Israel closes main Gaza crossing point upping blockade on the region

Israel has shut the main cargo crossing between itself and Gaza in retaliation of Palestinian acts including the Great march of return.

Only humanitarian goods such as food and medicine will be allowed through Kerem Shalom but with Palestinians already struggling desperately the increase to the siege with undoubtedly result in more deaths in the region.

The restrictions will stop 70% of goods moving across the crossing.

A Hamas spokesman called the Israeli move “a new crime against humanity”

The move is in response to the Great march to return which resulted in a ignition of violence with Israel shooting 15,000 Palestinians killing over 130. Palestinians responded with incendiary balloons that have burned 2600 hectares of land in Israel.

Israel will also stop Gazan fisherman sailing more than six nautical miles offshore in the Mediterranean Sea, a reduction of 3 miles. More than a million people in Gaza are “moderately-to-severely food insecure”, according to the UN and the fishing restrictions will only exacerbate the food scarcity. The UN says if the limit were lifted, fishing could provide employment and a cheap source of protein for the people of Gaza.

Israel has already come under criticism this month for its demolition of the town of Khan al-Ahmar leading to Labour MP Wes Streeting to call for targetted economic sanctions against Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

Mr Streeting, who is a supporter of Labour Friends of Israel, said:

“What’s happening is a deliberate policy intention of the current Israeli government, which has no concern or regard for a two-state solution and simply wants to expand illegal settlements.”

Israeli settlements in the West Bank are illegal but the international community turns a blind eye to Israeli violations of international law.

Streeting continued to say that Israel was “grossly infringing on the human rights of Palestinians”

Refugee Crisis Threatens Collapse of German Government

The Christian Union. A staunch alliance of the CDU and CSU, the bastion of German conservatism that has dominated the Bundestag since the days of West Germany. Yet last week, a fracture emerged; the refugee crisis threatened to devour this special relationship, initiating the collapse of the coalition. Horst Seehofer, the CSU leader and Interior Minister, demanded migrant holding centres in response to public backlash against Merkel’s open border policy. An agreement for a 48 hour screening of migrants to send them back to their country of registration calmed this heated rift in the political sphere. Yet this split in German politics threatens to turn German policy away from the open borders they have sought to sustain. And it has the power to transform migrant policy across the continent – bringing down Schengen with it.

Germany has absorbed more refugees than any other EU nation since the wave of Middle Eastern and North African migration began. With 12mn Germans expelled from Eastern Europe following the fall of the Nazis, Merkel has sought to recreate the culture of acceptance that enabled these Germans to settle elsewhere. Yet with over 1mn people having flooded into its borders, Merkel’s belief in ‘Wir Schaffen Das’ – We Can Do It – is being placed under increasing strain. And since they enter largely through the Southern States, it is this geographical asymmetry in disruption caused by migrants that has fuelled the divide in the Christian Union.

German law forbids the two parties from competing in the same states – with Merkel’s CDU taking the Northern regions, leaving the South to the CSU. Yet it is these Southern states who have been most hostile to refugees, and are most susceptible to the anti-immigration rhetoric of the AfD. Seehofer resigned as Minister President of Bavaria following a 10% slump in the 2017 election, a result of voter dissent with the influx of migrants. Merkel’s open border policy was causing serious damage to her ally’s electoral performance, driving Mr Seehofer towards a nationalist, anti-immigration solution to refugee integration.

Whilst the ‘Deutschland Drama’ between Merkel and Seehofer has never been short of conflict, such political rumblings remained merely background noise as Merkel rose to the premier of Europe. Yet now, the enormity of the divide on the migrant issue has shaken the conservative bloc. Seehofer is symbolic of German nationalism, imitating the AfD in his belief that “Islam does not belong in Germany”. Threatening to take Merkel’s insistence on open borders to the German Constitutional Court, Seehofers’ alignment is moving further from traditional conservatism and towards radical nationalism in an attempt to appease voters. The resolution for a 48 hour screening is but a temporary peace in a long war. Courting Merkel’s foes including Orban and Putin, Seehofer has proven a thorn in the Cabinet whose actions imperil the solidity of the Conservative bloc, ever since its last brief split in 1976.

