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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan
Oct. 10, 1995, V3, #25
All the News the Big Guys Missed
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West Bank Withdrawal Starts Today
By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)
Today Israel begins the process of removing its offices and
military forces from much of the West Bank, and giving the area
autonomy under the Palestinian Authority. As the process begins,
most attention has been focused on the complex details of troop
withdrawal, handover of civil authority and the release of
prisoners. But Palestinian psychologists recently held a
conference to discuss an aspect of these changes which has received
little attention so far -- the impact on the mental health of the
For Palestinians, occupation meant decades of severe humiliation
and frustration, capped by seven years of violent uprising and
violent crackdown, and then two years of often-frustrating peace
Now, psychologists say, the beginnings of autonomy will present
West Bank Palestinians with a new set of traumas. In Gaza, where
autonomy is already a year and a half old, the community mental
health program recently hosted a conference on such issues. The
program's deputy director Ahmed abu Tawahina says the transition
to autonomy might not be more difficult, psychologically, than
life under occupation, but the new era has its own special
"I can't say that it (the transition) is more difficult, but there
are certain problems related to this era. I mean, during the
occupation there was a common enemy that Palestinians were, most of
them, were interested in resisting and fighting this common enemy.
Right now, the common enemy is over and they are focusing more on
the problems which are related to their daily life."
The loss of the common enemy is particularly difficult for a
group of Palestinians in the news this week -- the thousands of
prisoners Israel is scheduled to release. Most of them are young
people who have known little more than occupation and resistance
for their entire lives.
"After the peace treaty there are some changes in the rules of
different categories of Palestinian society. For instance, the role
of the ex-prisoners. During the intifada they had certain rules,
resisting the Israeli occupation. But now they have to be part of
the process of building the Palestinian society."
Abu Tawahina of the Gaza Community Mental Health Program says the
Palestinian Autonomy Authority must take the lead in helping these
young people change the direction of their lives. And he says the
Authority should also have programs for other people, who were not
so involved in the uprising, who also have to change their outlook
on life and get used to dealing with everyday problems rather than
the enormous, overriding traumas of the last 28 years. Otherwise,
he says, the inevitable frustrations that lie ahead will be
Abu Tawahina says one of the most important things the Palestinian
Authority must do is ensure that it does not become just another
oppressive government. He argues there is a link between human
rights and good mental health.
"To have a good mental health in Palestinian society, we have to
respect human rights -- otherwise, the people will still suffer
from oppression and humiliation. The oppression of the human
rights can affect the mental health among the Palestinians,
especially in this era."
Release of Prisoners Creating Problems
By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)
Israel's implementation of its new peace accord with the
Palestinians has run into some problems. Only two prisoners were
released in Israel and the Palestinian territories Sunday, but they
are potentially significant.
Israel released an 18-year-old woman who had been held for two
years for stabbing an Israeli soldier. She was the first person
to be set free of the more than 2,000 Palestinian prisoners Israel
has promised to release. Israel tried to release 21 other women on
Sunday, but they refused to go, to protest Israel's decision not
to release four women who have been convicted of killing Israelis.
Palestinian officials have expressed anger over the Israeli
decision, which runs counter to a promise in the peace accord.
Israel's government says it cannot overrule a decision by President
Ezer Weizman not to pardon two of the women. There was no
immediate explanation of why a senior general refused to grant
clemency to the other two women.
The one young woman who did go free had been in solitary
confinement and said she did not know the four were excluded from
the release or about the protest by the rest of the prisoners.
Surrounded by friends and relatives at home in East Jerusalem, she
said she "felt terrible" to have left jail while her comrades
remained in custody.
Israel is to release about 1,200 male prisoners starting today. It
is not known whether they will also refuse to leave prison in
solidarity with the women.
Israel announced it would close one of the offices of its
occupation authority in the West Bank today -- the first symbolic
withdrawal from an area Israel is largely to vacate over the next
two years. Troop withdrawals are to begin next month and be
completed in major cities by the end of March.
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