TEL AVIV – Jewish leaders in the U.S. have slammed Qatar’s attempts to woo the Jewish community by arranging meetings this week with high-level officials – including the emir and crown prince himself – on the basis that the Gulf state continues to be the chief backer of Palestinian terrorist group Hamas.
Qatar has reached out to several American Jewish leaders to ask if they would like to meet Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and other member of the ruling family on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York next week.
However, some heads of Jewish groups have rebuffed the Gulf state’s overtures over its heavy ties with Hamas and have urged other leaders to do the same.
Judea Pearl, a Chancellor’s Professor at UCLA and the president of the Daniel Pearl Foundation, told the Algemeiner on Wednesday that he urged “Jewish leaders to refrain from meeting the emir of Qatar, and thus bestow credibility onto a country that has served as the hub of terrorism-breeding ideology in the past two decades.”
Pearl went on to recount how his late son, Daniel, a senior Wall Street Journal reporter who was kidnapped and then murdered by Islamist terrorists in Pakistan in 2002, had interviewed the Muslim Brotherhood’s top cleric, Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, an Egyptian living in exile in Qatar, one month after 9/11 happened.
“That was when the sheikh first proclaimed the idea that Israeli citizens are legitimate targets of terrorism, because ‘Israeli society is generally armed,’” Pearl said. “Three months later, Daniel fell victim to Qaradawi’s ideas.”
Pearl decried Qatar for providing “shelter and unlimited support to Qaradawi,” who also has a wildly popular TV show on Sharia law broadcast on the Qatari-funded Al Jazeera network.
He added that if the emir and crown prince truly “seeks to improve the tarnished image of his country, let him address two issues that are currently of major concern to the Jewish community: Let him declare the jihadi ideology of Al Jazeera unacceptable, and let him proclaim Qaradawi’s Zionophobia a form of racism.”
Qatar is the single largest donor to Hamas-run Gaza, pledging at least $1.4 billion over the past three years. The natural gas-rich country has also served to harbor several senior Hamas terrorists and is often used as a base to raise funds and plan attacks against Israelis.
On Tuesday, President of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) Morton Klein said he had refused an invitation to meet with Qatari officials.
“It looks very much like this is a public relations attempt to moderate Qatar’s image as a country that supports and funds terrorism,” he said.
Klein also said “it’s wrong to meet with them without seeing that they’ve made serious movement toward reform and change. They need to stop funding Hamas. They need to change the format of Al Jazeera, their TV station, which incites against Israel.”
Klein told The Algemeiner that if Qatar takes “significant steps to show they are willing to change and reform, to end aid to Hamas, to facilitate the release of the bodies of slain Israeli soldiers to their families — if they do some of those things to show that real change is happening, then I would be delighted to meet.”
The World Values Network, a group headed by New York-based Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, put out an ad in the New York Times last weekend warning that “those involved in efforts to rehabilitate and legitimize Qatar will bring shame to themselves and ruin to countless more victims.”
“The Emir is confident that he can buy a whole new image among American Jews even as he traffics in global antisemitism through Al Jazeera and grants sanctuary to mass murderers,” the ad said.
Qatar hired Nick Muzin, a former deputy chief of staff to Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) who is well-versed in garnering support among pro-Israel circles, to manage its PR efforts. Muzin’s firm Stonington Strategies announced the initiative last week, with Muzin saying he believed that the Qataris were “sincere” in their desire to improve relations with “the U.S. and the Jewish community worldwide.”
According to PR news site O’Dwyer’s, Muzin’s firm will receive $50,000 per month to represent Qatar.
“Engagement with Qatar can only be in the best interests of the United States and the Jewish community, as we cannot allow Qatar to be ostracized by its neighbors and pushed into Iran’s sphere of influence,” Muzin was quoted as saying in the report.
A spokesman for Muzin told The Algemeiner last week declined to comment any further on the initiative.
Qatar’s attempts to appeal to the American Jewish community comes amid its ongoing isolation with other Arab nations including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, which have severed ties with the Gulf state over ties with Iran among myriad other reasons.