Korea | Palestine | Syria

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Document of General Principles and Policies (Hamas)

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

Hamas accepts Palestinian state with 1967 borders (AlJazeera)

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

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

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

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

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

France | Syria | Indonesia | Israel/Palestine

Jack Rasmus: France Elects Its Banker (CounterPunch)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Cornerstone of Apartheid (Haaretz Editorial)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Korea | Palestine | USA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vijay Prashad: Crimes of apartheid (Hindu)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Israel/Palestine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

USA | Russia | Israel/Palestine

Glenn Greenwald: Jeremy Corbyn Accused of Being Russian “Collaborator” for Questioning NATO Troop Build-Up on Border (Intercept)

The leader of the U.K.’s Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, called for a “de-escalation” of tensions between NATO and Russia, adding in a BBC interview on Thursday: “I want to see a de-militarization of the border between them.” Along with the U.S., the U.K. has been rapidly building up its military presence in the Baltic region, including in states that border Russia, and is now about to send another 800 troops to Estonia, 500 of which will be permanently based.
In response, Russia has moved its own troops within its country near those borders, causing serious military tensions to rise among multiple nuclear-armed powers. Throughout 2016, the Russian and U.S. militaries have engaged in increasingly provocative and aggressive maneuvers against one another. This week, the U.S. began deploying 4,000 troops to Poland, “the biggest deployment of U.S. troops in Europe since the end of the Cold War.”

Trump’s pick for CIA says he’s open to waterboarding (CNN)

President Donald Trump’s pick to run the CIA, Rep. Mike Pompeo, has told Congress that he would consider bringing back waterboarding and other enhanced interrogation measures under certain circumstances.

Ankit Panda: Rex Tillerson, Trump’s Secretary of State Nominee, Has a Dangerous Idea for the South China Sea (Diplomat)

Rex Tillerson, U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, presented a proposal for what the United States should do in the South China Sea disputes on Wednesday that you don’t hear often — even among China hawks in the United States.
Speaking at a confirmation hearing the before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday evening, Tillerson remarked that China’s actions in the South China Sea — where it has most recently drawn attention for building seven militarized artificial islands in the Spratly Islands — were “akin to Russia’s taking [of] Crimea” from Ukraine…
Tillerson went further, and here he entered relatively uncharted territory: “We’re going to have to send China a clear signal that, first, the island-building stops and, second, your access to those islands also is not going to be allowed.”

Tom Phillips: China hits back at US over South China Sea ‘takeover’ claims (Guardian)

China has warned the US to “speak and act cautiously” after the White House said it would act to foil Chinese attempts to “take over” the South China Sea, amid growing hints that Donald Trump’s administration intends to challenge Beijing over the strategic waterway.
At a press conference in Beijing on Tuesday, the foreign ministry spokesperson, Hua Chunying, urged Washington to tread carefully “to avoid harming the peace and stability of the South China Sea”.
Hua was responding to comments made by White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, the previous day.
Speaking at a press briefing on Monday, Spicer vowed the US would “make sure that we protect our interests” in the resource-rich trade route, through which $4.5tn (£3.4tn) in trade passes each year.

Reuters: US ‘at very beginning’ of talks to move Israel embassy to Jerusalem (Guardian)

Washington’s embassy is in Tel Aviv, as are most foreign diplomatic posts. Israel calls Jerusalem its eternal capital, but Palestinians also lay claim to the city as part of an eventual Palestinian state. Both sides cite religious, historical and political claims.

Peter Beaumont: Israel announces 2,500 more West Bank settlement homes (Guardian)

Israel has approved a massive new building programme of Jewish settlement homes in the occupied Palestinian territories, following hard on the heels of the swearing-in of the US president, Donald Trump…
About 400,000 settlers live in the West Bank and a further 200,000 in East Jerusalem, which Israel seized in the 1967 Middle East war…
“We are building and we will continue to build,” Netanyahu wrote, in a brief Facebook post.

‘Not like Gitmo’: Israeli interrogators explain torture techniques to media (RT)

Israeli interrogators with experience in using ‘special means’ of interrogation, which involve inflicting physical pain on detainees, have described details of their methods to an Israeli newspaper…
[I]nterrogation using what Israel calls “special means” remains widespread. The UN Committee Against Torture last year cited continued complaints of torture by the Israeli Security Agency (ISA) as well as Israel’s refusal to implement the convention on occupied Palestinian territories and reluctance to criminalize torture among its concerns.

