The PA media on the internal PA crisis
"What is needed is a bloodless overthrow, which Yasser Arafat will execute against Arafat Yasser, if he wants to avoid a bloody overthrow by others…"
These words would be striking coming from anyone in the severely controlled Palestinian Authority (PA) media. The fact that they come from Hafez Al-Barghuthi, the editor of the official PA daily Al Hayat Al Jadida, is one of the clear signs of the loss of the universal control that Yasser Arafat had enjoyed in the past. Certainly, challenging Arafat is still dangerous, as in the case of former Minster Nebil Amro, who was shot this week just hours after publicly criticizing Arafat. Still, the fact that he and others are openly criticizing Arafat demonstrates a loss of the former uniform control.
Dominating the print media this week are opinion articles openly critical of the PA leadership and the corruption, though most do not specify Arafat by name. However, these are not indicative of a universal media revolt. Many articles supportive of Arafat continue to be published. Some depict the crisis as an Israeli media creation, others blame Israel for the problems, while others blame different forces in the PA for corruption.
PA TV, moreover, seems to remain firmly in Arafat’s control, as it repeatedly broadcasts various "Hail Arafat" style musical video clips alongside news items describing the crisis as another news item among many. In addition, the PA Journalists' Union called yesterday for journalists to stop negative press coverage and publish only stories that strengthen national unity.
But coming from a media and a society where in the past it was not possible to openly criticize Arafat, these challenges to his position and to PA rule are a sign of significant turmoil.
The following are examples of these themes appearing in the PA media:
1. Criticism of the PA and calls for Arafat to resign; 2. Decision of Palestinian Journalists' Association to stop negative press coverage; 3. PA TV and musical videos supporting Arafat; 4. Blaming Israel for the crisis; 5. Blaming Israeli media for creating a fictitious crisis.
1. Criticism of the PA and calls for Arafat to resign "We have no need for [merely] a symbolic formal government that cannot enforce any decision. Nor do we need [merely] a symbolic president, like others want him [to be]. We want [him to be] a strong president supported by the people as he is, and a strong government that will restore the Palestinian national project that has started to be consumed and shrunk through the treaty between the corrupt and the nouveau riche and the new possessors of power... What is needed is a bloodless overthrow which Yasser Arafat will impose against Arafat Yasser, if he wants to avoid a bloody coup by others – and they are many everywhere. Without an overthrow we will stay rabid [play on words, "Inqilab"/"Inkilab" ‘overthrow’/‘rabid’ are similar]. [Hafez Al-Barghuthi, editor, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, July, 18, 2004]
"When the leadership stops fulfilling its job as leadership, even though it is capable of it, and when the authority ceases from fulfilling its job… it is not surprising what is happening in Gaza." [Al-Ayyam, July, 20, 2004] "…The issue can be summarized [in] that the [Palestinian] Authority cannot rule any more and that the people do not trust the Authority in anything that has to do with governing... The situation necessitates a process of change and rehabilitation of the political system… Otherwise the future will be more dangerous then anything we’ve known." [Al-Ayyam, June, 19, 2004]
"Regarding President Arafat, Abu Alaa said: "President Abu Amar (Arafat) no one disagrees about his [leadership]… but there may be disagreement with him… Oh brother Abu Amar (Arafat) ! The time has come to work all our structures on correct and right principles, and the time has come to place the right man in the proper place." [Al-Ayyam, July, 20, 2004]
"…What is happening in Gaza and all that will occur in the future in the West Bank… are a result of one more important factor, which is the objection to reform and changes and leaving the corrupt… in the main leadership positions… The talks about corruption in the Palestinian arena have reached a level that must be followed by an explosion… Everything happening in Gaza is only the beginning and is like a mountain peak waiting to collapse everywhere, as long as the clear-minded… do not stop the deterioration though implementing reforms at once and bringing the corrupt to trial without hesitation, today and not tomorrow. In the moments before the big explosion things are timed in minutes and not in hours and days." [Al-Ayyam, July, 19, 2004]
"The National and Islamic forces strongly condemned the attack on the French Delegation... The announcement held the Authority and its branches - the executive, legislative, and judicial - fully responsible for this behavior and these actions that harm the Palestinian nation and its struggle." [Al-Ayyam, July, 18, 2004]
