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.