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                             ISRAEL
                              FAXX

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 people involved.

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 talks.

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 problems.

"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 exaggerated.

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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