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>PD
>Israel Faxx
>July 11, 1997, Vol. 5, #125

Gush Katif Residents Accuse IDF of Using Disguised Arabs

Jewish residents of Gush Katif in the Gaza Strip say the IDF is employing undercover personnel disguised as Arabs against them. They have rejected the IDF spokesman's denials, alleging that the special unit was set up with the intent of frustrating the protest activity of Gush Katif residents against the restraint shown by the IDF and the government towards Palestinian incursions onto their land.


Anti-Christian Bill Passes First Knesset Reading

Christians in Palestine and Israel are facing threats as militant Palestinians, and Israelis exhibit increased xenophobia. A newly proposed Israeli law that would let authorities jail anyone who shares Christian literature.

The proposed legislation is aimed at those who possess, print, reproduce, distribute, import, track or publicize information meant as an inducement to religious conversion.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement: "It has come to my attention that a bill before the Israeli parliament concerning possession of missionary literature has created a stir among our many Christian friends.

"I would like to assure you that this bill does not have the support of the Israeli Government...But to become law, it must pass three additional readings. The government strenuously objects to this bill and will act to ensure that it does not pass."

"We are a Jewish state," explains Israeli Knesset member and bill co-sponsor Niffim Zilli. "We want to remain a Jewish state."

Rabbi David Rosen of the Anti-Defamation League opposes the bill, but admits that democracy does not have deep roots in Israel. "We are dealing with a society that is very fragile in terms of its own self-confidence and its ability to function within the modern democratic world, and therefore you have to take that into consideration."


Swiss Gold Update

Sixty percent of the Swiss people now believe the country avoided involvement in World War 2 mainly because of its financial and business dealings with the Nazis, according to a recent poll of 1,014 people conducted by a Swiss sociologist. Young people and the highly educated were particularly likely to hold this view.

The Jewish community of Zurich, the largest in Switzerland, has severed all business relations with Union Bank of Switzerland. The bank earlier this year fired a security guard who had rescued Holocaust-era documents from the shredder.


Palestine Refugee Appeal

By Lisa Schlein (VOA-Geneva)

The United Nations has launched an emergency appeal to assist more than 350,000 Palestinian refugees living in camps in Lebanon through next year. This is the first emergency appeal in the 50 year history of UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.

The agency says the Palestinian refugees are on the brink of despair. It says the refugees have to cope with a growing social and economic crisis at a time when international aid is declining.

Agency head Peter Hansen says the situation has worsened since the Gulf War. He says this is because they can no longer go abroad to work and they can't find work in Lebanon. Hansen says more than 40 percent of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon are unemployed.

"The Lebanese-Palestinian refugees are systematically excluded from employment in most of the sectors of the Lebanese economy. In other words, they can't go abroad and earn a living anymore and it is virtually impossible for them to do that in Lebanon itself."

Many refugees are living in camps where conditions are described by observers as appalling. Hansen says many Lebanese consider the Palestinians a huge burden and want to get rid of them. He says the Lebanese are afraid that if the Palestinians improve their living conditions, they will never want to leave Lebanon. Therefore, he says the Lebanese government denies the refugees access to education and public health services, including hospitalization. This means the Palestinians are totally dependent on UNRWA for these and other life support services.

Hansen says UNRWA has reached the end of its means. It is appealing urgently for $11 million to prevent further cuts in services over the next two years.

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