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Arafat Blasts Israel for Abuses at Vienna Human Rights Conference

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Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat, addressing the World Conference on Human Rights here, accused the world of double standards, saying that Israel’s behavior in the territories proved that some governments could get away with abusing human rights.

“I will not stop fighting till the flag of the Palestinians will fly over Jerusalem,” exclaimed Arafat, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, speaking Wednesday to over 1,000 delegates at the U.N.-sponsored conference.

Arafat, disregarding a conference rule that prohibited delegates from mentioning specific rights violations in any country, asserted that “Israel is committing war crimes against unarmed civilians.”

The PLO chief said that the “grave violations of Palestinian human rights over decades provides us with the most striking example of double standards in the implementation of human rights.”

He faulted the United States for its strong support of Israel, saying such assistance only encouraged Israel to persist in its human rights violations.

Arafat claimed that 140,000 Palestinians were under Israeli arrest and that some 800 Palestinian women had been forced to abort their children.

Despite Arafat’s breach of the conference rules, Israel did not interrupt or intervene in the PLO leader’s speech, though Israeli officials in general deny human rights abuses occur in the territories.

PERES UPBEAT ON PEACE PROCESS

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres addressed the conference a day earlier, saying he was very optimistic regarding the peace process. Peres said he was convinced the peace talks could be concluded quickly and successfully.

Less optimistic about the talks was Jordanian Crown Prince Hassan, who claimed the key issue–namely autonomy for the Palestinians — had not even been put on the agenda of the Middle East talks.

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, speaking to the conference Tuesday, made an emotional call for the establishment of a U.N. high commissioner for human rights, who could act quickly and effectively in cases of immediate human rights violations.

This human rights ombudsman could then bring criminals before a human rights tribunal. He told the conference participants not to give up hope despite the many cases of human rights violations.

Carter’s appearance at the conference was not without controversy. He was loudly attacked by people opposing U.S. policies worldwide.

Outside the conference hall, Robert Kunst, chair of the Miami-based Shalom International, demonstrated against Germany and a wave of anti-foreigner and neo-Nazi sentiment in that country.

Holding a huge banner reading “No more Nazism — boycott Germany,” Kunst said that Israel’s Peres, who was speaking inside, “takes (money) from Kohl, while today another three Turks were attacked in Germany.”

Harris Schoenberg, B’nai B’rith’s director of U.N. affairs, tried to organize a visit to the former Mauthausen Nazi death camp for all the delegates from non-government organizations in Vienna.

“It should become a pilgrimage for all,” Schoenberg said. Because of the tight schedule of the conference and a lack of coordination, he was unable, as of Wednesday, to arrange the visit.

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