Jewish leaders should donate Qatari money to terror victims

"I couldn’t fathom how the same prominent Jewish leaders who for years have publicly spoken out against the evils of Hamas terrorism, now found themselves as pawns in Qatar’s public relations game.

Doha, Qatar (photo credit: FADI AL-ASSAD/ REUTERS)
Doha, Qatar
(photo credit: FADI AL-ASSAD/ REUTERS)
News broke recently that several prominent American Jewish community leaders had taken all-expense-paid trips to Qatar at the invitation of the country’s Emir – the same government infamous for its financial and political support of the Hamas terrorist organization and other extremist groups throughout the Middle East. Many were puzzled at the judgment of those who had otherwise been uncompromising critics of Israel’s foes.
Not only did these leaders accept luxury travel and accommodations from the Qatari regime, a number of individuals and pro-Israel organizations also accepted payments. Former Arkansas Governor and Republican pundit Mike Huckabee was paid $50,000 and the Zionist Organization of America received $100,000. Both payments were funneled through an unregistered Qatari foreign agent in New York, and then donated to the ZOA. ZOA has said it didn’t know that the money originated in Qatar and last week announced it would return the money to the Qatari agent, Joey Allaham – an owner of kosher restaurants who admitted to receiving $1.45 million dollars from the Qataris for his efforts to woo the American Jewish community.
Reading about these payments brought me back to my own experience at the hands of Hamas terrorists, which happened 15 years ago, this month. On June 11, 2003, I was on a Bus 14 in Jerusalem, Israel when an 18-year-old terrorist strapped with explosives boarded my bus and detonated. He injured over 100 of us and murdered 17 innocent people, including all those seated and standing around me. One of those murdered was American Alan Beer, originally from Cleveland, Ohio. To combat the hate that I experienced that day, I founded a non-profit organization, Strength to Strength, which creates a support environment for victims, both survivors and bereaved family members. We are part of a global network of victims of terrorism focusing on healing, empowering and moving forward.
I couldn’t fathom how the same prominent Jewish leaders who for years have publicly spoken out against the evils of Hamas terrorism – which nearly took my life – now found themselves as pawns in Qatar’s public relations game.
Qatar has an ugly record. It hosts and funds Al Jazeera, the Arabic-language news network that broadcasts rabidly anti-Israel and antisemitic programming around the world; it proudly and openly hosts leaders of terrorist groups like Hamas, and until recently hosted the exiled leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt; it is allied with Iran; it carries out extensive cyberattacks on Israel, journalists, and human rights activists; and has donated hundreds of millions of dollars to support Hamas rule in Gaza.
At the same time, Qatar also hosts a US military base, makes massive donations to American universities and charities, and spends tens of millions of dollars a year on political consultants, image-crafters and media advisers in the United States.
In other words: the Qatari regime is distracting from its appalling behavior by spreading money around America and promoting an intentionally misleading image of itself. It’s a clever strategy, and it relies on the admirable American tendency to give foreigners the benefit of the doubt. But American Jewish leaders should know better. Those who took paid trips to Doha played right into this Qatari campaign of deflection and distraction.
Qatar’s rulers know exactly what they’re doing. Their support for terrorism and their funding for Al Jazeera’s hate programming, are calculated. So is their fake and insincere campaign of engagement with Jewish leaders in the United States.
The purpose is to sow confusion and division: to pretend the regime is interested in reform and compromise, eager for dialogue and mutual understanding; to recruit credible Jewish leaders who can provide cover for the regime’s alliance with Iran and Hamas, which enables the regime to improve its relationships in Washington.
To their credit, the Zionist Organization of America tried to make this right by returning all of the funds, but doing so I think they made a mistake and missed the opportunity to send Qatar a clear message that their manipulative ploy will not succeed. Other leaders, like Mike Huckabee, who – knowingly or unknowingly – accepted funds from the Qataris have an opportunity to put their money into causes that work against Qatar’s schemes.
Every dollar they received should be donated to provide support to those who have suffered at the hands of Qatari-supported terrorists and extremists. Sadly, there are millions of victims to choose from: children in Sderot suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after living through barrages of Hamas rockets for years; American citizens killed and maimed during the attacks of the Second Intifada; Palestinian journalists and NGOs jailed and repressed by the tyrannical regime in Gaza; or the parents and children of fallen Israeli soldiers left behind by the recent wars instigated by Hamas.
This would be an important first step to pull back the curtain of lies that Qatar has tried to sell around Washington over the past year and a half – and provide a small measure of justice to those victims of terrorism, like me, who have suffered the consequences of this regime’s true agenda.

The writer is founder and director of Strength to Strength, a non-profit organization that unites victims of terrorism from across the globe. 15 years ago this month, she survived a Hamas suicide bombing in Jerusalem. For more information, please visit www.stosglobal.org.