Richard Miniter , CONTRIBUTOR
Three years after his death, Lt. Hadar Goldin’s body is being used as a bargaining chip by Qatar’s hired apologists, say some American Jewish leaders. It is perhaps the strangest,most distasteful part of Qatar’s unprecedented outreach to America’s Jewish groups.
Lt. Goldin descended into the dark of a Gaza Strip terrorist tunnel in 2014, and disappeared. Months later, Hamas admitted to killing the 23-year old. (The terror group typically holds onto corpses to trade later for releasing its jailed fighters .)
If certain Jewish non-profits agree to sit down with Qatar’s ruling emir, these Jewish leaders say they were told, then Goldin’s body, and that of another missing Israeli, would be returned by Hamas to the grieving families in Israel.
“I was warned that our advertising campaign against Qatar might blow up in our faces because Hamas would be imminently releasing the bodies of Israeli soldiers under Qatari pressure,” Rabbi Shmuley Boteach told me.
Boteach, who Newsweek hailed as one of America’s “most influential rabbis,” funded newspaper ads and wrote articles to show why Qatar’s charm offensive was offensive. “It is a shameful episode for our community when those who fund the murder of Jews in Israel are being embraced by Jews in the United States,” he said, adding he produced “full-page New York Times ads to make it clear to all who agreed to whitewash the terror-stained hands of the emir would be condoning murder.” More such ads, he said, are coming.
Dangling a personal meeting shows just how desperate Qatar is these days. As a rule, Qatar’s ruling emir, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, only meets with heads of state, government ministers and cabinet secretaries. He considers any one else beneath his dignity. Now, during his visit to the United Nation’s General Assembly meeting in New York this week, he is stooping to greet the heads of non-profit Jewish groups. That’s quite a come-down from his high horse.
The emir’s outreach effort strongly suggests that the diplomatic and economic pressure on Qatar is succeeding. Qatar is officially a U.S. ally. The country hosts a U.S. air base, but it is locked in a diplomatic war with America’s other Arab allies, who are angered by Qatar’s support for terrorism and Iran. For the past few months, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have closed their air and sea ports and blocked their roads to Qatari trade, withdrawn their ambassadors and worked to isolate their regime. Arab leaders have even gotten into shouting matches with Qatari officials at diplomatic events.
Meanwhile, the Qatari democratic opposition has come out of hiding and is hosting a conference in London this week, which seems to be tip-toeing toward endorsing regime change.
In short, Qatar has run aground and its Jewish outreach effort (along with its macabre offer of Goldin’s body) is its latest thrashing effort to free itself from the shoals of Western disapproval.
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At its darkest hour, Qatar attracted a most unusual advocate: Nick Muzin, an observant Jew who is Sen. Ted Cruz’s former deputy chief of staff.
Muzin’s consulting firm, Stonington Strategies, is pulling down $50,000 per month to set up these meetings, O’Dwyer’s PR News reported. The firm shares its name with the road on which Muzin lives.
Muzin declined to comment, texting that he “does not speak to the press.”
5WPR, a Manhattan-based public relations firm founded by Ronn Torossian that appears to represent Muzin, also refused to comment. (Torossian is a well respected public-relations expert who sometimes contributes to Forbes.com.)
While Muzin may have hinted to some Jewish leaders that his lobbying had the “blessing” of Israel’s elected government, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, told me otherwise: “It is not true.”
Some foolish commentators contend that meeting with Qatar is an unavoidable first step toward making peace with Qatar. This circular reasoning ignores both the peninsular petro-state’s decades-long history of underwriting terrorists and the current crisis, in which Qatar is on the ropes. Why appease Qatar now, when it is so near to surrendering and shrugging off its Hamas support?
Listening to Dermer, though he is too diplomatic to say it, it seems clear that Israel welcomes the pressure that is being put on Qatar by Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. Indeed, if enough pressure is applied for a long enough period, Qatar may well come to its senses and cease funding terror and featuring it on its state-run Al Jazeera broadcasts. Surprisingly, a Sudanese embassy official essentially echoed the views of Israeli diplomats in a recent private conversation with me: It is just a matter of time before Qatar caves to regional pressure.
Qatar’s funding of Hamas and overall opposition to Israel is “transactional, not ideological,” a senior Israeli official told me. The official thought that any acceptance of Qatar’s outreach should be preceded by acts of good faith, such as pressuring Hamas to release the bodies of murdered Israeli soldiers or ceasing to host Hamas leaders or removing their lethal views from global television channels that Qatar controls.
Qatar’s offer to give $30 million to help victims of hurricane Harvey was also a step in the right direction, the official said. “Better that the $30 million goes to helping Americans than to Hamas to murder Jews.”
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The Qatari outreach effort has spurred controversy in New York and Washington Jewish communities.
Given Qatar has admitted giving, over the past few years, some $1.4 billion to Hamas, an anti-Israel group officially designated as a “terrorist” entity by both the U.S. and the EU., scheduling those meetings between the emir and the Jewish leaders was never going to be easy. Qatar committed $31 million to strengthen Hamas’ grip on the Gaza Strip last year alone, where Lt. Goldin was killed.
