ (Guardian)

Israel and key international supporters have sharply ratcheted up their campaign against the Palestinian-led Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, with senior Israeli officials declaring it a strategic threat.
Using language the Israeli government usually reserves for the likes of Hamas or Iran’s nuclear programme, senior figures – including the prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, and a key backer in the US, casino magnate Sheldon Adelson – have turned on the movement, which is prominent on university campuses and among international trade unions…
The non-violent grassroots movement, founded with the support of dozens of Palestinian organisations, is modelled on South African anti-apartheid campaigns and calls for an end to the occupation, equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel, and a resolution for Palestinian refugees of 1948.

Chemi Shalev: Netanyahu’s declaration of war on BDS is its first major victory (Haaretz)

The international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement has just scored a tremendous victory.
When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issues a manifest in Jerusalem against the delegitimization of Israel and calls for a “wide front” to combat boycott, and then, within 24 hours, Sheldon Adelson convenes an emergency summit in Las Vegas to fight BDS on university campuses – as Nathan Guttman revealed in the Forward on Monday – BDSers can smugly tell themselves that they’ve finally made it. From a nuisance, perhaps even a danger, they have been elevated the status of existential threat, on a par, almost, with Iran and Hezbollah…
Regardless of background and cause, it’s hard to claim with a straight face that the cessation of the peace process, the death and destruction in Gaza, the campaign against African migrant workers, the Tel Aviv riots of Ethiopians, Netanyahu’s speech in Congress, and, perhaps, most injurious of all, his miserable appeal against Israeli Arabs on Election Day – that all these haven’t provided highly combustible gasoline to BDS propaganda in the past year alone.
And this, before we have mentioned the occupation, which will soon mark its 50th anniversary.

Ravid Hecht: Israel’s problem isn’t BDS – it’s the occupation (Haaretz; also via Google News)

One can object to boycotts. But sanctimonious wailing and the automatic posing as victims coated with the memory of the Holocaust won’t hide the fact that Israel is ruling over an entire other nation…
[M]ost Israelis — even if they fear territorial concessions for security reasons and don’t believe that a peace deal with the Arabs is sustainable — know that Israel is committing an injustice against civilians and denying them their freedom. They know that in the frequent rounds of violence, Israel kills thousands of innocent people as well as terrorists. They know that in a certain place under Israeli rule there is one legal regime for one nation (Israeli law for settlers) and a different one for another nation (military law for Palestinians)…
The hope that the Palestinians will quietly resign themselves to the settlements, happily content with the conditions imposed by the occupation, is unrealistic. What can we do if they impudently insist on resisting and striving for freedom, their natural right?

Amira Hass: Palestinian FIFA move hit an Israeli nerve (Haretz; also via Google News)

The bid pushed Israel into a state of constant tension and hinted at how much BDS efforts could hurt the Israeli public; but it also displays the Palestinian Authority’s logic of stagnation.

Gideon Levy: For the sins of occupation, boycotts are a light punishment (Haaretz; also via Google News)
Aeyal Gross: Apartheid in Israel is about more than just segregated buses (Haaretz, also via Google News)

What in a different situation would be considered apartheid is tolerated by many because it is ostensibly temporary. But the occupation has long stopped being temporary.

Sara Perria: Burma’s birth control law exposes Buddhist fear of Muslim minority (Guardian)

Nationalist monks are behind new powers enabling authorities to ‘organise’ family planning among groups with high birth rates such as Rohingyas.

Tariq Ali: Farewell to the United Kingdom (CounterPunch)

The British General election was dramatic. On the superficial level because three party leaders— Miliband (Labour), Nick Clegg (Liberal-Democrat) and Nigel Farage (UKIP—a racist, right-wing populist outfit)…resigned on the day following the Conservative victory. On a more fundamental level because the Scottish National Party took virtually all the Scottish seats (56 of 59) wiping out Labour as a political force in the region where it had dominated politics for over a century. Scotland was where the Labour Party was founded. Scotland it was that gave Labour its first leaders and Prime Minster (as well as the last one). Scottish working class culture was in most cases much more radical than its English equivalent.

Bill Quigley: Ten Shocking Facts About Baltimore (CounterPunch)

Were you shocked at the disruption in Baltimore? What is more shocking is daily life in Baltimore, a city of 622,000 which is 63 percent African American.

