BBC sanctions reporter who cried for Arafat (& “Hitler” running in Fatah primaries)

November 28, 2005

CONTENTS

1. BBC Governors: Plett’s crying over Arafat “broke BBC rules”
2. BBC News chiefs: Plett’s reporting was “fair, accurate and balanced”
3. BBC extends period for public to submit to its Mideast review
4. BBC bias continues
5. Saeb Erekat, fibbing again
6. Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade leader wins big
7. “Hitler” running in Fatah primaries
8. Killer of Rehavam Ze’evi to run in PA poll
9. Palestinian gunmen steal lion from Gaza zoo
10. Former Jewish towns in Gaza now terror “training camps”
11. Palestinian gunmen ransack Gaza newspaper office
12. Hamas financier detained
13. “How did we forget that Israel’s story is the story of the West?” (By Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph, Nov. 26, 2005)
14. “BBC sanctions reporter who cried over Arafat” (Reuters, Nov. 25, 2005)



[Note by Tom Gross]

CRYING OVER ARAFAT “BROKE BBC RULES”

The BBC’s Board of Governors has criticized BBC news chiefs for not sanctioning BBC Jerusalem correspondent Barbara Plett, after she said on air that she “started to cry” when Yasser Arafat left the West Bank shortly before his death to receive medical treatment in Paris.

Until earlier this year, Plett was one of the BBC’s chief correspondents in Jerusalem. She is now BBC correspondent in Islamabad, Pakistan.

On Friday, after almost a year considering the matter, the BBC governors upheld a complaint by listeners against BBC News over Plett’s BBC Radio Four “From Our Own Correspondent” report in October 2004.

It is unusual for BBC governors to side with listeners and viewers over their own BBC news department. Hundreds of listeners complained about Plett. Plett was initially cleared by the BBC head of editorial complaints but a persistent listener took the matter to appeal. The governors have now ruled that Plett’s comments “breached the requirements of due impartiality”.

BBC NEWS: PLETT’S REPORTING WAS “FAIR, ACCURATE AND BALANCED”

Following initial complaints about Plett’s report last year, BBC News issued a statement saying Plett’s reporting had met the high standards of “fairness, accuracy and balance” expected of a BBC correspondent. (Plett, like her colleague Orla Guerin, has for years been subject to complaints by BBC viewers and listeners about “severe anti-Israel bias in her reports”.)

Over the last two days, most British newspapers have mentioned the BBC governors’ sanctioning of Plett in only a very brief way. There has been little comment about the BBC or Barbara Plett in the UK, compared to, for example, in the Khaleej Times (a daily newspaper published in the United Arab Emirates) which today discusses the Plett affair in their editorial “Home truths about the media.”

Plett is married to the former Economist magazine correspondent in Jerusalem, Graham Usher. Like Plett, his period in Jerusalem was often marked by anti-Israel bias in his reporting. The Economist does not name its correspondents in its articles.

THE BBC EXTENDS ITS MIDEAST REVIEW PERIOD BY A FEW DAYS

The deadline for submissions by the public to the “Independent panel” set up by the BBC Board of Governors to examine the BBC’s Television, Radio and Online coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute has been extended from Nov. 25, 2005 to Dec. 2, 2005. The panel’s report is due to be released next spring.

The panel says it welcomes submission by the public. I know from persons connected to the BBC that dozens of pro-Palestinian groups, including official organizations such as the London office of the PLO, and the Arab League in Cairo, have already submitted papers and documents to the panel.

Those members of the public who would like to contribute observations or complaints to the panel, can do so by email to israelipalestinian.review@bbc.co.uk, or by regular mail to:

Israeli-Palestinian Impartiality Review
BBC Governance Unit
Room 211, 35 Marylebone High Street
London, W1U 4AA
England

More on the Terms of Reference can be seen at:
www.bbcgovernors.co.uk/docs/rev_israelipalestinian.html
(Even though that webpage mentions Nov. 25 as a deadline, I am told informally by sources at the BBC that they will consider submissions that reach them by Dec. 2.)

