What U.S. newspapers are saying

Dec. 4, 2001 at 11:34 AM
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New York Times

The women's rights movement has not devoted much time to the issue of whether little girls should have the chance to grow up to be emperor. But the question came up this week in Japan, when Emperor Akihito's eldest son and daughter-in-law gave birth to their first child, a girl. Current law bars her from rising to the Chrysanthemum Throne. Although her situation is, to say the least, unique, changing the law would send a positive message to all Japanese women. The rest of the world would welcome it as well.

Legend has it that the emperor of Japan is descended from the Sun Goddess, Amaterasu. There have also been eight empresses in Japanese history, most recently in the 18th century. The male-only line of emperors was created in 1948, an obsolete relic of the era when their country was occupied by the United States.

Few features of modern Japan are more mysterious to outsiders than the emperor. By European standards, the imperial family is extraordinarily remote. It is not even the subject of much gossip. After World War II, the Americans occupying Japan stripped Emperor Hirohito of his official status as a figure of worship and government authority. Emperor Akihito is officially described as a mere symbol of the state with no governing powers.

Yet the imperial family has refashioned itself for the times and, in its modesty, won the respect of most Japanese. The nation was pleased by the news of an imperial birth after a long period when Naruhito, the crown prince, and his wife, Masako, a Harvard-educated former diplomat, were trying without success to produce an heir to the throne. The law now would inflexibly hold that they have failed. If the prince and princess do not produce a male heir the imperial household will be thrown into a quandary, since Naruhito's younger brother, Akishino, is the father of two daughters. ...

While the Japanese line of succession is in the end Japanese business, Americans have a rooting interest too, since the current rules were enacted during our occupying administration after World War II. This might be a good time to admit that Gen. Douglas MacArthur was way off base when it came to a woman's place.

Boston Globe

A long, desolating cycle of violence led to the terrorist atrocities perpetrated this weekend by suicide bombers in Jerusalem and Haifa. Already there are voices trying to place blame entirely on one side or the other, or to castigate hawks or doves, for causing so much cruelty and despair.

But this habit of circular self-justification is precisely what has made possible the prolonged descent of Palestinians and Israelis into the archaic horror of vendetta. The only way to stop this cycle of violence and vengeance is to intervene immediately with drastic measures, pretending - even if both sides know it is not true -- that the latest horror is the first and must become the last.

Secretary of State Colin Powell has said he spoke by phone with Yasser Arafat and told him that the Hamas leaders who sent suicide bombers to kill civilians in Jerusalem and Haifa were also targeting the elected president of the Palestinian Authority. Powell said Arafat agreed that the Hamas operations were also attacks against him.

If it is not pure rhetoric, Arafat's acknowledgment that he himself has been targeted means that he will not merely be doing the will of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon if he now uses his large, well-armed security forces to uproot the terrorist apparatus of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. ...

Those Palestinians are quite right who argue that Arafat needs some prospect of political gains if he is to take actions that many of his people will define as shutting down the Palestinian resistance to military occupation. If Sharon is wise, he will make such promises openly. But unless Arafat acts forcefully and swiftly to protect Palestinians as well as Israelis from the blind violence of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, he will become one of the terrorists' many new victims.

Chicago Tribune

Throughout the last decade of efforts to bring peace to the Mideast, one entity has never participated in peace talks but essentially has held veto power over any settlement. That entity is the network of Islamic and nationalist terrorists who carry out shooting attacks and suicide bombings such as Israel has suffered in recent days.

Among the most vicious groups that have slaughtered Israelis in the current intifada is the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, which claimed responsibility for three weekend suicide bombings in Jerusalem and Haifa that killed 25 people and the bombers themselves.

Hamas and its smaller counterpart and rival, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, rose to prominence in the first intifada, the 1987-93 uprising against Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Hamas took a harder line with Israel and challenged the leadership of Yasser Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization. ...

Since the outbreak of the current intifada, polls say, support for Hamas and Islamic Jihad has grown from about 17 percent to 27 percent of Palestinians, while Arafat's popularity has declined to about 33 percent. A Palestinian Authority crackdown on Hamas still risks civil war.

Arafat wants the standing of a leader of state, but he has long been accused of still trying to tap dance with the terrorists. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon says Arafat has helped finance extremist groups during the current intifada. Arafat has certainly appeared at least to turn a blind eye to their activities. Now the pressure from Israel and the U.S. is white-hot. Arafat has arrested 110 members of both groups since Saturday, the biggest sweep since a 1996 spate of suicide bombings.

Terrorists wreak havoc on Israel, but they also create misery for their own people. They invite military retaliation, shatter efforts to build a stable economy, and postpone the creation of a Palestinian homeland. This much is certain: If the day ever comes that there is a state of Palestine, it will have to govern a civil society, not be a safe haven for terrorists.

Dallas Morning News

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon behaves as if he had no choice but to immediately attack Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority in retaliation for the murderous terrorist attacks in Jerusalem and Haifa.

