Israel’s right, cheering Donald Trump’s win, renews calls to abandon two-state solution

The New York Times reports: Emboldened by the Republican sweep of last week’s American elections, right-wing members of the Israeli government have called anew for the abandonment of a two-state solution to the conflict with the Palestinians.

“The combination of changes in the United States, in Europe and in the region provide Israel with a unique opportunity to reset and rethink everything,” Naftali Bennett, Israel’s education minister and the leader of the pro-settlement Jewish Home party, told a gathering of the Foreign Press Association in Jerusalem on Monday.

Mr. Bennett, who advocates annexing 60 percent of the occupied West Bank to Israel, exulted on the morning after Donald J. Trump’s victory: “The era of a Palestinian state is over.”

That sentiment was only amplified when Jason Greenblatt, a lawyer and co-chairman of the Trump campaign’s Israel Advisory Committee, told Israel’s Army Radio that Mr. Trump did not consider West Bank settlements to be an obstacle to peace, in a stark reversal of longstanding American policy. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Syrian rebels brace for a Trump cutoff, and look for a silver lining

The New York Times reports: The hours are ticking down to what the Syrian government and its main ally, Russia, say could be the most devastating aerial assault yet on besieged rebel-held districts in the Syrian city of Aleppo.

The Obama administration has offered no military lifeline even to rebel groups it has vetted and backed.

But Donald J. Trump, the American president-elect, has gone a step further, at least in his remarks, suggesting that he will end all support to rebels and perhaps even treat the Syrian and Russian governments as allies in the fight against the Islamic State.

Some rebels and civilian supporters say such a move might not make much practical difference, and would at least put the American position out in the open, instead of hiding it behind condemnations of Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president.

Seeking a silver lining, some rebels express hope that American allies like Saudi Arabia and Turkey would then go it alone and defy United States orders not to provide more sophisticated weapons to rebels — though in the short term, such a cutoff could mean losing supplies of American antitank guided missiles. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

U.S. fingerprints on attacks obliterating Yemen’s economy

The New York Times reports: For decades, Mustafa Elaghil’s family produced snack foods popular in Yemen, chips and corn curls in bright packaging decorated with the image of Ernie from “Sesame Street.”

But over the summer, a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia sent warplanes over Yemen and bombed the Elaghils’ factory. The explosion destroyed it, setting it ablaze and trapping the workers inside.

The attack killed 10 employees and wiped out a business that had employed dozens of families.

“It was everything for us,” Mr. Elaghil said.

The Saudi-led coalition has bombed Yemen for the last 19 months, trying to oust a rebel group aligned with Iran that took control of the capital, Sana, in 2014. The Saudis want to restore the country’s exiled president, Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who led an internationally recognized government more aligned with its interests.

But instead of defeating the rebels, the campaign has sunk into a grinding stalemate, systematically obliterating Yemen’s already bare-bones economy. The coalition has destroyed a wide variety of civilian targets that critics say have no clear link to the rebels.

It has hit hospitals and schools. It has destroyed bridges, power stations, poultry farms, a key seaport and factories that produce yogurt, tea, tissues, ceramics, Coca-Cola and potato chips. It has bombed weddings and a funeral.

The bombing campaign has exacerbated a humanitarian crisis in the Arab world’s poorest country, where cholera is spreading, millions of people are struggling to get enough food, and malnourished babies are overwhelming hospitals, according to the United Nations. Millions have been forced from their homes, and since August, the government has been unable to pay the salaries of most of the 1.2 million civil servants. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

China threatens to cut sales of iPhones and U.S. cars if ‘naive’ Trump pursues trade war

The Guardian reports: US president-elect Donald Trump would be a “naive” fool to launch an all-out trade war against China, a Communist party-controlled newspaper has claimed.

During the acrimonious race for the White House Trump repeatedly lashed out at China, vowing to punish Beijing with “defensive” 45% tariffs on Chinese imports and to officially declare it a currency manipulator.

“When they see that they will stop the cheating,” the billionaire Republican, who has accused Beijing of “the greatest theft in the history of the world”, told a rally in August.

On Monday the state-run Global Times warned that such measures would be a grave mistake.

“If Trump wrecks Sino-US trade, a number of US industries will be impaired. Finally the new president will be condemned for his recklessness, ignorance and incompetence,” the newspaper said in an editorial.