Chaim Levinson: Torture, Israeli-style – as Described by the Interrogators Themselves (Haaretz via Google News)

For years, the Israeli establishment has tried to conceal what happens in interrogation rooms. When interrogators use torture – or “special means,” to use the establishment’s term – the concealment efforts are redoubled. Even when testimony of torture reaches the public, the system does everything it can to leave the interrogators’ role in darkness, including signing lenient plea bargains with suspects who were tortured to ensure that the conspiracy of silence remains unbroken.
People who have undergone interrogation have described various methods, from interrogators screaming in their ear, to blows, to being forced into painful positions for long periods. To date, however, all these descriptions have come from the complainants.
But recently, a conversation among interrogators in the presence of several witnesses provided a chance to hear from the interrogators themselves about the kinds of torture used in major cases, who approved it and what information it produced…
In 1999, the High Court of Justice outlawed torture, which had been permitted until then. But subsequent regulations issued by then-Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein said interrogators who nevertheless used torture wouldn’t stand trial if they could demonstrate that it was “immediately necessary to save his own or another person’s life, freedom, person or property from a concrete danger of serious harm,” and that “there was no other way to do so.”…
After the High Court issued its ruling, the torture techniques in use were changed, and they were also used less often. But in recent years, that trend has started to reverse.

Israel Must Stop the Torture (Haaretz via Google News)

The admissions by Shin Bet investigators published in Haaretz Tuesday confirm the claims that have been heard for years about torture during interrogations.

Myanmar | USA | Israel/Palestine

Saturn devours his young: President Trump (Salvage)

How could it possibly be?
Donald Trump, who exchanged the racist dog-whistle for a howling at the moon. Donald Trump, who waxed ‘braggadocious’ about sexual assault. Donald Trump, who exhorted his supporters to violence, wished it on his rivals, and openly threatened war crimes.
The maven of alt-right trolls, the doyen of racist mediocrities, the gold-plated capitalist mountebank, the artist of the deal whose relationship to the truth is summed up in his catchphrase, ‘give them the old Trump bullshit,’ will be the 45th President of the United States…
In her own strategising, in short, if Hillary Clinton mastered anything in this election, it was the old Third Way technique of demoralising her voters. Beginning in the primary contest, she managed expectations down to close to zero, scolding Sanders supporters that universal healthcare was ‘never going to happen’. She barely even had the grace to be red-faced about her convivial relationship with Goldman Sachs and Wall Street. Far from embarrassed, she was proud of her plaudits from Henry Kissinger, Laura Bush and Dick Cheney. Meanwhile, her team noised it abroad that she would be looking to privatise social security, and to re-arm liberal imperialism after Obama’s ‘Realist’ detour…
For the collapsing of the order of the centre – the very order that birthed Trump, the system of which he is not pathology but symptom, essence and excrescence combined – we shed no tears. But it is our worst enemies who are building in its rubble, faster and more effectively than are we. In 2017, we can expect major fascist advances. We can expect a Le Pen presidency of France. This is an epochal shift, and threat.

Paul Street: Beyond Anti-Trump (CounterPunch)

[D]reary corporate-Democratic presidents like Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Obama are no small part of the explanation for the ever more right-wing Republican presidencies of the long neoliberal era. Their serial populism-manipulating betrayals of the working-class majority in service to the wealthy Few open the door for Republicans to sweep in and take over for a term or two (2001-2009) or three (1981-1993)…
We must not let Trump become a great red cape in the hands of the ruling class matadors. We charge screaming “Down with Trump” while the owners plunge their weapons into our passing hides…
One of the drawbacks of having Democrats Obama in the White House is the way they put so many folks to sleep on terrible policies and actions people would resist if only they were being carried out by Republican presidents. It’s amazing how many liberals and progressives find things like drone war and Wall Street bailouts and mass deportations strangely acceptable when conducted by supposedly liberal and sophisticated Democrats like Barack Obama.

Vijay Prashad: The Trump Team (Frontline)

Money and the military define the Cabinet of Donald Trump’s presidency. For a man who ran to help the “forgotten Americans”, there are few “forgotten” people in his team. Most of the Cabinet appointees have experiences far from the crises that wrack (sic) rural and industrial America…
in his farewell speech, Eisenhower bemoaned the increased power of the military and of military industry over the U.S. government. He called this the “military-industrial complex”, which was the “conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry”. “The total influence—economic, political, even spiritual—is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the federal government,” the old military hero said plaintively. “The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.” Matters are graver now. The military-industrial complex is larger and more firmly rooted in the economy, politics and the culture of the country…
In this context, Trump has chosen three generals to be in his Cabinet, giving all the major departments in charge of security to men of the armed forces… It appears as if Trump is not assembling a Cabinet so much as a junta…
Trump’s campaign rhetoric was plainly oppositional. It sparked a sense that this billionaire had heard the pain of the “forgotten American”. Trump suggested that he would use his business savvy to bring back work for Americans and to turn around a sagging U.S. economy. To help him, Trump has turned to the business class. Amongst his major picks are some of the richest people in the U.S. The total net worth of the first half of Trump’s Cabinet is over $14.5 billion—30 times more than the net worth of the men and women in George W. Bush’s Cabinet. In other words, half of Trump’s Cabinet is worth 30 times the entirety of Bush’s Cabinet. Plutocracy, not democracy, is the order of the day.

Norman Solomon: The Democratic Party Line That Could Torch Civil Liberties… and Maybe Help Blow Up the World (CounterPunch)

Many top Democrats are stoking a political firestorm. We keep hearing that Russia attacked democracy by hacking into Democratic officials’ emails and undermining Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Instead of candidly assessing key factors such as longtime fealty to Wall Street that made it impossible for her to ride a populist wave, the party line has increasingly circled around blaming Vladimir Putin for her defeat.