(The BBC panel members were listed in my dispatch of October 7, 2005, titled “Hamas: ‘No dancing and no gays’; & on banning Winnie the Pooh...”)

BBC BIAS CONTINUES

Even during this delicate time in BBC Middle East reporting, mistakes continue to be made on a daily basis. For example, yesterday morning the BBC online “In Pictures” section, showing the opening of the Rafah crossing in Gaza, contained an incorrect caption. It said “for the first time in nearly 40 years, Palestinians took back control of the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt”.

This is in fact the first time Palestinians have ever been in control of the Rafah border crossing. In its mass of coverage on the Palestinians, the BBC almost never mentions that Egypt occupied Gaza before 1967, or that Palestinian nationhood is a modern invention and the Palestinian Arabs made no claim to an independent state until recent decades.

(The BBC changed their web caption following complaints last night from members of this email list.)

Whilst the opening of the Rafah crossing on Saturday was widely covered by the international media, very few journalists highlighted the words of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. He dedicated the opening of the Gaza-Egypt border to the “Shahids [martyrs], the injured [and] the prisoners.”

(For more on the BBC’s Mideast coverage, please see “Living in a bubble” and “The BBC discovers ‘terrorism,’ briefly”.)

SAEB EREKAT, FIBBING AGAIN

The International Herald Tribune published an op-ed on Friday by Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, who sees the Rafah crossing opening as a “small but important step on the path to Palestinian-Israeli peace”.

In the second paragraph of his article, Erekat claims that Israel boasts the “fifth-largest military in the world.” Israel’s army is not even the fifth largest army in the Middle East.

Erekat famously lied during the Israeli incursion into Jenin in 2002 when he spoke first of 3,000 Palestinian dead and then of 500. He has since admitted in public forums that this was the only “mistake” he has ever made.

Perhaps a Palestinian Authority spokesman that did not twist the truth would be a “small but important step on the path to Palestinian-Israeli peace.”

For more on the international media’s favorite Palestinian spokesman please see the dispatch “CNN & Saeb Erekat: ‘Why TV news loves a liar’” (May 5, 2002).

The International Herald Tribune is owned by The New York Times. (For more on The New York Times, see “All the news that’s fit to print? The New York Times and Israel”.)

AL-AQSA MARTYRS BRIGADE LEADER WINS BIG

The European and American press have been quick to trumpet Marwan Barghouti, following his strong showing in the Fatah primaries in the West Bank, ahead of Palestinian elections due to be held on January 25, 2006. Barghouti came first out of 45 candidates, with 96% of the votes, which were announced on Friday evening.

Barghouti is currently serving five consecutive life terms in an Israeli jail for the murder of four Israeli civilians and a Greek monk. Although the Israeli attorney general only brought proceedings against Barghouti for these five murders, Barghouti is believed responsible for the murder of dozens of other Israeli men, women and children in gun and other attacks in 2000, 2001 and 2002.

Barghouti’s wife Fadwa told Agence France Presse that the primary results were an endorsement of the intifada.

In an interview on Israel Radio yesterday, Sharon loyalist, transport minister Meir Sheetrit, hinted that Barghouti may be pardoned. Sheetrit has said he will join Sharon in his new party. By contrast, Israeli Foreign Minister Sylvan Shalom, who will stay in the Likud, told Israel Radio yesterday that it was “out of the question” that Barghouti would be released because he is “a murderer with blood on his hands and was duly sentenced by a court.”

Barghouti’s release is strongly favored by left wing Israeli politicians, a number of whom are being courted by Sharon to join his new party. Meretz leader Yossi Beilin yesterday called Barghouti a “moderating and positive influence” who should be set free. Israeli President Moshe Katsav said this morning on Galei Tzahal radio that he would not pardon Barghouti.

“HITLER” RUNNING IN FATAH PRIMARIES

Another successful Fatah candidate in the Jenin primary was Jamal Abu Rob, a member of the terrorist group, the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, who says he proudly gave himself the nickname “Hitler”.

