Alan Dershowitz and the Qatari Quintet Have Whitewashed Qatar Amid No Visible Change
Alan Dershowitz has been a hero in the Jewish community for decades, for his brilliant defense of Israel. He has also been a personal hero to me. More recently, the role he played in helping to correct the injustice of the prison sentence of Sholom Rubashkin is truly extraordinary. So why is Dershowitz ruining it all by becoming a defender of Qatar — the principal funder of Hamas? What is going on?
Qatar, of course, also controls the state-run Al Jazeera network — which has long targeted Israel, American Jews, and the West in general. I wonder if Alan and the other Jews who accepted all-expense paid trips to Qatar find it ironic that while the emir was denying accusations of his government’s misdeeds, his media arm has long used the freedom that Israeli Jews and Americans enjoy to attack us. Of course, Qataris have no experience with constitutional rights — given that the country is a monarchy that has been controlled by one family for more than 100 years. Alan is committed to defending constitutional and human rights. But he not only failed to condemn Qatar’s behavior, but chose to become a mouthpiece for the Emir instead.
Meanwhile, the Israeli government made clear what should have been evident already — that it does not appreciate the amateur diplomacy of American Jews jetting off for personal negotiations with the emir of Qatar. In a blunt statement to Haaretz, the spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Washington said: “We oppose this outreach effort in the Jewish and pro-Israel community.” The spokesman added, “Anyone claiming that these trips received the ambassador’s blessing is not saying the truth.” Pretty harsh words — to basically call all those who have been hiding behind the excuse of “I’m-going-to-Qatar-because-Israel-asked-me-to,” fabricators.
Dershowitz wrote a book titled Chutzpah, which aptly describes the behavior of the junketeers who believed that they were better negotiators for the State of Israel than Israeli or American diplomats. Their unfortunate behavior failed to produce any of the results that they claimed to seek and, worse, unintentionally gave a kosher stamp of approval to Qatar’s human rights abuses, sponsorship of terror, hosting of Hamas terror leaders in Doha, and cozy ties with the genocidal Iranian regime. As Yigal Carmon of the Middle East Media Research Institute said, these people have simply been enablers.
At the outset, the original excuse for selling out to the emir was that the self-appointed American Jewish negotiators were going to convince Qatar to use its influence with Hamas to bring about the release of the two living and two dead Israeli hostages. Is it any surprise that the Jews overestimated their persuasiveness, and the hostages remain in the hands of Hamas? Does anyone really believe that the Qataris did anything but cynically hold out the bodies of dead Israeli soldiers as a way of alluring gullible Jewish leaders to accept free trips legitimizing the regime, all while Israel was telling them that their “help” was not appreciated? Paradoxically, some of the junketeers now claim that Qatar does not support Hamas, undermining the entire pretext for their meetings.
Dershowitz went further, shockingly comparing Qatar to Israel. “Qatar is quickly becoming the Israel of the Gulf States, surrounded by enemies, subject to boycotts and unrealistic demands, and struggling for its survival.” Why would a famous defender of Israel compare a righteous democracy to a human-rights abusing regime that is the number one supporter of Hamas?
Dershowitz has mounted a feeble defense of his acceptance of a Doha junket. He did not even claim to be negotiating for the release of the hostages. He says that he was interested in finding the facts. As several experts pointed out, however, these facts were easily accessible from the United States.
“Stick to what you know,” was good advice to Alan from Jonathan Schanzer, vice president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
The “Qatar Quintet” who accepted the emir’s trip consisted of Malcolm Hoenlein of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations — who allegedly, upon his return from Doha, invited a prince of Qatar to his daughter’s wedding; Jack Rosen, of the American Jewish Congress; Rabbi Menachem Genack, of the Orthodox Union; Alan Dershowitz; and Martin Oliner, of the Religious Zionists of America. These trips were allegedly facilitated by the emir’s $300,000-a-month PR person and government lobbyist, Nick Muzin, of Stonington Strategies, who once served as Ted Cruz’s deputy campaign manager.
What makes the actions of the Jewish leaders who visited Qatar disingenuous is that they all apparently accepted the emir’s money. Why didn’t they pay their own way? If they felt so strongly about the need to meet in Doha with the Qataris, they should have taken the money out of their own pockets, or found other sources. Allowing the emir to fund their trips made them part of a Qatari propaganda campaign, and instantly tainted anything that they say on the subject.
In addition to failing to win the release of the Israeli hostages, Dershowitz and the other Jewish jet-setters failed to achieve a single positive objective from the perspective of Israel’s security. They did not convince Qatar to stop the incitement against Israel by Al Jazeera. They did not convince Qatar to end its financial support for terror in general, or Hamas specifically. And they did not convince Qatar to end its collaboration with the radical Islamic regime in Iran.
Qatar, on the other hand, silenced many of its American Jewish critics and co-opted several others. By offering the all-expense paid junkets, it managed to get some American Jews (and non-Jews) to make its case to the American public and decision-makers.
The actions of those who went to Qatar have sabotaged, rather than helped, efforts to change Qatar’s policies. The impact of the Gulf states’ blockade, and the Trump administration’s initial support of this, placed great pressure on Qatar, raising opes that they could be forced to give up sponsorship of terror, incitement, and collaboration with Iran. Instead, Qatar has waged a PR campaign, while continuing policies that harm America’s national interests and threaten Israel.
Thanks to the Qatar Quintet, the emir of Qatar, the mullahs in Iran, and other authoritarian regimes are learning that they can be relieved of pressure by lining up American Jews for support. It’s not too late for the Qatari Quintet members to reverse course, and say that they erred. It’s not too late for each of them to come out and admit that, given no discernible change whatsoever in Qatari behavior, they were used — and that they offer their regrets.
Doing so would restore their credibility of leadership, and ratchet up the pressure on Qatar and Hamas, thus making Israel much safer.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi,” whom the Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America” is the international best-selling author of 31 books including his most recent, “The Israel Warrior’s Handbook.” Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.