Mideast Report

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Palestinian security officials have released a Palestinian human rights activist who was detained after he criticized Yasser Arafat's self-rule government.

Eyad Sarraj, who was released Sunday night after spending nine days in a Gaza City jail, said Monday that he planned to continue speaking out.

Sarraj, head of the Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizens Rights, was arrested May 18 after saying in an interview with The New York Times that Arafat's Palestinian Authority was "corrupt, dictatorial and oppressive."

He was freed after his family released a letter with his signature that disavowed the comments attributed to him.

Palestinian Attorney General Khaled Kidreh reportedly said Sarraj's release was ordered by Arafat and that he still could be tried on charges of libel, incitement and harming the public interest.

Weizman opposes women in combat

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli President Ezer Weizman said this week that he was unhappy that the Supreme Court opened the way for women to serve in combat units.

During a visit to an army base Sunday, Weizman said women do not belong in combat units, just as women do not play with men in professional sports.

An all-female border police unit, the first female combat unit since the 1948 War of Independence, graduated last week from basic training.

Jews to be majority in pre-'67 Jerusalem

JERUSALEM (JPS) — By the end of this year, Jews will for the first time constitute a majority of the population in the parts of Jerusalem captured and annexed by Israel in 1967, Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert is vowing.

At a press conference last week where the 1994-1995 Jerusalem Statistics Yearbook was released, Olmert said building projects at various sites in these areas will attract additional Jewish residents.

The yearbook cited the latest available figures, which showed that at the middle of last year, 49 percent of those areas' residents were Jewish. The city's total population was 583,700, including 413,700 Jews and 170,000 non-Jews.

The Arab population continues to grow slowly in relation to the Jewish population. Just after the Six Day War, the ratio was 74.2 percent Jews and 25.8 percent Arabs. Last year, it was 70.9 percent Jews and 29.1 percent Arabs.

Olmert denied allegations of discrimination in regard to housing policy. He admitted, however, that the proposed new neighborhood of Har Homa is meant for Jews only.

"Our policy is to prevent the mixing together of different populations. It causes unnecessary friction. This is why we don't encourage neighborhoods where charedim [ultra-religious] and secular Jews live together," Olmert said.

Israel launches its first Amos 1 satellite

JERUSALEM (JPS) — Israel successfully launched the Amos 1 communications satellite last week, the first of its kind for the Jewish state.

The satellite was launched aboard the European Space Agency Ariane-4 rocket from Kourou, French Guiana. The Amos 1 shared the rocket with Palapa-C2, a satellite sent up by Indonesia.

"This satellite brings the state of Israel to a new era in communications…and is an expression of Israel's high technical capability," Prime Minister Shimon Peres said.

The Amos cost $120 million, plus another $30 million for the Ariane launch.

David Pollack, general manager of Spacecom, which is marketing the satellite's telecommunications service, said it would take about one year for Israeli cable TV and Internet services to go online via the satellite.

Officials say the satellite, which will settle into a stationary position focusing on the Middle East and Eastern Europe, has strictly civilian purposes.

Israel addressing children of alcoholics

JERUSALEM (JTA) — At least 120,000 Israeli children have alcoholic parents, an Israeli treatment agency says.

Nahum Michaeli, head of Alcohol Treatment Programs of the Association for the Development of Social Services, say those children keep their parents' condition secret and suffer from feelings of isolation, fear, shame and guilt.

Michaeli was addressing a recent symposium in Ramat Gan entitled "Children of Alcoholics, Children at Risk." He estimated Israel has 40,000 alcoholics, three-quarters of whom are married and have an average of four children.

In one out of every 10 cases, the alcoholic parent is the mother. In some homes, both parents are alcoholics; in others, he said, one is an alcoholic and the other a drug abuser. Many alcoholics' children grow up believing that they, too, are doomed to become alcoholics as well.