If Germany does succumb to Seehofer and the AfD’s pressure, the post-war European project for freedom of movement is at risk of total disintegration. Unilateral German action could ignite a flame of border controls across Europe. Both Italy and Austria have threatened border controls following the Interior Ministers demands, with Austrian premier Sebastian Kurz declaring “full confidence in Seehofer’s words”. Schengen has been symbolic of European unity, replacing a fractured continent from centuries of war with an integrated system of peace. Yet the shock of the refugee crisis is the most significant test of European harmony to date.

The survival of Schengen rests in Germany’s hands. Whilst Germany may not yield the dominance it used to, its actions still send shockwaves across the continent. This test of the Christian Union, the backbone of German politics, is not yet over. If borders are tightened in Germany, the founding European principle of freedom of movement may crumble. Political struggle in Germany has the power to determine the future of European unity; only an open and accepting stance can protect it.

Socialist Sanchez can clense Spain’s rotten political scene

It was only last year when Pedro Sánchez, the new Spanish PM, won back his role as the leader of the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE). No one in his party or anywhere in Spain could ever imagine that months later he would be named prime minister. The former right government were swamped by indignation from a Spanish society completely disgruntled by corruption cases in within the Popular Party.

Mariano Rajoy, who served as PM for seven years, struggled all this time to shield himself from the stain of corruption but was unable to endure the political anger after Spain’s highest criminal court found his party had benefited from an enormous and illegal contracts scheme, known as the Gürtel case. Mr Rajoy was forced out with a successful no-confidence motion and Pedro Sánchez now leads the Spanish government with just 84 deputies (176 are needed for a majority) and he is doing so despite being the first prime minister in Spain’s history who is not also a deputy in Congress.

Sánchez resigned from his seat two years ago because he refused to take part in Rajoy’s investiture session. He did not want to follow his party’s decision to abstain from the vote but he did not wish to vote against his party either. It was a draining and bloody feud that divided the Spanish Socialists deeply and saw Sánchez expelled as the leader of the PSOE.

It is obvious Sánchez has an iron will. He is proven to be resilient and perseverant when all the odds stood against him. He is going to need that will if he is to govern until 2020. In his first interview since his inauguration on June 2, Sánchez said that the decision not to call early elections is founded on the need to “normalise” the country’s political life but his opponents claim he is going to try to implement his own policies even though doesn’t have the parliamentary majority.

There is no rule for what should happen after a no-confidence motion but surely his first job should be trying to repair the social and institutional damage done by the corruption of the former PP government so we are ready for a more stable general election in the future. His time won’t be easy. The Catalan crisis is still unsolved. His government is going to have to accommodate the very different demands of the parties that backed his motion and in a party level, he needs to convince the socialist supporters that he is the right candidate for the job. PSOE is showing signs of recovering in the polls but still far away from the Popular Party despite all the corruption, despite everything else.

Internationally it is a good opportunity for Spain to find its place after years of non-existent presence from Mr Rajoy. A firm believer in the European Union, Sánchez has assembled a strongly pro-European cabinet to the delight of Brussels. His economic minister is a former budget general director for the European Commission and his foreign minister is a former head of the European Parliament.

The new government wants to push for deeper integration in Europe and sees France, more than Germany, as it’s best ally to deeply reform the migration policies and tackle the so much needed reform of the euro. Spain is looking forward to strengthening its position in the EU, especially with Brexit around the corner. The final goal is to show the EU that Spain can be a reliable member ready to become the voice of the European south. His orders to welcome in Valencia more than 600 refugees was not only a humanitarian duty but also an opportunity to show the EU his government is the complete opposite of Italy’s new populist leaders. A change of air in the Spanish rotten political scene. Only time will tell for how long the new prime minister will be able to hold onto power for but for now, it is good news to be able to smell something more than corruption in Spain.

