Palestinians take part in a rally in support of Qatar, inside Qatari-funded construction project 'Hamad City', in the southern Gaza Strip, June 9, 2017.
(photo credit: REUTERS/IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA)
On November 8, the government of Qatar forwarded $15 million dollars to the Gaza Strip to pay the salaries of Hamas workers. Within days, Hamas began to fire volley after volley of nearly 500 rockets at Israeli civilians and city centers. Paying off terrorists doesn’t silence them; it emboldens them to commit more acts of political violence.
For the past decade, one state actor has taken a very dangerous and ominous role in all of the bloodletting in the Middle East. According to official US governmental investigations and commissions, Qatar has long remained a supporter and financier of al-Qaida; ISIS; the Muslim Brotherhood, which destabilizes governments throughout the Middle East; violent Shi’ite groups in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain; terrorist groups like Libyan Islamic Fighting Group and Hamas; and assists Iran’s bloody wars in places like Yemen.
While assisting in the shedding of blood across the region, the Qatari leadership has spent untold fortunes trying to create an alternative image of itself by investing heavily in its propaganda disguised as news channel, Al Jazeera, reportedly bribing its way to hosting the soccer World Cup, and investing in a heavy network of lobbyists in DC and elsewhere.
What has been extremely surprising in this outreach to paint itself as a pragmatic and benevolent player in the region and world affairs is its outreach to pro-Israel and Jewish leaders. Even more shocking is the fact that many of these leaders fell for Qatar’s deceit.
In 2017, Qatar’s standing in the region reached an all-time low as 12 Arab and Islamic neighboring countries chose to sever diplomatic relations with Qatar because of its role in supporting Iran and terrorism.
To attempt to offset their growing isolation, Qatar signed a multi-million dollar a year contract with a lobbying firm run by Nick Muzin, a former senior adviser to Republican Senators Ted Cruz and Tim Scott, aiming “to strengthen its relationship with the US and build bridges to the Jewish community.”
This outreach included bringing the likes of Alan Dershowitz, Mike Huckabee, leader of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations Malcolm Hoenlein, President of the Zionist Organization of America Morton Klein and others to Doha.
Some of these figures spoke glowingly about Qatar in tweets, press statements and general comments. However, hopefully unbeknown to these leaders, Qatar was also involved in the fight of its life against a piece of legislation that could have dealt a hammer blow to its financial relationships in the US and its economic future.
In 2017, the Palestinian International Terrorism Support Prevention Act, also known as HR 2712, was first proposed by Congressmen Brian Mast (R- NJ) and Josh Gottheimer (D– NJ), with the support of Rep. Ed Royce (R- Cal), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
The legislation would place sanctions on countries and institutions that provide financial support for Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian terrorist organizations. If it became law, it would create significant problems for Qatar, which is widely seen as the main funder of Hamas’ government in the Gaza Strip.
Foreign Agent Registration Act filings provided by Muzin to the US government list HR2712 as one of the pieces of legislation he and his colleagues were trying to negatively influence.
Ever since the bill was approved by the House Foreign Affairs Committee last year, the legislation hasn’t made any progress.
However, HR 2712 is now being pushed for a return to the legislative agenda in the lame duck session, in full force. If it does not pass, there are plans by representatives to reintroduce it in the 116th Congress.
That Qatar invested so heavily in its propaganda and lobbying efforts shows how much this bill will and should hurt those who invest in terrorism.
This is why the Middle East Forum is leading an attempt to provide support for those who are pushing the bill back to the floor of Congress. It is a vital piece of legislation in that quelling terror funding will save lives and ensure greater stability across the region.
All like-minded Americans from across the political and ideological spectrum should support this common-sense bill. One individual targeted by Doha’s minions, Morton Klein of the ZOA, has repudiated Qatari encroachment, rejected funding by its agents, and thrown his support behind HR 2712. It is especially incumbent for those who were duped by Qatar, or those who signed an agreement with their agents, like Alan Dershowitz, to put extra efforts into ensuring this bill passes.
It is fair enough to admit a mistake, but it is then incumbent on those who made an error to rectify it.
This month hundreds of rockets rained down on Israeli towns and cities, killing one and injuring dozens, forcing hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians to cower in shelters. These deadly rockets, with the only intention to kill and galvanize fear, aimed at schools, kindergartens and hospitals, have been paid for in at least a large part with Qatari largesse.
Anyone who cares about stopping the bloodshed, standing with America’s allies and furthering our interests in the region should provide full vocal and passionate support for HR 2712.
A great place to begin would be with all those who were in the past, willing or otherwise, tools of Qatar’s war of obfuscation, propaganda and deceit against the American people.
The writer is director of the Middle East Forum.
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