Mr. Sharon did have a choice. He could have done what Mr. Bush did after the terrorist attacks on the United States. He could have given Mr. Arafat an ultimatum: Surrender the suspects, destroy their networks, or suffer the consequences. He could have waited patiently for Mr. Arafat to respond, just as Mr. Bush waited for Afghanistan's Taliban leaders to respond to his ultimatum to surrender Osama bin Laden. If Mr. Arafat did not respond adequately, Mr. Sharon could have attacked with all the moral authority that Mr. Bush possessed in attacking the Taliban on Oct. 7. ...

One can understand the impulse to lash out at those whom one perceives as responsible for carnage. But it makes no sense to give an ultimatum but not time to carry it out. Similarly, it makes no sense to launch debilitating military attacks against the institution that one expects to carry out the ultimatum.

Mr. Bush was right to condemn the terrorist attacks and to demand that Mr. Arafat break up the groups that perpetrated them. However, he erred in not urging Mr. Sharon to exercise restraint, as he has on other occasions. Instead of resuming the detachment that characterized his attitude toward the conflict before Sept. 11, he should have urged Mr. Sharon to give Mr. Arafat time to show his true face.

There is still time for Mr. Bush to interpose himself. Indeed, he must to save his new peace initiative and to avoid a regional war. He should recognize that Israel has as much right to defend itself as the United States but understand that their situations are not completely analogous. Israel, unlike the United States, is an occupying power. The ultimate goal, as U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell says, should be a Middle East where "Israelis and Arabs can live together in peace, security, and dignity."

Los Angeles Times

Talk about pressure: You're a 37-year-old female commoner with a father-in-law who's an emperor. On your shoulders rests the future of a 2,600-year-old dynasty. After eight years of marriage and a publicly announced miscarriage you get pregnant again and ... and ... you deliver a baby girl! A girl? In most families, any healthy baby means Joy City. In Japan, however, a royal girl's birth creates -- How shall we say it? -- a challenge. It seems that a 1948 (male-written) law permits only males to ascend the throne. For now anyway.

The chatter for change, within hours of the much-anticipated weekend birth, reveals some significant pressures within a nation that is both modern and ancient. Changes in Japan come slowly, so slowly that when they occur they don't seem like changes at all. When Princess Masako, for instance, became the wife of Crown Prince Naruhito she was an uncommon commoner, a former diplomat educated at Oxford and Harvard. The hopes that an accomplished, quadrilingual woman would radically speed Japanese democratization and improve the social status of millions of underpaid Japanese women have gone largely unfulfilled, although glacial changes do continue. "Dynamic" is not a word ever used to describe the Imperial Household Agency, the ancient, powerful bureaucracy that keeps the royal family carefully cloistered and controlled in its palaces. After the birth of the baby, nameless until 67-year-old Emperor Akihito picks one next weekend, the secretive agency released the following quote from the obviously excited new grandpa: "It is good that the birth went well." ...

A newspaper in a throneless American nation less than 10 percent the age of Japanese society can hold no claim to expertise in royal heirs or heiresses. We would point out, however, that about 10 women actually have occupied the Chrysanthemum Throne and current public opinion polls indicate another is acceptable.

For now, we like to picture -- symbolically, of course -- a bleary-eyed crown prince and crown princess in their castle changing diapers like the rest of us. That's not what royalty usually does, but, however glacially, royalty in Japan may be changing.

Minneapolis Star-Tribune

Women in Uganda have been hanging their condoms out to dry. They're doing it not because they're ignorant, but because they're desperate. Long acquainted with the lifesaving virtues of latex, many can't imagine taking the risk of unprotected sex. And since condoms are hard to come by in southern Africa, they're forced to experiment with recycling.

This is the sort of ingenuity the world can live without, and the sort of indignity Africans shouldn't have to suffer. The condom is a dependable and cheap shield against AIDS, as Uganda's successful condom campaign makes plain. With billboard blitzes and presidential proclamations, the country turned its citizens into condom consumers. Uganda has thus escaped the worst of Africa's AIDS onslaught, lighting the way for the continent.

But what's the point of stirring demand if there's no supply? The question needs asking, because news from the U.N. AIDS Program shows that condoms are least available in the countries that need them most. In 1999, U.N. AIDS says, 724 million condoms were distributed throughout sub-Saharan Africa -- an average of 4.6 condoms per man. That skimpy supply can't possibly cover the demand.

Encouraging condom use in Africa is tricky in the best of circumstances. It entails untying a knot of beliefs and assumptions that have held societies together for generations. But if there's any hope of persuading beleaguered people that their lives can be saved by a little balloon, the thing itself will have to be readily available. U.N. AIDS says it isn't. The world needs billions more condoms than it produces.

This is another problem that can be solved with money, if only the people who have it will give it. The U.N. Population Fund says the amount needed for AIDS-fighting condoms is rising above $1 billion. But international funding for condoms has been dropping for several years -- from $68 million in 1996 to just $40 million annually in 1999 and 2000.