Gareth Porter: Behind the real US strategic blunder in Syria (Middle East Eye)

President Barack Obama has long been under fire from the US national security elite and the media for failing to intervene aggressively against the Assad regime.
But the real strategic blunder was not that Barack Obama didn’t launch yet another war in Syria, but that he decided to go along with the ambitions of America’s Sunni allies to create and arm a Syrian opposition army to overthrow the regime in the first place.

Alan Nasser: The New (Cold?) War With China (CounterPunch)

Washington has recently initiated major war games in the neighborhoods and on the borders of Russia and China, the most intense martial exercises since the end of the Second World War. The old Cold War ante has been upped, and the danger of military confrontation between Washington and Russia and/or China looms large.

Poppy McPherson: ‘It will blow up’: fears Myanmar’s deadly crackdown on Muslims will spiral out of control (Guardian)

The authorities consider Rohingya to be illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, although many trace their heritage in Myanmar for generations. State media says they fabricated the rape allegations and burned down their own homes…
A recent report by Physicians for Human Rights documented how restrictions on movement, land confiscation, pervasive surveillance and extortion in northern Rakhine since the 2012 clashes had left some 120,000 displaced.

Oliver Holmes: Nobel laureates warn Aung San Suu Kyi over ‘ethnic cleansing’ of Rohingya (Guardian)

More than a dozen fellow Nobel laureates have criticised Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto leader, for a bloody military crackdown on minority Rohingya people, warning of a tragedy “amounting to ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity”.

Ramzy Baroud: Palestine 2017: Time to Bid Farewell to Washington and Embrace the Globe (CounterPunch)

There is no doubt that the UN Security Council condemnation of Israel on Friday, December 23, was an important and noteworthy event.
True, the United Nations’ main chambers (the Security Council and the General Assembly) and its various institutions, ranging from the International Court of Justice to the UN cultural agency, UNESCO, have repeatedly condemned the Israeli occupation, illegal Jewish settlements and mistreatment of Palestinians.
In fact, unlike the December 23 resolution 2334, the past UN condemnations were far stronger – for some resolutions did not just demand an immediate halt of illegal Jewish settlement construction, but the removal of existing settlements as well…
[W]hat makes this particular resolution important?
First, the US neither vetoed the resolution nor threatened to use its veto power; nor did it even seriously lobby, as it often does to soften the wording in advance.
Second, it is the first decisive and clear condemnation of Israel by the UN Security Council in nearly eight years – almost the entirety of President Barack Obama’s terms in office.
Third, the vote took place despite extraordinary Israeli pressure on the current US administration, on the forthcoming administration of Donald Trump and successful pressure on Egyptian President, Abdul Fatah al-Sisi. Indeed, Egypt delayed the vote, which was scheduled a day earlier, before New Zealand, Senegal, Malaysia and Venezuela stepped up and put the resolution to a vote, a day later…
The outcome of the vote was quite telling: 14 Security Council members voted ‘yes’, while the US abstained. The vote was followed by a rare sight at such meetings, a sustained applause, where countries that hardly agree on much, agreed full-heartedly on the justness of Palestinian aspirations and the rejection of Israeli practices…

EU imports 15 times more from illegal Israeli settlements than from Palestinians (Defend Democracy Press)

The European Union imports fifteen times more from Israel’s illegal settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory than from Palestinians themselves, a new report from a coalition of 22 non-governmental organisations including Caabu, Christian Aid UK and Ireland, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and Diakonia revealed today.

Israel/Palestine | USA | Syria

The Full Text of the UNSC Resolution on Israeli Settlements (Haaretz)

The Security Council, …
1. Reaffirms that the establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace;
2. Reiterates its demand that Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and that it fully respect all of its legal obligations in this regard;
3. Underlines that it will not recognize any changes to the 4 June 1967 lines, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties through negotiations;

Netanyahu said to curtail working ties with Security Council nations (Times of Israel)

In a further response to a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday reportedly ordered the Foreign Ministry to suspend all working ties with 12 of the countries that voted in favor of the decision…
Activities involving the embassies of Britain, France, Russia, China, Japan, Ukraine, Angola, Egypt, Uruguay, Spain, Senegal and New Zealand will be suspended, and the ambassadors of those countries will not be received at Israel’s Foreign Ministry, an official said.

