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>Israel Faxx
>PD Dec. 9, 1994, V2, #221

Human Rights Group Criticizes Israel

By Jim Stevenson (Washington)

A US-based human rights group has released its annual report, reviewing human rights conditions in 65 countries. The survey says continuing
political conflicts between Middle East governments and opposition groups have had a far greater impact on human rights than the Arab-Israeli peace process.

The report, released Thursday by the New York-headquartered Human Rights Watch, says rapid developments involving the Middle East peace process have diverted attention from the internal problems of the countries involved.

The report was critical of Israel, citing arbitrary arrests and torture by protection forces in the occupied territories.

In Egypt, Human Rights Watch says conditions are continuing to deteriorate as Islamic groups increasingly target foreign and Egyptian citizens in a bid to radically transform the society.

Peres Meets Arafat at Gaza-Israel Border

By Al Pessin (Jerusalem)

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres traveled to the Gaza border Thursday to reassure the Palestinian leader, Yasir Arafat, that Israel is not planning to force changes in their peace accord.
Arafat responded with conciliatory words aimed at the Israeli public.

For several weeks Israeli officials have been saying it is too dangerous to withdraw Israeli troops from Palestinian population centers in the West Bank, as promised in the peace agreement. And Palestinian officials have been insisting that Israel withdraw the troops, as required, before Palestinian elections.

The dispute threatened to delay further implementation of the peace accord, and possibly to scuttle the entire process. But on Thursday, Peres promised Arafat the
mechanics of how to proceed will be negotiated, not dictated. "I do not see a real need to change the DOP (Declaration of Principles). Within the existing framework we can decide on priorities. We can decide to take this issue first, another issue second, or the other way around, but all this should be done in an air of understanding and mutual agreement."

In return, Arafat made a public statement of concern for the safety of Israelis, and indicated that this (safety issue), as well as the elections he wants to hold, is an important concern. "We have to understand, also, when we are speaking about the election, the necessity of the Israelis for security. And we are putting it in our consideration. And we have to put it in our consideration."

The two sides still face the difficult task of working out the details of how to preserve that security while withdrawing Israeli troops from much of the West Bank, so elections can be held. Peres said they have faced such difficult problems before and overcome them, and he predicted they will do so again. But he would not say exactly how.

Czech Jews Wait for Property Return

By Alena Kenclova (Prague)

The Czech Jewish community says it is disappointed by the slow progress in regaining its former property seized by the Nazis and then held by the communist state.

Czech Jewish leaders told journalists that the community has drawn up the minimum list of 202 items that it wants restituted. But they say only a small number have been returned.

According to the Federation of Jewish Communities President Jiri Danicek, the government plan for
restoring Jewish ownership to these synagogues, cemeteries, and various buildings and pieces of land does not work. With few exceptions, local authorities are reluctant to return property which yields profit even though they are more forthcoming in the case of religious premises. But the Jewish community says it will not have the money to maintain and repair dilapidated buildings if it can not regain commercially viable property as well.

The Federation President, the chairman of the Prague Jewish community, Zeno Dostal, Prague Rabbi Karol Sidon and other Jewish representatives met the press on Thursday. They say they now regard publicizing the problems as the only way of achieving progress. They say the property they want returned is the minimum to which they are morally entitled.

After lengthy negotiations with the Jewish Community, the Czech government ruled in April that property still in the state hands would be returned by its ministries. It urged local governments to follow suit with property under their control and complete the work within six months. The parliament had earlier rejected a bill that would make it mandatory for both the state and the local authorities to meet the Jewish community's requests.

But Dostal says that, for instance, the Prague community has since recovered only five items of the 77 it has claimed. The Ministry of Culture acted promptly in turning over the famous Jewish Museum in Prague. But in many other cases, both state and local authorities are less obliging.

Before World War II, there were 120,000 practicing Jews in the Czech and Moravian regions of Czechoslovakia which now form the Czech Republic. Due to the Holocaust and emigration, only about 3,000 Jews remain.

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