Don’t Equivocate With Qatar
The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) has historically led to unexpected meetings. And a series of meetings that took place in New York between American Jewish leaders and Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani — and other members of his family on the sidelines of the UNGA — was no exception.
Furthermore, these meetings have raised challenging ethical questions.
On the one hand, Qatar is one of the world’s primary sponsors of terrorism. It funds Hamas, and other terror groups that threaten the state of Israel. Why would those who object to talks between Israel and Hamas rush to meet with Hamas’ primary sponsor?
On the other hand, Qatar, like Israel, is a small state that is threatened by its neighboring enemies — in the case of Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Qatar hosts a large US air base, and once featured an Israeli trade office. President Trump has warned that the dispute between Qatar and its Gulf neighbors must not be allowed to distract the US allies from forging a united front against Iran.
Maybe by engaging the Qataris, Jewish leaders believe that they can help lead the world’s richest country from the dark side to the light. Indeed, we speak to Turkey, which has been no less a sponsor of terrorism under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan; we also praise Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman, whose country treats women much worse than Qatar does.
Besides, what harm can be caused by simply talking?
Well, that question can be answered by observing the success of Qatar’s international television network — Al Jazeera.
Al Jazeera covers the Middle East more than any other media outlet. It broadcasts to the Arab world in Arabic and the rest of the world in English, and it spreads Qatar’s agenda to the entire international community.
That agenda includes empowering the Muslim Brotherhood, replacing the Palestinian Authority with Hamas and destroying the state of Israel. True, none of those goals can be physically accomplished without an army, but years of skewed media coverage can certainly make a major impact.
Al Jazeera‘s impact may soon be tested because PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas is 82, and not in good health. It is imperative to US Jews that Qatar not succeed in having Hamas replace the PA.
And perhaps that’s why some Jewish leaders decided to meet with the emir.
Each US Jewish leader can, of course, make his or her own decision about whether to engage or boycott the Qataris. But those who choose to interact with Qatar must insist on Qatar immediately changing course.
One way to start would be for Qatar to mediate the release of the bodies of IDF soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, which Hamas has held since Operation Protective Edge in October 2014. Such a move would demonstrate to the world that Qatar can be a force for good — if Doha is brought into the camp.
Qatar must also immediately stop supporting terrorist organizations and end its alliance with Iran, the world’s worst sponsor of terrorism. Reopening Israel’s trade office would be another key step.
We Jews believe in the concept of repentance, especially in the wake of the High Holidays. That concept applies not only to individuals, but also to countries, whom we believe are also judged by God.
Ultimately, the answer to the moral question of meeting with Qatar is the same as the answer to many of the questions in the Middle East: it’s complicated.
Martin Oliner is the copresident of the Religious Zionists of America and the chairman of the Center for Righteousness and Integrity. He can be reached at Martinoliner@gmail.com.
A version of this article was originally published by the Jerusalem Post.