Ezra Friedlander, a Democratic lobbyist who is working as a consultant for Hassan Ali Bin Ali (HABA), a Qatari businessman, has been accused of lobbying the White House in favor of the geopolitical interests of the controversial Gulf nation.
The Friedlander Group, Friedlander’s lobbying firm based in New York, was retained by Bin Ali in 2014 in order to position the Qatari businessman as the "go to" person between the United States and Arab/Muslim world, and specifically to promote Qatar’s ties with the American Jewish community. Bin Ali is close with the Qatari regime, which has often employed businessmen and investors to promote Qatari interests in the US. Qatar’s state-owned sovereign wealth funds and investment vehicles, critics charge, serve the same purpose of advancing regime political and policy interests under non-governmental cover.
The charges surrounding Friedlander resemble a separate controversy in which Qatar’s government contracted with Stonington Strategies’ Nick Muzin in a lobbying effort to bring Jewish conservatives and other pro-Israel activists on trips to Qatar with the ultimate goal of influencing the Trump administration to soften its critical stance on the Gulf state, which funds anti-Israel terrorist groups such as Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood (MB).
Doha has nominated a number of FARA-recruited lobbyists for a much broader influence-buying effort on U.S. soil, including through Ashcroft Law Firm, Audience Patterns Worldwide, Avenue Strategies, Ballard Partners, Blueprint Advisors, Education Above All Foundation, Gallagher Group, and Husch Blackwell Strategies.
Friedlander started working for Bin Ali in 2014 at a monthly rate of $10,000. The FARA filing states that Friedlander’s duties on behalf of Bin Ali included efforts "to enhance the bilateral relationship between the USA and Qatar” and that The Friedlander Group "shall act on behalf of HABA and use his reasonable endeavors to establish HABA as the ‘go to’ person between the USA and the Arab/Muslim world and to enhance the bilateral relationship between the USA and Qatar and to positively impel the relationship between the American Jewish communities".
A report issued in October by Al Arabiya said: "A congressional source told Al Arabiya English that Bin Ali had hired the New York City lobbying firm Friedlander Group, founded by Ezra Friedlander, to mend the bilateral relations between Qatar and the United States".
But Bin Ali wrote a piece denying the allegations as "an fictitious and slanderous". And Friedlander said Bin Ali has "never worked for Qatar".
When he was asked why Bin Ali retained his services, Friedlander said: "He’s always spoken to me of the desire to see Israel accepted in the Arab world; to see peace. So, I told him I want you to come to Washington and share that perspective with members of Congress. That’s what I told him….I was the one who invited him. And I was the one who urged him to come to Washington".
The controversial Gulf country is home to the MB's spiritual leader Yusuf al-Qaradawi and its government has close ties to the Iranian regime, which consistently calls for "Death to Israel" and "Death to America". Al Arabiya has referred that Bin Ali "is well known by his ties with Tehran. He enjoys close business and personal relations with Iranian parties".
At the mean time, the controversies about Friedlander, Bin Ali, and Qatar’s broader lobbying effort come in the aftermath of the Gulf state’s attempts to benefit from the death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi by using that event as a tool to garner favor with the Trump administration, despite Trump’s increasingly close ties with the Saudis.
The critics mentioned that Qatar is actually radical Islam and terrorism. More money goes to the Palestinian terror group Hamas from Qatar than from any other country in the world. In 2012, Emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani pledged $400 million to Hamas. Qatari support for the internationally recognized Palestinian terrorist organization grew after the former emir handed power to his son Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani in 2013.
Qatar is increasingly under the microscope in connection with a pay-for-play scheme that landed the Gulf nation the 2022 World Cup. Qatar reportedly offered $400 million to FIFA just 21 days before world soccer’s governing body decided to award the World Cup to Doha.