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May 21, 2021 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1576

As Qatar Mediates Between Israel And Hamas, It Holds Mass Rally For Hamas In Doha Supporting Armed Struggle And Jihad Against Israel – Participants Included Hamas Political Bureau Head Isma'il Haniya

May 21, 2021 | By H. Varulkar*
Qatar, Palestine | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1576

On May 15, 2021, at the peak of the Hamas-Israel fighting and as Qatar was engaged in efforts by the U.S., Egypt, and other countries to mediate between the parties and reach a ceasefire, Qatar hosted, in its capital Doha, a mass rally in solidarity with the Palestinians. The rally, which was a display of support for the Gazan terror groups, especially Hamas, included calls in praise of martyrdom, jihad, and the armed struggle against Israel.

The rally was organized by the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS), which was established in 2004 by Sheikh Yousuf Al-Qaradawi and has for years has been sponsored and funded by Qatar even though it consistently promotes incitement, calls for jihad, and antisemitism.[1] In fact, a few days before the conflict in Gaza began, the IUMS published a proposed Friday sermon calling for jihad and martyrdom for the sake of Al-Aqsa.[2]

Speakers at the rally, which, according to reports, was attended by thousands, included Hamas political bureau head Isma'il Haniya and IUMS secretary-general 'Ali Al-Qaradaghi. Both praised martyrdom, jihad, and the armed struggle against Israel. Also present was Palestinian Authority ambassador to Doha Munir 'Abdallah Ghanam, who praised Qatar for its pro-Palestinian positions and for holding the rally.[3] The rally included people calling for and waving banners demanding the liberation of Al-Aqsa through martyrdom, as well as banners with a portrait of Yahyah 'Ayyash, a founder of Hamas's military wing who advanced the use of suicide bombings against targets in Israel. A report on the rally in a Qatari daily featured a photo of a small boy armed with a realistic toy rifle.

The event was another example of Qatar's open, years-long support for Hamas, for the IUMS, and for other organizations promoting an extremist discourse of jihad and armed resistance against Israel. Additionally, Qatar hosts Hamas officials Khaled Mash'al and Ismai'il Haniya, and Sheikh Al-Qaradawi is a long-term resident, along with many others who preach against Israel and praise jihad. Despite all this, Qatar has been elevated by the U.S. and Israel to the status of mediator, and has even provided funding for Gaza, with the blessing of the Israeli government, for over two years. Just a few days ago, when the fighting was at its fiercest, Qatar began distributing funds to families of those killed in Gaza in the current conflict, including Hamas members.

This report will review expressions of support for martyrdom, jihad, and armed struggle against Israel at the May 15 Doha rally and in Haniya's and Al-Qaradaghi's speeches there.

The Doha Rally: Statements Of Militancy And Support For Jihad And Armed Struggle Against Israel

As noted, on May 15, during the Hamas-Israel fighting and Qatari participation in attempts to achieve a ceasefire, the Qatar-funded IUMS held a rally in the capital Doha, which was  a display of support for the Gazan terror groups, especially Hamas. The rally took place in front of the Imam Muhammad bin 'Abd Al-Wahab Mosque and was attended by thousands, among them Hamas political bureau head Isma'il Haniya and IUMS secretary-general 'Ali Al-Qaradaghi, and the emphasis was on support for martyrdom, jihad, and armed struggle against Israel.

Rally participants waved banners and shouted slogans such as "With our lives and blood we shall redeem you, Al-Aqsa," "We do not fear death," "Islamic Palestine," and "Oh Al-Aqsa, do not fear, we will redeem you with our lives and blood." Additionally, a report on the rally by the Qatari daily Al-Watan featured a photo of a little boy participant holding a realistic toy rifle.[4]  


Little boy at the rally with a toy gun 

The support for armed resistance was evident also in banners carried by the rally participants, one of which bore the photo of "The Engineer" Yahya 'Ayyash, a senior official of the Hamas military arm in the West Bank who advanced the use of suicide bombing against Israeli targets.[5]  The poster bears the text "'Ayyash 250," a reference to a new rocket unveiled by Hamas during the current fighting, which is named for 'Ayyash and has a range of 250 km.


