Good Reads: the Anwar al-Awlaki effect, Amanda Knox verdict, and Israel's offer

Foreign Policy magazine questions how much safer the world is without Al Qaeda propagandist Anwar al-Awlaki; the press awaits the Amanda Knox verdict; and Israel offers peace talks, again.

By , Staff Writer

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    In this 2010 file image taken from video and released by SITE Intelligence Group, Anwar al- Awlaki speaks in a video message posted on radical websites.
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  • Good Reads highlights the best reporting and analysis available on the top international stories of the day – and other key topics you shouldn't miss.

With all the press attention that Anwar al-Awlaki’s death received last week – the Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula spokesman was killed by a US military drone in Yemen – you could be forgiven for thinking the war on terror was finally over.

But you would be wrong. As J.M. Berger writes in Foreign Policy, Mr. Awlaki’s skills were largely restricted to the world of ideas – he was an Islamic scholar, with many books and inspirational tapes about the prophet Mohammad and the Quran. He only belatedly joined Al Qaeda’s military fight in Yemen – and so his death may have little actual effect, aside from highlighting the (false) narrative he created for himself.

As Mr. Berger writes,

Recommended: Default

With his alleged death, the narrative that Awlaki wanted to sell us is now complete: the reasonable man, pushed too far, who reluctantly took up the gun and was finally killed by the enemy he dared face.

The effects of this story will likely reverberate for years to come; in the short term, Awlaki's death will probably elevate interest in his entire body of work, from beginning to end.

Amanda Knox

Today’s news will largely focus on a courtroom in the Italian city of Perugia. Amanda Knox, a young American woman, was convicted in 2009 of murdering her roommate, the British-born Meredith Kercher, and today an appeals court there will decide whether to uphold that conviction.

The case has attracted hundreds of reporters and dozens of TV satellite trucks, largely because of the human drama and the salacious details involved. The Guardian has its senior reporters Peter Walker and Luke Harding live blogging from the courtroom as does the Telegraph, with Andrew Hough and Nick Squires.

American papers seem to be less interested than British ones. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Knox’s hometown newspaper, has a reporter, Andrea Vogt, at the courtroom, but the Washington Post and The New York Times have largely contented themselves to cover the trial through wires services like the Associated Press.

But behind the hoopla and the sexed-up headlines, there are serious issues at stake, as Nick Squires reminds us in his piece last Friday for the Monitor. Did the Italian prosecutor cut corners in this case in his bid to guarantee a conviction? Was it possible for Knox to receive a fair trial, when so much evidence was leaked to the news media before the trial even began?

Movement on the Israel-Palestinian issue

Something to watch this week is the one tiny glimmer of hope from the Middle East, as Israel announces it is ready to return to peace talks with the Palestinian Authority. There is a problem, though. The Israelis refuse to halt construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which just happens to be the same territory where the Palestinian Authority was planning to build its future state.

Isabel Kershner does a fine job of parsing out the issues in The New York Times here, and she notes that part of the problem is that the Israelis and Palestinians have very different ideas about what they will be discussing. The Voice of America news service quotes US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta as saying that Israel risks eroding its own security if it fails to reach out to its neighbors. Mr. Panetta is traveling to Israel this week to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

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