Qatar is a great supporter of major extremist Islamic organizations and ceaselessly acts against Israel on the regional and international levels. Enlisting its help to achieve a temporary calm in Gaza is a self-inflicted strategic blow, as well as a moral disgrace.
For decades, Qatar has extended economic and political support, whether direct or indirect, to all the major extremist Islamist organizations: the Muslim Brotherhood, Al-Qaeda, and even organizations affiliated with the Islamic State (ISIS). Muslim Brotherhood ideologue Sheikh Yousuf Al-Qaradawi, a prominent Islamic jurisprudent known for his antisemitic and extremist views and for justifying the extermination of the Jews in the Holocaust, has for years operated in Qatar and enjoyed its sponsorship. Qatar has also harbored other jihadi leaders, and its educational system is rife with incitement to jihad and martyrdom. Its media, entirely state-sponsored, frequently spreads antisemitism and Holocaust denial.
In 1996, the U.S. government informed the Qatari emir personally that its agents had arrived in the country to arrest./), a terrorist involved in the planning and execution of serious attacks in Asia who had found safe haven as an employee of the Doha municipal water department. Within hours, KSM disappeared, only to resurface five years later as the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks.
Had Qatar not harbored him and facilitated his escape, 9/11 might not have happened. Qatar has also long supported the Taliban, and last year it helped it overthrow the democratically elected Afghan government and violently take over the country. Today, it makes every effort to legitimize the Taliban regime and secure international aid for it.
The Al-Jazeera TV channel, which is owned and operated by the Qatari regime, has since its inception functioned as a mouthpiece for jihadi terrorist organizations, and constantly broadcasts anti-Israel incitement. The claim that Qatar has helped to maintain calm between the Palestinians and Israel is ludicrous, and reflects profound ignorance. Amid the recent violent clashes at the Al-Aqsa compound, Al-Jazeera, the most-watched channel in the Palestinian territories, claimed that Israel intends to hold “Talmudic prayers” and make animal sacrifices in Al-Aqsa mosque itself, which naturally intensified the violence.
Israelis will especially remember how Al-Jazeera celebrated – live on-air – the release from prison of the terrorist Samir Quntar – who in 1979 murdered four-year-old Einat Haran by smashing her head on a rock at Nahariya beach in front of her father and then killed him as well. The party featured fulsome praise for Quntar, in addition to a large cake, an orchestra, and fireworks.
Qatar has perpetuated Hamas’s rule in Gaza with financial support in the hundreds of millions of dollars; according to a May 1, 2022 report in Israel’s Haaretz daily, this support has totaled $5 billion over the last decade. The Israeli government allows the delivery of these funds, ostensibly to be handed over to the Gazans, not to Hamas itself. This attempt to buy temporary quiet with “other people’s money” enables Hamas to build up its military capabilities, including tunnels, rockets, drones, and units comprising thousands of fighters.
This quiet would better have been achieved by Israeli investment, in the form of aid for the people of Gaza, instead of by funding and arming Hamas. Such investment can be carried out via international organizations with no commitment to Hamas, via the tens of thousands of Gazans who work in Israel, and via major commercial and economic players who operate in cooperation with the Israeli economy. It is true that it will not be easy to change direction, after years of Qatar funding Hamas with Israeli consent. But it is nonetheless possible, particularly since Israel now has the support of the United Arab Emirates, a peace partner and an ally, which is capable of effecting the main change in Gaza on the political and economic levels. The UAE is just as capable as Qatar of investing heavily in Gaza In fact, The UAE has for years been bewildered as Israeli governments have, one after another, preferred the enemy, Qatar, to the friend, the UEA. Egypt too is capable of providing extensive logistical and administrative support to facilitate this change; it would love to see an end to Hamas’s rule in Gaza, since Hamas is a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, the bitter enemy of the Egyptian regime.
The current Israeli government should end this policy of indirectly supporting Hamas via Qatar – a policy deeply detrimental to Israel’s long-term security interests. This is especially true in light of the fact that Qatar is the strongest opponent of the Abraham Accords, regionally and internationally. Moreover, over the past year it has strengthened its ties with the Iranian regime in all areas. Although Israeli Prime Minster Bennett himself said, at the height of the unrest at Al-Aqsa, that Al-Jazeera – that is, the Qatari regime – “lies constantly,” his spokesmen’s contradictory statements to media are aimed at paving the way for a continuation of this policy, with the inability to see the security and political damage that it is causing.
Israeli collaboration with Qatar, for any purpose whatsoever, is, beyond all its strategic and political considerations, also a moral disgrace, and the responsibility for this lies solely with the Israeli government.
*Yigal Carmon is the President of MEMRI and a former counterterrorism advisor to Israeli prime ministers.
A version of this article was published in Hebrew in the Israeli daily Haaretz, on May 10, 2022.