I originally posted this as an Update to the post about Friday's New York Times editorial (see below), but I'm going to copy it out up here at the top because I don't want it to get lost.
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Abington said the Bush administration shares responsibility for the outcome because U.S. officials did little to help Abbas or to push the Israeli government to end settlement expansion, limit roadblocks, release prisoners or stop other activities that undermined his authority in the eyes of the Palestinian people.That would be Edward G. Abington, Jr., "a consultant to the Palestinian Authority." Google Abington and you will see that he is frequently quoted by this same Washington Post writer (Glenn Kessler), but by no other journalists that I can see.
In this piece, Kessler describes Abington as "a former State Department official who advises the Palestinian Authority." Another source describes him as a "former U.S. council [consul?] general in Jerusalem." We're getting there; something called MideastCalm.org lists him as "The Honorable Edward G. Abington, Former U.S. Consul General to Jerusalem (1993-1997); Advisor to the Palestinian Authority at Bannerman Associates."
A little more Google, and one finds both Ed Abington and Graeme Bannerman (president, Bannerman & Associates and former staff member, Senate Foreign Relations Committee) at a public policy seminar (date unknown) holding forth on "After Arafat: New Opportunities for Peace" and "Lobbying for Middle East Issues," respectively. This source describes Abington as "Lobbyist; Former Foreign Service Office, Department of State; Served as American Consul General in Jerusalem."
Maybe this is perfectly legitimate, that former US government employees now function as lobbyists for the Palestinian Authority, but it gives me the creeps. Here are these lobbyists, on the payroll of the Palestinian Authority, speaking at Alan L. Freed Associates Public Policy Seminars, which are sold as "non-partisan" seminars for "senior managers and executives of the federal government." Non-partisan? I don't think so.
No wonder Abington states to the Washington Post that, "... U.S. officials did little to help Abbas or to push the Israeli government to end settlement expansion, limit roadblocks, release prisoners or stop other activities that undermined his authority." He's being paid (with US, European and Israeli money) by the Abu Mazen Authority ... to spread these lies, this propaganda.
And he's spreading them to "senior managers and executives of the federal government," as well as to Joe Shmo who reads (and believes) the Washington Post... and to Gd-only-knows who else, where else.
Apparently, this is not a new story after all. The Forward noticed Edward Abington back in January 2000:
Former American Envoy Turns Up on the Payroll of a Lobbyist for Arafat:
WASHINGTON -- When Yasser Arafat visits Washington next week, he will be backed by the political muscle of a Washington lobbying firm that he recently hired for $2.25 million and whose lobbyists include the State Department official who, from 1993 to 1997, was in charge of representing the American government's interests to Mr. Arafat.
The State Department official, Edward Abington, last month left his post as deputy assistant secretary at the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research to join the lobbying firm Bannerman and Associates, said a Bannerman associate, Mark Habeeb. Also last month, Bannerman and Associates registered itself with the Justice Department as a foreign agent representing the Palestinian Authority, according to public records on file at the Justice Department here.
With Prime Minister Barak and President Clinton pushing to conclude a final status agreement between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization before Mr. Clinton's term concludes in one year, the PLO's representation in the American capital is becoming increasingly important. At issue in the final status talks are Jerusalem, Jewish settlements on the West Bank, the disposition of Palestinian-Arab "refugees" and the borders between Israel and areas to be controlled by the PLO. As Mr. Clinton and his aides prepare to mediate the final status talks, which will also be monitored by Congress, Mr. Arafat has apparently decided that it is worth spending $2.25 million to make sure his side of the issues is heard in Washington. The firm has already swung into action, attempting to arrange meetings for congressional aides with Palestinian-Arab officials. Israel has no similar paid lobbyists, relying instead on its embassy and on American Jewish groups.
Bannerman's Mr. Habeeb told the Forward that Mr. Abington's "specific role will be a function of his personal relations with the players on both sides and his intimate knowledge of how the State Department works." Mr. Abington will be one of four principal lobbyists working on the Palestinian Authority account, Mr. Habeeb said; another is the firm's name partner, Graeme Bannerman, who was a top aide to Senator Lugar on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
As America's consul general in Jerusalem from 1993 to 1997, Mr. Abington served as the overseas American government official in charge of relations with Mr. Arafat and the PLO. While based in Israel's capital, the consul general functions as a de-facto diplomatic mission to the Palestinian Arabs, reporting directly to the State Department in Washington rather than to the American ambassador to Israel, who is based in Tel Aviv.
Some members of Congress and American Jewish leaders criticized the new arrangement between Mr. Abington and the PLO.
Rep. Eliot Engel, a Democrat from New York, said the arrangement is "inappropriate." The American Consulate in Jerusalem "always seemed pro-Palestinian," Mr. Engel said. "I just felt that the tilt out of that office always seemed to be sympathetic to the Palestinian Arabs and not to the Israelis."
The executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Malcolm Hoenlein, said, "This invites a corruption of the diplomatic service, if people are employed or can be employed to represent the very countries to which they were posted immediately after their service."
"This type of huge financial pay-off, soon after Abington's government work, should never be permitted," said the president of the Zionist Organization of America, Morton Klein.
Conflict-of-interest laws regarding post-government employment prohibit all former government officials from lobbying the federal government on matters in which they have "participated personally and substantially," according to federal regulations....
I guess there's no law regarding newspapers like the Washington Post quoting former government officials [who are now] lobbying ... on matters in which they have participated personally and substantially, but it makes me very uneasy.
I think this reporter -who has quoted Abington on several occasions- should choose his sources more carefully, and the WaPo should realize they're allowing Abu Mazen's paid lobbyist to push propaganda (it's Bush's fault that the Palestinians elected Hamas) in the pages of the Washington Post!
Maybe it's just laziness on the newspaper's part, but maybe it's a very slippery slope from lazy to sleazy.
The other thing that really bothers me is that my tax dollars* are paying for it all. But that's not the Post's fault :)
* Since 1993, the U.S. has given the Palestinians more than $1.5 billion.
SEE ALSO the WaPo reporter in question, Glenn Kessler, in an interview with the CJR (Columbia Journalism Review) Daily in Sept. 2004... about fact-checking, and other reporterly concerns.