November 30, 2023 MEMRI Daily Brief No. 548

A Nobel Prize For Terror And Other Absurdities

November 30, 2023 | By Amb. Alberto M. Fernandez*
Iran, Qatar, Palestinians | MEMRI Daily Brief No. 548

It is anyone's guess how exactly or when the Hamas-Israel War in Gaza will actually end. There is great external pressure on Israel to stop its response to Hamas's October 7 invasion. There is also a great internal pressure on the Israeli government by the Israeli people to continue fighting. Winners and losers are subjective categories and especially so in dynamic, conflict-ridden situations but, leaving aside the two immediate belligerents we can certainly judge who or what – at this particular juncture – has "gained" the most so far from the conflict. I expect that at the end of the war and beyond some of those who seemed to have gained the most will eventually turn out to be losers but that is a historic thread that has yet to be played out.

Those regimes or things that have "gained" the most – so far – from the conflict are Iran, Qatar, Islam, and antisemitism. This is, in my view, an obvious observation with plenty of evidence to back it up.

Iran has gained by the implementation of parts of its vast, diffuse network of armed proxies against Israel. While it may eventually lose a card in Gaza, Iran has shown that its network has teeth and can be used to project power over long distances not only against Israel but against the United States. While its close allies and proteges in Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad engaged directly with the Israelis, its proxies in Syria and Iraq pressed the Americans directly in their bases. While distant Yemen lobbed ballistic missiles and drones against Israel and intervened against shipping in the Red Sea, Iran's proxy in Lebanon, Hezbollah, pursued a middle path of some aggression against the Israelis but not enough to invite a massive response. At least not yet. Hezbollah has sustained some real losses and Houthi Yemen may eventually feel some pain, but the Iranian proxy network has been shown to be a real tool. That is a gain for Iran.

Iran has also gained diplomatically, as nations seek its help in resolving their hostage crises, as Thailand and others have done. And all the attention on Israel-Hamas, has shifted the focus away from Iran's other projects. Not only did the Americans authorize billions of dollars in payments to Iran during the war, but UN sanctions on Iran's ballistic missile program expired on October 18.[1] Iran's military industrial complex and its weapons exports seem poised to grow at exactly the same time that its missiles (and copies of Iran's missiles) are being launched from Gaza, Lebanon, Yemen, Iraq, and Syria.

Qatar, the key diplomatic, media and financial patron of Hamas, has also gained at this stage in the war. A cynical actor playing the role of both arsonist and fireman in Hamas's campaign, it has positioned itself as the supposed essential mediator on hostages and on the war in general while representing Hamas and hosting solicitous senior American and Israeli intelligence officials in Doha. Qatar's immediate goal is to save Hamas from destruction by securing an early ceasefire. Beyond that, it wants to promote the rise of Islamist groups anywhere it can, east or west, but especially it wants to see Hamas replace Fateh/PLO as the principal representatives of the Palestinian cause, "normalizing" Hamas.

Beyond those goals of projecting power and helping its ideological allies are personal and institutional ambitions.[2] Qatar dreams of even greater triumphs and influence. In January 2023, Arabic-language media trumpeted a piece in an obscure Spanish newspaper suggesting that Emir Tamim Bin Hamid Al-Thani should be considered for the 2023 Nobel Peace Prize. A cursory check reveals that it was not even a Spaniard who suggested this but rather a Moroccan columnist in the paper.[3] That bit was omitted in the Arabic coverage.[4]

Supposedly, Qatar's Islamist authoritarian ruler was worthy because of the 2022 World Cup, facilitating "peace" in Chad and negotiations between the Americans and Iranians, and because of cash handed over to various charities and causes.[5] This dubious resume was further enhanced by noting that Tamim was ranked first in the list of the 50 most influential Islamic figures in the world, according to the 2022 edition of the annual book "500 Muslim Personalities" published by the Royal Center for Islamic Strategic Studies in Amman, Jordan.[6] Helping a terrorist group release children and women that should never have been taken hostage in the first place may seem worthy among the emir's many well-paid courtiers, but is unlikely to sway the Norwegian Nobel Committee. And rewarding a regime that props up both the Taliban and Hamas is likely a non-starter among the Scandinavians for 2024.

