As Israel wages its righteous war against Hamas, it is important for the United States to be wary of Qatar, which is already attempting to establish itself as a mediator.
Qatar is not a neutral agent, despite its attempts to portray itself as such. Time and again, it has supported the region's most radical nations and paramilitaries, all to the detriment of American and Western interests.
In an interview published over the weekend, Eyal Hulata, formerly Israel's National Security Advisor, said that Qatar had funded "military operations in the military branch [of Hamas], and they'd done so while colluding with the Iranians."
Beginning in 2012, the Israeli government allowed Qatar to deliver cash to Gaza. Between 2012 and 2021, Qatar provided $1.5 billion.
Hamas is known to steal aid intended for Gaza civilians, whether in the form of cash or materials, such as cement and fuel, which go towards terror tunnels and rockets. Hamas leaders skim off the top and enjoy luxurious lifestyles in Doha, Qatar's capital, where Hamas's political office is located
In June 2017, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt severed relations with Qatar, accusing it of "adopting various terrorist and sectarian groups aimed at destabilizing the region." The four countries issued 13 demands to the Qatari monarchy, the most significant of which was to break military and political relations with Iran.
Qatar ignored them. While it was estranged from its Arab neighbors, Iranian exports to Qatar quadrupled and Doha reestablished diplomatic ties with Tehran. It also housed the Taliban's political office before that group returned to power in Afghanistan. Qatar's largesse was backed by Washington.
Qatar has financed arms shipments to Hezbollah, Iran's proxy in Lebanon. Charities based in Doha, with the knowledge of Qatari government officials, have delivered cash to Hezbollah.
In 2021, the Israeli government reported that Qatar was financing the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Iran's instrument of terrorism and oppression that is tasked with maintaining the Iranian revolution at home and exporting it abroad.
Qatar seeks to spread its malign influence in America as well. It is the single largest foreign donor to American universities, donating at least $4.7 billion between 2001-2021. This money, much of which went unreported by its recipients, comes with strings attached. The funding has strengthened universities' biases in their teaching about Islam and the Middle East.
Qatar's propaganda is broadcast via Al Jazeera, which the Qatari government owns. The network provides a platform to the viciously genocidal leaders of Hamas, including the group's chief Ismail Haniyeh (who calls Doha home) and Ghazi Hamad, who recently threatened, "We must teach Israel a lesson, and we will do this again and again. The Al-Aqsa Flood [Hamas's name for the Oct. 7 massacre] is just the first time and there will be a second, a third, a fourth."
The late Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader Yusuf Al-Qaradawi was based in Doha and for years hosted a prime time program on Al Jazeera called "Sharia and Life," which had some 60 million viewers every week. He used the program to call on God "to kill the Jewish Zionists, every last one of them." On another occasion, he said, "Throughout history, Allah has imposed upon the [Jewish] people who would punish them for their corruption. The last punishment was carried out by Hitler."
Qaradawi also praised and sanctioned Palestinian suicide bombers on the network.
Al Jazeera has also provided a platform for virulent anti-Americanism. The network interviewed the Al-Qaeda masterminds of 9/11 shortly after the attacks. In 2004, it broadcast a speech by Osama bin Laden in which the terror mastermind justified the 9/11 attacks and threatened Americans with future terrorism. Al Jazeera broadcasters have called suicide bombers "martyrs." The network was front and center in supporting the anti-American Muslim Brotherhood regime in Egypt.
Do Israel and the United States believe they can conduct business as usual with a country that uses its state-owned network to broadcast such visceral hatred throughout the world?
It is scandalous that Qatar is a major non-NATO American ally. The U.S. should use all the formidable leverage at its disposal to force Qatar to extradite Hamas leaders so they can be brought to justice. If Qatar refuses to do so, it should be named a state-sponsor of terrorism.
Qatar tries to represent itself as a neutral arbiter, a "grownup" that can be trusted to act prudently and work with all sides.
This is a lie. Qatar uses its ostensible "neutrality" to advance the interests of Iran and terrorism, offers a comfortable home to terrorist leaders and provides a platform for dangerous radicals to spread hateful and genocidal language.
Gregg Roman is director of the Middle East Forum.