"Democratization of the Fatah Organization will be the first step towards the democratization of the Authority… Without that, our situation will continue to stay as it is: Corruption and the internal defects in all fields will stay as they are…" [Al-Ayyam, July, 18, 2004] "The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade announced their opposition to the decision to appoint Brigadier Genera Musa Arafat [Yasser Arafat’s relative] as commander of the General Security [Forces] in the Gaza Strip, warning that this appointment will cause a civil war." [Al-Ayyam, July, 18, 2004]
2. Decision of Palestinian Journalists' Association to stop negative press coverage
[At a meeting of the Palestinian Journalists'Association] several recommendation were adopted... All the relevant sides must work at once to bring to an end the all the irregularities and acts of violence... The Association forbade all journalists and writers for foreign Arab news agencies and satellite channels to deal… with any type of announcements and manifests, which deal with the internal events and include language that question the integrity of others, condemns them and hurts them. The Association emphasized that it will impose deterring penalties on any journalists violating this... The Association emphasized, also, the prohibition to cover armed marches... or photographing them... The Association emphasized in its announcement that there should be... coverage of activities that call only for strengthening of the national unity and protection of internal front." [Al-Ayyam, July 21, 2004]
3. PA TV and musical videos supporting Arafat:
PA TV rebroadcast a program with the following declaration from a child:
"I want to address [our] father-commander (Arafat) and tell him: ‘We are with him, oh commander of the revolution and commander of the journey. We are here with you, and no one will prevent us from standing by your side. You are the commander of the revolution and [you] will stay the commander of the revolution … You will establish the capital Jerusalem for your free country Palestine, with the help of Allah. We are with you, oh commander of the rebellion, oh our great father. [PATV July, 19, 2004]
PA TV music-video supporting Arafat: Stand Strong (Sung to scenes of Arafat in leadership, military and fatherly roles)
"Stand strong, oh dear man, Abu Amar (Arafat) We are with you, you direct the call Your head held high, Abu Amar (Arafat) ... the (Israeli) siege need not worry you "(We are) returning – Oh land of glory Mountains that are not shaken by wind Abu Amar (Arafat) announced: "Oh mountain, the wind will not shake you" Abu Amar, the siege should not worry you With stones and the sound of gun powder and with determination Jerusalem will return Abu Amar (Arafat) said. Faras Ouda [14-year-old who planned his own Martyr’s death) [is] her hero Abu Amar, the siege should not worry you."
4. Blaming Israel for the Crisis
"Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei met yesterday with the special committee of the legislative council for monitoring the security and political situation in the Gaza Strip… The Prime Minister’s words focused on anarchy and chaos in security, especially in the Gaza Strip. He emphasized the responsibility of the Israeli occupation that reoccupied the PA territories and destroyed its governmental and security institutions…" [Al-Ayyam, July, 18, 2004] "What happened in Gaza was only a question of time and no more, because of the lack of responsiveness of the PA and the political decision makers to handle the internal Palestinian situation, which for the last three years faces grave dangers, foremost among them the weakening of the people’s ability to stand firm facing the Israeli annihilation plan on one side; and second, it [the situation] hinders the ability of the Palestinian nation to stand firm facing the difficulties and crimes of the Israeli government." [PA TV July 18, 2004]
5. Blaming Israeli media for creating a fictitious crises
"During recent days the Israeli propaganda apparatus has been working intensively creating news and information, and creating a picture of security anarchy in the Gaza Strip, which the [Palestinian] National Authority cannot control nor restrain. The Israeli journalists followed this line of propaganda to come out with strange analyses and false conclusions that warn of the collapse of the [Palestinian] National Authority. We know that these propaganda mines are a result of an official Israeli plan to extricate [Israel from] the crisis of the verdict of the ‘International Court" in the Hague, and to shift the [world] attention away from its [the verdict's] claims, conclusions, and from following developments. We do not blame all the Israeli journalists for this plot, but the majority of them, without doubt, participated [in the use] of this fictitious information, and did not inspect or check the lack of transparency and credibility of the information..." [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, July, 21, 2004]