In an interview with Abu Rob in February 2005, John Vause described him on CNN as “a father of five, accountant by trade”. There was no mention in this CNN interview of Abu Rob’s self-proclaimed nickname, even though The Associated Press has mentioned it.

Abu Rob is wanted by Israel both for the murder of Israelis and the murder of moderate Palestinians.

KILLER OF REHAVAM ZE’EVI TO RUN IN PA POLL

Ha’aretz reports that the man Israel believes responsible for the 2001 assassination of government minister Rehavam Ze’evi plans to run in the Palestinian Authority elections in January. Ahmed Sa’adat, the jailed head of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, will run in the elections to the Palestinian Legislative Council. “It’s a tool of pressure, if you like, in order to get released,” the PFLP official said of Sa’adat’s bid to stand for election.

Results in the Palestinian elections in January are likely to be unreliable. Palestinian gunmen, firing in the air, this morning again stormed into several polling stations while the Fatah party was holding primary elections and forced them to close. It is not known what was then done with the voting slips, but there are reports of some being burned.

PALESTINIAN GUNMEN STEAL LION FROM GAZA ZOO

In an apparently well-planned operation, masked gunmen kidnapped a lion from the Gaza Zoo, Palestinian media reported yesterday. Zoo manager Saud al-Shawwa has offered a $1,000 reward for anyone who provides information that could help find the lion and two Arabic-speaking parrots that were also stolen in the 30-minute heist.

Palestinian media reports suggest that at least four gunmen stole the lion (throwing a blanket over its head) and two white and gray parrots that speak a little Arabic; they failed to steal a second lion that showed fierce resistance.

The four Palestinian gunmen armed with Kalashnikov semi-automatic rifles broke into the zoo and shot the guard. Palestinian sources speculated the lion was taken by a militant gang who wanted the animal as a trophy “show of force”.

FORMER JEWISH TOWNS IN GAZA NOW TERROR “TRAINING CAMPS”

The former Jewish settlement of Neve Dekalim, in Gaza, has been turned into a Hamas “martyr training camp”. Neve Dekalim was the largest Jewish town in Gaza prior to Israel’s withdrawal in August.

(For previous pictures of Neve Dekalim see the “Exodus from Gaza” photo gallery on this website.)

An official Palestinian Authority dossier on the recent visit to Gaza by Palestinian Interior Minister Nasser Yousef, said “The Minister Nasser Yousef toured the newly liberated areas of Gaza, parts of which are used by the Palestinian groups as training camps.”

On Friday, one man was shot dead in a battle between rival Palestinian gunmen for control of parts of land near the former settlement of Neve Dekalim. Meanwhile violence against Israel continues. An Israeli taxi driver who was transporting Palestinian passengers was shot by one of them on Friday. Yesterday an Israeli student was seriously injured by a knife-wielding Palestinian in Jerusalem.

PALESTINIAN GUNMEN RANSACK GAZA NEWSPAPER OFFICE

A group of Palestinian gunmen ransacked the office of the online newspaper Donia al-Watan in Gaza City yesterday. They threatened to kill the editor-in-chief, Abdallah Issa, and destroyed his equipment.

The independent newspaper has recently been reporting on corruption and lawlessness in the Palestinian Authority. A statement by the Palestinian National Initiative group called the attack “an assault on the freedom of expression”.

HAMAS FINANCIER DETAINED

Ahmed Saltana has been detained by Israel and charged with funneling millions of dollars in donations from abroad to support terror activity against Israel, as well as making payments to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers and prisoners.

Saltana, also known as Abu Asama, is the head of the Hamas charity funds committee. The committee collected money from donors in Europe, the U.S., Canada, and Arab countries for “sick and poor Palestinian families”.

Among non-profit organizations used as a conduit were two British charities, Human Appeal International and Interpal, the French charity CBST, the Italian charity ABSPT, and the Al-Aqsa Foundation, which operates in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, and Sweden.

