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Articles in English

Israel: No Peace, No Process?

The Israeli Press Reacts to the Road Map: Bumpy Road Ahead

The Israeli Press Reacts to the Prisoner Exchange with Hizbollah

Israel’s Security Fence—Back To The Wall

A Woman President in the White House?

New York Stories:
Freedom of Speech

New York Stories:
9/11—Tilting at Windmills

German Press on Iraq:
Front Line Berlin

Bush Takes On Europe—Again

A European in New York

Jewish Lawyers Defending Anti-Semites?

Cooperation and Competition — American Jewry and Israel's Development

In Memoriam Yehuda Amichai

In Memoriam Hildegard Knef

2000... And the Emperor Still Has No Clothes


The World Press on...


Czech Republic











People Making Headlines in 2000


Home Page > Articles in English > People 2000



Israel: Motti Gilat

Argentina: Jacobo Timerman

Argentina: Emilie Schindler

Russia: Dmitry Dostoyevsky

Italy: Nilde Iotti

New Zealand: Don McKinnon

Syria: Farouk Al-Shara

India: Mulk Raj Anand

Argentina: Diego Maradona


From the January 2000 issue of World Press Review

Motti Gilat:
The Grand Inquisitor

By Tekla Szymanski

Mordechai (Motti) Gilat, 52, is one of Israel's most distinguished investigative journalists.

His latest journalistic coup concerns former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara. Both are under investigation for fraud after Gilat broke the story on their misuse of government funds.

Who is this reporter who makes politicians tremble? "[Gilat] is obsessed, suspicious of everyone, and often resorts to controversial means to achieve his sacred goal of delivering Israel from evil," writes Amir Ben David in Tel Aviv's liberal Ha'aretz of the man who is a nonstop fighter for justice.

Gilat, who writes for the mass-circulation Yediot Aharonot in Tel Aviv, is every public figure's nightmare. When a public figure receives a call from Gilat, he "imagines his own photograph splashed across the front page of Yediot, he begins to sweat," writes Ben David.

For his part, Gilat declines to give interviews, doesn't appear on TV talk shows, and maintains his anonymity. "So much so that an aura of mystery has formed around him," writes Ben David.

Only a handful of Israeli journalists can present a list of achievements that approaches Gilat's. But he also pays a heavy price, according to Ben David: "[It has] turned him into a self-compartmentalized, manipulative individual and made him suspicious almost to the point of paranoia."



From the January 2000 issue of World Press Review

Jacobo Timerman:
Uncompromising Journalist

By Tekla Szymanski

Jacobo Timerman, who died in November at the age of 76, was Argentina's most influential journalist who stood up for press freedom and the right to know.

Not only that. He was "an ardent defender of human rights," writes Agence France-Presse. And he was the founder and publisher of two newspapers, Primera Plana and La Opinión, which, according to Madrid's liberal El País, "revolutionized the practice of journalism" at the time of the junta's dirty war."

Timerman raised standards in Argentine journalism, and "used his liberal papers to write extensively about what he believed to be rampant government corruption," writes David Rudge in the independent Jerusalem Post.

Timerman was imprisoned, tortured, and held under house arrest for 30 months beginning in April 1977. Following intervention by Israel and the United States, he was expelled to Israel, where he proved to be equally uncompromising. He worked in New York, Madrid, and Tel Aviv, and returned to Argentina in 1984, where his testimony against former military leaders was instrumental in the prosecution of human-rights cases. Francesc Relea writes in El País that Timerman's testimony "was one of the high points of the proceedings against the promoters of genocide."

Timerman wrote several books in which "he unleashed furious criticism of Israeli expansion during the war in Lebanon," writes Relea in El País, "or of the Pinochet dictatorship."

One of the last people to spend time with Timerman was journalist Carlos Gambetta. "He had a powerful intellect," Gambetta is quoted in El País. "There were two constants in his life: anti-fascism and his love for his wife." Charles Ritterband, in Zurich's liberal Neue Zürcher Zeitung, says that Timerman "was a rebellious critic, a gray eminence of Argentine journalism."

In Buenos Aires' leftist Página 12, Luis Bruschtein observes: "[He] was a powerful personality, polemical, passionate, and loved and hated equally by figures on both left and right. It can be said that in our midst, Timerman marked a before and an after."



From the January 2000 issue of World Press Review

Emilie Schindler:
The Other Legacy

By Tekla Szymanski

Emilie SchindlerEmilie Schindler, the 92-year-old widow of Oscar Schindler—the man who saved thousands of Jews during World War II—is virtually unknown.

She rarely gives interviews. In fact, she does not even think she is famous at all. But now she has broken her silence in a rare interview.

She spoke to Andrea Ferrari of the Buenos Aires' leftist Página 12 after the famous "Schindler's list"—along with hundreds of other personal documents—recently surfaced in the house of a couple in Hildesheim, Germany. Schindler left his papers there before he died in 1974. In 1957, he had returned to Germany from Argentina, where the couple had moved in 1949. He left Emilie, virtually penniless, in exile in Argentina.

