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Sunday, December 14, 2003
STUNNED ARAB MEDIA REPORT SADDAM'S ARREST, WHILE PALESTINIANS TRY TO AVOID THE NEWS

STUNNED ARAB MEDIA REPORT SADDAM'S ARREST, WHILE PALESTINIANS TRY TO AVOID
THE NEWS

By Michael Widlanski Jerusalem 14 December 2003 1:30 PM

Arab language media reacted quickly, though sometimes in a somewhat stunned
fashion, to American reports that U.S. forces had captured former Iraqi
president Saddam Hussein, touching off celebrations in Baghdad.

But the broadcast media of the Palestinian National Authority which has been
very friendly to Saddam, tried to ignore the news, treating it as a marginal
news item attributed to rumors linked to a scheduled American press
conference in Iraq

"An American military spokesman said there would be a special press
conference soon, and American reports say it is linked to reports of the
arrest of former president Saddam Hussein," declared a one ayem news
bulletin by Voice of Palestine radio, controlled by Yasser Arafat.

The Palestinian broadcasts, which featured the news as the fourth news item,
made no mention of Iraqi crowds celebrating the capture of Saddam, a big
supporter of Arafat and a financial supporter of Palestinian "martyrs" who
have blown themselves up attacking Israelis.

The Palestinian Authority's television station broadcasting from Gaza
ignored the news entirely for several hours, but other Arab media quickly
broadcast details of popular glee at the news of Saddam's arrest.

"There are signs of rejoicing in the streets, where people are parading and
we hear celebratory shooting in the air," declared Baghdad-based Rafah
Sa'ad, reporter for Abu-Dhabi satellite television.

Similar reports were carried by Al-Jazeera satellite television, which
broadcast its news along with biographical sketches of Saddam Hussein and
his family.

Al-Arabiyya satellite television also featured family pictures and newsreel
footage of Saddam inspecting troops and petting children, while underneath
it showed captions detailing Saddam's reported arrest in his home town of
Tikrit.

The Arab satellite stations aired interviews with Arab security experts who
said they felt the arrest of Saddam, if true, would aid American efforts
inside Iraq.

Even the strongly anti-American Al-Manar tv station, controlled by the
pro-Iranian Hiaballah terror group, opened its news shows with intensive
coverage of the American capture of Saddam.

"Throngs of Iraqi people have rushed to the streets, and there are signs of
joyful shooting in the air inside the Iraqi capital," declared Diah Nasry,
the Al-Manar correspondent in Baghdad.

[Michael Widlanski is an expert in the Arab media and a lecturer at the
Rothberg School of the Hebrew University]
(c) 2003 Michael Widlanski

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