Daily Israel Report

BBC Reporter Wept Over Arafat

The BBC has received at least 500 complaints, after its broadcaster said she "started to cry" when Arafat departed his ruined PLO headquarters in Ramallah for a hospital in Paris.
First Publish: 11/7/2004, 4:26 PM / Last Update: 11/7/2004, 10:43 AM

Barbara Plett, BBC's Middle East correspondent, reported on a BBC Radio 4 program last Saturday her impressions of the sickly Arafat's departure. "When the helicopter carrying the frail old man rose above his ruined compound, I started to cry," she said. The Sunday Telegraph, reporting on the controversy caused by her remarks, noted, "The fact that a Middle East correspondent has such sympathies will fuel claims of BBC bias towards the Arabs."

BBC sources were quoted as saying that Plett realized that her words were a "misjudgment."

Plett's broadcast displayed her strong sympathy for Arafat, though among what she called his "obvious failings," she listed "his ambivalence towards violence." She was likely referring to the thousands of murders attributed to him and his men, earning him the commonly-used title, "father of modern-day terrorism."

Plett also noted Arafat's "use of corruption [and] his autocratic way of ruling," but then said, "During those black days in Ramallah, he was a symbol of Palestinian unity, steadfastness, and resistance." She later added, "Throughout his years of revolution, peace, and uprising, the Palestinian leader has been an enduring national symbol."

An editorial in the Telegraph stated, "Ms. Plett's flood of feeling is just the most overt and recent manifestation of a pro-Palestinian bias endemic within the BBC. As a publicly-funded organization, it should remember that it is not paid to take sides. As things stand, however, we might conclude that Mr. Arafat's culpable 'ambivalence towards violence' is echoed by our national broadcaster."

Danny Seaman, the director of Israel's Government Press Office, responded sharply. "This is a clear example of the problem that Israel has been facing for years," he told Ynet, "and that is the lack of balance in BBC reports... BBC never displayed feelings like that towards Arafat's victims."