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Western Press Review: The Intifada On Trial, Sustainable Development, And Exploitation Of Immigrants

  • Khatya Chhor

Prague, 15 August 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Analysis in the Western press today discusses the trial of Marwan Barghouti, active in the intifada against Israeli occupation; the world summit on sustainable development set to begin on 26 August in Johannesburg, South Africa; the exploitation of Eastern European immigrants in the West; and the prospect of a U.S.-led military intervention in Iraq.


An editorial in the British daily "The Guardian" discusses yesterday's start of the trial of Marwan Barghouti, one of the leaders of the Palestinian uprising against Israel. The paper says that both Israelis and Palestinians "are intent on using the high-profile trial to score political points." Israel has "produced a very broad charge sheet that not only pins many attacks of the last two years on Barghouti, but also attempts to tie in the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat."

Barghouti, for his part, refuses to recognize the legality of the court. "The Palestinian side will argue that the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza is illegal and that attacks on Israeli soldiers and settlers are a legitimate part of resistance."

But "The Guardian" says ultimately, Israel "may find that they will have to do business with Barghouti," who has emerged as a likely Arafat successor. Barghouti's involvement in the intifada has lent him "a credibility at street level," and his trial is likely to further boost his popularity.

The Israelis "could do worse than negotiate with Barghouti," the paper says. "Unlike Hamas and Islamic Jihad, who want to destroy Israel, Barghouti has said repeatedly, in private and public, that he wants a Middle East that has both a Palestinian and Israeli state."


An editorial in "The Washington Times" counsels the United States to try to redefine itself as a "defender of Islamic countries' national identity and integrity." It says the White House could "publicly define its mission in Afghanistan as targeting the foreign elements that have parasitically taken residence there. This isn't just spin," the paper says. "In the region, foreigners have not only perpetrated acts of terror, they also have radicalized native populations."

The editorial goes on to list several recent incidents in Afghanistan in which non-Afghans have initiated violence. But this situation provides "U.S., Afghan, and Pakistani governments with an opportunity," it says. Many foreigners came to Afghanistan for the anti-Soviet struggle and their aid was welcomed, "but regional leaders should make clear that militant foreigners have overstayed their welcome."

U.S. civil forces in Afghanistan should help communicate this message, the paper says, while also making sure to make clear that America will not occupy Afghanistan.

"The Washington Times" adds that if Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf can also focus the attention of his military on the danger posed by foreign elements, "he will give the armed forces a raison d'etre beyond the struggle in Kashmir."


In an item distributed by the "Los Angeles Times" syndicate and reprinted in today's "International Herald Tribune," 1998 Nobel Memorial Prize laureate for economics Amartya Sen suggests that sustainable environmental development and the democratization of societies should be considered in tandem, as two aspects of the same issue.

"The need to think about the environment cannot really be dissociated from the nature of the lives that people, especially deprived people, live today," he says. "If people have a miserable living standard, then the promise of sustaining that pitiable standard in the future can hardly be very thrilling. The goal has to include rapid reduction of today's deprivations, while making sure that what is achieved today can be sustained in the future."

Sen suggests that increasing democratic freedoms should rate among the main tasks of sustainable development. "Not only are these freedoms important in themselves, but [open] public discussion, often stifled under authoritarian regimes, may be pivotally important for [a] better understanding of the importance of environmental preservation."

"Global cooperation is needed both to alleviate today's deprivations and to safeguard our future. And that is exactly what the World Summit on Sustainable Development, which begins on 26 August in Johannesburg, is trying to achieve."


An analysis by "Jane's Foreign Report" published today addresses several of the criticisms of a proposed U.S.-led military intervention in Iraq. Those skeptical of such an operation argue that it will cause world oil prices to rise and adversely affect financial markets; that the backlash against the United States will be huge, perhaps toppling pro-Western governments in other Mideast countries; and that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and his regime may prove intractable.

But "Jane's" says Saddam is "dependent on the apparatus of a state, a disciplined security service and a small clan of his own people.... [When] his regime begins to collapse, he will be finished."

Some have suggested that the Iraqi leader, "with nothing to lose, [will] use his chemical weapons against U.S. troops or against Israel." "Jane's" says this "is possible, but it is improbable." Or Iraq could disintegrate, torn apart by its Sunni Muslim, Shia Muslim, and Kurdish communities. "This too is improbable," says "Jane's." "Neither Turkey, Iran, nor Syria want a Kurdish state; neither Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, or even Iran want a Shia state."