Turkish Elections: Polls close in controversial election

Turkish voters turned up to the polls today in the country’s most hard-fought election in years.

They will decide whether to grant President Recep Tayyip Erdogan a second five-year term or vote in opposition candidate, the centre-left Muharrem İnce.

The election was called by Erdogan, a year ahead of schedule, as he looks to cement his power. The role of Turkish president was once ceremonial, but whoever wins this election will inherit new controversial powers narrowly accepted by the Turkish public in a constitutional referendum last year, which was marred by claims of electoral fraud.

Some fear similar tactics will ruin this election with Erdogan being filmed at a party meeting, urging supporters to do “special work” to defeat the opposition.

The president will now directly appoint top public officials, including ministers and vice-presidents. They will also have the power to intervene in the country’s legal system and impose a state of emergency. The role of Prime Minister will also be scrapped.

Critics have expressed concern over lack of checks and balances, with some accusing Erdogan of trying to impose one-man rule. His rival candidates have said they will not adopt these changes.

A key topic of this election is money. Turkey is currently in the middle of an economic slump with inflation rates north of 10%, and a huge fall in the value of lira, the Turkish currency, has left many voters demanding change.

Parliamentary elections will run side-by-side with the presidential poll and any dent into the majority AKP, Erdogan’s party hold in the 600-seat assembly could have a major impact.

Early polls suggest Erdogan is likely to win a second term, though thousands of voters turned out in Istanbul on Saturday in support of opposition leader Muharrem İnce. At the unprecedented rally he addressed the crowd saying: “Turkey’s hopes will be revived. This is going to be a united Turkey.”

The former physics teacher has pledged to restore the rule of law in Turkey and end the prosecution of dissidents and journalists. The country has been under has been under a state of emergency since 2016 after a failed coup led by the military. Over 107,000 public servants and soldiers dismissed from their jobs, and more than 160,000 detained according to the UN.

Whatever the result Turkey’s political landscape will be dramatically changed.

The road to Zimbabwe’s 2018 election

Image result for zimbabwe elections 2018

President Emerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa is a notorious figure in the politics of Zimbabwe. Commonly referred to as the ‘Crocodile’, he is known for his infamous political cunning.

Yet, the landscape appears to be changing. Having recently vowed to hold free and fair elections, he promises the citizens of Zimbabwe a better economy and foreign policy drive, if elected on 30th July. Even so, whilst Mnangagwa is confident that the elections will be fair, many have disputed this will be the case, citing Zanu-PF’s previous association with violence during elections. His main rival is Nelson Chamisa, the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), who has started gaining support in Zanu-PF’s rural strongholds.

Chamisa believes that Mnangagwa does not have the ability to match the zeal and enthusiasm of the young people of Zimbabwe. In an exclusive interview with DW.com, the opposition leader stated that “Time is up for a particular generation”. In numerous interviews, Chamisa continues to make clear his belief that age will give him the advantage during these elections. Yet, even with his eighteen years in politics, many people still question whether this “youth ticket” will be enough to be up against the experienced and distinguished Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Mnangagwa too questions whether Chamisa is much of an opposition. Indeed, according to New Zimbabwe.com, he describes the opposition party as “barking puppies”, and has been quoted saying that “Zanu-PF is in power”.

He added: “Let it be known that nothing will change in this country even if we go for elections because people will vote for our party.” Elections on July 30 belong to Zanu-PF. We dictate what happens in this country. We already have an upper hand and the elections have been won already by us. Let those who want to argue do so, but just vote for Zanu-PF,”

What do the people of Zimbabwe have to say?

The months of July and August will be crucial for Zimbabwean millennials. It is said by the content creator and YouTuber, Pardon Gambakwe, that it is the “middle age citizens who suffer the most” when it comes to economic and social issues in Zimbabwe, and they want serious change.

