International Papers

Israel vs. the World 

As violence in the Middle East continued to dominate opinion pages this weekend, U.S. readers might be surprised by the pro-Palestinian and anti-American sympathies expressed around the world. Writing in Britain’s Observer, a former BBC Middle East correspondent declared:

It is not surprising, this outpouring of hate, this bloodstained Schadenfreude, fuelled as it is by 52 years of Palestinian dispossession, 33 years of military occupation and the callous disregard for Arab lives shown by Israel’s security forces and politicians and its many friends abroad. … The United States is no arbiter in this dispute between a feeble, nascent nation with no muscle and a shiftless, shaky Arab world at its rear; no unbiased broker with the best interests of both parties at heart, holding the ring for a fair outcome. The United States of Bill Clinton, and any foreseeable United States of Al Gore or of George W. Bush, is the friend, mentor, armourer and financier of Israel, advocate, judge and, ultimately, progenitor and saviour of unilateral Israeli rights and executioner of Palestinian aspirations.

An editorial in the same newspaper began, “If Palestinians were black, Israel would now be a pariah state subject to economic sanctions led by the United States. Its development and settlement of the West Bank would be seen as a system of apartheid, in which the indigenous population was allowed to live in a tiny fraction of its own country, in self-administered ‘bantustans,’ with ‘whites’ monopolising the supply of water and electricity.” Dawn of Pakistan attacked the United States’ partisanship, “To judge by American reactions to the ongoing violence, it would seem that it is the Israelis who are under Palestinian occupation rather than the other way round. And that aggression and violence are being deployed not, Heaven forbid, by Israel but the Palestinian Authority.”

In Canada’s National Post, David Frum defended Israel, claiming:

The governments of the world have acted for a quarter of a century on the assumption that the demands of the Palestinians were reasonable and moderate and that peace would come to the region only if those demands were met. Now we must consider the disturbing possibility that the demands of the Palestinians are neither reasonable nor moderate. They amount to the extirpation of the Israeli state and the disappearance of its four-million Jewish inhabitants.

Looking on the bright side, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung pointed out that the crisis has unified Israel’s often fractious politicians since “[i]nternal quarrels about the relationship between state and religion seem trivial in the face of an external threat.” Echoing this, an op-ed in the Jerusalem Post called for an internal summit that would “forge a realistic framework for a national consensus on the order of our priorities.” It proclaimed:

No effort should be spared to try and form a unity government, only if it is based on an agreed platform for at least a year. If formed, it will send a message of strength to our neighbors, the outside world, and especially inside Israel.

Meanwhile, the Daily Star of Lebanon reported that a 12-hour telethon originating in the United Arab Emirates raised more than $28 million to support the Palestinian people. Apparently, one of the stations “even changed its satellite channel logo so that its background was the Palestinian flag with stones around the logo as a symbol of the Palestinian determination to resist occupation.”

Moon over Paraguay: The Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church recently purchased more than 850,000 acres in Paraguay—including the town of Puerto Casado, population 6,000—apparently intending to use the land for eco-tourism. When residents were told of their new landlord, they prevented the aircraft that had brought a delegation of Unification Church members to town from returning to the nation’s capital, Asunción, demanding guarantees that they would not be evicted from their homes. An editorial in La Nación counseled calmness; it said the fault was not with the land’s former owners nor with the Unification Church, but rather with the state, which had permitted the sale of a municipality. It urged the government to expropriate the town and compensate the church. A bizarre op-ed in Noticias said, “As they would say in a good romance: It is the miracle of neoliberal globalization that the destiny of human beings doesn’t matter in the enslaving empire of the worldwide capital market.” The online edition of the church-owned Paraguayan paper Tiempos del Mundo made no comment on the matter.

Crimes against journalism: Six days after being fired, the former editor of Zimbabwe’s main state-controlled newspaper, the Herald, told the Standard, an independent Sunday paper, that he had slanted the paper’s content to ensure a victory for the ruling ZANU-PF party in the June elections. Bornwell Chakaodza confessed: “We went out of our way and abandoned all professional ethics as you know them. … [J]ournalists were actually bringing in factual, objective and well written stories. But they did not see the light of day because of the stance we decided to take in support of the government.” Following the vote, Chakaodza tried to revive the paper’s journalistic standards, but by then circulation and advertising figures had plunged to an all-time low. The Independent of South Africa reported that the Herald’s circulation halved in the last year, and for the first time the Daily News, Zimbabwe’s only independent daily, outsold it. The Daily News was generally sympathetic to the opposition Movement for Democratic Change Party, which carried most urban districts in the election. Urban areas also represent the bulk of newspaper sales.

Noble Nobelists: The Indian Express said that by awarding the Nobel Prize for Literature to Chinese dissident Gao Xinjian, now a French citizen, the committee “salutes an important anti-establishment voice from an Asian dictatorship for the first time.” According to Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post, even in Hong Kong, Gao’s works are not well known; the publisher of one of Gao’s plays told the paper that it had sold only 700 copies pre-Nobel. The SCMP quoted a spokesman for the pro-government Chinese Writers Association claiming, “There are hundreds of Chinese writers who are better than him, which proves the [Nobel] committee is very ignorant.” An op-ed in the Hong Kong iMail declared Nobel Prizes a “national obsession in China” and decried the mainland’s “lukewarm” reaction to Gao’s victory and the creative sterility of contemporary Chinese society: “The more genuine and successful writers and artists have been forced to base themselves overseas. The so-called Chinese civilisation is a long-gone fairy tale. The only culture we have left is a money culture, which in no way is associated with creativity.” The St. Petersburg Times praised one of this year’s Nobel laureates for physics, Zhores Alfoyorov, for staying in Russia and for leveraging his victory to lobby President Vladimir Putin to increase funding for Russian science. The paper said, “Instead of taking his superconductor technology and leaving the country to make millions—like many would have done—he is saying that money should be spent to make sure more home-grown geniuses get the water they need.” Alfoyorov, who is a Communist member of Russia’s lower house of parliament, pointed out that his fellow Duma deputies allocated $39.5 million to build lavish homes for themselves—four times the budget for science.