Sunday, October 31, 2004

Mixed news on Arafat

As might be expected, Arafat's health is being followed quite closely by the world's press since he left for Paris. There appears to be no one official line with various spokespeople giving different versions of the situation. All attributed quotes are optimistic; certain sources carrying quotes from slightly murkier sources are more pessimistic.

Haaretz quotes "Senior Palestinian Authority sources" as saying that "Arafat has lost some of his mental capacities and cannot function". CNN, whilst reporting that Arafat "was getting better", also quotes "sources close to the Palestinian leadership" as raising "the possibility that his era as a leader may be coming to an end" citing mental frailty and incoherency. Palestinian officials including Nasser al-Kidwa, Palestinian representative to the United Nations, and Arafat adviser Mohamed Rashid were quick to deny these rumours however.

Reuters gives no column space to anything but the official line, quoting senior aide Nabil Abu R'Dainah that "The latest tests have found that President Arafat does not suffer from any life-threatening illness and what he has is curable". A further spokesperson told both Reuters and the BBC that final results won't be received until Wednesday however. Maariv puts the deadline at later on Sunday (today). The New York Times quoted Saeb Erekat: "In 48 hours they will announce what he has or doesn't have," it's premature to rush to conclusions.'' Whatever the case, until tests are back, the possibility that the illness is life threatening cannot be ruled out.

The printed press in the UK doesn't appear to be too interested in Arafat's health; The Telegraph choosing instead to spotlight Suha who doesn't see anything strange in her husband transferring $11.4 million into her Swiss accounts on top of the her monthly allowance of $100,000 whilst his people (her people are those of Parisian society) eke out a meagre existence. The Times also gives little space to Arafat's condition, giving a more rounded picture of the connection with Paris and Suha's character. The Guardian focuses on the issue of succession rather than the chances of recovery.

The tendency to paint a rosy picture is understandable, particularly when considering the importance of Arafat as a symbol to the Palestinian people. The one thing that is clear from these reports is that nothing is particularly clear; Arafat will presumably undergo every test under the sun and will emerge with a clean bill of health no matter what his actual condition. His importance as a figurehead far outweighs the importance of telling the truth to the Palestinian people.

Gilly

1 comment:

Dawn said...

When I heard the news that Arafat was off to Paris for treatment I started asking myself questions. The main question was if I should be happy or sad he was this ill? I then felt dreadful about wanting to feel good about his illness, because in spite of his monstrous ways, this is still someone's child, husband, son, etc. Then I asked myself is it really wrong to have deeply negative thoughts about a leader who will leave a legacy of death and destruction? Am I too much of a romantic by thinking that if we all started on a personal level, to shift our thinking from such thoughts, we ultimately have the power to shift the world into peace? Your blog makes for great reading!