Why Qatar Has Been Wooing American Jews

Feb. 14 2018

Qatar—facing attempts by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates to isolate it for its support of the Muslim Brotherhood and other jihadist organizations, as well as the Trump administration’s receptivity to these efforts—has launched a public-relations campaign to re-establish its good name in the U.S. Part of this campaign has involved outreach to American Jews. Jonathan Tobin comments on this strange turn of events. (Free registration may be required.)

The obvious explanation for Qatar’s strategy is the increased importance of pro-Israel opinion in the Trump administration, especially when compared to its predecessor. With supporters of the settlement movement appointed to posts like the U.S. ambassador to Israel and an Orthodox Jew like the presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner at President Trump’s side, the Jewish right’s stock is at an all-time high.

That elevates the importance of pro-Israel organizations and lobbyists who might otherwise be assumed to be hostile to any Gulf nation, especially one that hosts and sponsors the rabidly anti-Israel Al Jazeera network and is believed to have played a major role in funding Hamas. That has led to a stream of invitations for pro-Israel figures to visit Qatar and to hear its leaders make the case that it has gotten a bum rap from critics. Some . . . returned from a tour of Qatar singing its praises or at least willing to give its assertion that it no longer has ties with Hamas the benefit of the doubt, [a response that] in turn generated some fierce pushback from other pro-Israel figures. . . .

But there’s another factor here that needs to also be examined. While [Doha’s] Washington PR representative—a former aide to Senator Ted Cruz—may have told his client that winning over supporters of Israel is the path to success, the attention given by Qatar to the American Jewish community is still disproportionate. . . . [One] plausible explanation for all this attention stems from the traditional anti-Semitic belief that Jews and Zionists can exert mysterious control over major powers like the United States. . . .

The contemporary Arab and Muslim world has become a place where anti-Semitic texts like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion freely circulate. Those who demonize Israel and its supporters are prone to attribute exaggerated powers to Jews in this way. If the Qataris are that focused on American Jews, and right-wingers at that, it’s just as likely to be [a] product of this sort of distorted thinking as anything else.

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Read more at Haaretz

More about: American Jewry, Anti-Semitism, Politics & Current Affairs, Qatar

No, Israelis and Palestinians Can’t Simply Sit Down and Solve the “Israel-Palestinian Conflict”

Jan. 17 2019

By “zooming out” from the blinkered perspective with which most Westerners see the affairs of the Jewish state, argues Matti Friedman, one can begin to see things the way Israelis do:

Many [in Israel] believe that an agreement signed by a Western-backed Palestinian leader in the West Bank won’t end the conflict, because it will wind up creating not a state but a power vacuum destined to be filled by intra-Muslim chaos, or Iranian proxies, or some combination of both. That’s exactly what has happened . . . in Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. One of Israel’s nightmares is that the fragile monarchy in Jordan could follow its neighbors . . . into dissolution and into Iran’s orbit, which would mean that if Israel doesn’t hold the West Bank, an Iranian tank will be able to drive directly from Tehran to the outskirts of Tel Aviv. . . .

In the “Israeli-Palestinian” framing, with all other regional components obscured, an Israeli withdrawal in the West Bank seems like a good idea—“like a real-estate deal,” in President Trump’s formulation—if not a moral imperative. And if the regional context were peace, as it was in Northern Ireland, for example, a power vacuum could indeed be filled by calm.

But anyone using a wider lens sees that the actual context here is a complex, multifaceted war, or a set of linked wars, devastating this part of the world. The scope of this conflict is hard to grasp in fragmented news reports but easy to see if you pull out a map and look at Israel’s surroundings, from Libya through Syria and Iraq to Yemen.

The fault lines have little to do with Israel. They run between dictators and the people they’ve been oppressing for generations; between progressives and medievalists; between Sunnis and Shiites; between majority populations and minorities. If [Israel’s] small sub-war were somehow resolved, or even if Israel vanished tonight, the Middle East would remain the same volatile place it is now.

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Read more at New York Times

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Middle East