Palestinian Officials Quash Pictures of Arab Celebrations

The Palestinian Authority has warned journalists they might be in danger if they continue to use images of Arabs celebrating Tuesday’s terrorist attacks.

PA officials allegedly have threatened journalists who continue to show Palestinians rejoicing and dancing at the news of the devastation caused by hijacked jets in New York City, Washington and Pennsylvania.

The Foreign Press Association of Israel said the PA sent armed police to block camera crews from photographing Tuesday’s rally in the West Bank town of Nablus -- where thousands filled the streets to celebrate.

In addition, PA officials have reportedly phoned TV stations and other media to caution them their safety would be in jeopardy if they aired the segments.

Officially, Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat condemned the hijackings that demolished the World Trade towers in New York, damaged the Pentagon in Washington and claimed thousands of victims. Arafat publicly criticized Tuesday’s acts of terrorism soon after word of the Arab celebrations leaked.

The images of exuberant, cheering Palestinians – some of them children and teens – when they heard news of the tragedies angered and horrified people worldwide.

As early as Tuesday afternoon, TV stations everywhere were broadcasting footage of revelers in the streets of Jerusalem and Nablus, in refugee camps and in coffee shops. Some joyously fired rifles in the air, laughed, handed out sodas and candy and made signs of victory with their fingers.

Most American networks, including Fox News Channel, aired the images.

In addition, many newspapers, magazines, Web sites and wire services ran photographs of the festivities.

The Associated Press would not confirm reports that it had stopped broadcasting film of the celebrations. "I have nothing to say about this matter at this time," AP Israel Bureau Chief Dan Perry told The Jerusalem Post.

But one foreign correspondent told the Post that AP producers had been threatened by PA Cabinet Secretary Abdel Ahmed Rahman, who told them their safety couldn’t be guaranteed if they insisted on broadcasting the images.

Characterizing the threats against such footage and photos as "censorship," the Foreign Press Association of Israel released a statement expressing its "deep concern over the harassment of journalists by the Palestinian Authority."

"We strongly condemn the direct threats made against local videographers by local militia members and the attitude of Palestinian officials who made no effort to counter the threats, control the situation or guarantee the safety of the journalists and the freedom of the press," the FPA said.

The FPA also said it holds the Palestinian Authority fully responsible for the safety of journalists working in areas under its jurisdiction.