RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (Agence France-Presse) -- Saudi religious police have destroyed a clandestine makeshift Hindu temple in an old district of Riyadh and deported three worshippers found there, a newspaper reported yesterday.
Members of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, or religious police, on Thursday stumbled across a room converted into a temple while raiding a number of apartments suspected of being used to manufacture alcohol and distribute pornographic videos, pan-Arab Al-Hayat said.
"They were surprised to find that one room had been converted into a Hindu temple," the newspaper said.
A caretaker who was found in the worshiping area ignored the religious police orders to stop performing his religious rituals, the paper added. He was deported along with two other men who arrived on the scene to worship.
All forms of non-Muslim worship are banned in ultraconservative Saudi Arabia....
Official Palestinian media said today that Mahmoud Abbas's Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the HAMAS and Islamic Jihad organizations have agreed in principle to full unification, with all sides recognizing the PLO's "Strategy of Stages," a document that sets out a phased program for Israel's destruction.
"Representatives of the HAMAS movement and Islamic Jihad will formally attend a meeting of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization today, and the two movements [HAMAS and Jihad] have agreed in principle to join the PLO [Arabic: al-munadhama]," declared the opening
headlines on Voice of Palestine radio.
At Mid-day, however, a spokesman for HAMAS, Hassan Youssef, said HAMAS would not participate in the meeting today of the 13-member PLO Executive Committee, the PLO's highest body, but he and Jihad members reiterated they were joining the PLO.
"We have made a strategic choice," asserted Mushir al-Masri of Jihad, citing the PLO's Strategy of Stages as an underlying point of agreement between the PLO, HAMAS and Jihad.
Even his use of the words "strategic choice" [Arabic: khayar istrateeji] was an echo of the term as used by the late PLO leader Yasser Arafat and his successor Dr. Mahmoud Abbas.
The dramatic announcement of PLO-HAMAS-Jihad unification comes amid the flow of sophisticated weapons to PLO and Islamic agents, and it represents both a major success for Abbas along with a serious potential threat for Israel for several reasons:
*--For Abbas, who succeeded Arafat as the leader of both the PLO and the PA, it is a major Palestinian domestic success, perhaps beginning to take him out of Arafat's shadow;
*--For Israel, it is worrisome that the Islamic extremists, who have continued to amass weapons and stage intermittent terror attacks, are now officially part of the Palestinian establishment;
*--And perhaps most problematic is the re-statement by both the PLO and HAMAS that they are bound to the PLO's 1974 action-plan entitled the "Strategy of Stages" (Arabic: barnamaj al-marahil) which seeks Israel's destruction through a combination of diplomacy and violence.
The announcement of unification was featured in detail on all the morning news shows of Voice of Palestine radio (Sawt Felasteen) from Ramallah and on Palestinian television from Gaza, showing lengthy shots of Abbas meeting with the HAMAS leadership, while demonstrably fingering Islamic prayer beads (Arabic: sibha or masbah) in his left hand.
HAMAS officials declined to give detailed responses to questions about whether the unification meant a change in HAMAS's ideology or its official covenant (Arabic: mithaq), but it appeared that neither HAMAS nor Jihad -nor even the PLO- was willing to offer an official renunciation of the use of violence against Israel.
"The goals of the present stage are that by the end of 2005 our people will arrive at the borders of September 2000 [when Arafat launched the present war know as the "Aqsa Intifada"]," asserted Palestinian leader Abbas in an interview with Egyptian news agency two weeks ago.
When Abbas was asked specifically about the Bush Administration's demand for disarming Palestinian terrorists, he said, "I will not embark on an operation that will lead to a civil war."
The Abbas interview was featured on the front page of his own Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda newspaper, run by his Fatah organization, on March 15 and March 17. Fatah is the largest constituent member of the PLO, and it includes the Tanzeem militia and the "Aqsa Martyrs Brigades" suicide bombers.
In recent weeks, Palestinian leader Abbas has steadfastly refused to condemn HAMAS or Jihad by name for recent acts of terror, including the bombing of a Tel Aviv nightclub on Feb. 25, saying only that such acts "gave Israel excuses" not to meet Palestinian demands and were, therefore, "against Palestinian interests."
Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said in a cabinet meeting this Sunday that PLO and Islamic agents had successfully smuggled sophisticated Soviet-made SAM-7 "Strella" anti-aircraft missiles into Palestinian-ruled areas.
Such missiles could shoot down Israeli civilian planes, and they are also the reason that Israel has cut back on the use of military helicopters.
Official Palestinian spokesmen today denied the Israeli comments (which have been made very quietly), asserting that there were no missiles in Gaza. Meanwhile, the chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Ariqat [sometimes spelled Erikat] made fun of the Israeli comments in a radio interview yesterday.
"That's what the Israelis say," asserted Ariqat, the PA Negotiations Minister, referring to the Israeli allegations. "They have the whole West Bank under lock and key. There are road blocks everywhere and they're saying there are missiles in the West Bank," he declared laughingly.
"It's all part of an Israeli strategy to delay carrying out their commitments," he said.
Israeli forces yesterday arrested several members of a joint Islamic Jihad-Fatah terror cell in the northern West Bank town of Jenin which was preparing explosives and motorized projectiles for the production of a new generation of "Qassam" rocket-the kind only used until now in the Gaza
Strip. Several members of the cell were among the 500 Palestinian convicts whose release PLO leader Abbas had recently won in talks with Israel.
