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sydney alternative media - non-profit community independent trustworthy
Monday, 19 January 2009
Paul Sheehan, SMH journo fails the financial conflict of interest test?
Topic: big media

Paul Sheehan might think that his regular Monday column can hide behind the recent intensity of the Israeli slaughter in Gaza and unilateral ceasefire to avoid 'raining bombs on children' spoiling Barak Obama's parade.

Trouble is the independent media and fair minded people tend to remember failure to declare a junket/research trip paid for by one of the protagonists in a long running geo political dispute as with Palestine/Israel.

Crikey.com.au's Margaret Simons ran the lead story last week about Sheehan's financial conflict and we phoned a question through to their editorial desk late last week aksing "Will Sheehan will be sacked?" No answer nor did we expect one when we asked it. 

Is there an answer in today's column on Obama which does indeed return to the vomit of Israel's Palestine policy? Yes but it is an unsatisfactory answer:

One must traverse the final third of his column, and even then the second last paragraph for the declaration he shamefully makes, with the balancing commentary that should have run on the topic last week. A man of certain standards not only makes a correction, but admits the error. A newspaper of a certain standard takes transparent discipline. So neither Sheehan or SMH employer are in the clear. Just as the Israeli Defence Force at a much more profound level must be investigated for war crimes against UN facilities, and the dignity of humanity in Gaza.

Here are the relevant paragraphs Sheehan shamefully airbrushed in his line of opinion last week:

It is of some concern that he [Obama] has said he will make the Middle East his priority, in particular the Arab-Jewish schism. The Israeli-Palestinian divide has done little to enhance the reputation of Congress or American presidents for the past 60 years.

Here I have found another significant detail about the new president. Last year, in Chicago, Obama spent two hours being briefed by Khaled Abu Toameh. "He listened, he wrote a lot of notes," Toameh told me.

This is telling. For years Toameh has repeatedly antagonised and embarrassed the Israeli Government, and the Fatah and Hamas parties in the Palestinian territories, by exposing lies and brutal acts on all sides.

Toameh is a Palestinian Muslim who lives in East Jerusalem. He works as the Palestinian affairs correspondent for The Jerusalem Post, is an authority on Fatah and Hamas, and is widely sought as a consultant by foreign media. For the past two years he has argued that Israel, the US and the European Union have made a conceptual and tactical blunder by not dealing with the reality in the Palestinian territories. They have, he says, engaged in wishful thinking about the utter corruption of Fatah. They have been deluded about the growing strength and pragmatism of Hamas. They have tolerated a dangerous fantasy that Israel can control how Palestinians will vote.

Everything he predicted has come to pass. It is an insight into Barack Obama that he has gone outside the policy-makers, think-tankers, lobbyists and armchair experts to listen to someone who inhabits the dangerous territory between these sworn enemies.

I had a briefing with Toameh in November, though can claim no credit for finding him. It was part of a study tour for Australian journalists to Israel, sponsored by the Jewish Board of Deputies which was omitted from my column last week. At the time, Toameh described Gaza as "a frightening situation". And that was well before Israel's military offensive.

This is the poisoned chalice president-elect Obama has been passed. He has passed it on to his previous nemesis, Hillary Clinton, as secretary of state. Perhaps it was a sublime Machiavellian manoeuvre, like the political sleights of hand found in almost every episode of The Wire.


Obama is walking a high wire

Paul Sheehan PAUL SHEEHAN | This is a worldly administration. Barack Obama is more steeped in genuine cultural diversity than anyone who has occupied the Oval Office.

The hypocrisy of Sheehan accusing Barak Obama of "political sleights of hand" compounds his failure to admit a financial conflict of interest (he says "omitted") in a piece at the height of the Gaza slaughter by the IDF. It compounds the failure, both then, and today's failure to contextualise his error in the correction today. This is a man who plays dirty when he's cornered by the facts of his own financial conflict of interest.

The Herald itself has somewhat mitigated its sin of avoiding sacking their man by leading with the truth about the Israeli preparations for war in Gaza long before any ostensible breach of the ceasefire by Hamas. Indeed Hamas were demonstrably and egregiously provoked which we suggest was always the plan of Big Israeli/W Bush US style politics.

That expose by Jason Koutsoukas is here:

Israel kept out aid for Gaza Sydney Morning Herald p1 19 Jan 2009

ISRAEL deliberately blocked the United Nations from building up vital food supplies in Gaza that feed a million people daily before the launch of its war against Hamas, according to a senior UN official in Jerusalem.

And Sheehan is in my more trouble on the facts/spin via the Koutsoukas story. Sheehan claims today:

"I had a briefing with Toameh in November ....And that was well before Israel's military offensive.

But it wasn't well before the Gaza offensive which really began from the constructive breach of the Gaza ceasefire as far back as 19 June 2008. Koutsoukis writes:

In a scathing critique of Israeli actions leading up to the conflict, the UN's chief humanitarian co-ordinator in Israel, the former Australian diplomat Maxwell Gaylard, accused Israel of failing to honour its commitments to open its border with Gaza during several months of truce from June 19 last year.

"The Israelis would not let us facilitate a regular and sufficient flow of supplies into the Strip," Mr Gaylard said.

So much for honour in politics in Israel. But Sheehan has either been played for a dupe or knew he was being positioned as an arm of Israeli propaganda in their 6 month preparation for war in Gaza. Not 'travelled to Israel in November well before the Gaza offensive' in fact but deep within the preparatory programme of the Olmert/Livni/Barak Government. Indeed arguably concurrent with Israel's reported breach in early November 2008 as per UK The Guardian:

Gaza truce broken as Israeli raid kills six Hamas gunmen | World ...

5 Nov 2008 ... An Israeli air strike then killed five more Hamas fighters. ... It was last updated at 14.32 GMT on Wednesday 5 November 2008. ...

So which it is Paul? Dupe for Israel or propagandist?

Posted by editor at 12:17 PM EADT
Updated: Monday, 19 January 2009 12:58 PM EADT

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