AP Called Out for Hiding Video of Thousands of Palestinians Celebrating 9/11 Attacks

The Associated Press has been called out for suppressing video taken by a freelance AP reporter of a raucous celebration by thousands of Palestinians on September 11, 2001 in the West Bank town of Nablus.

The Palestinians cheered the al Qaeda attacks on the United States that day.

A New York Post column by former U.S. Attorney Harry Litman published Thursday night entitled, The video of revelers cheering 9/11 that no one got to see, details how the AP suppressed the video after being threatened by Palestinian terrorists.


“On the afternoon of Sept. 11, 2001, thousands of jubilant Palestinians took to the streets, chanting “God is Great,” (sic,”Allahu akbar”) firing automatic weapons and handing out sweets to passers-by. The largest demonstration took place in Nablus in the West Bank, where some 3,000 marchers danced and cheered as guerillas fired assault rifles and grenades into the air.

Many journalists were on the scene, but they were forcibly detained in a hotel by armed Palestinian security forces to prevent coverage of the rally. One cameraman — a freelance AP reporter — nevertheless managed to film some of the celebration.

The next day, members of Tanzim, the military arm of Fatah, physically threatened the cameraman and warned AP not to air the material. A cabinet secretary for the Palestinian government told the Associated Press that the government could not “guarantee the life” of the cameraman if the film were broadcast.

The Palestinian information minister explained to The Washington Post that the coercive tactics “were not against the freedom of the press but in order to ensure our national security and our national interest. We will not permit a few kids here or there to smear the real face of the Palestinians.”

The threat worked. After initially declining to confirm the incident, the AP bureau chief in Jerusalem acknowledged the intimidation and the news organization’s capitulation to it. On Sept. 14, 2001, the news organization made known that “in light of the danger,” it wouldn’t release the video for world broadcast because “the safety of our staff is paramount. At this point we believe there to be a serious threat to our staff if the video is released.”

Fourteen years later, the historic footage from 9/11 remains inaccessible to public view.”

Litman concludes:

“The continued suppression of the footage from 9/11 is a blot on the free press that, 14 years after the events, should long since have been removed. It was discreditable in the first instance for the AP to have capitulated to the shakedown, but whatever exigency it could point to in 2001 cannot justify a permanent gap in the documentary account of the worst domestic attack in US history.

These searing images belong in the public record, not in the closed video vault of a cowed news agency.”

Short clips of smaller celebrations by Palestinians that were broadcast on 9/11 were compiled in a video that was posted to YouTube that includes the infamous dancing, ululating Palestinian woman.

This report from September 12, 2001 by the Independent Media Review Analysis confirms that more news agencies were threatened by the Palestinians for filming the celebrations.

“A threatens to kill news workers if broadcast photos of celebrating Palestinians
Aaron Lerner Date: 12 September 2001

Israel Radio correspondent Danny Zaken reported on the noon news program
that while hundreds of Palestinians went out to the streets in many cities
in Judea and Samaria (but not Gaza) to celebrate the attacks against the
United States – distributing candy, waving flags, honking horns and shooting
in the air in joy, coverage by the foreign news was typically limited to
east Jerusalem.

According to Zaken, at least two news organizations, a large news agency and
a foreign TV network, had footage of the celebrations in Nablus and Ramallah
that included Palestinian policemen shooting in the air in joy within a
crowd of hundreds.

They declined, Zaken reports, to broadcast the material after senior
officials in the Palestinian Authority – including PA ministers who are
frequently interviewed by the media – contacted the heads of the news
organizations, threatening the lives of the cameramen and stringers in the
field and that if they broadcast the reports that they would not be allowed
to cover events within the Authority in the future.

The news agencies declined to comment to Israel Radio.”

The AP did run an article datelined Nablus about the celebrations, but not the video. (Excerpted below.)

“Arafat horrified; Palestinians celebrating

By Mohammed Daraghmeh, The Associated Press

NABLUS, West Bank (AP) – Thousands of Palestinians celebrated toiday’s (sic) terror attacks in the United States, chanting “God is Great” and distributing candy to passers-by, even as their leader, Yasser Arafat, said he was horrified.

The US government has become increasingly unpopular in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the past year of Israeli-Palestinian fighting, with many Palestinians accusing Washington of siding with Israel.

In the West Bank town of Nablus, about 3,000 people poured into the street shortly after the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and government targets in Washington.

Demonstrators distributed candy in a traditional gesture of celebration. Several Palestinian gunmen shot in the air, while other marchers carried Palestinian flags.”

The blog site linked here documents dozens of article from the days around September 11, 2001 that reported on Arab Muslim celebrations of the attacks around the Middle East.

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