Among the receivers of this money were relatives of the terrorist who carried out the suicide bombing in the Sbarro restaurant, in Jerusalem, on August 9, 2001, in which 15 Israelis (mainly children) were murdered and 107 wounded. (For more on the victims of the Sbarro bomb see the dispatch “Zionists ‘secretly control’ both Al-Jazeera and the National Geographic” (December 15, 2004). Victims included the 15-year-old daughter of Arnold Roth, a long-time subscriber to this email list, and the grandchildren of Dutch-born Auschwitz survivor Elisheva Schijveschuurder, aged 2, 4 and 14.)

The Israeli army this week, found a large bomb factory in Jenin (where most of the money collected by Saltana went) stocked with explosives, mortar shells and bomb-making materials.

While this misuse of Palestinian funds has been mentioned dozens of times on this list over the years, today the Independent newspaper of London (one of the most-anti Israeli papers in Europe) finally ran a story about it, headlined “Charity Cash for Palestinian Poor Was Siphoned to Suicide Bombers.”

“HOW DID WE FORGET THAT ISRAEL’S STORY IS THE STORY OF THE WEST?”

As well as a Reuters report on the BBC governors’ decision, I attach below an article by Charles Moore from Saturday’s Daily Telegraph. Moore compares the State of Israel with the Roman republic, “Some would see Sharon as Milosevic, but might he not be Caesar?” He questions why Israel is seen as “the greatest problem of all.”

Charles Moore is a highly distinguished former editor of the Daily Telegraph, and before that editor of the Sunday Telegraph and of the Spectator magazine. He was handpicked by former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to be her official biographer and is presently working on that biography. He is a recent subscriber to this email list.

Although the Daily Telegraph under Moore’s editorship was much less critical of Israel than other European newspapers, it was still often biased in its news coverage. For example, on April 15, 2002, the paper’s correspondent, David Blair, took at face value what he called “detailed accounts” by Palestinians that “Israeli troops had executed nine men.” Blair quoted one woman telling him that Palestinians were “stripped to their underwear, they were searched, bound hand and foot, placed against a wall and killed with single shots to the head.” This report was completely untrue. Neither the Daily Telegraph nor other Western newspapers have yet properly apologized for these kinds of untruths in their news reports.

There is a summary of the article first for those who don’t have time to read it in full.

-- Tom Gross

 


SUMMARY

“ARE YOU SURE THAT THE FATE OF ISRAEL HAS NO BEARING ON YOUR OWN?”

“How did we forget that Israel’s story is the story of the West?” (By Charles Moore, The Daily Telegraph, November 26, 2005)

If you had followed the British media, particularly the BBC, with average attention over the past 25 years, you would have concluded that Sharon was an intransigent, murderous, semi-fascist. So you would have been perplexed by his sudden announcement this week that he is to leave the “Right-wing” (favoured Western terminology) Likud party and form a “centrist” party of his own. Suddenly, Sharon becomes visionary, peace-seeking. Little would have prepared you for it.

And that is the trouble. Little prepares the post-Christian European audience to understand Israel. By “understand”, I partly mean sympathise with, and partly, just comprehend…

… Once upon a time, the word “Palestinian” had no national meaning; it was simply the description on any passport of a person living in British-mandated Palestine. During the 19 years to 1967 when Jordan governed the West Bank, the people there had no self-rule, and no real name. UN Resolution 242, which calls for Israel to leave territories it occupied in 1967, does not mention Palestinians; it speaks only of “Arab refugees”. Palestinian nationality came along, as it were, after the fact, a nationality largely based on grievance.

Since then, the story has grown and grown. Israel, which was attacked, has come to be seen as the aggressor. Israel, which has elections that throw governments out and independent commissions that investigate people like Sharon and condemn him, became regarded as the oppressive monster. In a rhetoric that tried to play back upon Jews their own experience of suffering, supporters of the Palestinian cause began to call Israelis Nazis. Holocaust Memorial Day is disapproved of by many Muslims because it ignores the supposedly comparable “genocide” of the Palestinians…

Well, some will say, that is the way it is: Israel has abused power, and is reaping the whirlwind. I don’t want to argue today about the rights and wrongs of Israel’s actions, though I think, given its difficulties, it stands up better than most before the bar of history. All I want to ask my fellow Europeans is this: are you happy to help direct the world’s fury at the only country in the Middle East whose civilisation even remotely resembles yours? And are you sure that the fate of Israel has no bearing on your own? In Iran, the new President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad makes the link. The battle over Palestine, he says, is “the prelude of the battle of Islam with the world of arrogance,” the world of the West. He is busy building his country’s nuclear bomb.



