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Europe

German Press Review: Questions of Conscience

The German press addressed moral values commenting on the decision of Israeli pilots not to fly sorties over Palestinian territories, the questions of honesty being debated at the EU and interpretations in Islamic law.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung commented on the refusal of Israeli pilots to fly over Palestinian territory and said that their reaction shows that they are attempting to keep up high moral standards despite the gloomy situation. The FAZ wrote that Israel has indeed done things which are unworthy of a democratic constitutional state even under the circumstances of an occupation. The pilots, some of them highly decorated, will face serious consequences, the paper said, including possible suspension from the army. That’s the price the Israeli pilots will have to pay for their opposition, the FAZ commented.

The Neues Deutschland newspaper in Berlin stated that it was the pilots’ conscience and not their fear of the mission, which led to their refusal. One of the pilots was quoted as saying he did not want to be the one who kills women and children. The paper said that this one man stands for all those Israeli soldiers who are fed up with the situation. The main message of the pilots was that the on-going occupation is endangering Israel’s security and its moral standards, Neues Deutschland wrote. The pains of peace are better than the agony of war, the daily concluded, and added that such a convincing message must offer at least some encouragement.

German papers on Friday continued to discuss the corruption scandal over Eurostat, the EU's statistics office after the publication of three internal reports on Wednesday which detailed how top Eurostat executives had diverted millions of euros into secret slush funds. The Stuttgarter Nachrichten said that the call for resignations won’t solve the real problem. The 21,000 officials in Brussels do not like to be told what to do by a commission which rotates every five years, the paper commented and so the power struggle between anonymous general directors and commissioners has to be balanced. That does not require a clear statement by European governments. And it is up to them, the Stuttgart paper concluded, to stop treating the commission like an assistant with little influence.

The Sächsische Zeitung joined the debate by saying that Brussels’ bloated bureaucracy is not even able to administer itself. The paper questioned how the management of Europe and added that it was a big joke that under these circumstances Brussels’s officials criticized the financial frailties of the member countries. But even worse, concluded the paper, was the example the bureaucrats in the commission were setting for the ten candidate countries that join the EU next year.

Neue Rhein Zeitung commented that Commission President Romano Prodi would probably now choke on the phrase “Zero-tolerance,” some three years after he used it when he came into office and applied it to the cases of fraud which forced the former commission to resign. Prodi now has to admit that corruption is continuing during his term, the paper said. The fact that corruption can happen in a commission whose top goal is to fight it is already a huge scandal. The paper concluded that, even if Prodi and his colleagues didn’t know about it, they can’t get around their political responsibility. Heads have to roll – but not just at civil servant level.

And finally, the acquittal of Nigerian single mother Amina Lawal led the Augsburger Allgemeine Zeitung to address the subject of extreme Islamic law. The paper wrote that another woman could be stoned to death on the street in the coming days for the same reasons. The acquittal was just a legal formality. The background to this terrible incident is an extremist interpretation of Islam, it commented, adding that the brutal oppression of women is part of this kind of Islam. The Augsburger Allgemeine offered criticism stating that this is a religiously institutionalized and permanent violation of human rights. The paper concluded that the people of Germany should be satisfied with the little debate about the symbolism of veils.