Rabbi Lazer Brody helps keep me sane, with stories like this one (dedicated here to my Iddy-Biddy Dardar, who loves horses)
The great "Yanuka" (Aramaic for young child; a nickname given to those who become rabbis at an early age) of Stolin, Rebbe Yisroel Perlov of blessed memory, was my great-grandfather's rebbe. The renowned Rabbi Moshe Feinstein o.b.m. was born as a result of the Yanuka's blessing to the Feinsteins, when they were still childless after several years of marriage. The Yanuka was a phenominal sage, scholar, and miracle worker, yet he acted in complete modesty as if he were the simplest of people.
The Yanuka loved horses. According to Karlin-Stolin tradition, he would correct those human souls that were reincarnated in horses. He'd always carry an apple or a few cubes of sugar in his pocket, ready to befriend another equine-emprisoned soul.
During a rabbinical convention in Warsaw, The Yanuka was seen whispering in the ear of a big dapple-gray stallion while feeding him an apple. A young rabbi from Lithunia looked on with disdain, thinking to himself, "What kind of rebbe talks to horses? This is the famed leader of the Stoliner Chassidim?"
Suddenly, The Yanuka turned around, and motioned to the young Lithuanian to come forward. "Tell me something, please: Is this horse happy or sad?"
"How am I expected to know such a thing?" replied the young man, shrugging his shoulders.
"Is this a stallion or a gelding?", the rebbe asked.
"I don't know," answered the young Lithuanian rabbi, not even knowing where to look to find the answer.
"Can you tell whether this is an Belgian or a Quarterhorse?"
"I don't know that either".
"Well," asked the rebbe, "do you at least know whether this is a work horse or a pleasure horse?"
"No!" said the young rabbi, now visibly irritated. "I don't understand anything about horses! How am I expected to evaluate a stupid beast?"
"Aha," said the Yanuka, "if you can't even evaluate a horse, or what in your words is a stupid beast, then how can you be so pretentious to think you can evaluate a rebbe?!"
A lesson for us all about horseslashon hara: "religious law requires us to refrain from slandering, gossiping, or even idly talking about a fellow human."
The BBC has a mind-boggling account of the "headache" caused to the Palestinians by being handed homes and businesses in Gaza.
If the Israelis pull out of the Gush Katif settlement bloc in July .... The settlers will abandon large tracts of land, farms, factories and hundreds of homes in nearly 20 settlements on the Strip....
The heavily defended settlements, with their red-roofed bungalows, lawns, garages and pools, are islands of European-style suburbia.... it seems that it would almost be a relief to the Palestinian Authority if the settler housing stock were destroyed.
"These houses could be a poisoned chalice," says the Palestinian Deputy Finance Minister, Jihad al-Wazir. "How would we decide who would live in them?"
And about the farms and greenhouses:
"If you give us the agricultural produce without making sure that we have access to the same markets in Europe and the United States, then these products would lose their value."
"Law and order" is another concern:
The Palestinian Authority worries that with their pent-up loathing of Israel, local people might try to storm the settlements en masse and loot and ransack whatever is left.
I'd like to know 1) Since when is their loathing of Israel "pent-up"? and 2) Why do we bother trying to give them anything?
The whole thing is absurd. If it's such a headache, then why don't we just foggedaboudit?
Palestinians dressed as native Americans hold signs in English addressed to the U.S President against Israel's separation barrier during a one-day conference called 'Save Jerusalem' organized by Palestinian organizations at the Cultural Center of the West Bank town of Ramallah Thursday March 31, 2005. .(AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)
PINELLAS PARK, Fla. (AP) - Terri Schiavo, the severely brain-damaged woman whose final years tethered to a feeding tube sparked a bitter feud over her fate that divided a family and a nation, died Thursday, her husband's attorney said.
Her death was confirmed to The Associated Press by Michael Schiavo's attorney, George Felos, and announced to reporters outside her hospice by a family adviser.
An ad hoc faculty committee charged with investigating complaints that pro-Israel Jewish students were harassed by pro-Palestinian professors at Columbia University said it had found one instance in which a professor "exceeded commonly accepted bounds" of behavior when he became angry at a student who he believed was defending Israel's conduct toward Palestinians.
But the report, obtained by The New York Times and scheduled for release today, said it had found "no evidence of any statements made by the faculty that could reasonably be construed as anti-Semitic."
It did, however, describe a broader environment of incivility on campus, with pro-Israel students disrupting lectures on Middle Eastern studies and some faculty members feeling that they were being spied on.
UPDATE: Columbia has posted the text of the report here.
From their "conclusion" --
We need to reaffirm that sense of collective responsibility which is vital for the well-being of every community of scholars, and to nurture the mutual respect required to sustain us in our common quest for the promotion of learning and the advancement of knowledge.
In an effort to manage favorable coverage of its investigation into the complaints, the university disclosed a summary of the committee's report only to the Columbia Spectator, the campus newspaper, and the New York Times. Those newspapers, sources indicated to The New York Sun last night, made an agreement with the central administration that they would not speak to the students who made the complaints against the professors.
One of the incidents not mentioned by the report involves assistant professor Joseph Massad, who allegedly told a class that it was Israelis - not Germans or Palestinians - who shot to death the Israeli Olympic athletes in the 1972 Munich Massacre, according to one of Mr. Massad's former students.
In an incident that occurred in spring 2002, Mr. Massad is alleged to have refused to answer a question posted by a student, Tomy Schoenfeld, at an on-campus lecture until the student, an Israeli army veteran, told the professor how many Palestinians he killed.
The committee reported that although another student corroborated the incident, "It is conceivable that Professor Massad did not know that Mr. Schoenfeld was a student," and said the incident seemed to "fall into a challenging grey zone."
On the issue of anti-Semitism, the committee concluded: "We found no evidence of any statements made by the faculty that could reasonably be construed as anti-Semitic. Professor Massad, for one, has been categorical in his classes concerning the unacceptability of anti-semitic views."