Qatar’s sheikhs have long been a lifeline for Hamas. After its expulsion from Damascus in 2012, much of Hamas’ senior leadership, including military commanders, relocated to Qatar. They were warmly welcomed. They received allowances and apartments.
Indeed, Qatar is like Woodstock for terrorists—every one, who is any one, eventually checks in. Qatar hosts a delegation from the Taliban and has been accused of hosting the Somali terrorist group Al-Shabaab, an al Qaeda affiliate. “Outside of Iran, Qatar hosts the second-largest number of designated terrorists in the world,” said Yousef al-Otaiba, the UAE’s ambassador to the United States told the Atlantic. “They’re not in jail, they’re not under house arrest, they’re moving around freely and openly and raising money for al-Nusra and al-Qaeda, Libyan militias, and many many others,”
Qatar also funds militias in Libya and Syria, where Qatar has supported Al Qaeda’s local affiliate.
Qatar’s support for anti-Semitism runs deeper than Al-Jazeera. The annual Doha Book Fair is replete with anti-Semitic literature, according to the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Qatar proudly exports such works abroad to the prestigious annual Frankfurt Book Fair and other literary gatherings.
Qatar is also climbing into bed with Iran, which is building atomic weapons and the long-range Shahab-4 missiles to carry them. Qatar announced full diplomatic relations with Iran this summer. At a recent summit of the Arab League, Qatar’s praise for Iran resulted in a shouting match with other Arab diplomats, who see Iran as committed to their destruction.
Qatar’s ties to Islamic extremists is nothing new. Two years after Qatar abolished slavery in 1952, Qatar appointed an Egyptian, Abdul-Badi Saqr, as its director of education. Sagr was a protégé of Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan Al Bana. He soon staffed Qatar’s schools with devotees of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is the organization that trained the followers of al Qaeda and virtually every other Sunni Arab terror group active in the past 40 years.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s influence grew after the emirate became fully independent from Britain in 1971. Today, Qatar’s state-run al Jazeera television networks often feature the Brotherhood’s “spiritual guide,” Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi.
Qaradawi publicly supports the slaughter of Americans and Israelis. Judea Pearl, the father of murdered Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, said in a prepared statement sent to me: “My son Daniel interviewed Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi a month after the 9/11 attack, when the Sheikh first proclaimed the idea that Israeli citizens are legitimate targets of terrorism, because ‘Israeli society is generally armed.’ Three months later, Daniel fell victim to Qaradawi’s ideas when he was kidnapped and killed in Pakistan by al Qaeda elements. “The Qatari government has offered shelter and unlimited support to Qaradawi and his host, Al Jazeera, the world’s largest propagator of Jihadi ideology, which has caused thousands of terror victims worldwide.”
Inside the clubby world of New York-DC Jewish leaders, the conversation has shifted from “Should we meet with the Qataris?” to “Why did Nick Muzin take this contract?”
Whatever his motive, Muzin has been one busy bee.
Muzin claimed that he contacted prominent leaders like the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations’ Malcolm Hoenlein, AIPAC’s Howard Kohr, and the Anti-Defamation League’s Jonathan Greenblatt. Each denied agreeing to any meeting with Qatar and two of these leaders denied ever even speaking to Muzin.
Muzin phoned Mort Klein, the head of Zionist Organization of America, who wrestled with the idea. Soon, he rejected it. Qatar is a “monstrous and evil regime,” Klein told me, “supporting the worst Islamic terrorists in the world and funding the most anti-Semitic programs in the world through al Jazeera.”
Many Jewish leaders don’t want to be fooled the second time with Qatar. Over a decade ago Qatar reached out to Israel and established relations. “I was on a trip to Doha about 15 years ago where the Qataris flew a group of Jewish leaders from Jordan to Doha in a VIP plane. We had meetings at the royal palace and saw the country; it’s a nice place,” Klein said.
But Qatar’s funding to Israel’s enemies only grew and relations soon cooled.
Other Jewish leaders—who Muzin had said had agreed to meetings—publicly backed out or said that they had never agreed to sit down with the emir. “I am not meeting Qatari leaders. I’m not meeting them given their current policies which include support for groups like Al-Qaeda and Hamas. Qatar also funds Al-Jazeera, an organization whose content is anti-Israeli, anti-American, and Anti-Semitic,” said Mike Makovsky of the Jewish Institute for National Security of America.
Like a child’s game of telephone, Muzin apparently told each Jewish leader that a different prominent Jew had already agreed to meet the emir. This didn’t turn out to be true. Among the names he dropped: Ron Lauder, the wealthy pro-Israel philanthropist and leader of the World Jewish Congress, and American Israel Public Affairs Committee chief executive Howard Kohr. Both strongly denied scheduling any meetings with any official from Qatar.
For now, Qatar’s outreach effort through Nick Muzin seems to have backfired. Jewish leaders have publicly recoiled from Qatar’s indecent proposal and much of the Jewish press re-focused its attention on Qatar’s gifts to jihadis.
The larger question: Will the Trump Administration make common cause with Israel and the Gulf Arab states and seize the opportunity to push Qatar to make genuine reforms?
If the emir is looking for a place to start, he could return Lt. Goldin’s body –with no strings attached. It should a gift, not a trade.