This may be the ultimate in penny-wise, pound-foolish thinking, and the world's wealthy nations should call a halt to it now. No one should die for want of a condom worth a few cents.

San Francisco Chronicle

Once again, Palestinian terrorists have left bloodshed and horror in their wake. Once again, they have provoked the Israelis into retaliating with missiles and tanks.

Perhaps now more than ever, the vicious circle of Israeli-Palestinian violence is spinning out of control.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat must stop temporizing and fully crack down on Hamas, which claimed responsibility for the attacks last weekend that killed 26 Israelis. Although his police have arrested 110 suspects, many observers fear that they will be released soon in Arafat's typical "revolving door" justice.

But Arafat needs help if he is to crush Hamas without being overthrown by the Palestinian masses, who have been increasingly radicalized by the lack of progress toward peace. He needs to be able to give them tangible results -- an end to the harsh Israeli security measures that make life miserable for Palestinians.

Unfortunately, Israeli leaders appear to prefer Arafat's overthrow. Some of them cynically believe that if Hamas takes control, Washington and Europe will give Israel a green light to end the peace process once and for all.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon yesterday called Arafat "the greatest obstacle to peace and stability in the Middle East," and calls grew from his cabinet for the army to forcibly reoccupy the West Bank and Gaza Strip and kill or expel Arafat.

This, of course, is music to the terrorists' ears. It must not be allowed to happen.

The Bush administration must insist that Arafat take two immediate steps -- speak on local Arabic television condemning the rein of terror, and arrest all the top leaders of Hamas. At the same time, however, Washington must prod Sharon to withdraw Israeli troops and allow an international peace-monitoring force to restore order.

Speed is of the essence.

Honolulu Advertiser

It appears that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat may have played his game of advance and retreat one time too many.

The attacks launched by Israel yesterday on Palestinian facilities were far beyond the usual tit-for-tat responses to attacks on Israeli sites.

They were, in the words of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the first strikes in a "war on terrorism."

In war, there are no winners. But there is one victor and one vanquished. And that appears, for the moment, to be where this Middle East dispute is headed.

Many have commented that the road back toward peace must go through Arafat.

That's true, if he indeed has the power or the will to stop the suicide bombings and other attacks on Israel and its citizens.

It is unclear, however, that he does.

Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Yossi Klein Halevi, senior correspondent for the Jerusalem Report, made an interesting observation.

The speculation about whether Arafat has the power to control Hamas, the Islamic Jihad and other terrorist groups is almost beside the point, he said.

If he can control the terrorists but chooses not to, he is an accomplice. If he cannot control the terrorists, he is hopeless as a partner to peace.

The only way out of a terrible, bloody war is for Arafat to demonstrate to Israel and to the world that he is capable of stopping the terrorism -- or publicly and permanently get out of the way.

He has said the right things in the past and did so again in response to the latest terror bombings. Arafat declared a state of emergency in all Palestinian-administered territories and warned that all groups violating his cease-fire orders would be treated as outlaws.

Strong words. But they will be useless unless followed by action.

Seattle Times

Long-suffering Palestinians have the grave misfortune of having Yasser Arafat in power as an international consensus builds for a state of Palestine.

Murderous assaults on Israel by suicide bombers offer a terrifying and edifying look at Arafat's unwillingness or inability to go after those who take innocent lives to sabotage peace.

Arafat is twice a failure as a leader. He has studiously refused to name a successor, and he has spurned repeated diplomatic opportunities.

The breakthrough for Palestinians should have come with the Oslo Accords in September 1993, when their rights and aspirations were formally recognized. Instead of truly nurturing and cultivating a future Palestine, the international community chose to stick with Arafat for stability. Never mind the absence of an heir apparent.

Eight years later, as suicide bombers detonate satchels loaded with explosives and flesh-shredding nuts and screws, Arafat is frozen in place. He refuses to confront those who claim bloody credit. He cannot guarantee security, and he will not pursue peace.

Arafat is failing his people at a time the rest of the world is exasperated by Israel's treatment of its neighbors. Instead of seizing the moment against terrorism, Arafat is idling in the getaway car.

Three generations of Palestinians have suffered in wretched poverty. They've had homes bulldozed, property confiscated and suffered daily economic, emotional and physical indignities. As the weight of public opinion shifts toward them, Arafat does nothing.

Israel will not wait. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is not inclined by training, temperament or democratic duty to twiddle his thumbs.

Arafat has been at the head of ragged PLO exoduses from Jordan, southern Lebanon and Beirut and Tripoli. Palestinian workers were routed from Kuwait. Is Arafat's view of the future so limited he cannot imagine the state of Palestine next to a secure, unmolested state of Israel?

That is how Arafat acts, and he has no one around him to suggest an alternative vision.

(Compiled by United Press International.)

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