The emir of Qatar, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, on Wednesday criticized the West for boycotting the Hamas government, saying that Palestinians are being punished for practicing democracy. Western donors have cut off hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the Hamas-run Palestinian Authority, and Israel has also suspended vital tax transfers to the Palestinians over the militant group's refusal to renounce violence, recognize Israel's right to exist and to accept past peace deals. Qatar, which hosts the Al-Jazeera TV network and the US military's Middle East command headquarters, has played an increasingly important role in the Middle East since ending its isolationist foreign policy. The tiny Gulf state has retained ties with Hamas and helps keep the group afloat with private and public financial contributions. It is believed to have leverage over both Hamas and its the more moderate Palestinian rival, Fatah. "Instead of rewarding the Palestinian people for practicing democracy, something rarely witnessed in our region, they have been punished for it," Sheik Hamad said in an address to the European Parliament.