The American war on terrorism and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict dominated international headlines and opinion pages last week. In the Jordan Times, South African Archbishop and Nobel Peace Laureate Desmond Tutu called for an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza, comparing the Palestinian situation to that of blacks in apartheid-era South Africa. While lauding Israel as the most democratic state in the Middle East, Tutu supported a divestment campaign against Israel as an effective means of pressuring it to dismantle its settlements in the occupied territories, recalling that tactic’s success against apartheid.
Edward Said weighed in on the question of Palestinian leadership in the Egyptian Al-Ahram Weekly, calling for new elections soon. He writes that the “U.S. administration is effectively controlled by the Christian Right and the Israeli lobby” but has even harsher words for Islamic terrorist groups, which have “wrecked” Arab society with “the insanity of thinking that suicide bombing will lead directly to an Islamic Palestinian state.” Said says that a leadership change is necessary for a new strategy to “struggle against occupation.”
Pakistan’s News International called a budding connection between Israel and new Afghan leader Hamid Karzai a “major development that holds ominous overtones for Pakistan.” The piece says Karzai requested Israeli assistance in his battle with terrorism and quotes an Israeli defense minister praising Karzai.
Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald skewered the “White House stumblebum team” for “rushing headlong into every [overseas] crisis.” It highlighted a series of perceived gaffes on the part of the Bush administration: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s mistaken assertion that al-Qaida forces were active in Kashmir; the exaggeration of Jose Padilla’s progress in the “dirty bomb” plot; and White House spokesman Ari Fleischer’s reprimand of Secretary of State Colin Powell for arguing that Palestinian leadership was an issue to be settled by Palestinians.