Emilie Schindler paints a different portrait of her husband. The man who was a hero to thousands had a drinking problem and abandoned his wife. She also casts doubt on his primary role in the rescue of 1,200 Jews. "It wasn't just him," she says. "Others asked him to save those Jews…I would go and look for food; otherwise, everybody would have starved to death," she recalls.

She is still angry at her husband for leaving her immersed in debt. "He could have gone for a couple of years [to negotiate a line of credit]. But he left forever." She will never forgive him for that—or for his other women.

Emilie lost all contact with Schindler until she learned of his death. She didn't benefit from Steven Spielberg's movie Schindler's List , but she received subsidies from B'nai Brith and the Argentine government, which have allowed her to continue living in her modest house in San Vicente. Emilie Schindler concedes that she has "some good memories" of her husband—but "not many." Why did she marry him? the reporter asks. Emilie Schindler responds, "Because I was an idiot."


For further reading:





From the February 2000 issue of World Press Review

Dmitry Dostoyevsky:
Literary Lion Cub

By Tekla Szymanski

Since childhood, Dmitry Dostoyevsky has had to carry a weighty heritage as the great-grandson of the famous Russian writer.

Bearing a striking resemblance to his great-grandfather, Dmitry "has tried hard to be worthy of this widely recognized surname, [while trying] to be himself," wrote Yulia Kantor, in Moscow's liberal Izvestia.

"I've had very, very different kinds of experiences," Dmitry remembered. "I was in school when Dostoyevsky was basically banned. My name, of course, has gotten mixed reactions—people would look at me apprehensively, as if they were thinking, 'what can you expect from the great-grandson of a reactionary writer?' "

Dmitry's father even feared for the safety of his family and expected to be jailed for his relationship to Dostoyevsky, but the family was able to weather the Stalin era.

"What is striking as well as disconcerting about Dmitry Dostoyevsky is his unshakable certitude that he inherited many habits from his great-grandfather," observes Kantor, such as a love of coffee and a passion for horses. Indeed, Dmitry appears to be convinced that "the genetic code is at work here."

To the great-grandson, St. Petersburg is a constant reminder of Dostoyevsky's life. The writer not only created a literary image of the city—rendered, for example, in Crime and Punishment—but Dostoyevsky's brothers, who were architects, built a large "down-to-earth part" of the old capital of the Russian Empire. "I love to wander around Petersburg," Dmitry told Kantor. "Everything here still exists in 'the Dostoyevsky style.' Raskolnikov's building is nearby—and even now it is an apartment house."

But fame carries responsibilities. As the direct descendant of a great writer, Dmitry strongly believes he has a duty to know as much about Dostoyevsky as professional literary critics, for, he concludes in French, "noblesse oblige."



From the February 2000 issue of World Press Review

Nilde Iotti:
Italy's 'Red Queen'

By Tekla Szymanski

Nilde Iotti, Italy's leftist lawmaker, who died in December at 79, was renowned for her regal manner.

Nicknamed "the Red Queen" and "Czarina," Iotti once described herself as "just a woman who has a difficult job—and tries to do it with tact."

Iotti fought with the partisan resistance during World War II. As a member of Italy's Communist Party, she became the first female president of the lower house of parliament in 1979, a post she held until 1982. In an obituary in Milan's centrist Corriere della Sera, Roberto Zuccolini called Iotti "the lady of the republic, of the democracy, of parliament."

"There were lots of children and babies [at Iotti's state funeral], entire families continued to pass beside the casket," observed Claudia Terracina in Rome's centrist Il Messaggero. " 'Goodbye, Comrade Nilde,' whispered Stefano, and Sister Gervasia recited a prayer for 'this dear person who was from Reggio Emilia, as I am.' "

"There were 15,000 to 20,000 [people at the funeral]—in silence," said a somber editorial in Rome's liberal La Repubblica. "Some raised their fists." These were "the people," as Iotti called them, and they had all come to render final homage to the queen.



From the February 2000 issue of World Press Review

Don McKinnon:
Master of Consensus

By Tekla Szymanski

New Zealand's Don McKinnon, 60, is the longest-serving foreign minister in the democratic world.

Until now, that is, as he is scheduled to take over the post of secretary-general of the commonwealth—the group of nations that once were British colonies or dependencies.

Although McKinnon has critics, the problems he will face relate to failures of democracies within the group.

"Laid-back" is how Pattrick Smellie of Auckland's conservative weekly Sunday Star Times described this "tall, handsome fellow from a talented, old-money family." McKinnon, says Smellie, "exudes a blue-blooded ease [and] has in most matters been a pragmatist in a cabinet stacked with ideologues. Some call his style consensual. Others call it supine."

An editorial in Christchurch's conservative The Press disagreed: "[McKinnon] has highlighted the advantages of quiet diplomacy. He will have at least nine years to stamp his mark on the commonwealth. Expect few fireworks. He will probably be happier—perhaps even more effective—when working behind the scenes than at the forefront."

Either way, McKinnon's agenda includes juggling the competing interests of the 54 member nations of the commonwealth (once mockingly referred to as the "British-run club") and keeping a close eye on Pakistan, which, according to Smellie, is increasingly showing an "unhealthy interest in North Korea's nuclear capabilities."

