Outrage Over Hamas Fuels Opposition to Planned Meetings Between Qatar Ruling Family and US Jewish Groups
Opposition is mounting within the US Jewish community to a series of planned meetings over the coming week between American Jewish leaders and senior Qatari representatives reported to include the Gulf state’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, and other members of the ruling family.
The concerns center on Qatar’s status as the principal backer of the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas. In the last three years, Qatar has pledged at least $1.4 billion to Hamas-ruled Gaza. Several fugitive Hamas terrorists live in Qatar, which the terrorist group uses as a base to raise funds and even plan terror attacks.
Judea Pearl — a Chancellor’s Professor at UCLA and the president of the Daniel Pearl Foundation, which promotes cross-cultural understanding — told The Algemeiner on Wednesday that he urged “Jewish leaders to refrain from meeting the emir of Qatar, and thus bestow credibility onto a country that has served as the hub of terrorism-breeding ideology in the past two decades.”
Pearl recalled that his late son, Daniel — a senior Wall Street Journal reporter who was murdered by Islamist terrorists in Pakistan in 2002 — had interviewed the Muslim Brotherhood’s leading cleric, Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who is based in Qatar, one month after the Al Qaeda terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
“That was when the sheikh first proclaimed the idea that Israeli citizens are legitimate targets of terrorism, because ‘Israeli society is generally armed,'” Pearl said. “Three months later, Daniel fell victim to Qaradawi’s ideas.”
Eviscerating Qatar’s rulers for offering “shelter and unlimited support to Qaradawi and his host” — the Qatari broadcaster Al Jazeera — Pearl added that if the emir “seeks to improve the tarnished image of his country, let him address two issues that are currently of major concern to the Jewish community: Let him declare the jihadi ideology of Al Jazeera unacceptable, and let him proclaim Qaradawi’s Zionophobia a form of racism.”
Pearl’s protest follows Tuesday’s announcement by Morton Klein, the president of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), that he had turned down an invitation to meet with Qatari leaders.
“I don’t want to be a prop to help Qatar’s image when at this point they have done nothing to reform and change,” Klein told The Algemeiner on Tuesday, shortly before making his decision public.
“I’m not meeting with them,” he continued. “They fund Hamas, they broadcast Nazi-like propaganda on Al Jazeera, they have close relations with Iran.”
Klein said that if Qatar takes “significant steps to show they are willing to change and reform, to end aid to Hamas, to facilitate the release of the bodies of slain Israeli soldiers to their families — if they do some of those things to show that real change is happening, then I would be delighted to meet.”
Meanwhile, an advertisement placed by another Jewish organization in the New York Times last weekend warned that “those involved in efforts to rehabilitate and legitimize Qatar will bring shame to themselves and ruin to countless more victims.”
“The Emir is confident that he can buy a whole new image among American Jews even as he traffics in global antisemitism through Al Jazeera and grants sanctuary to mass murderers,” the ad — sponsored by the World Values Network, a group headed by New York-based Rabbi Shmuley Boteach — declared.
While few senior US Jewish leaders were prepared to go on record about the planned meetings with the Qatari delegation, The Algemeiner spoke with several officials who pointed out that Jewish organizations often meet autocratic foreign leaders with established records of hostility towards Israel, or even Jews more widely, such as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Many of these same officials underscored that such meetings, which can touch upon sensitive matters relating to vulnerable Jewish communities, should not be understood as political endorsements.
Moreover, over the last two decades, the major US Jewish groups have sent delegations to all the Gulf states, including Qatar, as well as conferring regularly with Gulf Arab diplomats in New York and Washington, DC — one result of the warming of relations between Israel and the Arab states during the 1990s, which opened up new diplomatic opportunities for American Jewish groups.
Jason Isaacson – Associate Executive Director for Policy at the American Jewish Committee (AJC) – said his organization had “spoken to administration officials and written to members of Congress of our concerns about Qatar’s relations with Hamas, and about the provocative inciting role that Al Jazeera has played and continues to play.”
Isaacson said that he had raised the same concerns with Qatari officials on visits to Doha as well as in the US. He added that any weakening of the US strategic position in the region, along with deepening divisions among US allies in the Gulf, would be “eagerly capitalized upon by Iran.”
According to one leading Middle East analyst, meetings with Jewish representatives rarely involve the upper echelons of the Gulf’s ruling families mingling personally with the lay leaders of US Jewish organizations — as is said to be the case with the planned Qatari meetings.
“The emir typically meets only high-level government officials,” Jonathan Schanzer — an expert on terrorism at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD) think tank in Washington, DC — told The Algemeiner on Wednesday.
“This kind of access is not granted often, which is what makes these meetings worthy of note,” Schanzer said.
As part of its bid to improve its image among American Jews, Qatar has hired Nick Muzin, a former deputy chief of staff to Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and a familiar figure in pro-Israel circles, to manage its outreach efforts. In a statement on September 7 announcing the initiative, Muzin said he believed that the Qataris were “sincere” in their desire to improve relations with “the US and the Jewish community worldwide.”
Muzin is being paid $50,000 per month to represent Qatar, according to a report in the advertising industry journal O’Dwyer’s Report. A spokesman for Muzin told The Algemeiner last week that he would not be commenting further on the arrangement.