Monday, 26 December 2016

Tearful reminders


Barbara Plett-Usher, this week

I didn't realise, until BBC Watch pointed it out today, that the BBC News website still features (in full) a transcript of Barbara Plett's infamous 'tears for Arafat' broadcast. 

That's the one where she said, "Yet when the helicopter carrying the frail old man [Yasser Arafat] rose above his ruined compound, I started to cry... without warning", and which - after a struggle - even the BBC governors had to admit went too far and breached the BBC's impartiality guidelines. 

Reading the piece in full (it was originally broadcast on From Our Own Correspondent) shows that she went a good deal further than that in her identification with the dying PLO leader and it makes for a remarkable read. For starters, she shared his feelings of being under siege from Israel.

The BBC's own write-up of the ruling against Mrs Plett-Usher (as she is now) strikingly shows that it was only a partial ruling. It was the 'I started to cry' bit that did for her. The rest of the piece - where she personally identified with Arafat - seems to have got away with it, with the BBC write-up citing that "It said Ms Plett's report was balanced by references to Mr Arafat's "obvious failings"....well, read it for yourselves and see if those passing "references" really "balanced" her report. (I think it's a very clear 'no' to that). 

The interesting point that Hadar raises at BBC Watch is, other than an "opaquely-worded addendum" at the bottom of the original BBC News website piece, nothing else much seems to have come of that BBC ruling. 

When the UN Security Council ruled against Israel, with President Obama's blessing, recently, who was it who delivered the news and gave 'analysis' on the BBC website? Barbara Plett-Usher. Her analysis began:
The resolution reflects an international consensus that the growth of Israeli settlement-building has come to threaten the viability of a Palestinian state in any future peace deal.
It is a view strongly shared by the Obama administration, and for that reason the US reversed its policy of vetoing any UN Security Council criticism of Israel.
It is a decision that was taken after months of debate within the administration about whether and how President Obama might be able to define his position on a two-state solution before leaving office.
But his successor Donald Trump has made clear he intends to strongly support Israeli government positions, even making a highly unorthodox intervention before the vote by publicly urging Mr Obama to veto the resolution.
Now, yes, she had her own cruel, personal tragedies since that ruling - and I don't envy her any of that and wish her well - but I think the BBC owes it to her and to us to keep her away from such stories. 

Many people's sense that the BBC's Middle East editor, Jeremy Bowen, is still too angry at Israel for the accidental death of his 'fixer' (and is still broadcasting about his continuing sense of anger) and that he's been denounced by pro-Israelis and praised by anti-Israelis ever since for his less-than-friendly reporting of Israel (to put it mildly) ever since. A return to reporting from his beloved Wales is long overdue.

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