And now the most arresting two minutes in television, the latest from the wartime grapevine.
Yasser Arafat has reportedly ordered the 200 gunmen, Palestinian police and others holed up inside Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity not to make any deal for their release. Instead, Arafat's governor for Bethlehem, who is among those in the church, told The Washington Times his orders are to stay put until the Israelis pull out of the town and go home. Meanwhile, one of the few priests who got out of the church said the Palestinians had shot their way in and were, in effect, holding the clergy hostage. "We have absolutely no choice," he said, "They have guns. We do not."
The German magazine Focus quotes an Israeli soldier as saying Arafat threatened to kill himself when he encountered Israeli forces at his compound in Ramallah. The soldier said he was one of several Israelis who had surrounded the Palestinian leader's headquarters and found themselves unexpectedly face to face with Arafat himself. He said Arafat pointed a gun at his head and threatened to commit suicide if they came any closer. They didn't.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune continues to take fire for its policy against using the word "terrorist" or "terrorism" with regard even to suicide bombings in the Mideast. The liberal Denver Post editorialized over the weekend that the Star Tribune's argument that using those words would create an appearance of taking sides "doesn't seem to make much sense." Meanwhile, the paper, which has claimed its policy is no different from that of the New York Times, has been found to have altered a New York Times story in five different places before running it in the Star Tribune. In each instance, the Star Tribune either struck the reference to terrorism altogether or substituted another word, such as "attack." The alterations were first noted by the pro-Israel Independent Media Review and Analysis.
By the way, the Star Tribune is taking pride in the reduced number of corrections it ran last year (575) compared to the year 2000 (621). The pride is understandable in a newspaper that ran the following correction on June 4, 1999, "Elmer Fudd was mistakenly identified as Porky Pig in a photo caption on page E6 Thursday."