Greece | Korea | Ukraine | Thailand | Israel

Yanis Varoufakis: No Time for Games in Europe (New York Times, also via Google News)

The great difference between this government and previous Greek governments is twofold: We are determined to clash with mighty vested interests in order to reboot Greece and gain our partners’ trust. We are also determined not to be treated as a debt colony that should suffer what it must. The principle of the greatest austerity for the most depressed economy would be quaint if it did not cause so much unnecessary suffering.
I am often asked: What if the only way you can secure funding is to cross your red lines and accept measures that you consider to be part of the problem, rather than of its solution? Faithful to the principle that I have no right to bluff, my answer is: The lines that we have presented as red will not be crossed. Otherwise, they would not be truly red, but merely a bluff…
We shall desist, whatever the consequences, from deals that are wrong for Greece and wrong for Europe. The “extend and pretend” game that began after Greece’s public debt became unserviceable in 2010 will end. No more loans — not until we have a credible plan for growing the economy in order to repay those loans, help the middle class get back on its feet and address the hideous humanitarian crisis. No more “reform” programs that target poor pensioners and family-owned pharmacies while leaving large-scale corruption untouched.

Helena Smith: Tsipras favours Greek jobless over creditors in defiant policy speech (Guardian)

The Greek prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, has announced his anti-austerity government programme in a defiant address that prioritised the jobless and destitute over international creditors who have lent the country more than $300bn (£200bn).

Paul Mason: Germany v Greece is a fight to the death, a cultural and economic clash of wills (Guardian)

Germany’s unwillingness to lead Europe is the old problem. The new problem is Germany’s demonstrable willingness to break up Europe. Pleas for the continent’s largest economy to expand state spending are met with the schwarze null policy: 0% budget deficits, imposed by law. Brazen acts of proxy warfare by the Kremlin are met with diplomatic dithering. The sight, on top of that, of large anti-Muslim demonstrations in this, the richest and most politically stable country in Europe, is now reviving hostility towards Germany way beyond Greece.

Jennifer Rankin, Larry Elliott: Greece bailout talks break down after Athens rejects ‘unacceptable’ eurozone demands (Guardian)

Talks between Greece and its eurozone creditors collapsed in disarray on Monday night, heightening concerns that the country is edging closer to a disruptive exit from the single currency…
Effectively presenting Greece with an ultimatum, the eurogroup of eurozone finance ministers said Athens had until Friday to agree to maintain the current bailout under the auspices of the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund – something that Greece has said is unacceptable.

Would Park be President, had the election not been rigged? (Hankyoreh)

An appeals court’s ruling about election interference by the National Intelligence Service (NIS) provides judicial confirmation that there is a major problem with Park Geun-hye legitimacy as president of South Korea. This makes it clear that the 2012 presidential election was a rigged game and that Park was the greatest beneficiary…
Any politician – not to mention the leader of a country – must take responsibility for his or her words. Park should begin by apologizing for remarks she has made, such as when she belittled the case as a plot by the political opposition and denied that she had received any help from the NIS.
But Park’s remarks are not the only mistake that she made. The current administration pulled out all the stops to cover up the NIS’s assault on the constitution and to block all attempts to investigate that assault.

Kim Seon-sik: Former NIS director sentenced to prison for 2012 political interference (Hankyoreh)

Former National Intelligence Service director Won Sei-hoon, 64, was taken into court custody after an appeals ruling found him guilty of violating the Public Official Election Act by ordering agents from the psychological warfare division to carry out organized interference in the 2012 presidential election.
The court’s decision, which acknowledges Won’s enlistment of the NIS to influence the election results, is expected to have major political repercussions.

Michael Hudson: Ukraine Denouement (CounterPunch)

The fate of Ukraine is now shifting from the military battlefield back to the arena that counts most: that of international finance. Kiev is broke, having depleted its foreign reserves on waging war that has destroyed its industrial export and coal mining capacity in the Donbass (especially vis-à-vis Russia, which normally has bought 38 percent of Ukraine’s exports). Deeply in debt (with €3 billion falling due on December 20 to Russia), Ukraine faces insolvency if the IMF and Europe do not release new loans next month to pay for new imports as well as Russian and foreign bondholders.
Finance Minister Natalia Yaresko announced on Friday that she hopes to see the money begin to flow in by early March. But Ukraine must meet conditions that seem almost impossible: It must implement an honest budget and start reforming its corrupt oligarchs (who dominate in the Rada and control the bureaucracy), implement more austerity, abolish its environmental protection, and make its industry “attractive” to foreign investors to buy Ukraine’s land, natural resources, monopolies and other assets, presumably at distress prices in view of the country’s recent devastation.

Matthew Weaver, Alec Luhn: Ukraine ceasefire deal agreed at Minsk talks (Guardian)

Russian president Vladimir Putin was the first to announce the deal, saying: “We have agreed on a ceasefire from midnight 15 February.”
Putin added: “There is also the political settlement. The first thing is constitutional reform that should take into consideration the legitimate rights of people who live in Donbass. There are also border issues. Finally there are a whole range of economic and humanitarian issues.”

