News that a prominent leader of the American Jewish community has been bargaining with Qatar to use its influence with Hamas to release two Israeli hostages and the remains of two soldiers raises some basic moral questions.
Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, is not the only US Jew purportedly engaged in the mitzva of redeeming captives. Recently, two other groups of Jewish leaders also secretly visited the tiny Gulf state, ostensibly on a similar mission.
Given that Qatar openly supports Hamas in its declared goal of Israel’s destruction, could Qatar be using American Jews to whitewash itself? Hoenlein and his fellow would-be mediators are trying their best to perform a mitzva, but is Qatar playing them? Hoenlein, who is close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has long maintained covert contacts with Muslim countries, and met in Doha several weeks ago with Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani. He issued a pro forma denial that he had received Netanyahu’s blessing for his efforts.
“We are not negotiators nor intermediaries, but representatives of the American Jewish community seeking to be of assistance on these humanitarian issues,” Hoenlein noted.
However, shortly before flying to Qatar, he was preceded there by visits from two groups of American Orthodox Jews. One was led by Menachem Genack, a rabbi and the head of the Orthodox Union’s Kashrut Division, who paid a secret visit. The other was made by no less than Martin Oliner, the president of the Religious Zionists of America. His excuse was supposedly to attend a legal conference and to visit the US air base there.
While it is impossible to determine what the outcome of such contacts may be, the venerable principle of not negotiating with terrorists seems to have been turned upside down with regard to Qatar, whose Al Jazeera is on record for its distorted coverage of Israel and was recently banned from broadcasting in Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Netanyahu also has threatened to ban the news station from Israel.
Qatar has pledged more than $1 billion to Hamas’s declared campaign for Israel’s destruction and offers refuge to its top leaders, particularly Khaled Mashaal and Yusuf al-Qaradawi. The latter has praised Hitler and prayed for Allah to help him finish the job. “Oh Allah,” he cried in a sermon broadcast on Al Jazeera, “take this oppressive, Jewish, Zionist band of people...count their numbers and kill them, down to the very last one!” The country funds the jihadist Muslim Brotherhood and has allied itself with Israel’s arch-enemy Iran, which supplies it with food, after Saudi Arabia cut off its land crossing in June.
The moral dilemma is brought into further perspective by the family of Oron Shaul, a soldier killed in action during the 2014 Operation Defensive Shield whose remains are still held hostage in Gaza by Hamas.
So far the three emissaries have failed to persuade Hamas to honor the family’s fundamental human right to bury their dead.
Qatar is Hamas’s ally and single largest donor, paying out hundreds of millions of so far. Contrary to the conventional wisdom concerning Iran, in the words of the late Shimon Peres, Qatar is “the world’s largest funder of terrorism.”
Therefore, it must be asked why the emir has apparently launched an offensive to buy off American Jewry in support of his regime. He has hired a Jewish-owned lobbying firm to represent Qatar before the US administration and among the Jewish community.
Qatar can become a friend of Israel and the Jewish people, but serious steps need to be made for that to happen. This inglorious dance must end, as long as Al Jazeera’s anti-Israel onslaught and Qatar’s support for Hamas both continue.
The American Jewish community needs to be clear – it will not let itself be used to whitewash the crimes of terrorism and antisemitism.