Dershowitz Doubles Down Defending Qatar
Over the weekend Prof. Alan Dershowitz said that had he known about a recently unearthed 2005 photo of Barack Obama and Louis Farrakhan, “I would not have campaigned for Barack Obama.”
But how does this square with Dershowitz not only traveling across the world to meet with the emir of Qatar — whose support for Hamas and terrorism against Israel by far outweighs the antisemitic sins of Farrakhan — and then having Dershowitz become a public defender of Qatar? Can someone tell me what is going on? Dershowitz returned from his all-expenses-paid visit to the emir extolling Qatar’s virtues and parroting the emir’s call for US help to end the blockade imposed by its neighbors. Rather than apologizing for his misstatements about Qatar, and his shilling for a terrorism-financing regime, Dershowitz has doubled down on his positions.
Responding to critics, his defense is that he cannot be bought, cannot be fooled, The New York Times agrees with him, the Saudis are worse human rights abusers than the Qataris, and he cannot understand anyone objecting to his suggestion that claims about Qatari misbehavior be investigated.
Let me take the last point first, since it is a straw man. I have no objection to an investigation, but Qatar’s human rights abuses are well documented, as is its aid to Hamas, sponsorship of terrorism and harboring of terrorist leaders. Israel’s former ambassador to the UN, Ron Prosor, summed up the case well in a 2014 New York Times op-ed that branded Qatar the “Club Med for Terrorists.”
Calling on the civilized world to isolate Qatar, Prosor observed that “Qatar is not a part of the solution but a significant part of the problem” and that “the message to Qatar should be clear: Stop financing Hamas.”
I did not accuse Dershowitz of being “bought,” but he apparently believes he needs to defend himself from such accusations because of his admission that he accepted an all-expenses-paid trip to Qatar from the emir, offered through a PR company, with the expectation that he would come back and recite the emir’s talking points.
Dershowitz wants us to believe that the Qataris can’t pull the wool over his eyes. But they did. He tries to get around it with his suggestion about conducting an investigation, but this was an admission that Qatar had managed to sow reasonable doubt in the mind of the famed defense attorney about its complicity in terrorism.
Jonathan Schanzer, vice president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, tweeted in response to Dershowitz’s article about his visit, “Stick to what you know,” and later observed, “The man [Dershowitz] defends Israel until he’s blue in the face and then normalizes Hamas’s top patron.” Schanzer, who believes Qatar should be designated a state sponsor of terrorism, told Haaretz, “There is a lot of material they [visitors to Doha] should become aware of about Qatar’s ties to Hamas, al-Qaida, the Taliban, the Muslim Brotherhood and other problematic actors.”
When confronted with Qatar’s abysmal human rights record and authoritarian government, Dershowitz’s response is that the Times says the Saudis are worse. His best-defense argument for Qatari enlightenment is that he saw an Israeli tennis player while he was there at a time the Saudis had banned an Israeli chess delegation.
Seriously, this is your best case? I doubt he’d go to court with such flimsy arguments.
If Dershowitz wants to bring up Israel, then he also should mention that Israel and Saudi Arabia are working together to stop Iran’s nuclear and hegemonic ambitions while Qatar is collaborating with the genocidal mullahs.
Dershowitz created another straw man by suggesting that his critics believe the “Saudis are the good guys and the Qataris are all evil.” I certainly have never defended the Saudis, but I’m not sure how Saudi misbehavior justifies his fawning article about Qatar.
Dershowitz forgets that the pro-Israel community’s revulsion for Qatar has to do with terrorism financing against Israel, not its dispute with Saudi Arabia. There is no need for an investigation into Qatar’s record, this has already been done by the State Department. Dershowitz repeats some of that report’s findings, but instead of denouncing Qatar’s abuses he repeatedly changes the subject to the Saudis.
He also reiterates his support for Al Jazeera on free-speech grounds. Fine. But he should at least acknowledge that Al Jazeera is not a legitimate news organization but a Qatari propaganda tool, akin to the Pravda. Instead of addressing the network’s antisemitism and unrelenting attacks on Israel, however, he changes the subject to the Saudi media.