Simon Tisdall: Ukraine peace deal looks fragile in the extreme (Guardian)

Poroshenko insisted the accord did not grant autonomy to the rebel-held areas. The vexed questions of the extent of a demilitarised zone around the current and September frontlines, and the withdrawal of foreign (ie Russian) forces, were also apparently still up in the air. Nor did the Ukraine leader confirm Putin’s claim that Kiev had agreed to end its economic blockade of the Donbas region…
Perhaps not coincidentally, the Minsk announcements coincided with news that the IMF has agreed to help bail out almost bankrupt Ukraine to the tune of $17.5bn, part of an even bigger $40bn, four-year rescue package. Christine Lagarde, IMF chief, said the idea was to try and stabilise Kiev’s finances after nearly a year of war.

Freudian slip? CNN says Obama considers arming pro-US troops…in Ukraine (RT)

Social media is abuzz after CNN labeled Ukrainian forces involved in Kiev’s deadly military operation in the country’s southeast as “pro-US troops.” Online comments are calling it a Freudian slip, claiming it unmasks the true agenda behind the conflict.

Reuters: Thailand’s students defy military junta and call for return to democracy (Guardian)

Thai student protesters billing themselves as the “last group standing” in seeking to end military rule say they will openly defy what one leader called a tyrannical regime nine months after the army seized power.
Members of the Thai Student Centre for Democracy (TSCD), who come from different political and socio-economic backgrounds, present a quandary for the junta, which has branded public protests illegal but wants to maintain its core support, including from Bangkok’s middle class and business elite.
Some of the students support the “red shirt” grassroots movement of ousted prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, but others sympathise with the establishment that makes up the bulk of the junta’s support.

Student group condemns junta for trying student activist in military court (Prachatai)
AP: Thailand’s military junta forces cancellation of press freedom conference (Guardian)

The Zionist Union is the poor man’s Likud (Haaretz)

Anyone wishing to replace this government must first of all take a strong stand against the transformation of Israel into an apartheid state.
The election campaign waged by the Zionist Union belies the declarations of its leaders, Yitzhak Herzog and Tzipi Livni, who state their wish to replace the current government. The slogan “It’s us or him” was recently changed to “Only a sucker would vote for Netanyahu,” but the essential message remains unchanged: the problem with the Likud government lies in Benjamin Netanyahu’s personality, not in his destructive policies.
Livni and Herzog are marketing themselves as people who will do a better job than Netanyahu in carrying out the foreign and defense policies of the Likud, covered in a patina of empty promises such as “we’ll return money to the public” or “free land for an apartment of your own.”

Israel’s ban of Arab lawmaker from election is unjust / ההבדל בין זועבי למרזל (Haaretz, Hebrew version also via Google News)

Zoabi’s disqualification lacks all foundation. An Arab MK has fallen victim to a clause permitting the banning of a candidate or party expressing support for an enemy state or a terror group’s armed struggle. Actually, the clause was inserted to persecute Arab elected officials who express support for the Palestinian struggle against the occupation.
It’s no coincidence that the clause does not permit the disqualification of someone who has expressed support for other types of violence; for example, terror against Arabs. Regarding Zoabi’s infuriating remarks, even in the interview in which she refused to call the kidnappers of three Jewish teens terrorists, Zoabi noted that she did not support their actions. And she has expanded on her position many times since.

Gideon Levy: The most heinous crime in Israel is anti-Zionism / פשע ושמו אנטי־ציונות (Haaretz; Hebrew version also via Google News)

In today’s Israel, in which “leftist” is among the worst things to call someone, “non-Zionist” is entirely beyond the pale. Not that anyone knows what Zionism is today, but to say non-Zionist is to say treason. A land-stealing, field-burning settler is a Zionist, no question; one of the best. Even if he commits one of the most serious sins and calls for draft-dodging, he is still a Zionist.
Knesset member Haneen Zoabi (Balad) is a traitor, because she does not recognize Israel as a Jewish state. (The rightists who don’t recognize Israel as a democratic state are, of course, Zionist and therefore legitimate.) Israelis who are not willing to be part of that Zionism and are courageous enough to call themselves anti-Zionists are considered heretics, with everything that implies. They have horns. It as if saying no to that Zionism – to think that it constitutes ultranationalism and even racism; that it plunders, conquers and is hurtling toward apartheid – is an immoral, intolerable position to take.
The brainwashing has reached the point that anyone with the disease is thought not only to oppose the very existence of the state, but even to be calling for its destruction.

Blake Alcott: Why Jonathan Freedland Isn’t Fit to be the New Editor-in-Chief of the Guardian (CounterPunch)

Greece | Spain | France | Korea | Israel | Palestine

Catarina Príncipe: First Days, First Decisions (Jacobin)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Russia might bailout Greece – finance minister (RT)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Richard Seymour: Sandbox Security (Jacobin)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Israel’s pre-election aerial bombing (Haaretz)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Torture | France | Korea | Israel/Palestine

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

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

Raheel Hayat: The Torture Industry (CounterPunch)

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

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

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

Richard Seymour: On Charlie Hebdo (Jacobin)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gideon Levy: Israeli binationalism is old news (Haaretz)

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

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

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

Palestine | Iraq | Ukraine | Nuclear Era | Korea | USA

Yoav Bar: Lessons from the Gaza War (Free Haifa)

The Israelis say they could conquer Gaza, but they didn’t do it. In fact, they already did it twice, in 1956 and in 1967. When they withdrew from Gaza in 2005 it was without agreement, after they paid a heavy price in two Palestinian intifadas. The fact that Gaza was not occupied again is the combine result of the expected resistance to the act of occupation and the memories of the resistance over 38 years of continued occupation. Any way you count it, the resistance is what keeps Gaza free of direct occupation.

