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Western Press Review: Holocaust Libel Suit, The Koreas

  • Don Hill

Prague, 12 April 2000 (RFE/RL) -- Two unlikely events -- a libel suit over Holocaust denial in Britain and a meeting of East and East in Korea -- generate substantial comment in the Western press today.

GUARDIAN: An unwanted episode has reached a good and just end

From London, The Guardian's Jonathan Freedland pleads, in his words, "Let's close the book" on the Holocaust. He comments: "A dark, unwanted episode has reached a good and just end. [Historian and Holocaust denier] David Irving wanted Britain's high court to rescue his reputation. Instead, it trashed it. He went in seeking vindication for his claim that the Holocaust never happened, that Adolf Hitler was not the murderer of the Jews but their friend." Freedland says that once-appropriate attention to this World War II catastrophe has extended so long and so far that it is becoming morbid.

TIMES: The case has been a victory for free speech and truth

The Times of London's editorial on the subject says this: "History has had its day in court and scored a crushing victory against Mr. Irving's ideologically motivated abuse of the intellectual discipline of which he is a master. The case has indeed been a victory for free speech, and truth as well -- a lesson to be pondered in Germany, where Holocaust denial is a crime. A British court has produced a more sophisticated and effective cross-examination of Holocaust denial than a ban could ever provide. The judge found that in 19 specific instances, [U.S.] Professor [Deborah] Lipstadt's criticisms were almost invariably well-founded."

The Times continues: "For Mr. Irving, that judgment is perverse. The epithet applies with considerably more force to his own indefensible perversions of the 20th century's most appalling truth."

IRISH TIMES: The judgement served as a methodical destruction of an untruthful version of history

The Irish Times says in an editorial that the importance of accurate understanding of the Holocaust extends not only to history, but also to the present; not only to Jews, but also to oppressed minorities everywhere; not only to Germany and the Nazis, but also to asylum seekers of all backgrounds and to neo-fascists of all types. As the newspaper's editorial puts it: "If one thinks the truth about the Holocaust is unimportant, ask a neo-Nazi in today's Germany. Better still, ask an asylum seeker cowering in a hostel, living in terror of the mobs that regularly attack them. David Irving richly deserves the financial ruin now facing him and the destruction of what little reputation he had. And it is worth noting that what it did for him in the end [was a] clinical, forensic examination of his credo, a calculated and methodical destruction of his untruthful version of history."

INTERNATIIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: Korea is full of unreason and surprises

Analyst Philip Bowring in the International Herald Tribune and an editorial in the Wall Street Journal Europe express hope and urge caution about a planned June meeting between government leaders Kim Dae Jung of South Korea and Kim Jong Il of North Korea. Bowring writes this: "There is no reason to expect much out of the summit. But Korea is full of unreason, and surprises. Maybe, just maybe, Kim Jong Il and the military realize that their situation is untenable and that a big deal with the South is their only chance of survival. Meanwhile, any opening to the South, whether to Kim Dae Jung or a few tourists, is one little step towards the day when North Koreans realize how they have been oppressed. The only losers from a summit, other than the South's taxpayers and opposition politicians, are those who fear eventual Korean reunification."

WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE: Jaw, jaw still is better than war, war

The Wall Street Journal Europe also combines skepticism paradoxically with hope. Its editorial says this: "The North has a spectacular track record of increasing its demands on well-intentioned foreign leaders with future promises to reform or behave. The promises never seem to stick permanently, and more payment is extorted."

It goes on: "And why should anything be different this time? [Even so], a summit is probably a good thing -- jaw, jaw still is better than war, war. Kim Dae Jung has an opportunity to explain to Kim Jong Il face to face that there are rewards on offer if North Korea begins to reform."

WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE: The IMF has been peddling the wrong recipes

Joseph Stiglitz is an outspoken economist who has devoted much of his career to leadership in international financial institutions. He was outspoken about what he identified as failures of the World Bank and the IMF -- the International Monetary Fund -- even when he was employed as the World Bank's chief economist. And he has grown more so since he left. In an editorial, the Wall Street Journal Europe takes up a Stiglitzian view of the economic giants.

The newspaper puts it this way: "In the current [issue of the U.S. magazine] New Republic, Joseph Stiglitz rehearses the criticism of the IMF that got him eased out [at the World Bank]. The IMF has been peddling the wrong recipes for the world's economics, and in particular should be less secretive about its advice and procedures."

The editorial concludes with this: "The IMF was set up to help defend a system of fixed exchange rates, but with the advent of floating exchange rates has developed a bias toward devaluation as a policy instrument. To talk about its mistakes without talking about this is to ignore the elephant in the corner of the room."

DIE WELT: Criticism of the IMF is likely to be rendered less vocal

Without rebutting criticism of the IMF, German commentator Ernst August Ginten writes in Die Welt that there are reasons to hope it will do better under the leadership of its probable next managing director, Germany's Horst Koehler. Ginten writes this: "The [somewhat] smooth nomination of Koehler as IMF head is a remarkable sign that very many member states are not particularly happy with the very far-reaching reform proposals presented by the Americans. The changes that the German is thinking of will be [more restrained] and this is positive." Ginten says, in his words: "If Koehler succeeds with all this in the foreseeable future, criticism of the IMF is likely to be rendered less vocal, even if not silenced."

FINANCIAL TIMES: Demonstrators inflict great harm in the belief that they are doing good

Britain's Financial Times says in an editorial that many IMF and World Bank critics may be well meaning but they know not what they do. Such critics, the editorial says, effectively are "kicking down growth's ladder."

The newspaper says this: "This week, in Washington, D.C., thousands of prosperous people will demonstrate [inadvertently] in favor of the perpetuation of mass poverty." The editorial adds: "The cause of the reformers is not reform of [the IMF and World Bank]. Their aims are bigger than that. They claim to value human and ecological dignity over corporate profits and trickle-down economics. They oppose the bank and the fund [as] chief instruments used by political and corporate elites to create today's unjust, destructive global economic order."

The newspaper concludes: "What the world will witness in Washington are people who intend, in effect, to kick the ladder of market-driven economic growth down. [They would] inflict great harm in the belief that they are doing good."