He said he did not compare Israel to Qatar and then repeated the comparison that “they are both subject to boycotts and are surrounded by enemies who seek their destruction.” Saying it a second time does not make it any more accurate. It’s a ludicrous comparison, as I noted in my initial critique. Qatar is not subject to a global boycott campaign and its neighbors do not seek its destruction. They want it to stop threatening their interests by sponsoring terrorism and collaborating with Iran against Sunni Muslims.
He turns again to the Times, whose reporting on Middle East issues has always been problematic, to try to defend Qatar’s sponsorship of terrorism. The quote, however, says nothing about Qatar’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood, which is one of the objections the Gulf states raise against the sheikdom.
More important, the Times report did not respond to my central concern about Qatar’s support for Hamas. If they are no longer supporting Islamists in Libya and Syria as the Times claims, that is nice, but irrelevant.
Qatar has been the largest provider of financial aid to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. Notably, at the same time that Doha was signing an anti-terrorism deal with the United States, Qatar said it would continue to support Hamas. Not surprisingly, last November Qatar condemned Israel for destroying a Hamas terror tunnel. And let’s remember that it was Dershowitz who published a 2014 book titled Terror Tunnels: The Case for Israel’s Just War Against Hamas, which makes his defense of Hamas’ patron Qatar all the more astonishing.
Alan also tries to justify his soft-peddling of Qatari collaboration with Iran by quoting the Times‘ assertion that the other Gulf states have forced Qatar into closer ties with Tehran, and that Doha and Tehran have to cooperate because of a shared gas field. The Gulf States imposed their blockade, however, because Qatar was already collaborating with Iran as the Islamic Republic pursues its hegemonic designs in the region, and threatens Sunni states, regional stability, Western interests and Israel.
I am appalled that Dershowitz would defend Qatar’s relations with a country that is threatening genocide against the Jewish people.
Alan and the other Jewish leaders who accepted junkets are providing cover to the emir, who has never repudiated his 2014 blood libel, delivered at the United Nations, that Israel was guilty of “war crimes” in Gaza.
The emir, who falsely accused Israel of “targeting civilians,” and said that “babies were killed while in the arms of their mothers,” knew his Hamas client provoked the Gaza war with thousands of rockets rained down on Israeli cities and that the IDF did everything in its power to limit civilian casualties while Hamas was using innocent Palestinian infants and children as human shields. Nevertheless, the emir called for Israel to be shunned by diplomats throughout the world: “Those who killed … children in Gaza [should] not be received in the diplomatic forums.”
This liar is the man who is now being defended by Dershowitz and, through Nick Muzin, visited by Rabbi Menachem Genack, Martin Oliner, Malcolm Hoenlein and others. They are all being used in a PR campaign, bankrolled by Qatar, which is predicated on the antisemitic belief that American Jews have the power to change US policy and that thus making nice with the Jews while making no changes on policy will lead the administration to pressure the Gulf States to end the blockade.
But one thing Dershowitz dare not do is use the memory of the Lubavitcher Rebbe to defend Qatar. Dershowitz invokes a conversation he apparently had with the Rebbe about Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina, in which the Rebbe encouraged engaging the senator, who later became a close ally of Israel.
Comparing a US senator, however controversial, with the chief founder of Hamas is outrageous. The Rebbe was outspokenly and vociferously opposed to Jewish leaders granting legitimacy to Arab leaders who had Jewish blood on their hands, castigating even great heroes like Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir for meetings with Arab leaders who threatened Israel.
Rather than dodge the issues by calling for an investigation and changing the subject to Saudi behavior, Alan has an obligation to speak out against Qatar’s continued support for terrorism, incitement against Israel through Al Jazeera, and cooperation with Iran’s genocidal regime. It would be a shame to allow his prestige as a strong supporter of Israel to be co-opted into a kosher stamp of approval for the Qatari regime.
And if Dershowitz disagrees with me, then I suggest that he and I publicly debate the issue of whether Jews should be publicly meeting with and defending the emir prior to any discernible change in Qatari policy vis-a-vis Hamas, and any editorial change in Al Jazeera toward Israel. Dershowitz is famous for his belief in airing differences through respectful public debate. The dialogue about the emir’s infiltration of the Jewish community cannot wait.
Let the live public discussion begin.
Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi,” whom the Washington Post calls “the most famous rabbi in America,” is founder of The World Values Network and is the international best-selling author of 31 books, including his most recent, “The Israel Warrior.” Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.