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16/08/2006

Magazine Roundup

Der Spiegel | Gazeta Wyborcza | Al Ahram Weekly | The New Yorker | Heti Valasz | The Guardian | Il Foglio | Heti Vilaggazdasag | London Review of Books | Tygodnik Powszechny | Le point | The Spectator


Der Spiegel, 14.08.2006 (Germany)

"Enough already!" says German-American writer Irene Dische in her commentary about Jostein Gaarder (more here) and other critics of Israel who seem deeply averse to considering Israeli war victims, human rights violations in the Palestinian terrorities or the vulgar anti-Semtisim in Lebanon, and who refuse to see that Israel is surrounded by states that deny its right to exist: "No other land fighting for its survival would be subjected to such condemnation. It is quite possible that the current conflict is just the prelude to a great drama that ends with the extinction of the Jewish State, which, as in a Greek tragedy, conjures up exactly what it is trying to avoid: its own demise. And if Israel is finally pushed into the sea, I would admittedly have a sick sense of gratification: Because people like Jostein Gaarder would have to find other objects for their hate."


Gazeta Wyborcza, 12.08.2006 (Poland)


"With the demise of the EU constitution, the era of the Great European Project came to an end. A year after the catastrophe of the two referenda, we are still floating in a vacuum," states Jacek Pawlicki, who perceives a threatening tendency toward nationalism in Europe. "The various European nationalisms are by far less threatening today than in the 1930s, but they are in a position to endanger the integration of the continent. The first victim is the principle of solidarity and the next challenge is immigration." In truth, the solution is more Europe, not less; but "perhaps the decline of the EU is meant to be?"

Another prediction is the return of the "promised land." But not in the Middle East; rather, in the former textile center of Lodz, the "Manchester of the east," which Nobel Prize-winning author Wladyslaw Reymont once described as a magical center of attraction for business adventurers - as a "promised land," to be exact. After the depression of de-industrialization, optimism is returning to Poland's second largest city, thanks to foreign investment, and to locals who bring new life to the ruins of old factories.


Al Ahram Weekly, 10.08.2006
(Egypt)


Political scientist Hassan Nafaa considers the question of why "Hizbullah has given pride to the Arab world." First of all, the year 2000 marked "the first time in the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict [that] a resistance group managed to force Israel to withdraw unconditionally from occupied Arab territory". Secondly, there's the latest war: "A state that cannot protect its citizenry is not worth its name... In the recent confrontation with Israel, we've been treated to opposing images. One is Israel, a military behemoth with no sense of morality. The other is the resistance, which challenges and humiliated that monster. Hizbullah comes out of this confrontation looking more polished than all Arab governments combined. And the Lebanese people come out looking more resourceful than all other Arab societies."


The New Yorker, 21.08.2006 (USA)

Seymour M. Hersh investigates "Washington's interests in Israel's war." Despite the official wait-and-see behavior of the American State Department at the start of the conflict, it is clear that "The Bush Administration, however, was closely involved in the planning of Israel's retaliatory attacks. President Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney were convinced, current and former intelligence and diplomatic officials told me, that a successful Israeli Air Force bombing campaign against Hizbollah's heavily fortified underground-missile and command-and-control complexes in Lebanon could ease Israel's security concerns and also serve as a prelude to a potential American pre-emptive attack to destroy Iran's nuclear installations, some of which are also buried deep underground."

Also in The New Yorker is Hendrik Herzberg's commentary on the growing resistance against the Iraq war, and a short story, "The Spot," by David Means. Under the lovely headline, "The philosopher stoned," Adam Kirsch discusses the first English translation of Walter Benjamin's "On Hashish" and "Berlin Childhood."


Heti Valasz, 10. 08. 2006 (Hungary)

Marking the 50th anniversary of the the Hungarian Uprising in 1956, previously unreleased archival material is seeing the light of day. Andreas Oplatka, historian and former foreign policy editor of the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, analyzses the diaries of the imprisoned leader of the uprising, Imre Nagy. He remained a communist after the uprising, but "strangely, his perspectives were also compatible with such viewpoints as: Unconditional loyalty to the Soviet Union is not the political touchstone of a socialist land. The true internationalism of the proletariat means equality, not meek subservience to Moscow. Multi-party sytems and socialism are compatible. Nagy emphasized that the population supported Hungary's neutrality - and this, too, was compatible with his communist viewpoints. To him, the Warsaw Pact, from which Hungary withdrew on November 1, 1956, was basically negative, an instrument of Cold War politics. The revolution was the independence struggle of a damaged people, beaten down by chauvinistic Russian imperialism. So again: Was he really a communist?"
(See here Laszlo Földenyi's article on the Hungarian Uprising)


The Guardian, 12.08.2006 (U.K.)