McKinnon will have to oversee the enforcement of a commonwealth rule requiring Pakistan's military government to restore civilian rule within two years, or face expulsion.

McKinnon, who is slated to assume the commonwealth post in April, has his work cut out for him. But The Press concludes that "[McKinnon] may be just what the organization needs."




From the March 2000 issue of World Press Review

Farouk Al-Shara:
Stepping into the Spotlight

By Tekla Szymanski

Syria's Foreign Minister Farouk al-Shara has many faces.

He once stated that the time has come to focus on the "battle of borders, not the battle for existence." He is a difficult man to analyze: Some observers see him as President Hafez al-Assad's puppet in the peace negotiations with Israel—but others suggest that, in reality, Al-Shara is pulling the strings behind the scenes.

Al-Shara, 61, rose through the ranks of the ruling Baath Party until his appointment to foreign minister in 1984. In this position, he has proved to be a tough man with whom to parry in peace talks. He has academic credentials in international law—the focus of his studies at Damascus University and at the University of London before he turned to a
career in politics.

The Israeli press is eyeing al-Shara with skepticism bordering on open resentment, and many commentators have fixed upon his lack of charisma as the key to understanding the Syrian strategy. For many, he embodies "Syrian chutzpah."

His arrogant behavior is said to be testing the nerves of enthusiastic supporters of peace. Meron Benvenisti of Tel Aviv's liberal Ha'aretz notes his "dour expression, refusal to behave civilly and shake hands, and his avoidance of any direct public contact with the people he went to talk peace with."

Al-Shara has been compared to "a man who has forgotten his indigestion tablets," while craning his neck not to miss a word at the negotiation table. But contrary to Orli Azulay-Katz's prediction in Tel Aviv's mass-circulation Yediot Aharonot that Barak and Al-Shara would never take a dip in the hotel pool together or run side by side on treadmills—that is exactly what happened in January at the peace talks in Shepherdstown, West Virginia: Barak went to the hotel gym and invited Al-Shara to join him in his a workout. Surprisingly, the Syrian accepted.

Al-Shara is the most trusted aide of the ailing Assad, who is preparing his country for an imminent power shift. If Assad's son, Bashar, assumes the presidency [as he indeed did after his father's death], Al-Shara's expertise in dealing with Israel is likely to provide a vital element of continuity.





From the March 2000 issue of World Press Review

Mulk Raj Anand
95 Years Young

By Tekla Szymanski

He is often described as the "grand old man of Indo-Anglican literature." Mulk Raj Anand turned 95 in December, yet says he feels like a young man.

He is the author of countless books, is now working on his seven-volume autobiography, and spoke to Humra Quraishi of New Delhi's centrist Hindustan Times about his stamina. And even after a two-hour conversation and two television interviews, he showed no signs of fatigue. He writes four to five hours a day, travels extensively, and loves to meet people.

"Writing is therapy," Anand says. Women he once knew inspire most of his writings—he now is married for the third time. He has suffered three nervous breakdowns—one of which brought him face to face with Sigmund Freud in Vienna in 1927. The father of psychoanalysis diagnosed Anand as being fixated on his mother.

Anand decided to take up writing to ease his state of mind. He says that the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, whom he met in the 1930s, have changed his perceptions of life. "[Gandhi] allowed me to stay in the ashram, only after I had taken three vows—never to look at a woman with desire, never to drink liquor, and to clean the toilets," he recalls.

He was eventually dismissed for disobeying. "There is so much violence and hatred, and all this pains me," concludes Anand. "I have given this call to declare Mahatma Gandhi as the man of the millennium."






From the April 2000 issue of World Press Review

Diego Maradona:
Shame to His Name

By Tekla Szymanski

He once was considered one of the world's most promising soccer players. But his fame has faded fast.

Self-centered and arrogant, always beaming with self-esteem and pride, the former captain of Argentina's world-famous soccer team became the ultimate idol during the World Youth Championship in Japan in 1979.

Diego Maradona, 39, has made headlines many times since—mainly because of the much-publicized metamorphosis of the once-toned, muscular athlete into a physically broken, bloated cocaine addict. Wearing his hair dyed a bright orange, he has been seen nodding off on his wife's shoulder after speaking incoherently in public.

Now Maradona is in the headlines again: He has declared himself a friend of all Cubans after seeking medical treatment on the island. "Diego has sought help in a place where he can find both medicine and rest," writes Jorge Alvarez in Buenos Aires's Pagina 12. "Instead of sophisticated medical care, [he] will get peace of mind," Maradona's physician told Alvarez. Maradona suffers from heart problems related to his drug addiction.

Argentina's Pibe de Oro (Golden Boy) has regained what seemed lost: the spotlight. Proudly displaying a huge tattoo of Che Guevera on his right arm, the soccer star explained that he chose Cuba "because of the dignity of its people. I, too, am a rebel in this convoluted world."

Indeed. Shortly after his arrival, Maradona made headlines by smashing a foreign journalist's car window with his fist, after complaining that reporters were following him. This comes as a bit of a surprise, since, according to Pagina 12, "nobody is running after [Maradona] anymore for his autograph."

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