More articles on Palestine:
Serge Halimi: Unfair and unbalanced (Monde diplomatique)

For decades, we have been told that Israel is “responding” or “retaliating”. The story is always that of a peaceful little state, poorly protected, without a single powerful ally, which manages to win through, sometimes without a scratch. And the confrontation always starts at the precise moment when Israel appears as the victim, shocked by misfortune — an abduction, an attack, an act of aggression, an assassination. A commentator will express indignation that rockets are being fired at civilians; then another will argue that the Israeli “response” was much more murderous. Score, one all, ball still in play.
And everything else, everything that matters, is forgotten: the military occupation of the West Bank, the economic blockade of Gaza, the colonisation of the land (1). News channels never take the time to go into details… How many people know, for instance, that between the Six Day war and the Iraq war, between 1967 and 2003, Israel failed to comply with more than a third of all UN Security Council resolutions issued, many of them concerning the colonisation of Palestinian land? A simple ceasefire in Gaza would therefore mean perpetuating a recognised breach of international law.

Alain Gresh: Gaza: Palestine first and last (Monde diplomatique)

More than a thousand Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s latest assault on Gaza, against some 40 Israelis, and the numbers are rising. But Gaza, the birthplace of Palestinian nationalism, has a long history of resistance.

Slavoj Žižek: Rolling in underground tunnels (Mondoweiss)

Today in Gaza, the Israeli military is fighting not only in underground tunnels, but also against the natives of the land. They are fighting not only against Hamas, but also against Palestine itself. They –alongside the West– are fighting against a nation that they have tried to expel from the land for almost 70 years now. They are fighting not only because of these tunnels, but also and precisely to conquer the land within which the tunnels were dug. The refugee camps in Gaza are living evidence of this enormous land robbery…

Special Focus: Gaza under Attack (Institute for Palestine Studies; a collection of recent articles)
Yitzhak Laor: The eternal cycle: Death and destruction in Gaza (Haaretz)

Immediately after the occupation of the territories, Israeli political and intelligence officials began to debate the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of refugees from the Gaza Strip, on the assumption that it would remain under Israeli control: to El-Arish in Sinai, to Iraq, to Morocco…
The Gaza Strip was a thorn in the Zionist imaginaire. No one knew what to do with it…
Eshkol said: “I want them all to go, even if they go to the moon.” …
Occupation engenders resistance. Cruel occupation engenders fierce resistance, and terrorism as well…
Hundreds of Palestinians have been killed and thousands injured in shelling and bombardments since 2004 in Operation Rainbow (May), Operation Days of Penitence (September-October), Operation Summer Rains (June-November 2006) and Operation Hot Winter (February-March 2008). Those with a short memory, who live only the last war, remember at least the atrocity the Olmert government brought to a peak in Operation Cast Lead (winter of 2008-09). There was never any real link between the events and the “responses” of the Israel Defense Forces. They were always opportunities for rampages…
The crueler the oppression became, the more extreme the resistance that followed.

Evo Morales endorses BDS, calls Israel a terrorist state (BDS Movement) / Más de 500 personalidades del mundo condenan ofensiva de Israel (Jornada)
Yitzhak Laor: Eliminating the Palestinians as a political entity (Haaretz)

The [Israeli] government is intent on destroying every political entity in the West Bank and turning the Palestinians into a marginalized, fragmented people.

Holocaust survivors condemn Israel for ‘Gaza massacre,’ call for boycott (Haaretz)

In response to Elie Wiesel advertisement comparing Hamas to Nazis, 327 Jewish Holocaust survivors and descendants publish New York Times ad accusing Israel of ‘ongoing massacre of the Palestinian people.’ …
“We must raise our collective voices and use our collective power to bring about an end to all forms of racism, including the ongoing genocide of Palestinian people. We call for an immediate end to the siege against and blockade of Gaza. We call for the full economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel. “Never again” must mean NEVER AGAIN FOR ANYONE!”

Gideon Levy, Alex Levac: Behind the IDF shooting of a 10-year-old boy (Haaretz)

It’s not clear why an Israeli soldier shot Khalil Anati in the Al-Fawar refugee camp. What is clear is that the shooter didn’t stay around long enough to offer assistance, or to watch the boy die…
Khalil Anati was 10 years and eight months old and came from the Al-Fawar refugee camp, south of Hebron in the West Bank, when he was killed. An Israeli soldier had opened the door of his armored jeep, picked up his rifle, aimed it at the upper body of the boy, who was running with his back to the soldier, and cut him down with one bullet, fired from a distance of a few dozen meters.

Stephanie Nebehay, Allyn Fisher-Ilan: Palestinian children tortured, used as shields by Israel: U.N. (Reuters)

Palestinian children in the Gaza and the West Bank, captured by Israel in the 1967 war, are routinely denied registration of their birth and access to health care, decent schools and clean water, the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child said.
“Palestinian children arrested by (Israeli) military and police are systematically subject to degrading treatment, and often to acts of torture, are interrogated in Hebrew, a language they did not understand, and sign confessions in Hebrew in order to be released,” it said in a report.

Palestinian teen: I was used as a human shield in Gaza (+972)
Gideon Levy: The difference between children / ישראל מתחבאת מאחורי דניאל (Haaretz)

After the first child, nobody batted an eye; after the 50th not even a slight tremor was felt in a plane’s wing; after the 100th, they stopped counting; after the 200th, they blamed Hamas. After the 300th child they blamed the parents. After the 400th child, they invented excuses; after (the first) 478 children nobody cares.
Then came our first child and Israel went into shock…
An iron wall of denial and inhumanness protects the Israelis from the shameful work of their hands in Gaza…
We must admit the truth: Palestinian children in Israel are considered like insects. This is a horrific statement, but there is no other way to describe the mood in Israel in the summer of 2014.

John Jackson: What if Hamas fired rockets at Britain? (+972)

When Israeli spokesmen defend the IDF’s actions in Gaza by asking what you would do if rockets rained down on your home, the example of Northern Ireland can serve as one response.

PFLP salutes the Black struggle in the US: The empire will fall from within (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine)

Comrade Khaled Barakat said in an interview with the PFLP media outlets that “Police brutality, oppression and murder against Black people in the U.S., and against Latinos, Arabs and Muslims, people of color and poor people, has never been merely ‘mistakes’ or ‘violations of individual rights’ but rather are part and parcel of an integral and systematic racism that reflects the nature of the political system in the U.S.”
“Every time a crime is committed against Black people, it is explained away as an ‘isolated incident’ but when you see the massive number of ‘isolated incidents’ the reality cannot be hidden – this is an ongoing policy that remains virulently racist and oppressive. The U.S. empire was built on the backs of Black slavery and the genocide of Black people – and upon settler colonialism and the genocide of indigenous people,” said Barakat. “The people of Ferguson are resisting, in a long tradition of Black resistance, and we support their legitimate resistance to racist oppression.”

Amid fierce debate, members of German think tank take a stand on Gaza (MondoWeiss) / Erklärung einiger RLS-Stipendiat_innen, Ehemaliger, Vertrauensdozent_innen und Mitarbeiter_innen der Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung zum Gaza-Krieg (Inamo)

Justin Raimondo: ISIS: Made in Washington, Riyadh – and Tel Aviv (Information Clearing House)

ISIS didn’t just arise out of the earth like some Islamist variation on the fabled Myrmidons: they needed money, weapons, logistics, propaganda facilities, and international connections to reach the relatively high level of organization and lethality they seem to have achieved in such a short period of time. Where did they get these assets?
None of this is any secret: Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the rest of the oil-rich Gulf states have been backing them all the way. Prince Bandar al-Sultan, until recently the head of the Kingdom’s intelligence agency – and still the chief of its National Security Council – has been among their biggest backers. Qatar and the Gulf states have also been generous in their support for the Syrian jihadists who were too radical for the US to openly back. Although pressure from Washington – only recently exerted – has reportedly forced them to cut off the aid, ISIS is now an accomplished fact – and how can anyone say that support has entirely evaporated instead of merely going underground?

Volodymyr Ishchenko: Ukraine’s Fractures (New Left Review)

I wouldn’t claim that Ukraine is more of a democracy than the other countries—better to say it’s a more competitive authoritarian regime. The political system that emerged in Ukraine was from the outset more pluralistic than those of, say, Russia, Kazakhstan or Belarus. One of the main reasons for this was the country’s cultural diversity: there were very significant regional differences between the east and the west, and these were reflected in electoral outcomes from the 1990s onwards. Any candidate who won the presidential elections would not be seen as legitimate by almost half the population, who would immediately voice strong opposition to him. The strength of regional identities also tended to politicize socio-economic questions very quickly. This was one reason why the neoliberal reforms were not carried out as rapidly as in Russia, for example—the political forces behind them were unable to build up the same kind of momentum. The difference is also apparent in Ukraine’s constitutional system, which was much less presidential than those of the other post-Soviet states. In Russia, 1993 was clearly a crucial moment, when Yeltsin imposed his will on parliament by force, sending the army into Moscow. Nothing like this happened in Ukraine.