Journalist Linda Mujuru argues that the opposition is “too weak to challenge Mnangagwa”. Chamisa’s past battle with Vice-President Thokozani Khupe over the leadership of the MDC-T has led people to speculate about a lack of organisation and unity within his party.

Yet, Joel Mutsindikwa believes that “Chamisa is the only way forward when we are about to rebound our economy”. He added: “I would rather vote for a dreamer than a Mugabe’s former right-hand man. We are in a deep economic shambles because of Zanu-PF. ” On the other hand, Noble Ngara has suggested that “it is better to vote for a guy who is doing a great job of fixing his mistakes than a guy who is not even mature enough to realise that he is heading for bigger blunders than Bob.”

Although many remain uncertain as to which candidate will take presidential office, Britain is said to support of Mnangagwa. The basis of its backing has been clear for the past few months- if the election is free, fair and credible. Indeed, during the Commonwealth Heads of government meeting, the UK government reiterated that the restoration of “democracy and human rights” must occur in Zimbabwe before any engagement is made with the country. Rather interestingly, many believe that Britain’s endorsement has stemmed from a desire to achieve foreign policy success, especially in light of the current Brexit storm. 

With just over a month to go now until polling day, the prospect of a progressive and democratic Zimbabwe may just be on the horizon.

 

 

 

 

EU imposes retaliatory tariffs on US goods in trade war escalation

The European Union has announced that retaliatory tariffs on $2.8 billion worth of US goods have come into force in a renewed attack against President Trump’s trading policy.

Of the various goods listed, tariffs have been levied on products such as Harley Davidson motorcycles, orange juice, and bourbon whiskey.

In a statement to the Irish Parliament, European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker stated that the duties imposed on the EU by the US go “against all logic and history”. He added: “we will do what we have to do to rebalance and safeguard the EU”.

Additionally, EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said this week that the 28-nation bloc was “left with no other choice” but to impose tariffs of its own after the “unilateral and unjustified decision of the US.”

Despite the reluctance of UK international trade secretary, Liam Fox, to support the EU’s proposed measures, the European Commission confirmed that it had the “full support” of the 28 member states to act.

What is the purpose of tariffs?

Essentially, tariffs are a tax on products that are made abroad.

By taxing foreign items imported into a country, consumers are less likely to purchase them as they become more expensive. Thus, the rationale behind the policy is to encourage consumers to buy cheaper local products instead- boosting the country’s economy and protecting a domestic industry.

How did this begin?

The economic conflict began when the White House announced tariffs of 25% on steel imported to the US, predominately from China.

Accusing Beijing of “stealing intellectual property”, President Trump expressed his desire to cut the trade deficit with China- citing reports of unfair trading practices.

Shortly after the announcement, India, South Korea, Canida, and Mexico responded with their own tariffs on US goods:

  • India will raise taxes on 29 products imported from the US
  • Canada announced retaliatory tariffs on C$16.6bn worth of US exports w/b 1 July.
  • Mexico imposed tariffs on £3bn worth of US exports two weeks ago.

Together with these tariffs, the EU’s response is now the latest development in the trading conflict, with financial markets fearing severe consequences to the global economy.

Analysis from Oliver Murphy- Editor

It is unsurprising that this latest announcement has intensified fears of a full-blown trade war. With Donald Trump first announcing steel tariffs on imported aluminum, the European Union’s response with a tit-for-tat escalation risks seriously damaging the economies of both- not to mention the impact on the consumer.

Indeed, Rick Helfenbein, president and chief executive officer of the American Apparel & Footwear Association, says the average family of four in the US will pay at least an extra $500 a year to buy consumer products affected by the tariffs.

Britain has remained silent throughout this escalation. This is unsurprising. With our formal cessation from the EU just around the corner, Downing Street will be wary of joining this trade spat given the keenness to secure a trading arrangement with the US post-Brexit.

At present, there is no signal that Trump plans to step-back from his protectionist policy. Indeed, the President reckons trade wars are “good” and “easy to win”, and his current tactics are proving popular with his supporters in the ‘rust belt’. Ironically, many in the EU share Trump’s concerns about unfair competition from China. Yet, by imposing tariffs they are merely alienating each other and this is only counterproductive in the pursuit of a fairer free trade system.