The Global Times claimed any new tariffs would trigger immediate “countermeasures” and “tit-for-tat approach” from Beijing.

“A batch of Boeing orders will be replaced by Airbus. US auto and iPhone sales in China will suffer a setback, and US soybean and maize imports will be halted. China can also limit the number of Chinese students studying in the US.”

“Making things difficult for China politically will do him no good,” the newspaper warned. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Swedish Nazi group hails Trump in largest demo yet

The Local reports: Sweden’s neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement (NMR) mounted the biggest march in its history on Saturday, with its leadership saying the election of Donald Trump in the US marked the start of a world revolution.

Five people were arrested and two were injured in Stockholm on Saturday as an estimated 600 far-right demonstrators marched from the central Kungsträdgården park to Mynttorget, the square where Sweden’s parliament is based in historic Gamla Stan.

“A number of people have been held. They were aggressive at one of our barriers,” Kjell Lindgren, a press spokesman for the Stockholm police said. He said that police had registered two cases of violent rioting, which carries a maximum four-year sentence. At least twenty others were detained for the duration of the march.

The NMR, set up in 1997, promotes an openly racist and anti-Semitic doctrine, and press commentators had questioned the wisdom of authorising Saturday’s rally, given the likelihood of violence. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Marine Le Pen says she and Donald Trump are building ‘a new world’

BuzzFeed reports: The far-right leader of the French National Front, Marine Le Pen, has hailed Donald Trump’s victory in the US election and claimed they are both part of a “new world” being built in the wake of Brexit.

Le Pen was interviewed on The Andrew Marr Show on Remembrance Sunday – a move which has angered critics of Le Pen’s right-wing nationalist politics and provoked protests outside the BBC studio.

The National Front leader said June’s Brexit vote and Trump’s victory had boosted her chances of winning the French election next year, saying the votes had “made possible what had previously been presented as impossible”.

Le Pen frequently echoed Trump by criticising worldwide “elites” and went on to predict the European Union would disintegrate if each member state were to hold a referendum on membership. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Russian warships arrive off Syrian coast ahead of ‘final’ assault on Aleppo

The Telegraph reports: A flotilla of Russian warships arrived off the coast of Syria on Saturday, readying for a large-scale land and sea assault on the city of Aleppo.

The eight-strong battle group, led by Moscow’s only aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov and accompanied by a nuclear-powered missile cruiser, had provocatively travelled through the English Channel to reach the eastern Mediterranean.

Sergei Artamonov, commander of the Kuznetsov, confirmed to Russia-1 television station via videolink on Saturday that aircraft were already taking off from the ship’s deck for reconnaissance flights.

“Flights are being carried out from the deck… they are working on coordination with the shore port,” he said.

Asked whether foreign aircraft were flying over the ships, Vladislav Malakhovsky, commander of the Peter the Great missile cruiser, said: “they are afraid to come closer than 50 kilometres away, realising very well how powerful the nuclear cruiser is.”

The warships will be deployed to the Mediterranean for at least six months, the pro-government Syrian website al-Masdar News reported, quoting a military source. [Continue reading…]

The New York Times reports: The United Nations implored all sides in the Syria conflict on Thursday to allow food deliveries to rebel-held eastern Aleppo, where roughly 250,000 residents, under siege for months, just received their last rations.

Russia appeared to reject the plea.

“I don’t think anybody wants a quarter of a million people to be starving in east Aleppo,” Jan Egeland, the United Nations official in charge of a humanitarian task force for Syria, told reporters at the organization’s Geneva headquarters.

Food supplies have not been replenished in eastern Aleppo since mid-July, Mr. Egeland said. “The last food rations are being distributed as we speak,” he said. “There will not be more to distribute next week.” [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Sidney Blumenthal: Donald Trump won the election as a result of an FBI ‘coup d’état’

Sidney Blumenthal, former aide to President Bill Clinton and long-time confidant to Hillary Clinton, was interviewed on Friday on Nieuwsuur (News Hour) which is broadcast on Dutch public television. The introduction is in Dutch but the interview itself is in English.

Blumenthal says the decisive intervention in the election by FBI Director James Comey “was the result of a cabal of right-wing agents of the FBI in the New York office attached to Rudy Giuliani who was a member of Trump’s campaign and I think it’s not unfair to call it a ‘coup’.”