Jack Khoury: Abbas: We’ve Waited and Now the World Has Spoken – Israel’s Settlements Are Illegitimate (Haaretz)
Amira Hass: The Hague: The Reason the Palestinians Are Jubilant and Israel Is Spooked (Haaretz via Google)

The fresh support from the Security Council could cause the prosecution in International Criminal Court to dare to move ahead from a preliminary examination to an investigation on the settlements…
The last time the Security Council passed a resolution condemning the Israeli settlements (in all the territories occupied in 1967 including the Syrian Golan Heights) and unanimously, with the U.S., was in March of 1980, Resolution 465. Then it was still calling for dismantling the settlements and exhorted both the government of Israel and the people of Israel to rescind the measures being taken for the establishment of new settlements. In Friday’s Resolution 2334 the demand to dismantle the settlements does not appear and the people of Israel are not addressed – only the government.
The 36 years that have elapsed and the differences between the two resolutions stress what is well-known: Especially in the Israeli context, these resolutions have no teeth but nevertheless the Palestinians are gleeful and Israel is seething.

Aluf Benn: Obama’s UN Vote on Israeli Settlements: Where Have You Been for 8 Years, Mr. President? (Haaretz via Google)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s court and the speakers of the Israeli right on Friday leveled insults at outgoing U.S. President Barack Obama, who allowed the UN Security Council to adopt Resolution 2334 against Israeli settlements.
The abuse and rage are unfair. Upon completing his tenure, Obama is worthy of honorary membership in the Yesha Council, the Israeli settlements’ umbrella organization, as well as the Likud Central Committee. His late support for the UN Security Council resolution, a moment before he packs up his bags turns over the keys to the White House to Donald Trump, is typical of his eight-year presidency, during which the U.S. effort to end the Israeli-Arab Conflict met its demise. 
Obama assumed the presidency with lofty declarations against the settlements, calling the Israeli-Palestinian peace an “American interest.” But beyond partial steps that achieved nothing and pointless speeches, he didn’t even once use his presidential clout to realize the two-state solution.

Stephen Lendman: Israel Defiantly Set to Approve Thousands More Illegal Settlement Units (Global Research)

James Carden: Why Are the Media Taking the CIA’s Hacking Claims at Face Value? (Nation)

The recent raft of unverified, anonymously sourced and circumstantial stories alleging that the Russian government interfered in the US presidential election with the aim of electing Republican Donald J. Trump shows that today too much of the media is all too happy to do overtly what the CIA had once paid it to do covertly: regurgitate the claims of the spy agency and attack the credibility of those who question it.

Jonathan Cook: Clinton’s Defeat and the Fake News Conspiracy (CounterPunch)

For weeks the CIA and other intelligence agencies have been making evidence-free claims that Russia was behind the release of embarrassing emails from the Democratic party leadership. The last hold-out against this campaign, James Comey, the head of the FBI, was reported late last week to have caved in and joined the anti-Putin camp…
Craig Murray, a former British ambassador turned whistleblower on British government collusion in torture, has said he personally received the leaked emails on behalf of Wikileaks. The data came, he said, not from Russian security agencies, or even from freelance Russian hackers, but from a disillusioned Democratic party insider. Russia experts in the US have similarly discounted the anti-Putin claims, as have former US intelligence agents.
But either way, what is being overlooked in the furore is that none of the information that has come to light about the Democratic party was false…
If Russia did indeed seek to influence the election by releasing truthful information that made Clinton and her allies look bad that would be far more legitimate interference than the US has engaged in against countless countries around the globe.

Glenn Greenwald: Anonymous Leaks to the WashPost About the CIA’s Russia Beliefs Are No Substitute for Evidence (Intercept)

There are many obvious reasons for skepticism about anonymous press leaks regarding Russia, but they are no match for partisan needs.

Patrick Cockburn: More Propaganda Than News Coming Out of Aleppo (CounterPunch)

It has just become more dangerous to be a foreign correspondent reporting on the civil war in Syria. This is because the jihadis holding power in east Aleppo were able to exclude Western journalists, who would be abducted and very likely killed if they went there, and replace them as news sources with highly partisan “local activists” who cannot escape being under jihadi control.

Europe | USA | Israel/Palestine

Glenn Greenwald: Growing Far-Right Nationalistic Movements Are Dangerously Anti-Muslim — and Pro-Israel (Intercept)

The specter of a growing far-right nationalism anywhere, but particularly in Central Europe, immediately — and for good and obvious reasons — raises fears of an anti-Semitism revival. But at least thus far, the leaders of most of these nationalistic parties — increasingly inspired and fueled by one another’s success — have showcased dangerous animosity toward Muslims, accompanied by strong policy support for Israel and a rhetorical repudiation of anti-Semitism…
Austria is the latest example of a far-right xenophobic party on the verge of obtaining what was, until quite recently, unthinkable power… Hofer demagogues animosity toward Muslims in all the standard ways: equating migrants with “jihadists,” warning of the “Islamification” of Europe, and pronouncing that “Islam is not a part of Austria.”
But not only does Hofer repudiate all anti-Semitism and insist it has no place in his party — he made news earlier this year by calling for the demolition of Hitler’s childhood home and his party sponsored “a New Anti-Semitism Conference” starring the Israeli spy who captured Adolf Eichmann — but the Freedom Party has, in the words of an expert cited by the NYT, “made it part of their strategy to draw closer to Israel.”…
Israeli officials have noticed the pro-Israel bent of Hofer’s posture and some have returned the sentiments of support. “They are one of the most pro-Israel parties in Europe,” proclaimed former Knesset member Michael Kleiner …
When Donald Trump named Steve Bannon as his White House chief strategist, some American Jewish groups (such as the Anti-Defamation League) objected by pointing to his flirtation with if not outright endorsement of anti-Semitic themes, but the most important U.S. group — AIPAC — has to this day not uttered a public word about Bannon.