Of greater significance, however, is the damage inflicted upon the image of the US presidency. Presidential credibility is one of the most important factors to the functioning of the international system. Yet, Trump’s actions and the subsequent EU response have eroded this. There is still time to avert a trade war, but even so, the faith in US leadership has been seriously damaged.

 

 

 

Who exactly are Italy’s new government?

Italy has emerged from yet another political crisis following the general election in March with a new government, but it hasn’t been an easy ride. The big winners were the two populist parties; League from the right, a recently re-branded version of the Northern League who since the early 1990s have dominated right-wing Italian populist politics along with Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, and the enigmatic Five-Star Movement (FSM) which combines a Eurosceptic approach with elements of populist leftism. Following intense negotiations over two months and the initial repudiation of Eurosceptic Paolo Savona as Minister of Economy and Finance by the Italian President Sergio Mattarella, a compromise was found and a new government formed in an unlikely populist coalition.

The history behind the coalition members

Firstly, it is important to understand that the newly re-branded League entered the election as part of a centre-right electoral coalition with Forza Italia along with other Conservative parties such as Brothers of Italy, Us with Italy and Union of the Centre, the ideological heir of the Christian Democratic party that dominated Italian politics from the 1940s until the corruption scandals of the early 1990s. They are led by Matteo Salvini who is now Deputy Prime Minister and a former MEP from Milan who also has experience of local politics on Milan council from 1993 to 2012. Salvini, known by League supporters as the ‘Captain’, was formerly a socialist in his youth before joining the Young Pandians, the youth wing of the then Northern League.

In 2013, Salvini became Northern League leader when he trounced Umberto Bossi (now in prison for corruption) in the same way Nigel Farage altered the political landscape with UKIP and the populist right in the UK. Since his election, Salvini has emphasised the party’s Euroscepticism and anti-immigration stance. Despite mixed results in local elections, the Northern League did well in the 2014 European elections.

Historically the Northern League (as the name suggests) has been a regional party which not only advocated a nationalist, Eurosceptic approach, but also acted as a separatist party arguing that the wealthy north should not fund the feckless backward south and urges if not full independence for the north, then substantial autonomy and the establishment of a federal Italian state. In this respect, there are clear similarities to the neo-Thatcherite elements of UKIP as well as the right-wing aspects of Catalan nationalism bemoaning the financially wasteful Spanish state. Indeed, the League has even developed a name for their ideal northern state, ‘Padania’, and claim themselves to be Padanian nationalists.

The Northern League emerged out of other regional parties in the 1980s such as Lega Lombarda and Allenza Nord who combined together for the purposes of the 1989 European elections before eventually amalgamating into one party in 1991. However, even after the Northern League was formed regional sections of the party remained as a form of local or sub party structure (for example Lega Nord Piemont and Lega Veneta).  In the early 1990s Italian politics was engulfed in corruption scandals (something that is shown in the excellent Italian political drama 1992) that embroiled the Christian Democrats and Socialists giving credence to the League slogan “Roma ladrona” (Rome big thief) as the party made headway in local elections- winning the Milan mayoralty in 1993 as well as having 56 deputies and 26 senators elected at the 1992 general election. Indeed, the League fought the 1994 election in alliance with Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party and held some government ministries in the short-lived 1994 Berlusconi led government.

Following this the League became increasingly pragmatic, supporting centre-left administrations across Italy when necessary and performed well at the 1996 general election before claiming that they wanted the succession of Northern Italy; something that was reinforced by a bizarre ceremony when then leader Umberto Bossi took some water from the River Po which he poured into the sea near Venice two days later as a symbolic birth of the new nation of Padania. Subsequently, the League was a key Berlusconi ally following his re-election in 2001 and again from 2008 to 2011 holding a number of key ministries such as Labour, Justice and agriculture amongst others. Following the Berlusconi’s premiership, the League went into decline and factional infighting prior to Salvini’s leadership.

