Saturday, October 30, 2004

BBC reporter admits: When Arafat left for Paris, 'I started to cry'

This piece, which left me gob-smacked, is just about all you have to know about the BBC's coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, so I'm going to quote a big chunk of it. Writes reporter Barbara Plett:
To be honest, the coverage of Yasser Arafat's illness and departure from Palestine was a real grind. I churned out one report after the other, without any sense of drama.
Foreign journalists seemed much more excited about Mr Arafat's fate than anyone in Ramallah.
We hovered around the gate to his compound, swarming around the Palestinian officials who drove by, poking our microphones through their dark, half-open windows.
But where were the people, I wondered, the mass demonstrations of solidarity, the frantic expressions of concern?
Was this another story we Western journalists were getting wrong, bombarding the world with news of what we think is an historic event, while the locals get on with their lives?
Yet when the helicopter carrying the frail old man rose above his ruined compound, I started to cry... without warning........
Her identification with Arafat, she explains, stems probably from 'the siege.'
I remember well when the Israelis re-conquered the West Bank more than two years ago, how they drove their tanks and bulldozers into Mr Arafat's headquarters, trapping him in a few rooms, and throwing a military curtain around Ramallah.
I remember how Palestinians admired his refusal to flee under fire. They told me: "Our leader is sharing our pain, we are all under the same siege."
And so was I.
Maybe that gives me some connection to the man whose presidential compound became a prison.
I know what it is like to stare at the same four walls and find them staring back; to watch tanks swing their turrets outside my window; to scan rooftops for snipers during brief hours of freedom between curfews.
I could understand why Palestinians responded to Mr Arafat then the way they did.
Ultimately, she concludes:
Throughout his years of revolution, peace, and uprising, the Palestinian leader has been an enduring national symbol.
But as he boarded the helicopter with faltering steps, he also stood for something else: for a people exhausted by war, bereft of hope, abandoned by their brothers, and fearful of the future.
Perhaps that is why so few Palestinians saw him off. In him, still, they see themselves.
Of-course, it's only Plett and the other foreign journalists who were so 'excited about his fate' who 'see themselves' in Arafat. The Palestinians see a weak man who has let them down, betrayed them and who is responsible for much of their misery.
If you wonder why there were no Palestinian demonstrations of solidarity, refer to Occam's Razor -- the simplest solution is probably the best solution. They're just not that into him any more. Of-course, Plett already knows that -- she jumps such intellectual summersaults in her piece that I find it hard to believe that she is not trying to convince herself above all. But then, why should she let the facts get in the way of a good story?

(Via Imshin -- thanks.)

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