The story in The Jerusalem Post that Conference of Presidents Executive Vice Chairman Malcolm Hoenlein has broken ranks with Jewish leaders and decided to visit Qatar, meet the Emir, and invite the Crown Prince of Qatar to his daughter’s wedding, raises significant questions. The report says that Hoenlein believes he can somehow persuade Qatar to use its influence with Hamas to release their four Israeli hostages (two alive and two dead). Knowing Malcolm, a man who has dedicated his life to Israel and Jewish interests, I am convinced of his good intentions.
And yet, Qatar’s outreach to the Jewish community began only after the imposition of a crushing boycott by Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Egypt for Qatar’s support of terrorism, a boycott that was endorsed by the Trump Administration which likewise condemned Qatar for supporting Hamas. Qatar’s hiring of a Jewish-Republican PR and lobbying firm, as has widely been reported, had nothing to do with Qatar’s sudden desire to release Israeli soldiers and everything to do with lifting pressure on the Emirate, which was being crushed by the boycott.
Which leads to our first question. Are we to believe that this exercise has suddenly morphed into Qatar wanting to help anguished Israeli families retrieve their loved ones while the Emir continues to fund Hamas terror against those same Israelis? Will Jewish leaders really be taken in by such obvious duplicity?
Second, why should we believe anything Qatar says when they remain a terror-funding government? Qatar is lavishly paying a Jewish PR firm to promote themselves as a peace-loving nation that is an ally of the United States even as it is being blockaded by its neighbors because of its sponsorship of terrorism and ties to Iran. If Qatar had a sincere interest in serving as an intermediary in negotiations to free the Jews held by Hamas, why not just do it? They could easily reach out to Israel through backchannels at the UN or some traditionally non-aligned country like Switzerland with a history of negotiating prisoner exchanges. If the Qataris wanted to involve American Jews, they know how to contact people like Heinlein without needing the intervention of a Jewish PR firm. The expenditure of massive amounts of cash by Qatar to recruit Jews to meet with and visit the Emir can easily be misinterpreted and muddies the waters.
Third, if Qatar wants to release murdered Israeli soldiers, their quickest route is not through Hoenlein, or any other Jewish figure who can be expropriated for propaganda purposes but through the United States government. Qatar hosts America’s largest air base in the Middle East. Why haven’t they used their considerable times with the American government to approach Israel about releasing its MIA’s? One can only conclude that this new story about Hamas releasing the bodies of murdered Israeli soldiers is a ruse by the Qataris to lure in Jewish leaders and show the world that some of their best friends are Jews.
You hire a PR and lobbying firm to do PR and lobbying work, which seems to be Qatar’s aim. Qatar is interested in whitewashing their image as a funder of terror and to use Jews as their scrub brush. Clearly, the emir, whose country is being crushed by the Saudi-led boycott believes that showing a parade of Jewish leaders coming to pay homage to him will help with his image.
And what is the timetable for these “negotiations” with Qatar to release IDF soldiers? Does Qatar get to meet every Jewish leader in America over the next few years in protracted talks that will surely burnish their reputation as a friend of the Jews even as they finance Hamas to murder Israelis?
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Fourth, before meeting with the Emir, shouldn’t Qatar be required to take some action, or make a statement, indicating a new policy toward Israel? For example, Qatar once had an Israeli economic office in Doha, why not call for that to be reopened? At a minimum, Jewish leaders should demand that the Emir abandon his anti-Israel rhetoric. I listened to his speech at the UN as recently as this September during which he castigated Israel for obstructing peace and “Judaizing Jerusalem.” He outright lied about Israel “restricting the performance of religious rituals at the Al-Aqsa Mosque.” The Emir also hypocritically called for a two-state solution while simultaneously funding Hamas, which is committed to Israel’s annihilation and the murder of Jews wherever they may be found.
Fifth, is the Jewish community adopting a new policy of recognizing unrepentant funders of terror by conferring legitimacy on the Emir of Qatar and his family?
Sixth, while the Emir may or may not have the authority to release the bodies of IDF soldiers, he can surely expel Hamas officials Khaled Mashaal and Ismail Haniyah, who are granted sanctuary by the Emir to mastermind terror and rocket attacks against Israel from the comfort of their Doha homes. Shouldn’t Jewish leaders have demanded that Qatar expel mass murderers of Jews from their midst before accepting Qatari hospitality?
Seven, before granting legitimacy to the Emir, could there not have been a request that Al Jazeera, which he owns and operates, tone down the anti-Semitism and Jew-baiting which are regular features of the channel? For example, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, whose speeches appear on the channel, has praised Hitler for his slaughter of European Jews and prayed that Allah help him finish the job. “Oh Allah,” he cried in a sermon, “take this oppressive, Jewish, Zionist band of people…count their numbers, and kill them down to the very last one!” The Saudis have demanded that Qatar close down the network; Jewish leaders could at least insist that al Jazeera stop such broadcasts.
Eight, before legitimizing Qatar and inviting their leaders to meet our family and friends at our family simchas, shouldn’t we first show solidarity with Israelis whose family celebrations have been destroyed forever by Hamas terror, funded by Qatar? In 2012, Qatar pledged four hundred million dollars to Hamas. After Hamas used this money to launch more than 5,000 rockets against Israeli civilians, Qatar promised another billion dollars to the bloodthirsty leadership of Gaza in 2014.
Nine, do we not have a responsibility to the 67 murdered IDF soldiers, and countless victims of rocket attacks, not to break ranks with their families by letting Qatar, who financed much of the murder, off the hook? Our family friend Aviram Shaul, brother of murdered Israeli soldier Oron Shaul, whose body is being held by Hamas, published a letter condemning American Jewish engagement with Qatar so long as his brother and other Israeli soldiers, have not been returned by Qatar’s client, Hamas.
Ten, the Jewish people are entrusted by God to be a light unto the nations, and commanded in Leviticus 19: “Do not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor.” Shouldn’t we send a clear message to the world that financiers of terror will never be brought in from the cold until they stop enabling the murder of innocent men, women, and children?
As Richard Miniter wrote in Forbes, the use of the murdered Israelis as bargaining chips by Qatar and its hired apologists, is “perhaps the strangest, most distasteful part of Qatar’s unprecedented outreach to America's Jewish groups.” Jewish leaders should think twice before allowing themselves to be used. Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is the international best-selling author of 31 books, most recently The Israel Warrior. The winner of the London Times Preacher of the Year Award, he has been called by Newsweek “the most famous Rabbi in America” and named by the Jerusalem Post as one of the 50 most influential Jews in the world. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.
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