In contrast, the Five Star Movement is much newer having only been formed in 2009 by comedian Beppe Grillo and Gianroberto Casaleggio, a web strategist a movement that has taken Italian politics by storm and has been described as populist, anti-establishment, environmentalist, anti-globalist and Eurosceptic. Unlike the League which is a more traditional right-wing party, FSM doesn’t necessarily fit neatly into the left/right paradigm with some accusations that it is right wing due to its anti-immigration stance yet also promoting policies usually advocated by leftists such as a citizens income and environmentalism. However, members themselves argue that the FSM is just that, a movement rather than a political party. This is reflected in the strong grassroots participation which has included members forming policy through online member led votes. Indeed, the Five Stars that give the movement its name and logo include the key issues for members: public water, sustainable transport, sustainable development, right to internet access and environmentalism.

Although the Five Star Movement itself started in 2009 the origins go back to 2005 when Beppe Grillo arranged meetings for supporters of proposals in his online manifesto to meet up face to face meetings calling themselves ‘The 40 friends of Beppe Grillo’. These meetings evolved into discussions on a wide variety of topics such as technology and innovation, press communication, ethical consumerism and currency study. These gatherings expanded to national meetings in Piacenza, Turing and Sorrento led by Grillo, followed by the establishment of a national civic list of potential electoral candidates.

Grillo took things one step further in 2007 with the establishment of his ‘V’ days in 2007, with the V standing for Vaffanculo (F off). These were events that included public mobilisation and the collection of signatures in order to create laws through popular initiatives while the provocative name had references to the D-Day landings as well as the film V for Vendetta linked to the idea of political renewal. Grillo marched on, arguing for the need for a ‘clean parliament’ while also advocating for more direct democracy through referendums.

In October 2009 the FSM was born and impressive results were achieved in local elections during 2010, 2011 and 2012 with the highlight being the FSM capturing the Mayoralty of Parma. In the run-up to the 2013 general election Five Star candidates were chosen through an online primary, and, in the election itself, the FSM achieved 25% of the vote in elections to the Chamber of Deputies and 23% for the Senate. This meant 108 deputies and 54 Five Star senators were elected with Five Star the biggest party in Liguria and also in much of the south including Abruzzo, Marche, Liguria, Sicily and Sardinia, a pattern that would be repeated in the 2018 general election. However, at this stage the FSM was unable to go into government, not just because of the antipathy towards it from the then incumbent centre-left Democratic Party, but also due to its refusal to form alliances with other parties, something that was becoming essential to govern in modern Italian politics with its eccentric PR/First Past the Post hybrid electoral system.

In the 2014 European elections, Five Star achieved 21% of the vote, second place at a national level which resulted in the election of 17 MEPs. However, as a new, almost post-Ideological protest movement, the FSM lacked any European affiliation and the horse-trading regarding European Parliament affiliation began. Shortly after the election the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), a Europhile bloc that includes the Liberal Democrats in its ranks and is currently led by anti-Brexit ex-Belgian PM Guy Verhofstadt rejected the FSM as a member citing there Euroscepticism and populism. Negotiations began with the Eurosceptic Europe of Freedom and Democracy (EFD) headed by Nigel Farage. In an online referendum, Five Star members voted to join the EFD in preference to remaining unaffiliated or joining the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group which includes the British Conservative Party.

In terms of ideology, the FSM is unusual in European politics due to its belief in direct democracy, seeing it as an evolution of representative democracy and arguing that citizens need more direct power to ensure governments are not dominated by corporate interests. Five Star also claims that a form of ‘collective intelligence’ is now possible through the internet and chooses its Italian and European election candidates online as well as the Five Star candidate for the Italian Presidency. Furthermore, legislative proposals are decided for Five Star members as was the decision to develop a partnership with UKIP and support for the abolition of a law against immigrants, something which went against the views of the leadership.

