Five Best Tuesday Columns

On Strauss-Kahn, Palestine, and Portugal's Nazi gold

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Deborah Lipstadt on Justice for Holocaust Participants  The recent trial of John Demjanjuk "has volumes to teach us about the complex relationship between genocide and justice," writes Deborah Lipstadt at The New York Times.  Lipstadt insists that the prosecution of Adolf Eichmann, a Germain bureaucrat, which took place 50 years ago, and Demjanjuk, a concentration camp guard, show that "every machine part is of crucial importance" and, regardless of the role they played, both men had the opportunity to reject participation in the Holocaust but didn't. "Probably the last Holocaust war crimes trial to grab the world's attention," Demjanjuk's final extradition and sentencing at the age of 91 and after 55 years of back and forth between the United States and Germany is "proof that the rule of law works, however slowly." It also proves that "those who participate in genocide, in whatever capacity, should never rest easy. Nor should they assume that if they delay justice enough, their case will be abandoned."

Neill Lochery on Portugal's Illegitimate Gold Reserves  Neill Lochery explains why Portugal is hesitant to sell off its gold reserves to Germany in order pay back its debt to the rest of Europe in today's Wall Street Journal. As a neutral state in World War II, Portugal acquired its gold through trade with Germany, contributing "a vital component to the Nazi armaments industry." Not only was "the German war machine nearly totally dependent on Portuguese and Spanish wolfram" by 1942, "much of the gold that the Germans were using to pay the Portuguese was illegitimate--looted from the central banks of those countries that they occupied" as well as from Holocaust victims. Portugal dodged global demands to return all of the gold to the families and countries from which it had been stolen, and has continued to save the majority of it. Former Portuguese leader "Salazar believed Portugal should horde the treasure for a rainy day, and the country's fiscal crisis certainly appears to qualify," notes Lochery. However, "that gold may not be the rightful property of Lisbon, but does it any more belong to Berlin?"

Eric Pape on Sarkozy's New Reelection Prospects  Foreign Policy's Eric Pape argues that despite the French  disillusionment with Nicolas Sarkozy, the current president's "chances at reelection improved dramatically this past weekend," when the most likely frontrunner for the next presidential election--Dominique Strauss-Kahn--was all but eliminated from the race by a sexual assault scandal. Sarkozy's popularity had dropped recently over his decision, in a bad economic climate, to raise the retirement age by two years and from overall disapproval of his "showy, frenetic, and occasionally even neurotic" personality. Strauss-Kahn, of course, is not the only leftist politician who could go up against Sarkozy, but this weekend's revelation of the former IMF chief past "may be the best springboard for Sarkozy," Pape suggests. "In contrast to the crimes alleged, it isn't hard to argue that Sarkozy might not be that bad after all."

Fouad Ajami on Qaddafi's Criminal History The International Criminal Court recently issued warrants for Moammar Qaddafi and his son Saif for crimes against humanity mean that "a measure of justice has been served," declares Fouad Ajami at The Wall Street Journal. In light of this, Ajami recalls one particular crime, perhaps the first in Qaddafi's extreme repertoire: the mysterious disappearance of Lebanese Shiite leader, Imam Musa al-Sadr, who ventured to Libya in 1978 for a celebration for Qaddafi and never returned--his whereabouts still unknown. Soon after al-Sadr's disappearance, it became clear that Qaddafi's actions against the Shiite leader, whatever they were, were motivated by the divide "between Arabs and Persians, between Sunnis and Shiites." Ajami acknowledges that "some NATO planners are worried that we might yet make a martyr of the tyrant if the military campaign against him were to succeed," but he insists that "this is but a variant of the soft bigotry of low expectations...The undoing of Qaddafi would be seen as the grant of belated justice."

Mahmoud Abbas on Palestine and the U.N.  "Palestine's admission to the United Nations would pave the way for the internationalization of the conflict as a legal matter, not only a political one," suggests Mahmoud Abbas, chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, in The New York Times. "It would also pave the way for us to pursue claims against Israel at the United Nations, human rights treaty bodies and the International Court of Justice." He insists that Palestinian unity is the solution, not the antithesis to a peace with Israel, and that Palestine fills all of the qualifications necessary for legitimate statehood, including foreign embassies and relations with the World Bank, IMF and the European Union. "Only the occupation of our  land hinders us from reaching our full potential." The creation of two states where now exists Israel and settlements, he argues, "ensures that a just resolution for Palestinian refugees is put into effect [and] a future of hope and dignity for our people."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.