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Palestinian Media Downplays Arafat’s Illness

The Palestinian media is downplaying reports concerning the deteriorating health situation of Palestinian Authority (P.A.) Chairman Yassir Arafat.

Palestinian television led Thursday’s nine a.m. news bulletin with a report about a Palestinian killed by the Israeli army in the Jabaliyya refugee camp in the Gaza Strip.

Reports concerning Arafat’s health were only mentioned in the second item.

The reports said Arafat had spoken on the phone with both Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and Libyan leader Mu’ammar Al-Qadhafi who enquired about his health and about the events in the Palestinian territories.

Arafat’s close adviser Nabil Abu Rudeina told Arab television stations that the P.A. denies reports that officials requested Israel transfer Arafat to a hospital.

“The chairman’s health is stable, he just needs some rest,” Abu Rudeina said.

Palestinian television is part of the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation, which is largely controlled by the P.A. and Arafat himself.

In contrast, the Israeli broadcast and written media has been obsessed with the issue of Arafat’s illness. Discussions and in-depth analyses concerning Arafat’s health and the impact of his possible death on the political arena are dominating the news.

The Palestinian press played down the sensational reports in the Israeli media about Arafat’s dire condition.

The daily Al-Hayyat Al-Jadida led with a front-page headline quoting Abu Rudeina on Arafat’s stable condition. This paper has a relatively small circulation and although it is privately owned, it is thought to be the paper most influenced by Palestinian political circles.

The popular Al-Quds led with the headline “Two medical teams, Egyptian and Jordanian, are arriving today in Ramallah to examine the Chairman Arafat.”

Al-Ayyam, the second most popular Palestinian daily, wrote “The chairman’s situation is stable, many medical examinations today.”