January 18, 2018 MEMRI Daily Brief No. 146

Qatar, The Emirate That Fools Them All, And Its Enablers

January 18, 2018 | By Yigal Carmon*
Egypt, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, The Gulf | MEMRI Daily Brief No. 146

Finding itself in dire straits due to its ongoing crisis with the four countries that are boycotting it – Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt – which is taking its toll in numerous ways, Qatar tried to enlist some outside help. Informed by the old anti-Semitic stereotype that the Jews control American policy, it hired a Jewish law firm, among other lobbyists, to advocate for it. This firm is approaching Jewish leaders in the U.S. and trying to convince them to side with Qatar in its conflict with its neighbors. In addition, several Jewish leaders and organizations were invited to visit the emirate, and some of them, after "a few days in surprisingly beautiful, modern and hospitable Doha,"[1] came back supporting the Qatari position. Their conduct recalls the visit of former NBA great Dennis Rodman, who visited North Korea and became an avid fan of Kim Jong-un.  

It is sad to see American Jewish leaders bolstering anti-Semitic stereotypes by ignorantly intervening in internal conflicts that do not concern them, complex inter-Arab conflicts which are difficult to assess even as observers.  But since they have done so, it behooves us to try to correct the damage done.

For example, one of these enablers of Qatar chose to compare Qatar's and Saudi Arabia's positions on Israel based on sports-related incidents. He concluded that Qatar is the more pro-Israeli of the two because it welcomed an Israeli tennis player to participate in a tournament, whereas Saudi Arabia excluded an Israeli chess player who had qualified for an international tournament in Riyadh. A more serious assessment would have noted that Saudi Arabia supports a Palestinian-Israeli peace as part of the "deal of the century" that the U.S. administration is promoting, whereas Qatar seeks to sabotage this American-brokered deal. Furthermore, while it is no shining beacon of enlightenment or human rights, Saudi Arabia has arrested thousands of extremist sheikhs and is commencing social reforms, whereas Qatar is cultivating the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. Therefore, if one insists on judging countries based on their attitude towards Israel – a bad idea to begin with – one must consider all these facts before rushing to judgment.

Prof. Alan Dershowitz, a well-known champion of free speech and independent media, and one of those who visited Qatar, wrote an article defending Qatar's Al-Jazeera in the name of free speech. He apparently does not know that this network – in contrast to the image it so successfully cultivates in the West – is neither free nor independent but is a media arm of the Qatari government. It avoids any discussion of problems in Qatar; for example, it has never heard of dissident Qatari poet Mohammed al-'Ajami, who was imprisoned for three years for reciting a poem perceived to be critical of the Emir. Instead, Al-Jazeera, like North Korean media, confines domestic coverage to glowing reports about the Emir and Qatar's alleged successes. Al-Jazeera's "independent" character was also reflected in its coverage of the recent events in Iran: it was reticent in reporting on the popular uprising in this country, but lavish in covering the regime-organized demonstrations in favor of the Khamenei regime. Such media does not merit defense on the grounds of free speech any more than the Kremlin-run Russia Today, the Chinese People's Daily, or the Iranian Tehran Times.

Professor Dershowitz notes that he was frequently interviewed on Al-Jazeera's English channel and found it to be generally fair. However, Al-Jazeera in English bears no comparison to its Arabic counterpart and exemplifies doublespeak par excellence. This civilized English channel, intended for Western audiences, contrasts sharply with the rabble-rousing Arabic channel. Dershowitz should speak with CSIS expert Anthony Cordesman, who walked out of an interview on the Arabic channel to protest its flagrant anti-American bias and shoddy journalistic standards. See Anthony Cordesman Walks Out of Al-Jazeera Interview to Protest Anti-American Line of Questions.

As for Al-Jazeera's (namely the Qatari government's) position on terror, here are a few examples, past and present, that might help to form a judicious assessment of this position:

Al-Jazeera famously served as the mouthpiece of Bin Laden and broadcasted his appeals to the Arab and Muslim world. Two months prior to 9/11, the network allowed Al-Qaeda spokesman Suleiman Abu Gheit to recruit Muslim youth in one of its programs. The program host was fully supportive. See: Terror in America (30) Retrospective: A bin Laden Special on Al-Jazeera Two Months Before September 11.

Al-Jazeera employs a reporter, Tayseer 'Alouni, who was sentenced in Spain to seven years in prison for acting as a financial courier for Al-Qaeda. The organization even issued a statement of support for him. See: Al-Qaeda's Internet News Broadcast Expresses Solidarity with Al-Jazeera Reporter Tayseer 'Alouni Who Was Sentenced to Seven Years in Jail by a "Crusader Infidel Spanish Court."