Five Star is very emphatic that ‘politics is not a career’ and any of its representatives must consider their role as a form of temporary service which they refer to as ‘zero cost politics’ and may include the reduction of salaries of some of its elected politicians. For example, in 2012 the Sicilian branch of Five Star used the money deducted from the salaries of their representatives to help small and medium-sized businesses. Five Star is also very clear that members with a criminal record can’t run for office, something that has prevented founder Beppe Grillo from running as he has a conviction for manslaughter following a car crash.

Five Star members through an online referendum and Grillo himself also back same-sex marriage and have backed a form of basic income which would amount to around 780 per person, dependent on some minimum number of hours worked every week. Perhaps more controversially the FSM has expressed some anti-immigrant rhetoric with Grillo claiming that illegal immigrants should be expelled and the Dublin regulations which allow asylum seekers to settle in the first safe country (which in the case of refugees from North Africa is usually Italy), while Luigi Di Maio has called for ‘an immediate stop to the sea-taxi service’ from North Africa and Italy.

Interesting times lay ahead for the new Italian government who face many challenges. With factors such as a sluggish economy, tricky relations with Brussels and an immigration crisis, it is unsurprising that many are predicting the unlikely coalition to be short-lived. Even so, as the most right-wing government since the fascist era, it could certainly reshape Italian politics.

Trump escalates China trade war by threatening new tariffs

President Trump has threatened to impose tariffs on nearly all Chinese products exported to the United States unless Beijing agrees to a range of trading concessions. In a dramatic escalation, his move could subject nearly all of the $505 billion worth of Chinese imports to tariffs.

In a White House statement on Monday, the President announced that he had instructed his chief negotiator, U.S Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer, to list over $200 billion worth of Chinese products that could be imposed with tariffs of 10 percent.

According to Trump, “the trade relationship between the United States and China must be more equitable”. In explaining his proposed actions, he added: “The United States will no longer be taken advantage of on trade by China and other countries in the world.”

Branded as “blackmail” by China’s Ministry of Commerce, Trump’s move has had an unprecedented impact on the Asian markets with Shanghai closing at 3.78 percent, its biggest drops in two years, and Shenzhen down 5.31 percent.

Fears of a full-blown trade war have heightened as China vowed to engage in retaliatory measures. According to Geng Shuang, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, “We don’t want a trade war, yet we are not afraid of a trade war”.

More follows.

Analysis by Oliver Murphy- Editor

The visible aggression emanating from Trump is further evidence of the President’s desire to implement his “America First” trading strategy. However, whilst his latest announcement is bold, it is an unprecedented move that will undoubtedly expand the goods facing trade measures, ultimately impacting the consumer.

Despite his inconsistency in many other areas, he is a fervent and committed protectionist who has pledged to combat what he calls the unfair trading practises of other economies. Whilst his confrontational approach will certainly appeal to his supporters, it will hardly prevail in the complex sphere of diplomacy.

His latest move comes only a week after he threatened to impose tariffs on major U.S trading partners, including the EU, China, Mexico and Canada in an attempt to reshape the landscape of a global free trade system that he claims is “biased” against America.

Despite condemnation, President Trump’s criticisms of a prejudicial trading system are founded. According to the WTO, the average US tariffs (trade-weighted) are 2.4% percent lower than those in the EU (3%) and Canada (3.1%). If we are talking about creating a level playing field in terms of trade, then Trump is certainly entitled to voice his concern.

However, simply slapping tariffs on trading partners in a retaliatory tit-for-tat will only exacerbate the problem. The presidency of Barack Obama proves that tariffs are an invariable mistake. Indeed, look what happened when the former President imposed a 35% tariff on Chinese vehicle tyres in 2009. Whilst saving 1,200 jobs in the tyre industry, the tariff led to approximately 3,731 jobs lost in retail, and reportedly cost $1 million for every job it safeguarded.

Tempting as it is for Trump, upping the ante will – in the long run – be self-defeating. With this in mind,  it would surely be better to greatly reduce tariffs not raise them.