Noam Chomsky: How Many Minutes to Midnight? On the Nuclear Era and Armageddon (Asia-Pacific Journal) / 「午前0時まで、あと何分?」~核時代とアルマゲドン (原子力発電 原爆の子)

If some extraterrestrial species were compiling a history of homo sapiens, they might well break their calendar into two eras: BNW (before nuclear weapons) and NEW, the nuclear weapons era. The latter era of course opened on August 6 1945, the first day of the countdown to what may be the inglorious end of this strange species, which attained the intelligence to discover effective means to destroy itself, but, so the evidence suggests, not the moral and intellectual capacity to control their worst instincts.

“His latest book, Masters of Mankind, will be published soon by Haymarket Books,” they say. Actually, the German translation came out in March already: Die Herren der Welt. Vienna: Promedia, 2014.

Mel Gurtov: Time for the U.S. to Engage North Korea (Asia-Pacific Journal)

Sticks and carrots won’t get North Korea to give up its nukes. But a willingness to negotiate a peace treaty and provide security guarantees might.

Jordan Sargent: Cop Pens Touching Op-Ed: Do Everything I Say and I Won’t Kill You (Gawker)

Even though it might sound harsh and impolitic, here is the bottom line: if you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you.

Ukraine | Egypt | Israel/Palestine | Turkey | Korea | South Africa | Venezuela

Andrew Manchuk: On the situation in Ukraine (Borotba)

After some violent and bloody clashes in the centre of Kiev the power in our country was seized by the coalition of ultra-right and neoliberal political forces. The newly established regime immediately started the close cooperation with the richest oligarchs – with those who (along with the representatives of the EU and US) provided the financial aid and international support to Euromaidan. Some of these oligarchs were recently appointed as governors in the key industrial regions (that are the least loyal to new rightwing government) – with the expectation that they would suppress the anger of indignant protesters there.

Gerfried Sperl: OSZE in der Ostukraine: Aufklärungsbedarf (Standard)

Patrick Kingsley: Egyptian judge sentences 720 men to death (Guardian)

A judge in Egypt has sentenced to death 720 men, including the head of the Muslim Brotherhood, in a pair of mass-trials that were both completed after just two brief court sessions.

Eric Walberg: The Economics of Egypt’s Coup (CounterPunch)

As Egypt inches towards the first anniversary of the July 3 coup, the economy continues to flounder. The military-backed reverting to Mubarak-era policies has been buttressed only by lavish handouts from the Gulf Security Council (GCC) states and vague promises of future investment by western business, namely Coca Cola.

Desmond Tutu: Israel guilty of apartheid in treatment of Palestinians (Jerusalem Post)
Apartheid in planning rights / אפרטהייד תכנוני (Haaretz)

Israel’s discriminatory planning policy in the West Bank violates its most basic obligations.

Ali Abunimah: Tutu condemns US efforts to curb free speech on Palestine (Electronic Intifada)
Josh Rogin: Kerry Warns Israel Could Become ‘An Apartheid State’ (Daily Beast)

Ömer Taşpinar: The Islamic roots of the conflict in Turkey (Today Zaman)

The conflict between the Gülen movement and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) has now taken on a very public dimension. For many in Turkey and in the West, this conflict is nothing but a power struggle. Yet, focusing solely on politics and the quest for power would be reductionist. The current conflict has deep historical, ideological and even doctrinal roots.

Christine Hong: War by Other Means: The Violence of North Korean Human Rights (Japan Focus)

This essay offers a historicized overview of the consolidation of contemporary human rights as the dominant lingua franca for social justice projects today and applies it to the debate over human rights in North Korea. Highlighting what the rights framework renders legible as well as what it consigns to unintelligibility, it examines the antinomies of contemporary human rights as an ethico-political discourse that strives to reassert the dominance of the global North over the global South. Relentlessly presentist in its assignment of blame and politically harnessed to a regime-change agenda, the human rights framing of North Korea has enabled human rights advocates, typically “beneficiaries of past injustice,” to assume a moralizing, implicitly violent posture toward a “regime” commonsensically understood to be “evil.” Cordoning off North Korea’s alleged crimes for discrete consideration while turning a willfully blind eye to the violence of sanctions, “humanitarian” intervention, and the withholding of humanitarian and developmental aid, the North Korean human rights project has allowed a spectrum of political actors—U.S. soft-power institutions, thinly renovated Cold War defense organizations, hawks of both neoconservative and liberal varieties, conservative evangelicals, anticommunist Koreans in South Korea and the diaspora, and North Korean defectors—to join together in common cause.