Pamela Duncan: Europeans greatly overestimate Muslim population, poll shows (Guardian)

The average French estimate was that 31% of the population was Muslim – almost one in three residents. According to Pew Research, France’s Muslim population actually stood at 7.5% in 2010, or one in 13 people…
British respondents put the current Muslim population at 15%, three times the 2010 figure… In the US the average estimate was Muslims accounted for one in six people, whereas Pew put the actual figure at one in 100.

Micah Lee, Margot Williams: Drowning in information: NSA revelations from 262 spy documents (Intercept)

A national intelligence officer gave a top-secret “issue seminar” to NSA staff on the question of “where political action fades into terrorism,” according to a seminar announcement published in June 2004. The announcement suggested that the line between “legitimate political activity” and “activity that is the precursor to, or supportive of, terrorism” is fuzzy. The course used the Vienna-based organization Anti-Imperialist Camp as a case study, describing it as “ostensibly a political organization” but noting that “its many ties to terrorist organizations — and its attempts to collaborate with Muslim extremists — raise questions about where political action fades into terrorism.” No further details were given to substantiate the alleged ties; the group’s website remains online. A spokesperson for the group, Wilhelm Langthaler, told The Intercept that the group was targeted for such accusations for political reasons, including its opposition to the war in Iraq and “our public support for the resistance against occupation which we have compared with the antifascist resistance against German occupation.”

Julian Borger: Chinese warship seizes US underwater drone in international waters (Guardian)

The Chinese navy has seized an underwater drone in plain sight of the American sailors who had deployed it in international waters, in a seemingly brazen message to the incoming Trump administration.
According to a US defence official, the unmanned glider had come to the surface of the water in the South China Sea and was about to be retrieved by the USNS Bowditch, an oceanographic and surveillance ship, when a Chinese naval vessel that had been shadowing the Bowditch put a small boat in the water…
As China develops a strategic submarine fleet, with the potential to carry nuclear missiles out into the Pacific Ocean, the US has built up a monitoring network designed to spot Chinese submarines as they leave their bases. Drones are key to the network, and there is a race under way between major naval powers to develop drones that can work together in swarms and “see” long distances through the water. Underwater gliders are drones that can stay underwater on the lookout for submarines for long periods of time.

AP: China and US in talks over seized drone, officials say (Guardian)

The device was being operated by civilian contractors to conduct oceanic research, according to the Pentagon.

AP: Philippines to ‘set aside’ South China Sea tribunal ruling to avoid imposing on Beijing (Guardian)

The Philippine president has said he would “set aside” a ruling by an international arbitration tribunal that invalidated Beijing’s claims to most of the South China Sea, because he doesn’t want to impose on China.
“In the play of politics, now, I will set aside the arbitral ruling. I will not impose anything on China,” Rodrigo Duterte said at a news conference on Saturday.

Tom Phillips: Images show ‘significant’ Chinese weapons systems in South China Sea (Guardian)

China appears to have positioned “significant” weapons systems, including anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems, on all seven of the artificial islands it has built in the South China Sea, despite vowing it had no intention of militarising the archipelago, a US thinktank has claimed.

Xinhua: China says deployment of defensive facilities on South China Sea islands legitimate (Global Times)
Tom Phillips: ‘Friends forever’? China wary of Rex Tillerson wooing away Russia (Guardian)

Rex Tillerson’s controversial nomination as secretary of state has delighted Moscow where the Texan oilman has deep and long-standing ties. Donald Trump’s choice of the ExxonMobil chief was “100% good news” for Vladimir Putin, one opposition politician claimed.
But in Beijing, already reeling from Trump’s early forays into foreign policy, the move has inspired no such celebration, instead fuelling fears that the president-elect’s courtship of the Kremlin could be part of a bold strategic bid to isolate China.

John Pilger: The Coming War on China (movie; RT)

A nuclear war between the United States and China is not only imaginable but a current ‘contingency’, says the Pentagon. This film by acclaimed filmmaker John Pilger’s is both a warning and an inspiring story of resistance.
The Coming War on China, filmed over two years across five potential flashpoints in Asia and the Pacific, reveals the build-up to war on more than 400 US military bases that encircle China in a ‘perfect noose’.
Using rare archive and remarkable interviews with witnesses, Pilger’s film discloses America’s secret history in the region – the destruction wrought by the equivalent of one Hiroshima every day for 12 years, and the top secret ‘Project 4.1’ that made guinea pigs of the population of the Marshall Islands.

