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December 12, 2017 10:29 am

Jews Shouldn’t Befriend Qatar

avatar by Stephen M. Flatow


President Donald Trump meets with the emir of Qatar in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, May 2017. Photo: White House / Shealah Craighead.

In a stinging rebuke to those who claim that Qatar is becoming “moderate,” a senior Qatari cabinet minister last week visited and embraced the leaders of the most anti-Israel, terror-sponsoring country on earth — Iran.

Qatar’s minister of the economy, Sheikh Ahmed bin Jassim Al-Thani, visited Tehran in order to seek a huge expansion of Qatari-Iranian trade. According to Forbes, Al-Thani met with Iran’s foreign minister and industry minister in the hope of increasing trade from the current $1 billion annually to a whopping $5 billion annually. This follows Qatar’s recent decision to restore full diplomatic relations with Iran, following a nearly two year suspension.

All of this leaves a handful of American Jewish leaders with a bit of egg on their faces.

Earlier this year, Qatar hired a Jewish-owned public relations firm in Washington to improve Qatar’s image in the United States. Soon afterward, officials of a few Jewish groups met privately with Qatari officials; some of them even visited the Gulf kingdom.

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There were some rumors — perhaps spread by Qatar’s Jewish friends — that the Jewish contacts with Qatar were secretly approved by the Israeli government. But Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, specifically told Forbes that Israel has not approved them.

In a lead editorial, The Jerusalem Post last week challenged the claim by one Jewish official that he was secretly negotiating with Qatar to get Hamas to hand over the bodies of two deceased Israeli soldiers. If Qatar wants Hamas to hand them over, it does not need to meet with American Jews to do so. Hamas’ top leaders, Khaled Mashaal and Yusuf al-Qaradawi, are living right there in Qatar’s capital, Doha.

That’s the same al-Qaradawi who has publicly praised Hitler, and prayed for Allah to help him finish the job.

“Oh Allah,” al-Qaradawi declared in one sermon broadcast on Al Jazeera, “take this oppressive, Jewish, Zionist band of people … count their numbers and kill them, down to the very last one!”

The Jerusalem Post editorial asked: “Given that Qatar openly supports Hamas in its declared goal of Israel’s destruction, could Qatar be using American Jews to whitewash itself? … Is Qatar playing them?”

The Post pointed out that Al Jazeera, the viciously anti-Israel television network, is an arm of the Qatari government; Qatar “has pledged more than $1 billion to Hamas’s declared campaign for Israel’s destruction and offers refuge to its top leaders,” and “Qatar is Hamas’s ally and single largest donor, paying out hundreds of millions of so far.”

A regime that harbors terrorists who vow to kill all Jews should not be considered an appropriate partner for negotiations, visits or any contacts with American Jewish leaders. Otherwise, those Jews risk being “used to whitewash the crimes of terrorism and antisemitism,” as the Post puts it.

One Jewish official recently wrote: “Maybe by engaging the Qataris, Jewish leaders can help lead the world’s richest country from the dark side to the light.” Historical experience suggests that it is more likely to be the other way around.

Those who lower themselves into the swamp of terror-supporting dictators might find themselves sinking deeper and deeper into the muck of moral compromise, as they make one excuse after another for a regime whose behavior is inexcusable.

Fortunately, members of Congress from both parties are speaking out against Qatar. In a recent letter to Trump administration officials, a bipartisan group of lawmakers expressed their “deep concern” that Doha continues to serve as “a sanctuary to Hamas terrorist officials.” The House of Representatives also recently adopted a resolution condemning Qatar for providing “significant financial and military support” to Hamas.

Congress and The Jerusalem Post are right.

It’s not a morally complicated issue. It’s clear-cut. Governments that sponsor murderers of Jews should not be rewarded. Meetings with Jewish officials, visits by Jews to Qatar, articles by Jews claiming that Qatar might be changing — these are rewards for a regime that is desperate to improve its image. Qatar does not deserve such rewards.

A version of this article was originally published by The Jewish Press.

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