In 2014, Al-Jazeera issued a sympathetic and lengthy interview with Abu Muhammad Al-Joulani, the commander of Al-Qaeda's affiliate in Syria, Jabhat Al-Nusra. See: In Wide-Ranging Interview, Jabhat Al-Nusra Commander Al-Joulani Discusses Jihad in Syria, Declares: Our Conflict with ISIS Has Been Resolved.

When Samir Al-Quntar, a terrorist convicted of the brutal murder of a four-year-old girl and her father in 1979, was released from the Israeli prison, Al-Jazeera TV threw a party in his honor, complete with a large cake, a musical band and fireworks. (Al-Quntar murdered the child by dashing her head against a rock on the Nahariya beach, after shooting her father at close range). See: Al-Jazeera TV Throws A Birthday Party For Released Lebanese Terrorist Samir Al-Quntar.

In a live Al-Jazeera program, Al-Jazeera allowed Islamic scholar Hussein Muhammad Hussein to pledge allegiance to the Emir of the Believers Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. See: Islamic Scholar Pledges Allegiance to ISIS Emir Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi Live on Al-Jazeera TV.

Al-Jazeera also allowed terrorist Anis Al-Naqqash to call for attacks on U.S. oil facilities on a live program. See: Terrorist Anis Al-Naqqash Calls on Al-Jazeera TV for Strikes against US Oil Facilities.

When, in September 2017, Oman deported Indian cleric Salman Al-Nadwi for inciting against the American president and the Saudi king, he was received in Qatar. The next morning he met there with anti-American Muslim Brotherhood ideologue Sheik Yousuf Al-Qaradawi, who has been hosted in Qatar for years. To view Al-Nadwi's incitement speech, see: Oman Deports Indian Cleric Salman Al-Nadwi to Qatar after He Lambasted Saudi King and U.S. President.

For a profile of Salman Al-Nadwi, who has been a supporter of ISIS since its founding in 2014, see: In Letter, Leading Indian Islamic Scholar Maulana Salman Al-Nadwi Congratulates Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi On Assuming Role Of Caliph: "You Are Bravely Standing As A Rock."

As for Sheikh Yousuf Al-Qaradawi himself, Qatar's permanent protected guest, MEMRI has published numerous reports on him. About one of his most virulent statements, in which he praised the Nazis and hoped for a second Holocaust that will be carried out, "Allah willing," by the Muslims, see: Sheik Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi: Allah Imposed Hitler upon the Jews to Punish Them - "Allah Willing, the Next Time Will Be at the Hand of the Believers."

For a recent MEMRI report about the sheikh, see: Sheikh Yousuf Al-Qaradawi Incites To Resistance, Jihad And Martyrdom Following Trump's Recognition Of Jerusalem As Israel's Capital.

In the matter of Qatar's support of Hamas, the emirate's enablers repeat its claim that its financial aid is channeled only to construction, and that this is done in coordination with Israel. It apparently eludes these enablers that Hamas, which usurped the PLO rule in a blood-soaked 2007 coup, and which is now discussing a "reconciliation agreement" with the PLO while at the same time barring the latter's return to Gaza, controls Gaza and all incoming aid with an iron fist. Therefore, "construction" in Gaza is likely to include not only the building of homes but also attack tunnels crossing into Israel. As for the claim that the aid is transferred in coordination with Israel, Qatar's advocates should have cited the Israeli authorities directly rather than citing second-hand information from Qatar about the Israeli position.

It is difficult to blame the Jewish (and non-Jewish) enablers of Qatar for getting it wrong; after all, they are in good company. The American administration itself has been fooled by Qatar for over a decade. Ever since the current emir's father deposed his own father, Qatar has been playing a double game with America. On the one hand it built the Al-Udeid base for U.S. forces, free of charge, not for altruistic reasons but to defend its regime against its regional neighbors. On the other hand Qatar was and is an enabler of all the anti-American elements in the region. Al-Jazeera was a major platform for Al-Qaeda in the Muslim world, and it maintains an anti-American line in most of its broadcasts to this very day. This is definitely at odds with American interests, as it stirs up the very anti-American sentiment that the Al-Udeid base is meant to defend against.  This cross-purpose policy is absurd.

Understanding Qatar requires knowledge and insight into the nuances and subtext of Middle East affairs. And, as in sound judicial practice, it is crucial to hear both sides. Qatar's enablers did not do so, and this undermines their defense of Qatar. Nobody – especially American Jews – should turn themselves into enablers of Qatar. 


* Yigal Carmon is the founder and president of MEMRI.


[1] The wording is taken from a tweet by Mike Huckabee, who visited Qatar in January 2018.

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