John Pilger: South Africa Today: Apartheid by Another Name (CounterPunch)

In 1985, apartheid had suffered two disasters: the Johannesburg stock market crashed and the regime defaulted on its mounting foreign debt. In September that year, a group led by Gavin Relly, chairman of the Anglo-American Corporation, met Oliver Tambo, the ANC president, and other liberation officials in Mfuwe, Zambia.
The Relly message was that a “transition” from apartheid to a black-governed electoral democracy was possible only if “order” and “stability” were guaranteed. These was liberal code for a capitalist state in which social and economic democracy would never be a priority. The aim was to split the ANC between the “moderates” they could “do business with” (Tambo, Mandela and Thabo Mbeki) and the majority who made up the United Democratic Front and were fighting in the streets.
The betrayal of the UDF and its most effective components, such as the National Civic Organisation, is today poignant, secret history…
The transition was, in a sense, seamless. “You can put any label on it you like,” President Mandela told me at Groote Schur. “You can call it Thatcherite, but for this country, privatisation is the fundamental policy.”
“That’s the opposite of what you said before the first elections, in 1994,” I said.
“There is a process,” was his uncertain reply, “and every process incorporates change.”

Eva Golinger: The Dirty Hand of the National Endowment for Democracy in Venezuela (CounterPunch)

Carol Rosenberg: 9/11 competency hearing puts focus on Guantánamo’s secret prison (Miami Herald)
Carol Rosenberg: 9/11 trial lawyer: CIA had its finger on Guantánamo’s mute button (Miami Herald)

Mystery solved, if there was any doubt: It was the CIA that hit the mute button in the war court earlier this year when a defense lawyer for the accused 9/11 mastermind began talking about the CIA’s secret overseas prisons, the lawyer said Monday…
Pentagon officials at the time refused to confirm that the CIA controlled the audio from the court to the spectator’s gallery and several closed-circuit TV sites.

David Swanson: Torture is Mainstream Now (CounterPunch)

In May 2009, former vice president Dick Cheney forced into the news the fact that, even though Obama had “banned torture” by executive order (torture being a felony and a treaty violation before and after the “banning”) Obama maintained the power to use torture as needed. Cheney saidthat Obama’s continued claim of the power to torture vindicated his own (Cheney’s) authorization of torture. David Axelrod, White House Senior Advisor, refused repeatedly, to dispute Cheney’s assertion — also supported by Leon Panetta’s confirmation hearing for CIA director, at which he said the president had the power to torture and noted that rendition would continue. In fact, it did. The New York Times quickly reportedthat the U.S. was now outsourcing more torture to other countries. The Obama administration announced a new policy on renditions that kept them in place, and a new policy on lawless permanent imprisonment that kept it in place but formalized it, mainstreamed it. Before long Obama-era rendition victims were alleging torture…
And secret CIA torture prisons have continued to pop into the news even though the CIA was falsely said to have abandoned that practice. While the Obama administration has claimed unprecedented powers to block civil suits against torturers, it has also used, in court, testimony produced by torture, something that used to be illegal (and still is if you go by written laws).

Ukraine | Gaza | Egypt | Libya–Korea

Pepe Escobar: Russia 1, Regime Changers 0 (Asia Times)

1. The Obama administration’s “strategic” gambit to subcontract the State Department’s “Khaganate of Nulands” to extricate Ukraine from the Russian sphere of influence – and ultimately annex it to NATO – by instrumentalizing a coalition of willing neo-nazis and fascists with a central bank veneer (prime minister “Yats”), is in utter shambles.
2. Moscow’s counterpunch was to prevent in Crimea – as intercepted by Russian intelligence – a planned replay of the putsch in Kiev. The referendum in Crimea – 85% of turnout, roughly 93% voting for re-joining Russia, according to exit polls – is a done deal, as much as the oh-so-democratic European Union (EU) keeps threatening to punish people in Crimea for exercising their basic democratic rights. (By the way, when the US got Kosovo to secede from Serbia, Serbians were offered no referendum).
3. The main rationale for the whole US “strategic” advance – to have their proxies, the regime changers in Kiev, cancel the agreement for the Russian naval base in Sevastopol – is up in smoke. Moscow remains present in the Black Sea and with full access to the Eastern Mediterranean.

Tens of Thousands March in Moscow Against Crimea Intervention (Common Dreams)

More than 50,000 people poured into the streets of Moscow Saturday to protest military intervention in the Crimea in the largest opposition march Russia has seen since 2012 protests against president Vladimir Putin.

Luke Harding, Shaun Walker: Crimea applies to be part of Russian Federation after vote to leave Ukraine (Guardian)
Heiko Khoo: Power and politics in Ukraine (China.org.cn)
Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Qin Gang’s Remarks on the Current Situation in Ukraine (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China)

We respect the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.