Matthew Rosenberg: Trump Chooses Hard-Liner as Ambassador to Israel (New York Times)

President-elect Donald J. Trump on Thursday named David M. Friedman, a bankruptcy lawyer aligned with the Israeli far right, as his nominee for ambassador to Israel, elevating a campaign adviser who has questioned the need for a two-state solution and has likened left-leaning Jews in America to the Jews who aided the Nazis in the Holocaust.

Peter Beaumont, Julian Borger: Donald Trump’s Israel ambassador is hardline pro-settler lawyer (Guardian)

Donald Trump has named as his ambassador to Israel a pro-settler lawyer who has described some US Jews as worse than concentration camp prisoner-guards.
David Friedman, a bankruptcy lawyer who represented the president-elect over his failing hotels in Atlantic City, served Trump’s advisory team on the Middle East. He has set out a number of hardline positions on Israeli-Palestinian relations, including fervent opposition to the two-state solution and strong support for an undivided Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
He has called President Barack Obama an antisemite and suggested that US Jews who oppose the Israeli occupation of the West Bank are worse than kapos, Nazi-era prisoners who served as concentration camp guards…
An indication of how Friedman views Israel came in a 16-point action plan he issued with another Trump adviser in November.

Chemi Shalev: David Friedman, Trump’s Radical-right Ambassador, Makes Netanyahu Look Like a J Street Lefty (Haaretz ~ Google News)

By Israeli standards, Donald Trump’s designated Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, is an extreme right-winger. He might find a place in the settler movement or with Naftali Bennett’s Habayit Hayehudi Party, but only on its right-wing fringes. He makes Benjamin Netanyahu seem like a left-wing defeatist. From where Friedman stands, most Israelis, never mind most American Jews, are more or less traitors.

David Schraub: The Grotesque anti-Semitic Turn of David Friedman, Trump’s Pick for Israel Ambassador (Haaretz)

You don’t even have to be a J Street fan to consider calling them ‘Kapos,’ as David Friedman has done, as disqualifying for such a symbolic post for the U.S. Jewish community…
Friedman has called Barack Obama an “anti-Semite” and contended that J Streeters are “far worse than Kapos.” He also asserted, in the course of advocating “allegiance” standards for Israel’s Muslim citizens, that “In the United States, advocating to overthrow the government by force or violence can get you life in prison” (No, it can’t). And of course, he’s an opponent of the two-state solution.

France orders clear labeling of goods from Israeli settlements (RT)

The French guidelines state that in accordance with Commission rules adopted in November 2015, importers must mark the precise place from which the goods originate and not mark them as products of Israel.
Regulations apply to products that originate in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, which are considered occupied territories under international law.
French authorities said that clearly marking the packaging is necessary to not mislead consumers. Goods originating from Palestinian territories must be marked for instance as originating from “the West Bank”, and then, in parenthesis, the package must also be labeled that it comes from “an Israeli settlement.”

Peter Walker: UK adopts antisemitism definition to combat hate crime against Jews (Guardian)
Letter (Guardian)

The new definition has nothing to do with opposing antisemitism, it is merely designed to silence public debate on Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians. Antisemitic incidents comprise about 2% of all hate crime. Why then the concentration on antisemitism and not on Islamophobia, which is far more widespread? The suspicion must be that the real concern is not with antisemitism but with Britain’s support for Israel…
We agree that it is antisemitic to associate Jews with the actions of the Israeli state. Unfortunately this is precisely what the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition will achieve through perpetuating the stereotype that all Jews support the Israeli state. The IHRA will strengthen not weaken antisemitism. There is a very simple definition of antisemitism from Oxford University’s Brian Klug. Antisemitism is “a form of hostility towards Jews as ‘Jews’.” The IHRA definition smuggles in anti-Zionism, in the guise of antisemitism, as a means of protecting the Israeli state and thus western foreign policy.

Israelis, Palestinians Among Most Enthusiastic Supporters of Torture, Red Cross Survey Says (Haaretz)

Only in Israel, Nigeria and the United States do more people advocate torture of an enemy combatant than oppose such behavior, according to a new survey by the International Red Cross.

Thailand | Brexit | Ethiopia | Israel/Palestine

Giles Ji Ungpakorn (ใจ อึ๊งภากรณ์ [tɕaj ʔɯ́ŋpʰaːkɔːn]): King Pumipon (Bhumibol) of Thailand (Uglytruth Thailand)

King Pumipon (p̣hūmiphala ภูมิพลอดุลยเดช [pʰuːmípʰon]) of Thailand was a weak and characterless monarch who spent his useless and privileged life in a bubble, surrounded by fawning, grovelling, toadies who claimed that he was a “god”… His life’s work was in self-enrichment, support for military regimes and the defence of inequality. He played a significant role in preventing democratic rights, the development of social justice and the fair and unbiased use of the law. He did this by legitimising all the worst government policies and atrocities committed by Thai rulers. In recent years he remained silent while more and more dissidents were jailed, under the draconian lèse majesté law, for merely speaking out against the destruction of democracy.

