La Stampa, Turin, Sept. 4: The decision by Arab, Muslim and Third World countries to equate Zionism with racism, to banalize the Holocaust and to revive the worst anti-Jewish terminology in order to defend the rights of the Palestinians, has not only caused the failure of the U.N. World Conference against Racism in Durban, but has created an ideological rift unheard of since the Cold War ended.
In 1975 it was the Soviet Union under Leonid Brezhnev who persuaded the United Nations to equate Zionism with racism. Now the Third World led by Fidel Castro and Saddam Hussein has reached the same goal.
New Cold War: The failure of the Durban conference marks the beginning of a new Cold War between the North and the South, where ideology plays the same role that nuclear weapons used to play between the East and the West of the world.
All this has very little to do with the crisis in the Middle East, but it certainly makes it more difficult to find a solution.
From the battle of Durban nobody comes out as a winner.
Straits Times, Singapore, Sept. 4: Australia has a reasonably good record of refugee absorption, being one of only 10 countries on a United Nations list with resettlement quotas beside its acceptance of asylum seekers who come knocking on doors.
The shipload of 438 would-be refugees marooned in Australian waters for eight days last week was in neither category. In the Howard government's view, they were queue cutters, economic refugees, a charge on the public purse -- in short, opportunists to be sent packing without demur.
Sorry week: Australia, Prime Minister John Howard felt, had had enough. Big country though it is, it could still get swamped if it did not control the traffic. Were things that simple. To cap off a sorry week for Australia, it has ended up doing precisely what Howard was determined it would not do. It is paying the government of Nauru, a tiny Pacific island, to evaluate the claims of some 290 of those asylum seekers. And it has been shown up by its big-hearted neighbor, New Zealand.
Australia, which in truth is a charitable nation, did not do itself credit over the episode. Why did it offload onto Nauru a procedural task which it had steadfastly refused. It looks a farce.
The Independent, London, Sept. 4: For the local Presbyterian minister, things were "as bad as I have ever known." For the local Catholic priest, the situation was "beyond my worst nightmare." In north Belfast Monday, the lunacy of sectarianism was vividly exposed. On the first day of the new term, young Catholic children in the Ardoyne -- some attending school for the first time -- clung to their parents in terror as they tried to make their way to Holy Cross primary school with a police cordon to protect them from angry Protestant crowds. It was a disgrace that police were necessary in order for children to be able to get to school.
Adult hatred: In this one street, where children become a focus of adult hatred, we see the problems of Northern Ireland stripped down to their terrible basics. Between politically consenting adults, disagreement is natural; violent disagreement can seem a mere logical extension of a political argument. But the embroilment of fearful young innocents -- with terrifying moments that seem certain to affect them for the rest of their lives -- goes far beyond what can be regarded as defensible by those of any political creed. It would be heartening if, in an era where peace hovers tantalizingly on the horizon, Ardoyne might close the circle by playing a stabilizing instead of a destabilizing role. But that would require compromise and common sense. In other words: still a long way off.
Jordan Times, Amman, Sept. 4: A possible meeting between Palestinian Leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres on the margins of a business conference in Cernobbio, Italy, this week is doomed to fail if extensive preparations do not precede it. The meeting, which is looking at arranging a cease-fire, has to have a context to avoid it from turning into a yet another photo opportunity with nothing tangible to help de-escalate the situation in the Palestinian territories and pave the way for the resumption of final status negotiations leading to the establishment of a viable Palestinian state.
Several promises: But the problem is that Peres, who has held several meetings with Arafat and other Arab officials in the past few months where he made several promises which he could not keep, does not seem to have any mandate from hawkish Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to make concrete offers to the Palestinians that might encourage them to go the extra mile. Many believe there is no need for any new peace initiatives or gestures of goodwill as the Mitchell report and the Tenet understandings remain the only internationally acceptable peace initiatives on the table.
The ball is now in the Israeli court. The Israelis must understand that only the end of occupation will bring peace.