 

“Trump has positioned himself to be Vladimir Putin’s junior partner… His policy is consistently pro-Putin and I think that we will see, if his rhetoric is made into reality, that American foreign policy since the end of World War Two will be overthrown.”

The New York Times reports: Hillary Clinton on Saturday cast blame for her surprise election loss on the announcement by the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, days before the election that he had revived the inquiry into her use of a private email server.

In her most extensive remarks since she conceded the race to Donald J. Trump early Wednesday, Mrs. Clinton told donors on a 30-minute conference call that Mr. Comey’s decision to send a letter to Congress about the inquiry 11 days before Election Day had thrust the controversy back into the news and had prevented her from ending the campaign with an optimistic closing argument.

“There are lots of reasons why an election like this is not successful,” Mrs. Clinton said, according to a donor who relayed the remarks. But, she added, “our analysis is that Comey’s letter raising doubts that were groundless, baseless, proven to be, stopped our momentum.” [Continue reading…]

Suppose the Clinton campaign had stayed on track and there had been no FBI intervention. It seems much more likely than not, that Clinton would have won.

That campaign would now be a subject of analysis in which pundits were describing the keys to its success, alongside the reasons Trump had failed.

In other words, it’s easy to picture two versions of the Clinton campaign that are virtually identical, the only significant difference being on whether the FBI had stepped in.

Even though it’s reasonable to point out that the FBI would never have got involved in the first place had it not been for Clinton’s ill-judged decision to set up a private email server, that mistake itself didn’t appear to be an obstacle to her election until the FBI willfully reawakened it as a campaign issue.

Facebooktwittermail

After Trump win, parallel path is seen for Marine Le Pen of France’s far right

The New York Times reports: It was a moment of intense French patriotism on a sunny Friday, Armistice Day. A band blared “La Marseillaise,” the national anthem. Shouts of “Vive la France!” filled the chilly November air. And there, too, was Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front party, beaming.

Before Donald J. Trump’s presidential victory in the United States this week, Ms. Le Pen was considered a disruptive political force but far from a true threat to become president herself when France votes next spring. Not anymore.

Since Wednesday, French news outlets, along with Ms. Le Pen’s mainstream political rivals, have been repeating the same thing: It could happen here.

And Ms. Le Pen is not alone. From the Balkans to the Netherlands, politicians on the far right have greeted the election of Mr. Trump with unrestrained delight and as a radical reconfiguring of the political landscape — not just in the United States, but in Europe as well.

They are seeing it as a sign that their time has finally arrived, and that the politics of heightened nationalism, immigrant-bashing and anti-globalization have overturned the pro-globalization, pro-immigration consensus. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

This is who we are

Vann R Newkirk II writes: You learn a lot about America on its country roads.

My education came under the tutelage of my father, a man who taught me his love for driving through the South. There’s a beauty in the neat tobacco rows on Highway 64 and the tall, quiet sentinel trees on 87. With mouths full of sunflower seeds, my daddy would quiz me on each plant, animal, and landmark we passed, and I picked up both his habits of driving and cataloguing the things that made us Southern, black, and whole.

But things ain’t always beautiful, and I learned those too. One hot summer afternoon, taking the 74 east from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Elizabethtown in my daddy’s black Toyota truck, a man ran us off the road. We skidded on the dirt shoulder as the man sped on past, his Confederate battle flag license plate a final insult to our situation. The bile rose in my throat, and the hot anger and shame at the symbol made my skin prickle. Here was a man who could just be a jerk having a bad day, but whose choice of a single symbol suddenly made that bad day personal. My dad just cussed a little bit, put another handful of sunflower seeds in his mouth, and continued on our way down that road.

At a gas station just outside of Rockingham, serendipity found us. As we pulled up to the pump, just there in front of our car was Mr. Confederate Plate, leaning like all villains do against the side of his car. I’m not sure who recognized whom first, but I remember the shouting match, and Mr. Confederate Flag calling my father the one name he would never answer to, looking at me and saying the same, and then pantomiming that he had a gun in the car. I remember looking around at similar flags on another truck and inside the gas station, and knowing instinctively that we were not in friendly territory. I also remember my father shaking with rage and that same hot shame as my own when he climbed back in the truck.

After another cussing fit, Vann Newkirk, Sr. looked at me and said the thing that’s always stuck with me since. “This is who we are,” he told me. “Don’t forget.” And we went back down the road.

This is who we are. Those words often come to me when I see the ugly things in life now. When the first details about Tamir Rice’s death at the hands of police officers came to me on Twitter, they were a scream in the dark. When people questioned with straight faces if our president was even born in America, they echoed about my ears. When the Department of Justice report revealed that Ferguson, Missouri was a racial kleptocracy, they were a whisper in the wind.

When a man who was accused of multiple sexual assaults, was endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan, characterized Mexican immigrants as “rapists,” and promoted stop and frisk as a national campaign of “law and order” was elected president, they boomed like thunder. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Doors slam shut for Afghan refugees

In an editorial, the New York Times says: Pakistan is turning them back. Thousands who spent their life savings on a bid to resettle in Europe are being told it’s time to head home. Inside Afghanistan, tens of thousands have become internally displaced in recent months as fighting between the Taliban and government security forces rages in several provinces. The refugee crisis could reach unprecedented numbers, with as many as 1.5 million returning home, many involuntarily, by the end of the year, according to humanitarian organizations.

Yet, there is no plan to adequately address this humanitarian emergency. Its scale and the international community’s dismissive attitude toward the plight of vulnerable Afghans is shameful. Pakistan, home to 1.3 million registered Afghan refugees and some 700,000 undocumented Afghans, has begun to crack down on those refugees living in the country without permission. By the end of this year, as many as 360,000 could be forced to return to Afghanistan, if current rates hold, according to the United Nations refugee agency. This year’s number of returnees is about four times higher than last year’s.

Among those caught in Pakistan’s toughening stance is Sharbat Gula, the subject of a famous photo that was published on a cover of National Geographic magazine in 1985. That photo was taken at a refugee camp in Pakistan when she was about 12. Ms. Gula, now in her 40s, was recently arrested and deported back to Afghanistan because she had been living in Pakistan without legitimate papers.

As Afghans become ever more hopeless about the future of their country, a rising number have set out on long and perilous journeys to Europe. Last year, 213,000 Afghans made it to Europe, where leaders have been grappling with the even larger influx of Syrians. While Syrians are not being forced to return home, European leaders last month struck a deal with the government of Afghanistan to establish a mechanism for the return of tens of thousands of Afghans who have failed to get asylum or legal residency in Europe. Under the deal, the Afghan government agreed to accept even citizens who fear for their safety if they were to return home.

Those who go back home, often having spent all their money on smugglers, face grinding poverty and violence. Within the country, about 221,000 Afghans fled their homes between January and August, according to the United Nations. For many, the only option is to pitch a tent in one of the country’s bulging and poorly serviced refugee camps.

The United Nations refugee agency has been making desperate pleas to donors for more assistance as winter approaches. Last month, it said it needed $181 million to cover basic operations in the months ahead. Fulfilling that need immediately is the least the international community can do. Beyond that, it will need to rethink its long-term approach to Afghan refugees and how to resettle more abroad in the years ahead. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

For Europe, Trump’s election is a terrifying disaster

Clemens Wergin writes: No one in Europe truly believed Americans would elect someone who seems so obviously unfit to lead the most powerful nation in the world. And yet, that is precisely what has happened, and now, across the Continent, people are trying to figure out what this will mean. Many fear that Donald J. Trump’s election might mean the end of the West as we know it.

To be fair, from Europe’s perspective, the West was already on shaky ground. Russia is barking at our borders. The war in Syria has unleashed a huge wave of migration that is challenging our identities and fueling a right-wing backlash. Britain has already voted to become the first country to leave the European Union, an institution that seems in danger of unraveling.

But Mr. Trump’s election poses a new systemic and strategic risk. For seven decades, a politically stable United States has been a beacon of democracy and a cornerstone of the liberal world order. When democracy was seriously threatened in Europe, the United States stepped in and stopped the tide of authoritarianism. But now the United States itself has elected a demagogue who seems to have authoritarian tendencies and whose proposals — if he follows through on them — will have huge and disastrous consequences from Lisbon to Kiev.

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany knows how grave the situation is. As she congratulated Mr. Trump on his victory on Wednesday, she also lectured him on the elements of liberal democracy that form the basis of the American-European relations. “Germany and America are bound by their values: democracy, freedom, the respect for the law and the dignity of human beings, independent of their origin, skin color, religion, gender, sexual orientation or political position,” Ms. Merkel said. “On the basis of these values I offer the future president of the United States, Donald Trump, close cooperation.” [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail