A recent meeting in Doha, Qatar, between the Palestinian group Hamas and Afghanistan’s Taliban has served as yet another reminder of Qatar’s double game of harboring and sponsoring Islamic extremists while simultaneously pretending to be an ally of the U.S. and other Western countries.
This meeting, which took place on October 26, was attended by Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh who, together with several officials from that Islamist group, relocated from the Gaza Strip to Qatar over the past few years.
Last year, Haniyeh, now based in Doha, was quick to telephone Taliban leaders to “congratulate” them on the “defeat of the American occupation of Afghanistan.” Haniyeh said that Hamas sees the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan as a prelude for the elimination of “all forces on injustice,” especially Israel.
Undoubtedly, every word that comes out of the mouth of Hamas leaders has to be approved by the rulers of Qatar. If these rulers did not want the Hamas leaders to incite violence against Israel and the U.S., they would have told them to be quiet a long time ago.
Hamas leaders, in short, are using Qatar as a base for calling for the destruction of Israel. Yet this does not seem to bother the rulers of Qatar or its allies in the West, including the U.S.
This is the same Qatar whose leaders claim that they condemn all acts of terrorism and violent extremism. Recently, the Qatari ambassador to Spain, Abdullah bin Ibrahim Al-Hamar, reiterated Qatar’s “keenness to harness modern knowledge and all possible tools to eliminate the scourge of terrorism and violent extremism conducive to terrorism.”
In keeping with the double game, it is clear that the Qatari ambassador’s words were directed to foreign, and not Arab, audiences.
It is disquieting, to say the least, that a country that hosts the leadership of a Palestinian group that carried out thousands of terror attacks against Israel is talking about Qatar’s desire to help eliminate terrorism and extremism.
It is also disquieting that Qatar is making financial contributions to the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Office to prevent terrorist attacks, protect vulnerable targets and help to recover from terrorist attacks, while it continues to pour millions of dollars into the Gaza Strip, thereby emboldening Hamas, whose leaders and charter champion violence and call for the destruction of Israel.
Haniyeh is not the only Hamas leader living under the patronage of Qatar. Several other Hamas leaders, including Khaled Mashaal, Hussam Badran, Izzat al-Risheq and Sami Khater, have also been welcomed to move their offices and homes to the Gulf state.
In addition to hosting the Hamas leaders and their families, Qatar has been providing millions of dollars to Palestinians in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. Although most of the funds go to impoverished families, the Qatari aid indirectly helps Hamas to hold on to power. Qatar’s beneficence exempts Hamas from its responsibilities towards the Palestinians living under its rule in the Gaza Strip and allows the terror group instead to direct its resources and energies towards building tunnels to attack Israel and manufacturing weapons, including rockets, in preparation for their next war to try to destroy Israel.
The Hamas leaders have often been criticized by Palestinians and other Arabs for leading comfortable lives in Qatar while calling on their people in the Gaza Strip to continue the jihad (holy war) against Israel.
Qatar, however, evidently cares nothing about the interests of ordinary Palestinians, such as boosting their economy and improving their living conditions. What it cares about is embracing the leaders of Hamas to make Qatar appear to the Arabs and Muslims as the main supporter of the Palestinian “resistance”—a euphemism for the “armed struggle” against Israel.
The presence of the Hamas leaders in Qatar does not surprise those who are familiar with the Gulf state’s history of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, of which Hamas is an offshoot.
For several decades, Qatar warmly embraced the late Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, an Egyptian scholar who headed the radical Islamic organization World Association of Muslim Scholars. Through this organization, he concentrated and coordinated the activity of radical Islamic scholars around the world, many of them members of the Muslim Brotherhood. According to a report by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center:
“Qaradawi is mainly known as the key figure in shaping the concept of violent jihad and the one who allowed carrying out terror attacks, including suicide bombings, against Israeli citizens, the U.S. forces in Iraq, and some of the Arab regimes.... Due to Qaradawi’s attitude toward violent jihad, he was banned from entering several countries. In 1999, he was banned from entering the U.S. In 2009, he was banned from entering Britain due to his support of suicide bombings in Israel. Between the years 2013-2018, he was placed on the Interpol wanted list at the request of Egyptian police.”
In spite of Qaradawi’s public support for terrorism and inflammatory rhetoric, the Qataris continued to host him and many of his followers, as well as the leaders of Hamas—in this way turning the emirate into a center for spreading global jihad and terrorism.