FULL ARTICLES

BBC SANCTIONS BARBARA PLETT FOR CRYING OVER ARAFAT

BBC sanctions reporter who cried over Arafat
Reuters
November 25, 2005

news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20051126/ts_nm/mideast_bbc_dc_1

The British Broadcasting Corporation has upheld a complaint against one of its journalists who said in a radio report she cried when a dying Yasser Arafat was flown from the West Bank in 2004.

Barbara Plett made the remark in a dispatch for the “From Our Own Correspondent” program describing how she felt when a helicopter carrying Arafat, who was gravely ill, took off from his compound, according to a BBC Web site.

“When the helicopter carrying the frail old man rose from his ruined compound, I started to cry,” she said in the 30 October, 2004 broadcast.

Arafat died at a French military hospital in Paris on November 11, aged 75.

The BBC Governors’ program Complaints Committee initially cleared Plett after hundreds of listeners complained but upheld part of an appeal and said she “breached the requirements of due impartiality.”

But the committee rejected part of the appeal that said the October 30 report broadcast on the Radio 4 station was a “tearful eulogy.” The panel said it was balanced by references to Arafat’s “obvious failings.”

 

“HOW DID WE FORGET THAT ISRAEL’S STORY IS THE STORY OF THE WEST?”

How did we forget that Israel’s story is the story of the West?
By Charles Moore
The Daily Telegraph
November 26, 2005

www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml;jsessionid=LI5P4XYBJYLJ1QFIQMGCFF4AVCBQUIV0?xml=/opinion/2005/11/26/do2602.xml&sSheet=/portal/2005/11/26/ixportal.html

Sometimes Private Eye runs a spoof “Apology - printed in all newspapers”, which says something like: “We used to say that X was a disgusting, brutal pig, unworthy to hold public office. We now recognise that X is a living saint.” Such a volte-face has just taken place about Ariel Sharon.

If you had followed the British media, particularly the BBC, with average attention over the past 25 years, you would have concluded that Sharon was an intransigent, murderous, semi-fascist. So you would have been perplexed by his sudden announcement this week that he is to leave the “Right-wing” (favoured Western terminology) Likud party and form a “centrist” party of his own. Suddenly, Sharon becomes visionary, peace-seeking. Little would have prepared you for it.

And that is the trouble. Little prepares the post-Christian European audience to understand Israel. By “understand”, I partly mean sympathise with, and partly, just comprehend.

Sharon’s career is a good place to start, because it spans the history of the Jewish state. He was 20 when it began in 1948, and had been serving in the Jewish Haganah militia since the age of 14. He fought in the War of Independence, and in 1956, and in the Six-Day War of 1967, and in the Yom Kippur War of 1973, when he crossed the Suez Canal and, effectively disobeying orders, advanced to cut the supply lines of the Egyptian Third Army. He became a popular hero.

Then Sharon entered full-time politics. As defence minister, he masterminded the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, which succeeded in breaking up the PLO infrastructure there. On his watch, Lebanese Christian Falangists entered the Sabra and Chatila Palestinian refugee camps. There they massacred several hundred people: Sharon was officially condemned for this, and forced to resign.

He bounced back, however. As housing minister, he built settlements. Later he was foreign minister, then leader of Likud. In 2001, he became prime minister, swept to power by fear of the new intifada. He ordered the assassination of many Palestinian terrorists. He began the security wall that divides Israel from much of the West Bank. He also ordered Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza strip, the first unilateral withdrawal it has ever made. And soon he will contest elections as leader of a party he has just invented.

