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)