Rally participant with poster of 'Ayyash

Another banner carried by rally participants expressed support for martyrdom in the battle for Al-Aqsa.[6]


Banner featuring image of Al-Aqsa stating "Al-Aqsa is in our hearts, we will die or triumph, with Allah's help."


Masked boy at the rally. Source: Al-Arabi Al-Jadid (London), May 16, 2021

Isma'il Haniya: We Will Not Rest Until We Liberate Jerusalem And Al-Aqsa Through Resistance; Gaza's Sword Shall Remain Aloft

As stated, among the participants at the rally was the head of Hamas' political bureau, Isma'il Haniya, who has been living in Qatar in the recent months. He said: "What is happening today in Palestine, from south to north, is a new war of heroism and honor, which establishes facts written in blood and honor, the first and foremost of which is that the conflict with the Zionist occupier is rooted in Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa." Jerusalem was, is and will continue to be an inspiration for generations of Muslims and a factor that triggers intifadas, he said, and added:  "We warned [the Israelis] again and again, not only in words but also by means of repeated intifadas, that Al-Aqsa is our first direction of prayer, an [element of] our faith and a factor that sparks our revolutions."


Haniya speaking at the rally. Source: Al-Arabi Al-Jadid (London), May 16, 2021

Haniya stated further that, in their wars with the enemy, the Muslims, Arabs and Palestinians do not know the meaning of attack-and-withdraw, but only of attack-and-attack, and said: "Al-Aqsa and Jerusalem are the heading of our struggle against the occupation. We will not rest until we liberate our Jerusalem and our Al-Aqsa, as Saladin did… The present generation is capable of doing this." He declared that resistance is the strategic method of achieving liberation, and that it has developed its capabilities and established itself throughout Palestine. Resistance is the shortest route to Jerusalem, and Gaza is the defender of Jerusalem, he stressed.

Haniya emphasized that it is the people on the ground who will decide the direction of the present confrontation, and that the resistance will never withdraw. It will raise up its sword and remain the sword defending Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa. Gaza, which has been besieged for 15 years, is now besieging the entire Zionist entity, he stated, for the missiles of the Hamas's military wing, the 'Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, of the [Palestinian] Islamic Jihad and of the rest of the factions have set the Zionist entity on fire. As for the weapons of the resistance, he said, "these are the weapons that you and the world have seen, but [our weapons] that are [still] concealed are greater."[7]

Praising the Israeli Arabs who have been staging violent protests, Haniya added: "Today, the geographical barriers within historic Palestine have been removed. Today, Palestine is waging an Intifada from Rosh HaNikra to Umm Al-Rashrash [Eilat], and from Rafah to the farthest points to the north, east, and west of Palestine. Yes, they thought that 70 years or more could kill our people's sense of belonging within the land occupied in 1948. They thought that [our people] there would lose their identity, and would assimilate in the Zionist entity… But today, our people within the 1948 borders are the ones defending the Al-Aqsa Mosque. They are the ones waging an Intifada against the occupier and the settlers. Today, brothers and sisters, some theories collapse and some are being rebuilt. The theory of coexistence between the two peoples within the 1948 borders [i.e., Arabs and Jews] – a theory they have been cultivating for 70 years – is being trampled underfoot today by our sons and brothers in Lod, Ramla, in Umm Al-Fahm, in Nazareth, in Baqa Al-Gharbiyye, in the Galilee, in the Negev, in Rahat, in Beersheba, and in Safed... Let me reiterate: In Safed! In Safed! Safed is ours! Safed is ours! Safed belongs to us and to nobody else!"[8]

Haniya concluded by praising Qatar, which supported the Palestinian cause in the days of the previous emir, Hamad bin Khalifa Aal Thani, who rebuilt Gaza, and continues to support it in the era of the present emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Aal Thani.[9]

IUMS Secretary-General At The Rally: The Blood Of The Gazan Martyrs Will Strengthen The Jihad; We Will Redeem Al-Aqsa With Spirit And Blood

In his speech at the rally, the secretary-general of the IUMS, 'Ali Al-Qaradaghi, condoned the murabitat and murabitoun for "defending Al-Aqsa"[10] and  praised jihad and martyrdom. He said: "We have convened here today for the sake of the oppressed in Gaza, [which is] the emblem of honor, courage and sacrifice. We see that a procession of heroic martyrs, including women and children, has joined the martyrs who have gone before… They watered the blessed soil with their pure blood and nurtured the tree of jihad and resistance against the usurping occupiers.  This will be the beginning of the uprising and victory, with Allah's help."