"Jane's" concludes that "most of the dangers are manageable." It says Iraq "has one marketable commodity that can ensure its relatively speedy recovery: oil. Economic reconstruction could be swift," it says.


Ignacio Ramonet, writing in "Le Monde Diplomatique," calls the upcoming UN summit on sustainable development in Johannesburg, South Africa, "an event of great importance." "The planet is in a sorry state," he says. This was acknowledged by world leaders at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, where they agreed that the major cause of the deterioration of the global environment is the unsustainable pattern of overconsumption and overproduction, particularly in industrialized countries, which also contributes to global poverty.

But in many ways, Ramonet says, things have not improved since the 1992 summit -- they have gotten worse. The unsustainable pattern of overconsumption and production is now "even more entrenched." Ramonet says, "The fortunes of the world's three richest individuals now exceed the total wealth of the inhabitants of its 48 poorest countries."

Ramonet warns that the summit will come to naught if "national egotism, the fetishism of growth, the logic of the market, and the law of profit are allowed to take over." He suggests that the Johannesburg delegates focus on seven key issues: renewable energy sources, access to clean drinking water, forest protection, corporate accountability for their environmental impact, modifying World Trade Organization rules to better protect ecosystems, a commitment by developed countries to contribute at least 0.7 percent of their wealth to development aid, and wiping out the debt of the world's poorest nations.


In the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung," Sam Hapgood says German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's pledge to keep Germany out of a U.S.-led war in Iraq "has breathed fresh life into his coalition's bid for re-election and created a rift between members of the opposition Christian Democrats and their chancellor candidate, Premier Edmund Stoiber of Bavaria."

Hapgood says some observers feel that Schroeder's "tough stance on Iraq" may serve to divert the public's attention from the scandals that have plagued his party and his administration. Of late, Schroeder has lessened his support for the U.S.-led war on terrorism, and made clear that a UN Security Council mandate would be necessary before any consideration is made of sending German troops to Iraq.

At the same time, election challenger Stoiber is seeking to minimize differences within the Christian Democratic parties about the possible U.S.-led action. But he is also keeping "a low profile on the issue," and has appealed to the chancellor not to turn Iraq into a campaign topic.


In a contribution to "The Wall Street Journal Europe," former U.S. National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft says that "there is a virtual consensus in the world against an attack on Iraq at this time."

As long as this sentiment persists, he says, the U.S. would have to act alone on Iraq, which would be "difficult and expensive." But the most serious cost, he says, would be to the war on terrorism. Ignoring this worldwide sentiment "would result in a serious degradation in international cooperation with [the U.S.] against terrorism." And Scowcroft says that war cannot be won "without enthusiastic international cooperation, especially on intelligence."

But Scowcroft says the most dire consequences would be the effects on the region. "The shared view in the region is that Iraq is principally an obsession of the U.S. The obsession of the region, however, is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."

If the U.S. is perceived to be turning away from that conflict -- which he says "the region, rightly or wrongly, perceives to be clearly within [U.S.] power to resolve" -- in order to attack Iraq, there would be an "explosion" of anti-American outrage.

The U.S. "would be seen as ignoring a key interest of the Muslim world in order to satisfy what is seen to be a narrow American interest."


A piece in this month's "Le Monde Diplomatique" by Herve Dieux discusses the plight of Eastern European workers in Portugal. Lured by the promise of higher wages, Romanians, Moldovans, Russians, and Ukrainians "are now making their way to Portugal in search of a better life -- and finding exploitation and fear."

Portuguese employers take advantage of the low unemployment rate and labor substitution -- encouraging Portuguese union members with their higher working standards to emigrate, while promoting immigration from poorer nations.

"Every year, tens of thousands of mainly unskilled Portuguese workers try their luck in Germany, Switzerland, France, and Spain's Basque country." At the same time, workers from the East -- known as sleepwalkers -- migrate westward, hoping for Western wages. Ukrainians alone now make up Portugal's third-largest foreign community.

These migrants "face extremely bad working and housing conditions," says Dieux, likening them to slave laborers. Many work in building and construction, regardless of the professional skills many possess. Dieux says despite Portugal's shortage of qualified, skilled workers, "nothing has been done to tap into the potential of these [Eastern] migrants, even though many are engineers, doctors, or technicians."