Craig Raine lauds him as the Hans Holbein of our age: The hyperrealistic, Australian painter and sculptor Ron Mueck, to whom the National Galleries of Scotland has just dedicated an exhibition in the Royal Scottish Academy. Raine finds Mueck's work "Spooning Couple" excellent, irritating, moving; and "Dead Dad" is a masterpiece: "The greatness of 'Dead Dad' is oxymoronic: its very completeness also tells us something is missing. The sculpture dispassionately records every delicate and indelicate bodily detail - detail that is alive with accuracy. Nothing is missing. Tendons, toenails, the direction of dark hair on the calves, the hazy pubes a little stationary mirage, the tidy greying hair, the polished, modest, uncircumcised cosh of the penis at four o'clock, which echoes the thumbs across the open, upturned palms. And yet this body is unmistakably dead... Everything is there still, but stilled, and something central has gone. The reduction in scale somehow suggests this loss. The body is lesser than life - for some, lighter by 21 grams, the weight of the soul: the alleged difference in body weight before and after death."


Il Foglio, 12.08.2006 (Italy)


Since late June, top Chinese government officials - as a warning - have shown a video of the trial of the Taiwanese spy Tong Daning, who was later executed. Antonio Talia took the opportunity to describe the most sensational case of the ongoing espionage war between China and Taiwan: "Zhu Gongxun is basically a member of the Taiwanese secret service. The Chinese arrested him last May in the Guangxi province, in the southwestern area of the country, after he crossed the border with Viet Nam with another agent known only by his family name, Li. The details of the operation are diffuse. Zhu fell into the trap of a fictive Chinese traitor, the story goes. Zhu is no common agent. He is the vice head of the department responsible for all Taiwanese cells in southeast Asia."


Heti Vilaggazdasag, 09. 08.2006 (Hungary)


In October 2005 the conservative mayor of one of Buda's most wealthy districts installed a memorial to the victims of World War II. The giant Turul bird comes from pagan mythology and resembles an eagle. The memorial is controversial: As a symbol of the Hungarian Nazis in the 1930s and today of the right-wing populists, the Turul bird is unacceptable as a memorial to the civilian victims of the war. Because it was erected without the approval of the city's administration, it must now be removed within 30 days. A conservative citizens' initiative plans to block the removal with a human chain. But Zoltan Horvath still supports its removal: "Looking at the Turul bird, many Budapest residents feel deeply uneasy, because it reminds them not only of the honorable history of the Hungarian nation, but also of the undignified chapter of our history. For many, that period is associated with degradation and deadly peril, and looking at this memorial is simply unbearable for them."


London Review of Books, 17.08.2006
(U.K.)


Israeli writer Yitzhak Laor takes to task those of his fellow citizens who are trapped in militaristic logic: "As soon as the facts of the Bint Jbeil ambush, which ended with relatively high Israeli casualties (eight soldiers died there), became public, the press and television in Israel began marginalising any opinion that was critical of the war. The media also fell back on the kitsch to which Israelis grow accustomed from childhood: the most menacing army in the region is described here as if it is David against an Arab Goliath. Yet the Jewish Goliath has sent Lebanon back 20 years, and Israelis themselves even further: we now appear to be a lynch-mob culture, glued to our televisions, incited by a premier whose ‘leadership' is being launched and legitimised with rivers of fire and destruction on both sides of the border."

In a wonderfully zig-zagging text, economic historian Steven Shapin examines a significant societal development: the transition of top chefs "from slave to celebrity, from people who worked cheaply for the rich to people for whom some of the rich would gladly work free." The jumping off point is "Heat," a book by New Yorker writer Bill Buford, about "An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker and Apprentice to a Butcher in Tuscany."


Tygodnik Powszechny, 07.08.2006 (Poland)

With the nomination of Viktor Yanukovich as Ukrainian Prime Minister, President Yushchenko has taken on a dangerous game, says Andrzej Brzeziecki. "Anyone who speaks today about the betrayal of the Orange Revolution and of the principles of independence should consider that these principles have been challenged for a long time already - at the latest when the former heroes bickered in the most embarrasing manner after the elections in March, instead of forming a coalition. Now Yushchenko has to eat crow."


Le point, 10.08.2006 (France)

In his Bloc-notes Bernard-Henri Levy compares the war in the Middle East to old photographs in which the image seems at first faded and only with time reveals its "shadows, contours, black surfaces, tones and half-tones, contrasts." With this metaphor he illuminates Hizbullah, Lebanon, the Palestinians, Iran and Islam. So one naturally was aware that the Hizbullah had established a "state within a state" in Southern Lebanon. "But so many weapons? (...) This unbelievable network of tunnels in the hills? These impregnable bunkers? These stores of weapons in private homes and mosques? That is the first revelation of this war." The Lebanon thus exposed is "no longer the exception, the miracle, the oasis of culture and peace that so charmed us in our youth - unfortunately, the moral bombs of fundamentalism have scarred the land."


The Spectator, 11.08.2006
(U.K.)


Boris Johnson, who was born in New York but is as British as crumpets and tea, announces that he no longer values his American double passport because he also wishes to be allowed to enter the USA as a British citizen. "What other country insists that because you can be one of its nationals, then you must be one of its nationals? Imagine if we told all British-born Americans that they could not arrive in this country except by use of a British passport. I haven't seen anything so insanely possessive since the negotiations on the Common Fisheries Policy, when the Irish used to claim that the cod stocks of the Atlantic were still Irish in their fishy souls, even though they had long since emigrated to Portuguese waters."
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