Giles Ji Ungpakorn: Wachiralongkorn should not be the future king. Thailand should be a republic (Uglytruth Thailand)
Thailand’s heir apparent Maha Vajiralongkorn raises fears – and eyebrows (Guardian)

Thailand’s Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn (มหาวชิราลงกรณ [máhǎː wáʨʰíraːloŋkɔːn]), a three-times divorced playboy who made his pet poodle an air chief marshal in the Thai military, poses perhaps the biggest challenge for both the country’s monarchists and its ruling junta in coming weeks, following the death of his father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

AFP: Who is Thailand’s 96-year-old regent? (Asia Times)

Former general and prime minister Prem Tinsulanonda (เปรม ติณสูลานนท์ [preːm tinnásǔːlaːnon]) … stormed up the army ranks during the Cold War and was promoted above his seniors to army chief in 1978.
Two years later, he assumed power in what was widely viewed as a silent coup endorsed by the king and queen…
Prem later led the Privy Council of late King Bhumibol Adulyadej — who died last Thursday after a 70-year reign — making him the monarch’s closest adviser and gatekeeper…
Both as prime minister in the 1980s and later as head of the Privy Council, Prem cemented the military’s self-designated role as protector of the monarchy through his remarkable relationship with Bhumibol.
“He was able to make the military into a mechanism for the monarchy but keep the military as a powerful institution in Thai politics,” Paul Chambers, an expert on Thailand’s military, told AFP…
Since the end of absolute monarchy in 1932, Thailand has seen 12 successful military coups.
Prem has instigated or had a hand in five of them, said Chambers.
The most recent came in 2014, toppling the democratically elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra, sister of telecoms billionaire and former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra who was himself ousted in a 2006 coup.

Alison Smale, Thomas Fuller: Thailand Looks to Likely Future King With Apprehension (New York Times)
Reuters: Thai royal defamation cases jump since king’s death (Asia Times)

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has moved quickly to quash any uncertainty around the royal succession, saying Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn would ascend the throne after a period of mourning that he had requested.
Insulting the monarch, the regent or the heir, known by the French-language term “lèse-majesté”, is a crime in Thailand that carries a jail sentence of up to 15 years for each case.
Police spokesman Kitsana Pattanacharoen said there had been 12 lèse-majesté cases since last Thursday, with arrest warrants issued for eight suspects and four already in police custody.
“Their crime was posting messages or pictures which insulted the monarchy on social media,” he told Reuters.
There were 70 cases in the two-and-a-half years from a May 2014 coup up to last Thursday, said Weerawat Somnuek, a researcher at Thai legal monitoring group iLaw.

Colombia referendum: Voters reject Farc peace deal (BBC)

Voters in Colombia have rejected a landmark peace deal with Farc rebels in a shock referendum result, with 50.2% voting against it.
The deal was signed last week by President Juan Manuel Santos and Farc leader Timoleon Jimenez after nearly four years of negotiations.

Mona Mahmood and Emma Graham-Harrison: Mosul civilians brace for assault as Iraq forces bid to retake Isis stronghold (Guardian)

Hundreds of thousands of civilians are bracing themselves for the start of an Iraqi army campaign to retake Mosul from Isis, which they fear will bring “the whole world” to fight over their city.
Militants have banned civilians from leaving the city, and have set up checkpoints on roads out and blown up the homes of those who do flee as punishment and to deter others.

Patrick Cockburn: This Battle for Mosul Will Not Be the Last (CounterPunch)

The Iraqi government and its allies may eventually capture Mosul from Isis, but this could be just a new chapter in the war.
It will only win because of the devastating firepower of the US-led air forces and sheer weight of numbers. But the fight for the city is militarily and politically complex. The Iraqi army, Kurdish Peshmerga, Shia Hashd al-Shaabi and Sunni fighters from Mosul and Nineveh province, which make up the anti-Isis forces, suspect and fear each other almost as much as they hate Isis.

Tallha Abdulrazaq: Mosul will fall again, but at great cost (AlJazeera)

The battle for Mosul will be long and the city’s remaining 1.5 million civilians will bear the brunt.

Robert Fisk: After Mosul Falls, ISIS will Flee to Syria. Then What? (CounterPunch)

Syria’s army and Hezbollah and Iranian allies are preparing for a massive invasion by thousands of Isis fighters who will be driven out of Iraq when Mosul falls. The real purpose behind the much-trumpeted US-planned “liberation” of the Iraqi city, the Syrian military suspect, is to swamp Syria with the hordes of Isis fighters who will flee their Iraqi capital in favour of their “mini-capital” of Raqqa inside Syria itself.

Gary Leupp: An Urgently Necessary Briefing on Syria (CounterPunch)

Thomas Mountain: Revolutionary Islam and Regime Change in Ethiopia (CounterPunch)

With ethnic uprisings spreading across an Ethiopia now ruled by martial law there is only one nationally based organization in place to lead the eventual regime change in the country and that is the revolutionary Islamic movement.
Presently all the liberation resistance movements in Ethiopia are ethnically based with their senior leadership in exile, mainly in neighboring Eritrea. The only organization with a national presence is the revolutionary Islamic religious community, whose recently freed leaders have sworn to liberate Ethiopia from the western backed Tigrayan ethnic minority regime presently ruling the country.