The Qataris own the Al-Jazeera TV network, whose Arabic channel has long been described as a platform for the Muslim Brotherhood and as a vehicle for the indefensible. Throughout the Iraq War, “Gruesome images of dead Western soldiers were broadcast. Suicide bombings were described as ‘paradise operations’ by the channel’s hosts and terrorist activities were presented as acts of ‘resistance.’” Qaradawi “would broadcast sermons to 60 million viewers and describe the Holocaust as a ‘divine punishment,’ which he hoped would be repeated.”
While Al Jazeera demands “press freedom,” according to Akhtam Suliman, their former Berlin correspondent, it “is an entirely state-owned network, whose ‘reporting is precisely aligned with Qatari foreign policy.’”
Qatar’s former Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim is reported to have confirmed that Al-Jazeera is controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood. Al-Jazeera’s Arabic channel is also known for its rabid anti-Israel and anti-U.S. tone, as well as its incitement against several Arab heads of state and regimes who have long been considered America’s traditional and loyal allies in the Arab world.
It is this detrimental role that, in 2017, prompted four Arab countries—Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt—to break diplomatic relations with Qatar. The four countries also barred Qatari citizens and closed all their borders to Qatar. According to the official Saudi Press Agency, the kingdom broke ties with Qatar “to protect its national security from the dangers of terrorism and extremism.”
The Saudis accused Qatar of:
“... embracing various terrorist and sectarian groups aimed at destabilizing the region, including the Muslim Brotherhood group, Daesh (ISIS) and Al-Qaeda, constantly promoting the literature and plans of these groups through its media, supporting the activities of the Iranian-backed terrorist groups in the governorate of Qatif in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, its continued financing, adopting and sheltering of extremists who seek to undermine the stability and unity at home and abroad, and using the media to fuel the internal strife.”
The same year, the four Arab countries placed 59 individuals and 12 organizations based in, or funded by, Qatar on a terrorist list. The list included Yusuf al-Qaradawi.
Qatar has long hosted the largest U.S. airbase in the Middle East; however, Qatar is not hosting the base out of love for the Americans, but as a way of distracting attention from its support for the Muslim Brotherhood and other extremist groups.
Qatar might even have convinced some Americans that it is doing the U.S. a favor by allowing the U.S. airbase to be there. How comfortable it must be to export terrorism while having the protection of the U.S. military right on your own soil.
Notably, the presence of the military base on its soil has not stopped Qatar from pursuing its anti-Israel and anti-U.S. rhetoric and encouraging global jihad and extremism.
“Incitement against the U.S. on Al-Jazeera through the years has not been limited to numerous examples of disinformation or hate speech, but to actual calls for terrorism inside it,” according to a report by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).
“When Al-Jazeera gave full coverage to a 2009 speech by prominent Kuwaiti Islamist academic and politician Dr. Abdullah Al-Nafisi... he not only presented criticism of U.S. foreign policy... but also promoted the idea of terrorism inside the U.S. either through anthrax or by targeting nuclear power plants.”
It was Al-Jazeera that built up Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden as an Arab and Muslim leader. In July 2001, an Al-Jazeera host praised him as the “slender Bin Laden who has made the greatest power in history [the U.S.] shudder at the sound of his name.”
Al-Jazeera has provided a platform for Islamist clerics who incite violence against Jews and Americans. “We will conquer the world,” said one of the clerics, Ahmad Al-Baghdadi, “so that ‘There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is the Prophet of Allah’ will be triumphant over the domes of Moscow, Washington and Paris... we will annihilate America.”
In July 2021, the U.S. State Department launched an investigation into alleged Qatari support for Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Ahead of the World Cup in Doha, the Qataris exerted tremendous efforts to beautify their image in world public opinion and conceal their long-time role in sheltering terrorists and encouraging terrorism and extremism.
Because of the World Cup in Doha, Qatar has been playing nice to the West as part of its effort to continue deceiving the Americans and others into thinking that the Qataris are contributing to security and stability in the Middle East.
Qatar, however, is no friend of the U.S. or its Arab allies. In fact, Qatar’s endorsement of global jihad remains a source of intense concern for many Arabs, who are asking when the U.S. will wake up and see how the Qataris have been using their wealth to subvert America by showering it with gifts, including financial contributions to U.S. universities and think tanks.
As long as Qatar continues to fund and host the Hamas leadership, and as long as it continues to use Al-Jazeera to encourage jihad and extremism, the only real game that the emirate is playing, apart from the World Cup, is one of successfully deceiving the Americans.
Khaled Abu Toameh is an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem.