On June 7, Israeli media and a Palestinian news service reported that a Palestinian Authority court sentenced Muhammad Rashid, a former Arafat financial adviser, to 15 years in prison at hard labor for having embezzled millions of dollars in public funds. The Jerusalem Post noted that the sentencing of Rashid coincided with an anti-corruption campaign by the same Rashid against PA President Mahmoud Abbas. Rashid told Al-Arabiya, a Saudi-owned TV network, and other Arab media and audiences that Abbas stashed away $100 million and that he and his family own several palaces. Rashid called for a corruption investigation of the current president just as the PA indicted and convicted Rashid on multi-million-dollar embezzlement charges.
It doesn't take a great leap of imagination to wonder whether the stiff sentence meted out to Rashid in absentia (nobody seems to know his whereabouts) somehow is linked to his vociferous attacks and charges against Abbas. In other words, would Rashid have been convicted and sentenced by the PA to hard labor for 15 years if he had kept his mouth shut about alleged gross corruption by Abbas?
In an e-mail I sent to the NY Times and the Washington Post, I predicted they would not print the story. The Post ignored it completely. But I was only half-right about the Times, which on June 8 ran a brief piece by Jerusalem correspondent Isabel Kershner in its print edition. Tellingly, however, Kershner limited herself to reporting only Rashid"s conviction and sentence -- without any reference to Rashid's own corruption investigation and charges against Abbas. In fact, Kershner's piece points out that Rashid's sentence sets a new record for meting out harsh penalties in the PA's crackdown against public corruption under Abbas. The PA president thus is made to look like an anti-corruption champion -- with nary a word about the corruption cloud that has been hovering over him for quite a while. Gross profiteering by Arafat and by his successor, Abbas, hasn't exactly been a secret in Palestinian circles for many years.
Yet, the NY Times and the Washington Post are so invested in depicting Abbas as a trustworthy peace partner that they keep silent about the gross corruption at the core of the PA's leadership.
In sum, the Mahmoud Abbas protection racket remains well and alive in both papers.