The religion of Islam has also gained from the crisis. Some Muslim advocates may point to several ugly incidents targeting Muslims but the reality is that the power of Islam in the streets of the West has never been as prominent and as powerfully seen as it has been during the Hamas War. This has not only been seen in massive street marches in cities like London and Paris but also in the alliance of Muslims with leftists to target their adversaries.

The famous Christmas Tree lighting at Rockefeller Center in New York City was targeted for disruption (to be "flooded" as in the Hamas "Al-Aqsa Flood" operation) by the Muslim American Society and allied far-left groups supporting various causes, including North Korea.[7] Western liberal governments, including the Biden Administration, have felt compelled to couple warnings against antisemitism (Jews are, despite their small numbers, the biggest victims of hate crimes in the West, sometimes at the hands of Muslims) with denunciations of Islamophobia in order to appease the latter. References to Jews are dropped from speeches denouncing bigotry in order not to offend Muslims.[8] That is power.

The actions of explicitly Islamist Hamas have also motivated dozens of English-speaking Westerners to post videos on that most trendy of platforms, TikTok, on reading the Qur'an for the first time.[9] Many of these potential converts to Islam – very online, very liberal, white progressives – seem to be the same types seen as foot soldiers in rallies for a broad range of past left-leaning causes – BLM, pro-abortion, anti-Trump, Antifa, pro-Trans.[10]

Hamas and Gaza have made Islam the latest online thing. Supposedly these young Americans wanted to "understand the resilience" of Palestinians in the current struggle.[11] There does not seem to have been a similar urge by this crowd to understand and embrace the "resilience" of Jews after October 7. And no one seems to have been driven to Eastern Orthodox Christianity as a result of the sufferings of the parishioners of Saint Porphyrios Church in Gaza.

The fourth thing to "gain" as a result of the Gaza War is antisemitism in the West, which has been mainstreamed in ways not seen in generations or, in America, perhaps never seen before. Seventy-three percent of Jewish university students have been victims of on-campus antisemitism since the start of the Israel-Hamas War. They feel less safe than they felt before.[12] Democratic politicians, Hollywood actors, prominent journalists, and elite university students have all been implicated recently in mainstreaming elements of Jew Hatred. The narrative demonizing Jews and Israelis has stretched from the Oakland, California city council to the Ivy League.[13] An East London city council decided to cancel the installation of a Hanukkah menorah for fear it may "inflame tensions."[14]

Some of these gains may prove to be illusory in the end. Qatar may eventually pay a heavy price, politically and otherwise, for its corrupt gamesmanship.[15] Many in the West now see it for what it is. Both militant Islam and its resurgent handmaiden antisemitism, especially among the young, are already provoking shock in the West among some liberal elite audiences.[16] Leftwing antisemitism, long a problem that was covered up, has been vividly exposed. A reaction to this type of activism is likely to lead to greater Western acceptance to limits on immigration, course corrections on campus, and even a partial shift toward the political right, as was observed in the recent Dutch elections. But the conflict may be far from over and the cascading series of consequences have yet to run their course.

*Alberto M. Fernandez is Vice President of MEMRI.


[1], November 2023.

[2], November 28, 2023.

[3], January 2, 2023.

[4], August 1, 2023.

[5] Ibid.

[6], accessed November 30, 2023.

[7], November 29, 2023.

[8], November 29, 2023.

[9], accessed November 30, 2023.

[10], November 20, 2023.

[11], November 20, 2023.

[12], November 29, 2023.

[13], November 29, 2023.

[14], November 29, 2023.

[15] See MEMRI Daily Brief No. 536, Qatar – Enabler Of Islamist Terrorism And A Dishonest Broker, November 1, 2023.

[16], November 28, 2023.

Share this Report: