Sunday, January 25, 2009
"The BBC is often accused of an anti-Israeli bias in its coverage of the Middle East, and recently censured reporter Barbara Plett for saying she 'started to cry' when Yasser Arafat left Palestine shortly before his death.
Fascinating, then, to learn that its director general, Mark Thompson, has recently returned from Jerusalem, where he held a face-to-face meeting with the hardine Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
Although the diplomatic visit was not publicised on these shores, it has been seized upon in Israel as evidence that Thompson, who took office in 2004, intends to build bridges with the country's political class.
Sources at the Beeb also suspect that it heralds a "softening" to the corporation's unofficial editorial line on the Middle East.
'This was the first visit of its kind by any serving director general, so it's clearly a significant development,' I'm told.
'Not many people know this, but Mark is actually a deeply religious man. He's a Catholic, but his wife is Jewish, and he has a far greater regard for the Israeli cause than some of his predecessors.'"
(Some sort of prize will be awarded to anyone who can suitably re-work the original Gilbert & Sullivan lyrics).
Update: Whatever happened to Orla Guerin?