王义桅:乌克兰危机的四点启示(《人民日报海外版》)

乌克兰政局并没有随着苏联解体、乌克兰独立并交出世界第三大核武库而消停,恰恰相反,这些年来,乌克兰成为冷战最后的战场,甚至可能引发第二次冷战。乌克兰又倒向了西方,克里米亚地区则公投要重回俄罗斯。俄罗斯和西方地缘政治拉锯战进入最后阶段,带给我们诸多启示。

AFP: Russia isolated as China abstains in UN Security Council vote on Crimea (South China Morning Post)

Russia vetoed a Western-backed resolution condemning today’s referendum in Crimea at an emergency UN Security Council meeting yesterday but China abstained, isolating Moscow further on the Ukraine crisis.

Russia vetoes US-sponsored UN resolution declaring Crimea vote invalid (RT)
Wang Yiwei: Four lessons to be learned from the Ukraine crisis (People’s Daily)

Ukraine has become the final battlefield in the “cold war”, and it is becoming a possibility that the crisis will trigger a second “cold war”. The Crimean parliament’s declaration of independence from Ukraine ahead of the March 16 referendum indicates that Crimea may go ahead and join Russia.

Peter Lee: From Kiev to Beijing … and Taipei (Asia Times)

A certain amount of attention, and rightly so, has been paid to the discomfiture of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) with Crimea unilaterally declaring independence from Ukraine. The PRC abstained on the UN Security Council condemnation of the vote, instead of supporting Russia with a “nay”. The PRC possesses or covets several significant territories whose inhabitants, if given the opportunity, might eagerly defy the One China policy to announce, organize, and pass a referendum of independence: Tibet, Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Inner Mongolia, Macau, and Taiwan.

Eric Li: Nothing awkward about China’s position with regard to Ukraine (South China Morning Post)

Israeli occupation locking Gaza Strip (Press TV)

Life in Gaza has been difficult. Most people living in a serious situation. From 2006 the population in the Gaza strip has been living under constant blockade.
Everything has been affected… now we talk about electricity, which we can have only 6 hours per day. The only power plant in the Gaza strip has been shut down.

Israel calls for ‘full reoccupation’ of Gaza Strip (Press TV)

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has called for the full reoccupation of the besieged Gaza Strip amid rising tensions in the region …
“Following an attack like this — a barrage of more than 50 rockets — there is no alternative to a full reoccupation of the entire Gaza Strip,” said the Israeli foreign minister.

AFP: Gaza’s Islamic Jihad says truce restored after Israel confrontation (Guardian)
AFP: Israeli troops shoot dead a Palestinian-Jordanian judge at border crossing (Guardian)

An Israeli army statement said “a Palestinian attempted to seize the weapon of a soldier at the Allenby Bridge crossing from Jordan”.
It continued: “In response the forces at the scene opened fire towards the suspect. A hit was identified.”

Israel ‘regrets’ killing Palestinian judge deemed ‘terrorist’ (RT)

Israel stated on Tuesday that it regretted the killing of a Palestinian judge working in Jordan who was gunned down by Israeli soldiers at a border crossing on Monday. Mere hours earlier, the Israeli military had branded him a ‘terrorist’.
“Israel regrets the death of Judge Raed Zeiter yesterday at the King Hussein (Allenby) bridge and expresses its sympathies to the people and government of Jordan,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said in a statement released on Tuesday.

Yahia Hamed: Egypt’s coup has plunged the country into catastrophe (Guardian)

Government employees have been in open revolt for weeks over the government’s failure to fulfil its promise for 6 million workers to have the minimum wage. Textile workers have been on strike, and in Cairo, public transport came to a complete halt recently when 38,000 bus drivers went on strike …
Undeterred, the government is now proceeding with the fire sale of Egypt’s once largest retail company, Omar Effendi, and thousands of its workers have been protesting, too. The public healthcare system has been virtually crippled by a doctors’ strike; they have now been joined by pharmacists, nurses and dentists. The regime’s response was to announce a “spectacular” discovery by one of their generals of a “cure” for HIV/Aids, hepatitis C and cancer – a bizarre attempt to gain popularity and distract attention from their own failures.

Chris Stephen: Navy Seals take over oil tanker seized by Libyan rebels (Guardian)

American Navy Seals have seized a North Korea-flagged tanker which had been loaded with crude oil at a rebel-held port in eastern Libya, the Pentagon said on Monday.
The operation to take control of the Morning Glory came a week after Libya failed to prevent the tanker from leaving the rebel-controlled eastern port of Es Sider loaded with an estimated $20m cargo, in a crisis that has brought the country to the brink of civil war…
The ship was operated by an Egypt-based company that was allowed to temporarily use the North Korean flag under a contract with Pyongyang, North Korean state news agency KCNA said on Wednesday.
Pyongyang had “cancelled and deleted” the ship’s North Korean registry, as it violated its law “on the registry of ships and the contract that prohibited it from transporting contraband cargo”.
“As such, the ship had nothing to do” with North Korea, which “has no responsibility whatsoever as regards the ship”, KCNA said.

Heiko Khoo: Theodor Bergmann: A revolutionary communist since 1927 (China.org.cn)