Thursday 26 December 2019

Back to the Future

Babs is back in town

Poor Lyse Doucet. People have been confusing her with Barbara Plett Usher for nigh on twenty years. And now comes this:
David Collier: Dear BBC News, you managed to run a whole segment on Christians in Bethlehem at Christmas without once telling viewers Christian numbers have fallen because of Islamist persecution. In fact, you even blamed the Jews. Well done (🤮). A bonus earned for Lyse Doucet. David.

Lyce Doucet: Thanks David. I am not in Bethlehem nor reporting on it. Best wishes of the season to you.
Yes, even the great David Collier mixes them up. And with Barbara Plett Usher back in Israel after a seven-year break covering the UN in New York, poor Lyse is likely to get lots more misdirected flak for some time to come.

For those who don't remember her, Barbara Plett - as she was then - was the one who was eventually rebuked by the BBC for reporting that she wept when Yasser Arafat died. 

Anyhow, here's what David's talking about - a report that appeared (with various tweaks) throughout Christmas Eve...

It's proper early-2000s-style BBC reporting on Israel of the kind that originally provoked the commissioning of the Balen Report (think also Orla Guerin):

She blames Israel for all woes. Hamas and other Islamists don't get a mention.

She uses vox pops in the most lopsided manner imaginable, making one side look like idiots.

She uses dismissive language about Israel's claims about its security barrier and persists herself in calling it "the wall" when talking to the tourists, against post-Balen official BBC advise on the matter.

And she piles on the emotion with that heavily-patterned style of phrasing that was commonplace in BBC Israel reporting a decade or so ago.

Yes, it's like being taken back in time to, say, 2004.

P.S. Where's Yolande Knell gone? She usually does the Bethlehem Christmas Eve gig.

good tourist
bad tourist

Here's a transcript:
BBC newsreaderFew cities are in the spotlight more over Christmas than Bethlehem - the Biblical place revered as the birthplace of Jesus Christ. But tourism has been hit hard for the last 20 years. It's a Palestinian city in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and because of restricted movement out of the city by the Israeli government, its Christian community has dwindled - a move that Palestinians say harms their freedom and economic prospects. Barbara Plett Usher reports.  
Barbara Plett Usher: This is Bethlehem's time of year. Dressed up in Christmas finery, it invites the world to celebrate the story of a humble birth that changed history. Tourism here is a bright spot, despite dark times for the Palestinian economy. For Bethlehem's Christians, there is a special gift from the Vatican, a splinter of wood believed to be from Jesus' manger. It's small but a big boost for a community decimated by waves of emigration, and an inspiration to priests like Father Emad, who provide aid to local Christians, trying to anchor them here.
Barbara Plett Usher: This year's different?
Father Emad KamilThis year is different because we remember the manger, so we must think more, our hearts must be the real manger to receive Jesus. 
Barbara Plett UsherYour hearts must be the real manger to receive Jesus? 
Father Emad Kamil: I hope. I am working for that.
Tourists roll in past what Israel calls its security barrier. The wall, as residents call it, is squeezing Bethlehem into an ever shrinking space. That doesn't stop the tide of visitors, but many know more about the past than the present. 
Barbara Plett UsherWhat about the politics, you know, between..? 
Visitor 1: I don't know much about it, all I know is my saviour, Jesus Christ. That's all I know, that's all I care about. I just want to learn more about him. 

Visitor 2: I mean, this is where our Lord and Saviour was born and, oh, my goodness, this is where everything started. 

Barbara Plett UsherWhat about the politics, you know? The Israelis and Palestinians? Did you hear anything about that, think anything about that? 
Visitor 2: Yeah, you know, it's definitely concerning, I guess. 
Barbara Plett UsherWhat did you think of the wall when you came in? 
Visitor 2: Oh, that was substantial, of course, and you can tell that people that lived in old time, how protected they felt by the big wall and how amazing it is today. 
Barbara Plett UsherIt's a new wall, but anyway... 
Visitor 2: It's a new wall? Yeah. Oh OK. 
Barbara Plett UsherThe new wall, then? 
Visitor 2: That too, it's about the future as well. 
You can't avoid politics in the nearby refugee camp of Dehaisha. Quite the reverse. Ahmed wants to show foreigners how Palestinians here live. He's renting a room to adventurous tourists, advertising on the internet. It was just the kind of alternative holiday Klara was looking for. 
Klara Sirovnik, Slovenian tourist: In the end of the day, you see that you really think in the same way, but you come from two different places in the world. 
That's the connection Ahmed is seeking. 
Ahmed Farargam, Dehaisha Refugee Camp: You know, the people here are not... Most of them are not allowed to go outside, and especially to the outside world. And they see the outside world in your eyes. 
Business is booming this year, but who knows? Next year could be a bust. When you don't control your own space, the situation is very fragile. I suppose the only constant thing is faith. The faith of things hoped for...if not yet seen. Barbara Plett Usher, BBC News, Jerusalem. 


  1. Yes there's the Usher-Doucet confusion...but I would say there is also the Ghattas-Usher bind as well!

    In case people have forgot, Kim Ghattas is a Lebanese-born BBC reporter, another North American who has reported on both US and Middle East politics. She seems to be one of those BBC "reporters" who does little reporting, preferring to write books it seems.

    The way I distinguish them:

    1. Ghattas - Clinton groupie, embedded with Hillary on her campaign and wrote a fawning book on said Hillary.

    2. Usher - Cried for international terrorist and hate propagator.

    3. Doucet - best of a bad bunch.

    You have to ask though - why does the BBC feel the need to employ so many North Americans (throw in Anthony Zurcher as well), so many Irish (calling Orla! - we have a human tragedy unfolding, send in the angel of death), Australians, so many Indians, Africans and whatever (no Japanese for some reason?)...Other countries get by without employing people from all around the world. The BBC then seem to give them jobs/sinecures carved out for their personal needs, not for our needs as licence fee payers and sometime viewers or listeners.

    It's criminal given we have thousands of unemployed media studies graduates in the UK desperate to get into news but the BBC prefers to fritter away the licence fee on foreign journalists.

    1. Lyse Doucet is definitely the best of that lot. Barbara Plett Usher seems to have picked up right where she left off in 2009. Meanwhile, I see that Kim Ghattas has finally left the BBC. On 26 October she tweeted this:

      "It's time to move on. Thank you to all my amazing colleagues across the world and all the organisations I worked for, especially the BBC for an incredible ride. My handle on this account has changed to
      @kimghattas and I've lost my blue tick, but it's still me! THE END."

      As you say, she got a pretty good run in those last few years of doing next to nothing for the BBC while, presumably, still being paid by the BBC (i.e. us).

    2. An incredible free ride for her!


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