He added: "We, religious scholars of the [Islamic] nation and of Qatar… and [all the participants of] this large conference, which represents the people of Qatar and most of the peoples of the Islamic world,  [all] support, with everything we have, our first and foremost cause [i.e., the Palestinian cause], in Al-Aqsa, in Jerusalem,  in honorable Gaza, in the [West] Bank and in uprising Palestine. We stand with the defenders [of Al-Aqsa], with the fighters of the resistance, the murabitoun and murabitat, with everything we have, and say, 'With spirit and blood we shall redeem you, Al-Aqsa'…" 

Al-Qaradaghi called on the peoples and leaders of the Arab and Islamic nation to support the Palestinians materially, politically and diplomatically, adding that the Quran promises that the Muslims will have victory in Palestine. He called on all the Islamic scholars and clerics to fulfill their "great duty" to the Palestinian cause and guide and mobilize the believers, promising that the IUMS has already formed its own plan of action in this context. He concluded by thanking the Qatari leadership for its "honorable positions."[11]

On Twitter, Criticism Of Haniya Who Vacations In Qatar As His People Are Bombed In Gaza

Haniya's and Khaled Mash'al's presence in Qatar during the Gaza conflict, and during the past few months, enraged many Arab Twitter users, particularly in the Gulf. Tweets accused the two of vacationing and enjoying themselves in Qatar's five-star hotels while their people in Gaza were being shelled and bombed. The criticism was intensified by a old video segment circulated on social media showing Haniya strolling through a tourist market in Qatar, which was presented by several users as recent.[12] Some Twitter users launched a hashtag mocking the "#jihad from Doha."

Amjad Taha, a Bahraini-British political commentator, shared the video of Haniya visiting the market and tweeted: "Hamas [leader] Haniya murders Palestine in Gaza and attends its funeral at the Waqef market in Qatar. He brought them [the Palestinians] into the war, and went on holiday... Hamas is just a mercenary exploiting the [Palestinian] cause..."[13]

The liberal Saudi journalist Turki Al-Hamad tweeted: "Allah's blessing upon Mahatma Gandhi, leader of a nation numbering in the millions, who stitched his own clothes, planted and raised his own food, and travelled second class on the train – and when asked why he did the latter, he said that it was because there was no third class. These are the true leaders of liberation – not those fighting from the fancy hotels in Doha and other places."[14]

Saudi journalist and commentator Khaled Al-Za'atar shared a photo of Haniya and Mash'al, who is also a permanent resident in Qatar, and tweeted sarcastically: "In light of the global circumstances caused by the coronavirus, Hamas leaders Isma'il Haniya and Khaled Mash'al decided to wage resistance against Israel and liberate Jerusalem and Palestine from afar, from where they reside in the Doha Sheraton, using cautionary measures and adhering to hand-sanitizing and glove-wearing protocols."[15]


Khaled Al-Za'atar's tweet

Additionally, Kuwaiti journalist Ahmad Budastour tweeted, sarcastically: "In the COVID era, not only learning but also resistance takes place long-distance. Thus, we see the head of the Hamas terror organization carrying out resistance against Israel from Doha, the Qatari capital, by means of florid speeches. Unfortunately, it is such speeches that will cause Palestine to be lost – beginning with the era of [Egyptian president] Gamal 'Abd Al-Nasser, who threatened to throw Israel into the sea. We have not learned our lesson!"[16]

Algerian poet Muhammad Jerboa Al-Tamimi tweeted: "Isma'il Haniya's emergence in Doha at this time, when the people of Gaza are being cruelly and hostilely crushed, is a great moral, military, and political error."[17]

Preacher Waseem Yousuf of the UAE, who is known for his opposition to Hamas, tweeted, also sarcastically: "Isma'il Haniya gives the victory sign in Gaza territory. Whoops, sorry, excuse me. From Doha, Qatar. The Muslim Brotherhood is the leadership hiding in the trenches, and the Gaza residents are the victims."[18]


Waseem Yousuf's tweet

*H. Varulkar is Director of Research at MEMRI.
 