If one stands back from the moral argument that rages round Israel, and just looks at this as a story, it reminds one intensely of that of ancient Israel’s enemy, the Roman republic. An austere nation builds its power in the face of enemy neighbours. It does so by great feats of arms, and so its soldiers often become its political leaders. The commitment those leaders must give to the nation is absolute, lifelong, life-threatening. The deeds done in the nation’s defence are frequently brave, sometimes appalling. Some would see Sharon as Milosevic, but might he not be Caesar?

But there’s also an important difference from Rome: the purpose of victory has been more about security than conquest for its own sake. Israeli politics for the past dozen years has been the attempt to reconcile extrication from territory with security. That is what Sharon thinks about all the time, as did his Labour predecessors, Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Barak.

In the history of the West, such a narrative used to command fascination and respect. Many could apply it to their own people. British people whose convict cousins had built Australia out of their barren exile could understand; so could Americans, who had overcome hostile terrain and hostile inhabitants, and forged a mighty nation. So could any country formed in adversity, particularly, perhaps, a Protestant one - with its idea of divinely supported national destiny and its natural sympathy for the people first chosen by God. The sympathy was made stronger by the fact that the new state was robust in its legal and political institutions, free in its press and universities - a noisy democracy.

Anti-imperialists and the Left also found much to admire. They admired people whose pioneer spirit kept them equal, who often lived communally, who fled the persecution of old societies to build simpler, better ones. If you read Bernard Donoughue’s diaries, just published, of his life as an adviser to Harold Wilson in the 1970s (a much better picture of what prime ministers are like than Sir Christopher Meyer’s self-regarding effort), one difference between then and now that hits you hard is Donoughue’s (and Wilson’s) firm belief that the cause of Israel is the cause of people who wish to be free, and that its enemies are the old, repressive establishments.

As a boy, I loved this narrative. I cheered as Israeli courage swept away the outnumbering Arabs who tried to destroy it again and again. I bought books about the Six-Day War, many of which carried pictures of glamorous female Israeli soldiers.

But then a different narrative supervened. People called “the Palestinians” began to be mentioned. Once upon a time, the word “Palestinian” had no national meaning; it was simply the description on any passport of a person living in British-mandated Palestine. During the 19 years to 1967 when Jordan governed the West Bank, the people there had no self-rule, and no real name. UN Resolution 242, which calls for Israel to leave territories it occupied in 1967, does not mention Palestinians; it speaks only of “Arab refugees”. Palestinian nationality came along, as it were, after the fact, a nationality largely based on grievance.

Since then, the story has grown and grown. Israel, which was attacked, has come to be seen as the aggressor. Israel, which has elections that throw governments out and independent commissions that investigate people like Sharon and condemn him, became regarded as the oppressive monster. In a rhetoric that tried to play back upon Jews their own experience of suffering, supporters of the Palestinian cause began to call Israelis Nazis. Holocaust Memorial Day is disapproved of by many Muslims because it ignores the supposedly comparable “genocide” of the Palestinians.

Western children of the Sixties like this sort of talk. They look for a narrative based on the American civil rights movement or the struggle against apartheid. They care little for economic achievement or political pluralism. They are suspicious of any society with a Western appearance, and in any contest between people with differing skin colours, they prefer the darker. They buy into the idea, now promoted by all Arab regimes and by Muslim firebrands with a permanent interest in deflecting attention from their own societies’ problems, that Israel is the greatest problem of all.

Well, some will say, that is the way it is: Israel has abused power, and is reaping the whirlwind. I don’t want to argue today about the rights and wrongs of Israel’s actions, though I think, given its difficulties, it stands up better than most before the bar of history. All I want to ask my fellow Europeans is this: are you happy to help direct the world’s fury at the only country in the Middle East whose civilisation even remotely resembles yours? And are you sure that the fate of Israel has no bearing on your own? In Iran, the new President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad makes the link. The battle over Palestine, he says, is “the prelude of the battle of Islam with the world of arrogance”, the world of the West. He is busy building his country’s nuclear bomb.

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.