It was the eve of Yom Kippur and I had just finished a public event on repentance at the Saban Theater in Los Angeles with my friend Roseanne Barr. The event was moderated by David Suissa, editor-in-chief of the prestigious Jewish Journal. A story suddenly broke on Bloomberg News. It said that Qatar had targeted the personal email accounts of both me and my wife to punish me for my criticism of that terrorism-funding country, Hamas’ principal patron.
Qatar, blockaded now for over a year over its sponsorship of terrorism, allegedly contracted large-scale campaigns of cyber-warfare to be waged not only against hostile countries but against critics of their regime, including private American citizens.
In order to hack into their email accounts, Qatari agents used a technique known as phishing, whereby entrapment emails, expertly-coded to look like they’ve come from legitimate sources such as Google or the BBC, are used to channel targets to fake sites that capture their passwords.
According to Eli Lake, who broke the story in Bloomberg, “The scale of the operation, as well as the targets, suggest this was a state operation.”
Though the hackers generally employed virtual private networks to mask their IP addresses, there were a few times where they did not. In such cases, the addresses all linked back to the same Internet service provider, Ooredoo, which is majority-owned by Qatar.
More than 1,200 individuals were targeted, most of them, according to The New York Times, “well-known enemies of Qatar: senior officials of the UAE and of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Syria; American, British and Dutch commentators known for their criticism of Qatar; and two former employees of a Washington public affairs firm with UAE ties… [and] outspoken critics of Qatar, including the American Rabbi Shmuley Boteach…”
These discoveries were all made by way of the ongoing litigation being waged against Qatar by President Donald Trump donor Elliot Broidy. His personal email accounts were hacked and leaked to the Associated Press and The New York Times, which soon ran negative stories about him. Broidy sued both the nation of Qatar and their Orthodox Jewish agent Nick Muzin, who took millions of dollars from Qatar in exchange for trying to influence Jews and Jewish organizations thought to be close to Trump. The Wall Street Journal ran a deep-dive expose of Muzin and his partner’s efforts, titled “Qatar Targeted 250 Trump Influencers to Change US Policy,” confirming that, as I had always maintained, it was an influencing campaign that was never designed to alter Qatar’s terrorism-funding ways but to whitewash them.
For the more hostile influencers, they resorted to outright intimidation.
First, there is the secret Al Jazeera documentary, The Israel Lobby, designed to destroy pro-Israel activists, that was filmed by an infiltrator of Jewish organizations in Washington, DC. It has yet to air and some see Qatar holding it over Jewish activists as an alleged form of blackmail in order to silence them.
Then, according to The New York Times, in what was apparently a recorded conversation, Nick Muzin cryptically warned a former colleague who had become a critic of Qatar to “be very careful.” Anyone Muzin pointed to was “in danger…
“Honestly, I know they are after you and after Broidy,” the Times reported.
It appears that I was also targeted by Qatar for hacking, presumably so as to prevent my battle against Qatar trying to whitewash its financing of terrorism and Hamas. If true – and the story seems to be strongly corroborated – it would constitute a dangerous and direct attack by a foreign government against American citizens for exercising their First Amendment rights. It would constitute an assault against a rabbi and his wife, a mother of nine, for speaking out against the Jewish lobbyists who took millions of dollars to help cleanse Qatar of its record of financing terrorism against Israel.
Qatar is the principal funder of Hamas, which is sworn to the annihilation of the Jewish people. The Jewish leaders who disgraced themselves by participating in the Qatari whitewash, and who traveled to Doha – some of whom were paid – have yet to express remorse for their actions or repudiate their participation in the Qatari whitewash.
The US authorities must thoroughly investigate this growing story that Qatar sought to destroy the reputation of its critics and hacked their email accounts. If it can happen to me and my wife, it can happen to any pro-Israel activist. No one is safe. Our government must protect us and enact punitive measures against Qatar – and we must find out which Americans may have illegally collaborated in the effort.
In the waning days of the 2014 Gaza war, I traveled to Israel with my wife and children to show support for the Jewish state in its existential battle against the Hamas terrorists. We attended the memorial services for murdered IDF soldiers and walked through hospitals filled with dozens of young IDF soldiers who lay blinded, maimed, and disabled by a campaign of Hamas terrorism funded largely by Qatar. I also witnessed the incessant, bitter and virulent antisemitism broadcast across the world by Qatar’s state-funded news agency Al Jazeera.
Due only to my activism on behalf of my people, I have now received grave threats, including, believe it or not, from a Chabad rabbi on a prestigious campus who is a close friend to Muzin and who published a column defending Muzin’s work for Qatar. He warned me by email, “Tread very carefully… you may be opening yourself up to a point of no return. This may get very expensive for you and even [your supporters] may not be able to bail you out of this one.”
Did he know what Qatar was planning against me?
The United States must take the growing and dangerous threat of state-sponsored hacking very seriously, especially when it is directed against private citizens and critics of terrorism.
Just this past Saturday, the Netherlands announced that it had caught four Russian hackers red-handed inside a car parked beside the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague, trying to hack into the Wi-Fi.
This came just hours after the US Department of Justice announced sweeping indictments against seven officers of Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency. The charges described in extraordinary detail how these men had used cyberattacks to target top Olympic athletes, anti-doping organizations, and chemical weapons monitors probing Russia’s alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria.
At last, the Qatari whitewash campaign is coming undone and the Jewish leaders who chose to take part in it, and even took payments, are being exposed by the national media.
With a string of subpoenas, Broidy’s lawyers have managed to extract a horde of damaging information laying out just how far Qatar had gone to manipulate and even buy off American Jewish leaders. They had handed out large donations to right-wing Jewish organizations and even paid pro-settlement fundraisers to work outright on their behalf. They arranged luxury trips to the emirate for the American Jewish community’s top brass. These trips, which were paraded as diplomatic missions on behalf of Israel, allegedly included first-class airfare, five-star lodging and camel races – all with Qatar footing the bill.
Some of these leaders even invited members of the Qatari royal family to their children’s weddings, all while Qatar continued to fund Hamas and spew antisemitic bile through Al Jazeera.
Leading pro-Israel activists were soon penning shameful columns in national publications saying that “Qatar is quickly becoming the Israel of the Gulf States, surrounded by enemies, subject to boycotts and unrealistic demands and struggling for its survival.”
As the smoke finally begins to clear, we in the Jewish community are overdue for a reckoning of what transpired. Orthodox Jewish agents have been taking money from Israel’s greatest enemies to advance their malign interests. Worse, some of these Jewish leaders and activists, whether knowingly or unknowingly, may have abetted electronic attacks and spy operations against fellow Jews who did nothing but try protect Israel and the Jewish people.
This debacle has left us increasingly confounded with questions. It’s time we finally received answers.The writer, “America’s Rabbi,” whom The Washington Post calls “the most famous rabbi in America,” is founder of The World Values Network, a leading organization defending Israel in the global media. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.
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