[1] The International Union of Muslim Scholars website has for years advanced an extremist discourse including encouragement of jihad and terror attacks, in addition to an anti-Christin and antisemitic discourse. For more on IUMS members' extremism and support for terror attacks, see MEMRI reports: Special Dispatch No. 8974 - Secretary-General Of International Union of Muslim Scholars, 'Ali Al-Qaradaghi, Resumes Jihadi Incitement: Claims Murder Of French Teacher Was Staged By French Authorities And Real Killer Is Still Alive – October 20, 2020. For further information on extremist discourse and support of terrorists by the IUMS and its members, see MEMRI reports: Special Dispatch No. 8974 - Secretary-General Of International Union of Muslim Scholars, 'Ali Al-Qaradaghi, Resumes Jihadi Incitement: Claims Murder Of French Teacher Was Staged By French Authorities And Real Killer Is Still Alive – October 20, 2020; Special Dispatch No. 542, Al-Qaradhawi Speaks In Favor of Suicide Operations at an Islamic Conference in Sweden, July 24, 2003; Special Dispatch No. 828 - Sheikh Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi: Resistance in Iraq is a Duty of Every Muslim – December 14, 2004; Special Dispatch No. 7308, Senior Saudi Journalist Al-Rashed: Al-Qaradawi's International Union Of Muslim Scholars Encourages Jihadi Discourse, Supports Terrorists, Fights Moderate Islam, January 31, 2018; Special Dispatch No. 7984 - International Union Of Muslim Scholars Urges Imams To Preach Armed Jihad Against Israel To Save Al-Aqsa – April 4, 2019; Special Dispatch No. 8000 - International Union of Muslim Scholars, Which For Years Has Encouraged Jihad, Calls On The West To Prohibit The Discourse Of Hate – April 15, 2019; Special Dispatch No. 8083 - Dr. Ahmed Al-Raissouni, Head Of The International Union Of Muslim Scholars Which Was Founded By Sheikh Yousef Al-Qaradawi In Dublin: Questioning The Holocaust Is Not Just A Right But An Obligation – May 23, 2019; Special Dispatch No. 8135 - International Union Of Muslim Scholars, Supported By Qatar, Calls To Boycott Bahrain Conference On Deal Of The Century, Support Palestinians' Jihad – June 24, 2019; Special Dispatch No. 8295 - IUMS Head Dr. Ahmed Al-Raissouni, Who Promotes Extremist, Antisemitic, Anti-Western Discourse, Joins Faculty Of Qatar University – September 29, 2019; Special Dispatch No. 8830 - International Union Of Muslim Scholars, Backed By Qatar And Turkey, Calls For Jihad And Self-Sacrifice To Foil Israel’s Plan To Annex Parts Of The West Bank – June 7, 2020; Special Dispatch No. 8974 - Secretary-General Of International Union of Muslim Scholars, 'Ali Al-Qaradaghi, Resumes Jihadi Incitement: Claims Murder Of French Teacher Was Staged By French Authorities And Real Killer Is Still Alive – October 20, 2020; Special Dispatch No. 9208 - Facebook Shuts Down Account Of International Union Of Muslim Scholars (IUMS), Which Frequently Calls For Terror And Jihad – March 2, 2021;

[3] Raya.com (Qatar), May 16, 2021.  

[4] Al-Sharq (Qatar), May 16, 2021.

[5] Al-Arabi Al-Jadid (London), May 16, 2021.

[6] Al-Sharq (Qatar), May 16, 2021.

[7] Al-Watan (Qatar), May 16, 2021.

[9] Al-Watan (Qatar), May 16, 2021.

[10] Murabitoun are fighters preparing for war on the front. The Murabitat and Murabitoun are groups of Palestinian men and women activists who characterize themselves as the defenders of the Al-Aqsa compound. They confront Jewish worshipers who come there to pray, with the aim of preventing this.

[11] Iumsonline.org, May 15, 2021.

[12] The video is apparently from 2016. YouTube.com, December 23, 2016.

[13] Twitter.com/amjadt25, May 16, 2021.

[14] Twitter.com/TurkiHAlhamad1, May 16, 2021.

[15] Twitter.com/khzaatar, May 16, 2021.

[16] Twitter.com/Ahmadbudastour, May 15, 2021.

[17] Twitter.com/hamohd2, May 16, 2021.

[18] Twitter.com/waseem_yousef, May 15, 2021.

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