What business is it of US rabbis and Jewish leaders to intervene in a conflict among kingdoms and emirates in the Arabian Peninsula by accepting an invitation from Qatar? Had it been a humanitarian matter in which everyone needs to help, surely there are more compelling causes — Syria, Yemen, and even the Myanmar suppression of the Rohingya. But none of these offer hospitality on the level that Qatar offers. These rabbis and Jewish leaders are still deluding themselves that no one understands the true purpose of the invitation.
With all due respect — and there is great respect for Prof. Alan Dershowitz’s legal genius and his principled defense of free speech, especially for those with whom he disagrees — he does not realize that Al-Jazeera is not a paragon of free speech. It is a government media arm similar to Russia Today. The civilized Al-Jazeera English channel, which interviews him on occasion, epitomizes Qatar’s doublespeak: pseudo-professional in English and no holds barred in Arabic. Al-Jazeera does not deserve Prof. Dershowitz’s free-speech defense.
Would Prof. Dershowitz have allowed himself to be uninformed for a courtroom appearance? Never! In my recently-published articles, here and here, I provided 10 examples of how Al-Jazeera Arabic operates. I did not lecture him; I agree with and admire his championing of free speech. I provided facts, but he chose to ignore them. I still hope that he will examine the evidence that I provided, and then reconsider his defense of Al-Jazeera.
In his article, Prof. Dershowitz asked his critics why they oppose an investigation of Qatar. I do not oppose it; I vigorously favor such an investigation, and the appropriate place for it is the House Foreign Relations Committee. I hope that committee chairman Ed Royce will launch such a hearing.
There is nothing more shameful than Jewish leaders attempting to defend their indefensible acceptance of Qatar’s invitation by claiming to have done so in order to bring the bodies of Israeli solders back to their families. Leaders experienced in world affairs surely understand that their unsolicited intervention — and public boasting about it — in this top-secret and highly sensitive issue that is being handled by the Israeli government will only embolden Hamas, which is holding the bodies, and prolong the families’ suffering. How low can one go to justify a junket?
And what business does ZOA President Morton Klein have intervening in the conflict among Arabian Peninsula kingdoms and emirates? After his name was discovered on the Qatari guest list, he claimed to have done this for Israel and the Jewish people. For Israel? Don’t the antisemites accuse American Jewry of operating on behalf of Israel? Moreover, it is not true. The Israeli Embassy in Washington issued a statement noting: “We oppose this outreach effort [by Qatar] in the Jewish and pro-Israel community. Anyone claiming that these trips received the ambassador’s blessing is not telling the truth.” (Haaretz.com, January 31, 2018)
Klein added that he had turned down several previous invitations from Qatar for important reasons before finally accepting. Is this a defense? He claimed that before his departure his “staff researched every issue thoroughly and we put together a 50-page report” that included details on Israelis held in Gaza and alleged terrorism financing, and that he presented the report to the emir. “I made the strongest case… I was respectful but tough, very tough,” he said (Jpost.com, January 30, 2018). But the emir brushed him off, saying they would have to “respectfully disagree.”
In a nutshell, Klein paid his respects to the emir, but the emir did not respect him with substantive answers to his report. Now, Klein says, he is waiting for a change in Qatar’s behavior. But if that is the case, he should post his report on the ZOA website, send it to media, and also send it to Chairman Ed Royce, joining Prof. Dershowitz and myself in asking for a hearing on Qatar.
Klein also claims that he visited Qatar for the sake of the Jewish people. Qatar has for many years provided a safe haven for Muslim Brotherhood leader Sheikh Yousuf Al-Qaradawi — who has referred to the Holocaust as divine punishment for the Jews and has called for a second Holocaust, to be perpetrated this time by the believers — i.e. the Muslims (see here). What he should have done to really act for the sake of the Jewish people was to tell the Qataris, Your hosting of Al-Qaradawi is a huge injustice to the Jewish people. Throw him out, and then I’ll visit. This he did not do. What he did do was compromise his name, and the name of the ZOA, in an act of unconditional surrender. This is not Jewish leadership; this is the abdication of it.
Prof. Dershowitz repeatedly chides his critics for favoring Saudi Arabia over Qatar. But this is far from what MEMRI is doing. MEMRI has for years been publishing reports critical of Saudi Arabia. Indeed, the Saudi position toward Israel has shown improvement — dictated by the kingdom’s need for Israel as an ally against its enemy Iran. But the Saudi record of human rights is despicable. MEMRI has not joined the festivities over the letter sent by the Saudi Arabia-based Muslim World League to US Holocaust Memorial Museum director Sara Bloomfield, that ranked the Holocaust “among the worst human atrocities ever” and called it “an event whose horrors could not be denied or underrated by any fair-minded or peace loving person.” This is because the League has not yet published this letter on its website IN ARABIC. We would be happy to see such a positive and fundamental change in the Saudis’ approach to the Holocaust. But we rely only on facts, and we watch and wait before we can give the Saudis credit for this move.