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Europe

German Press Review: No Peace with a Wall

German editorial pages reflected on Israeli Prime Minister Sharon's visit to the United States and the German government's handling of the ongoing hostage drama in the Sahara.

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Will it be "Tear down this wall, Mr. Sharon" in Washington?

The Frankfurter Rundschau took a skeptical view of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s visit to the United States. After summarizing the various conflicting interests in the Middle East, the paper said the intermediate burden was on Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas. "In the end, Israel’s controversial erection of walls will have to come into the discussion," the paper wrote, "but one thing is concrete: Sharon will only put an end to the devastating fencing project, when the Palestinian reformers around Mahmoud Abbas dismantle the infrastructure of terror."

Dresden’s Sächsische Zeitung also commented on the issue. In dealing with this newest dividing line – the erection of a wall separating Israel from the West Bank -- we cannot expect that U.S. President Bush will follow Ronald Reagan’s example and issue the challenge to "tear down this wall, Mr. Sharon!" The paper pointed out that Bush cannot afford to take sides in the battle, and that as a consequence of the Iraq War, he has been dragged into the thankless quest for peace in the Middle East. "But peace, as history teaches us, is not to be gained by erecting walls," the paper summarized. "Such a structure establishes at best a graveyard-like quiet, while stoking further disquietude."

Most German newspapers on Tuesday focused on the heatstroke-induced death of a German woman, who had been held for months by kidnappers in the Sahara along with 15 German and European tourists.

"In lands where states have deteriorated, criminal bands work hand-in-hand with terror groups, the wish to structure the world along the lines of a vacation catalogue for western tourists reflects a certain state of ignorance and perhaps even arrogance in the western world," Munich’s Süddeutsche Zeitung wrote commenting on the fact that the hostages had traveled to the Algerian Desert in search of an adventure vacation.

Other papers reflected not so much on the woman’s death, but on the German government’s lack of information on how it is handling the ongoing drama. The Berlin daily Die Welt said what it called a "hermetic news blackout" on the part of the foreign ministry was a regrettable necessity. "The price of silence is that the public remains clueless," the paper wrote. "This leaves us nothing but the hope that the government has followed the proper strategy in attempting to gain the release of the hostages. But it also shows that in the fight against internationally active violent criminals, governments – be they German or American – require an investment of faith on the part of the general public."

Hanover’s Neue Presse was more critical of the news blackout. "We don’t know how close the pursuit of the hostage takers was. We don’t know how responsibly the Algerian authorities worked towards the release of the hostages. And we also don’t know if the cooperation between western and Algerian security forces functions as well as the hostages might have wished it did. The German government has maintained silence in ‘the interest of those impacted’. That may be the best strategy, but silence alone will not rescue the hostages. And one thing is certain: if nothing happens soon, we won’t have to wait long for the next death notice."

German editorial pages reflected on Israeli Prime Minister Sharon's visit to the United States and the German government's handling of the ongoing hostage drama in the Sahara.

The Frankfurter Rundschau took a skeptical view of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s visit to the United States. After summarizing the various conflicting interests in the Middle East, the paper said the intermediate burden was on Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas. "In the end, Israel’s controversial erection of walls will have to come into the discussion," the paper wrote, "but one thing is concrete: Sharon will only put an end to the devastating fencing project, when the Palestinian reformers around Mahmoud Abbas dismantle the infrastructure of terror."

Dresden’s Sächsische Zeitung also commented on the issue. In dealing with this newest dividing line – the erection of a wall separating Israel from the West Bank -- we cannot expect that U.S. President Bush will follow Ronald Reagan’s example and issue the challenge to "tear down this wall, Mr. Sharon!" The paper pointed out that Bush cannot afford to take sides in the battle, and that as a consequence of the Iraq War, he has been dragged into the thankless quest for peace in the Middle East. "But peace, as history teaches us, is not to be gained by erecting walls," the paper summarized. "Such a structure establishes at best a graveyard-like quiet, while stoking further disquietude."

Most German newspapers on Tuesday focused on the heatstroke-induced death of a German woman, who had been held for months by kidnappers in the Sahara along with 15 German and European tourists.

"In lands where states have deteriorated, criminal bands work hand-in-hand with terror groups, the wish to structure the world along the lines of a vacation catalogue for western tourists reflects a certain state of ignorance and perhaps even arrogance in the western world," Munich’s Süddeutsche Zeitung wrote commenting on the fact that the hostages had traveled to the Algerian Desert in search of an adventure vacation.

Other papers reflected not so much on the woman’s death, but on the German government’s lack of information on how it is handling the ongoing drama. The Berlin daily Die Welt said what it called a "hermetic news blackout" on the part of the foreign ministry was a regrettable necessity. "The price of silence is that the public remains clueless," the paper wrote. "This leaves us nothing but the hope that the government has followed the proper strategy in attempting to gain the release of the hostages. But it also shows that in the fight against internationally active violent criminals, governments – be they German or American – require an investment of faith on the part of the general public."

Hanover’s Neue Presse was more critical of the news blackout. "We don’t know how close the pursuit of the hostage takers was. We don’t know how responsibly the Algerian authorities worked towards the release of the hostages. And we also don’t know if the cooperation between western and Algerian security forces functions as well as the hostages might have wished it did. The German government has maintained silence in ‘the interest of those impacted’. That may be the best strategy, but silence alone will not rescue the hostages. And one thing is certain: if nothing happens soon, we won’t have to wait long for the next death notice."