At a crowded Beverly Hills ballroom, a Mideast analyst warned a local Beverly Hills Jewish congregation that a war was on for the minds of the American public, one whose outcome could have a major impact on the security of the United States, Israel, and the Jewish people.
On May 25, following weekly Sabbath service conducted in the Sunset Ballroom at the Beverly Hills Hotel, David Reaboi, the senior vice president of the Security Studies Group, gave a lecture based on his recent cover story in The Jewish Journal, "Qatar Shows Two Faces to the World."
Approximately 40-50 Jewish men and women and a handful of non-Jewish supporters listened as Reaboi explained how the tiny nation of Qatar developed an oversized level of global influence, which it used to weaken U.S. security interests and destabilize the Middle East. Reaboi noted that Qatar is "kind of insufficiently appreciated as a threat both in the United States and specifically in the Jewish, pro-Israel community."
Reaboi described his focus on Qatar as developing out of years researching and countering the Muslim Brotherhood, which led him to determine, "there is no more important bankroller, financier of the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, than the nation of Qatar. In addition to that – that would be bad enough – in addition to that they are by far the most savvy when it comes to information warfare and when it comes to what we understand as lobbying in the United States."
Reaboi explained the influence operation in terms of a recent U.S. Senate vote: "During the time... we saw an effort from the U.S. Senate to stop U.S. arms sales in support to Saudi Arabia having to do with Yemen. We saw sort of coming out of the woodwork all the instruments of Qatari information warfare and lobbying power. So one by one by one, politicians stood up to bash the Saudis, sort of on behalf of the Qataris. And the media coverage has been unrelentingly slanted. It's just not telling the story."
Reaboi noted that techniques used for decades to demonize Israel were now more broadly employed: "So there's definitely a recognition here, that sort of the same playbook used against Israel for the last 30 years is now being used against the Islamists' other enemies. And public enemy number one happens to be Saudi Arabia."
However, Reaboi's critique was not limited to Qatari propagandists; he also called out Americans who should know better: "The second half of the article deals with the really troubling fact that a lot of this situation that I'm discussing was empowered by lobbyists who are prominent in the Jewish community. And this was kind of a terrible thing, it did horrible things to their reputations, deservedly so, but I name some names in the article, you can go and look. But it was tremendously damaging to people with very good pro-Israel bona fides to come out and sort of give Qatar a thumbs up and say 'Oh yes, yes, they're trying to move away from the Brotherhood' – just shamelessly spinning for the Qataris and, very importantly, steering very lucrative contracts into the states where some of these politicians live."
Reaboi explained Qatari dollars also influence politicians who also should know better: "I bet you didn't know that the most pro-Qatar, anti-Saudi politicians come out of South Carolina. Why? Republicans and Democrats, but mostly Republicans, why? Because the Qatari defense ministry opened up a plant and just put in $3 billion, we know... But all of a sudden Lindsey Graham goes from being very good on this stuff to being very bad on this stuff. Nikki Haley, she's great on Israel, terrible on this stuff. Rand Paul is another one. The list goes on and on."
During the question and answer session following his talk, Reaboi emphasized how allies in the United Arab Emirates had assisted in opposing Islamists operating within U.S. politics and that now was a moment when Arab states and Israel advocates might collaborate against a common enemy: "There is an opportunity here and I think that it is incumbent on all of us in the pro-Israel community to at least take stock of that and say 'hey, maybe there's some ways we can work together for the good of the world.'"