Israel attacks Gaza in deadly bombing raid

The Israeli Military has attacked the Gaza strip in a round of bombing raids against Palestinian civilians.

Israel warplanes bombed the Civil administration east of Jabalia, Gaza Strip and have continued to use warplanes and drones to heavily bomb the area.

The ceasefire that had been allegedly agreed by Israel and Palestinian militant factions has been broken as Israeli bombing continued on past midnight.

More follows

Palestinians should have the right to return… and live

At the opening of the new US embassy in Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, opened with these words, “Abraham passed the greatest test of faith and the right to be the father of our nation. In Jerusalem, King David established our capital three thousand years ago as the eternal, undivided capital of Israel.” He went on to offer praise for the IDF’s brave and heroic defence of the ‘Jewish State’.

Meanwhile seventy miles away the Israeli army were giving their brave and undivided attention to defending the nation’s borders by ensuring that Israel remains divided with the blood of its original inhabitants, the Palestinians.

Apart from the dubious historical claim that King David established Jerusalem 3000 years ago, note Netanyahu’s reference to Jerusalem being ‘undivided’. This is code for not sharing Jerusalem with the Palestinians. Jerusalem is for Jews only.

But the inhabitants of the ‘nation’ of Israel do not come from a cohesive geographical area, nor do they share a common history. The Ashkenazi have their antecedents in Eastern Europe and Russia. The Mizrahi in The Maghreb and the Middle East and the Sephardin who can be traced to the Iberian Peninsula, Finally there are  130,000 Ethiopian Jews, some of whom claim descent from Menelik, King Solomon and Queen Sheba’s son.

Historical accuracy is difficult wherever you look in the world and nowhere more so than in Israel. There are those who claim some Jews are not descended from Jews at all. One of these, Professor Shlomo Sand, a Tel Aviv University historian, published this claim with his Invention of the Jewish People. He was reinforcing Arthur Koestler’s The Thirteenth Tribe published in 1976. He advanced the idea that the Ashkenazi Jews are not descendants from the Israelites of antiquity, but from Khazars, a Turkic people whose origins were in the Caucasus region (historical Khazaria), and who converted to Judaism in the 8th century. They later migrated north and westwards into current Northern and Eastern Europe.

In the last thirty years, 300,000 people from Russia and the former states of the Soviet Union have arrived in Israel as “Jews’. Most of them are Halakhally, claiming at least one Jewish member in their family. It is estimated that 40,000 are practising Orthodox Christians.

Under the ‘Law of Return’ Israel grants automatic citizenship to anyone who has a Jewish grandparent, yet as many as a quarter of those who immigrated to Israel from the former Soviet countries are not considered Jewish according to the official Israeli rabbinate.

I have been told the story of one such ‘Jewish’ family. Two years ago, and claiming her maternal grandmother had been Jewish, a Russian woman, her husband and two children emigrated to Israel. They arrived in Tel Aviv and were given a house, some welcome money and school places for their teenage children. No supporting documents were asked for. The mother was happy with her new life, but the father didn’t like it there and they were both concerned that the two teenagers would become liable for military service.

In Germany, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees has been encouraging Jewish immigration for those of ‘Jewish nationality or have at least one Jewish parent or one Jewish grandparent.’ Over 33,000 Israelis have emigrated to Germany since 2000. And that figure excludes those who haven’t taken out German citizenship. So the two applied for entry to Germany on the same basis as they used to enter Israel. They live there now, happy to have reached security at the centre of Europe, in a country that they have as much a link to as they did to historical Palestine.

Meanwhile back at the US Embassy, the opening prayers were offered by Robert Jeffress, a Dallas megachurch pastor who once said that Hitler was sent by God to drive the Jews to their ancestral land. ‘Religions like Mormonism, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism,’ he said, ‘lead people to an eternity of separation from God in Hell.’

The situation in Israel is indeed Hell for the people whose home has always been there, brought to them by the madness at the heart of Zionism.