International Papers

Saying Sorry


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The approach of the 50th anniversary of the foundation of Israel failed to generate harmony in the Israeli press, which continued in traditional abrasive form. The liberal Ha’aretz led Monday with the humiliation inflicted on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by George Tenet, director of the CIA. Under the headline “PM’s attempt to sidestep Albright fails,” the newspaper reported Tenet had returned a message from Netanyahu to him because it appeared the prime minister was trying to bypass U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

“This was Netanyahu’s second attempt to get a message to President Bill Clinton without bringing Albright into the picture,” Ha’aretz reported. On the first occasion, the CIA had ignored the inference in the message that it should be passed on to the president and had sent it to Albright instead, reported Ha’aretz’s military correspondent, Ze’ev Schiff. But when the second message was received, Tenet decided to return it to Netanyahu with an explanation. In another report, Ha’aretz said the United States will decide whether to table its latest Middle East peace initiative only after U.S. envoy Dennis Ross talks with Netanyahu in London next Monday.

In an editorial titled “A needless, harmful annexation,” Ha’aretz attacked Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert for wanting to expand the city’s municipal boundaries to the west. This is another example of Jerusalem’s urban planning being influenced by political considerations, the paper said. “As in the past, a political concept is totally overriding sensible urban considerations,” it added. The conservative Jerusalem Post led Monday with the news that, according to Israeli Finance Minister Yaakov Neeman, the United States and Israel will reach an agreement within 12 days to abolish U.S. civilian aid in exchange for an increase in military aid.

In an op-ed article, Bernard Wasserstein wrote in the JerusalemPost that the British should not “confess to their crimes as rulers of Palestine between 1917 and 1948.” “Great historical apologies are much in fashion,” Wasserstein wrote. “President Clinton has apologized for slavery. The Queen of England has expressed regret for the Amritsar massacre. The Japanese, the Austrians, even the Swiss, have been induced to express remorse for sins of commission and omission.” But the “disinterested historian, reviewing the history of the mandate, must conclude that the diplomatic framework for Zionist state-building from Balfour to Bevin was, in large measure, a British construct. … But in the case of the British mandatory government and Zionism the record should be clear to all and the verdict unambiguous: No apology is required.”

In an editorial titled “The Debt of Slavery,” Le Monde of Paris said Monday that Europe and the United States should do more than just apologize to Africans for the terrible damage done to them over a period of 250 years. The offenders must “recognize their debt and pay it off,” the paper said. “First, by giving the rightful place in their policies to development aid for Africa; and second, by ceasing to offer blacks in their own countries no choice at all apart from assimilation or exclusion.” Also in Paris, Libération led its front page with the news that fierce Roman Catholic opposition is causing the French government to prevaricate over its plans to recognize unions between homosexuals.

The surprise success of the far-right German People’s Union in Sunday’s election in the east German state of Saxony-Anhalt made most European front pages Monday but received less prominence in the German press. In a front-page comment Monday by Bernardo Valli, Rome’s La Repubblica said the result diminished the chances that Helmut Kohl will return as chancellor after next September’s parliamentary elections. Other popular subjects in the European press included the first anniversary of Tony Blair’s landslide victory in Britain and the dispute between France and Germany over who should be appointed first president of the European central bank to supervise the single European currency–a Frenchman or a Dutchman.

The London Observer reported Sunday that Malaysia had “carried out a mass poisoning of defenceless refugees and migrant workers in detention camps” to “subdue them before repatriation.” The poisoned water made the mainly Indonesian detainees vomit blood and “triggered riots which were brutally suppressed,” the Observer said. ” ‘Ringleaders’ were shot dead, and others tortured, beaten and robbed before being deported.” In an editorial, the newspaper described these events as “the human cost of financial carnage” and demanded “a new international financial architecture” under which “developing countries can insulate themselves from vicious reversals of investment flows.” Criticizing the United States, the paper concluded, “the desolation of East Asia is too high a price to pay for the freedom of international finance.”