Samir Amin: Brexit and the EU Implosion: National Sovereignty—For What Purpose? (Monthly Review)

The defense of national sovereignty, like its critique, leads to serious misunderstandings once one detaches it from the social class content of the strategy in which it is embedded. The leading social bloc in capitalist societies always conceives sovereignty as a necessary instrument for the promotion of its own interests based on both capitalist exploitation of labor and the consolidation of its international positions.

Chris Welzenbach: The Dreadful Chronology of Gaddafi’s Murder (CounterPunch)

Gideon Levy: Peace Is Justice, and Justice Doesn’t Need a Partner (Haaretz, behind pay wall; also via Google News) / אין פרטנר (Haaretz; also via Google News)

Israel is not in a position to demand a partner in order to end the occupation. It must end the occupation. It has no right to make demands before doing so.

Syria | USA | Israel/Palestine

Liu Xiangrui: Witness to history (China Daily)

Isabel Crook has spent decades in China closely observing major events.
The 101-year-old Chinese-born Isabel Crook is among the country’s early foreign educators.
In her long years here, first as a child of a Canadian missionary family in Southwest China’s Sichuan province, and then as a teacher, Crook has witnessed many events: the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1937-45), the civil war, the founding of New China, the “cultural revolution” (1966-76) and China’s reforms since the ’70s.

Juan Cole: US breaks off Military Cooperation with Russia in Syria (Informed Comment)
On 9 September the US and Russia had reached an ceasefire agreement to be implemented for 48 hours and capable of being renewed twice. If it extended to 7 days, the US would have implemented full coordination with Russia in fighting Daesh (ISIL, ISIS) and the al-Qaeda-linked Levant Conquest Front. But the Syrian regime announced the end of the truce on 19 Sepetmeber and since that time it has launched round after round of heavy aerial bombing of rebel-held East Aleppo. Hundreds of civilians have been killed, including women and children.

Ben Carroll: As state ramps up repression, #CharlotteUprising pushes forward (Workers World)

Rebellion broke out in Charlotte on Sept. 20 after police murdered a Black, disabled man, Keith Lamont Scott, as he waited in his truck to pick up his child from the school bus. During protests the next night, rubber bullets fired into a crowd by cops killed a 26-year-old Black man, Justin Carr. The police have since framed up another Black man, Rayquan Borum, for the murder. Charlotte Uprising has called for an independent people’s investigation into Carr’s death.

Fred Goldstein: Charlotte Uprising pushes back the state (Workers World)
Roger R. Harris: Trump is the Symptom, Clinton is the Disease (CounterPunch)

First, the ruling elites find Trump untrustworthy to carry their water. Maybe Trump will come around on “free trade” issues or maybe he won’t. But with Clinton they have a proven faithful servant
Second, Wall Street understands that not only will Clinton be more compliant, but she will also be better at legitimizing their class rule. Trump with his open chauvinism and nativism would be too obvious and could provoke a greater resistance to the neoliberal project. It’s not that the ruling elites are squeamish about racism and imperialism, but they are adverse about making it so plainly obvious…
Given the logic of the lesser-of-two-evils voting, these citizens have no recourse but to suck it up as Clinton rushes to the right to woo the remnants of the Republican Party…
But what will the prospects be after four years of Clinton’s police and security state, imperial wars without end, austerity for working people, and free money bonuses for Wall Street? …
Jill Stein, the Green Party presidential candidate succinctly sums it up: “[voting for] the lesser evil paves the way for the greater evil.”

Eric Draitser: Hillary and the Clinton Foundation: Exemplars of America’s Political Rot (CounterPunch)
Andrew J. Bacevich: Would our presidential Candidates start a Nuclear War? They won’t answer. (Informed Comment)

With regard to the issue of “first use,” every president since Harry Truman has subscribed to the same posture: the United States retains the prerogative of employing nuclear weapons to defend itself and its allies against even nonnuclear threats. In other words, as a matter of policy, the United States rejects the concept of “no first use,” which would prohibit any employment of nuclear weapons except in retaliation for a nuclear attack…

Zaid Jilani: Benjamin Netanyahu Added 100,000 Settlers. Now the U.S. Rewards Him With Largest Aid Package Ever (Intercept)
Chloe Benoist: Death in numbers: A year of violence in the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel (Ma’an News)

In October 2015 began what has been in turn called a wave of unrest, a Palestinian upheaval, or even the “Jerusalem Intifada.” Whatever the name, the past year has seen an intensification of deadly violence in the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel.
Over the course of the year, Ma’an has collected data regarding every person who has died as part of this latest chapter in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In total, Ma’an has recorded the death of 274 individuals from Oct. 1, 2015, to Sept. 30, 2016. Of these dead, 235 were Palestinians (85.8 percent of deaths), 34 were Israeli (12.4 percent), and five (1.8 percent) were foreign nationals — two Americans, one Eritrean, one Sudanese, and one Jordanian.