In recent decades, Qatar has financed ventures that have bolstered its image as a patron of culture, progress and hospitality. From elite soccer sponsorships, funding of Western universities, its airline (the “world’s best”) and its Al Jazeera network, Qatar excels at public relations.
Qatar has unsurprisingly developed strong business and security relationships with some of the world’s most powerful nations. The United States, for instance, enjoys $185 billion in business with Qatar and hosts its largest Middle Eastern military outpost there. When it retreated from Afghanistan, the United States even relied on Qatar’s help with evacuations. Doha will now “represent U.S. interests” at the Qatari embassy in Afghanistan, a testament to U.S. dependence on Qatar.
However, Qatar is no ally. One must never forget how Qatar counter-intuitively supplied the “Taliban’s political leadership” with a safe haven, thus helping reinstate it into power. One must also never forget the billions of dollars that Qatar has reportedly injected in aggregate into Hamas, Muslim Brotherhood affiliates and Islamists largely responsible for Libya and Syria’s civil wars. Doha’s optics contrast with its Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde duality as a patron of terrorism—a reality exposed when Qatar allowed Hamas and Taliban leaders to intermingle on its soil this year.
Documents discovered by the Middle East Forum about the finances of the regime-controlled Sheikh Eid Bin Mohammad Al Thani Charitable Association—also known as the Eid Charity—further confirm this dualism, but more so, how Qatar uses philanthropy to disguise its ties to Islamists. As Qatar strives to project itself as a patron of humanity, it’s time to expose Qatar’s PR efforts and some of its select beneficiaries.
What better place to start than the disputed Palestinian territories, which receives seemingly endless coverage from Qatar’s Al Jazeera network? The Eid Charity documents reveal the distribution of more than 1,000 grants to 27 organizations across the Palestinian territories, worth almost $90 million.
Cue the Qatar Committee for the Reconstruction of Gaza (QCRG), which has received approximately $3 million from the Eid Charity, per the documents. A Qatari government agency that has received hundreds of millions of dollars in years past, the QCRG purports to be humanitarian, boasting about its grants to the “Palestinian people” and featuring photos of innocent beneficiaries: children and hospital patients.
Though sustaining life, the QCRG simultaneously endorses those who proactively seek genocide, such as the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), a mostly Iran-funded terrorist organization committed to Israel’s “destruction.”
Qatar has no humanitarian justification for its affiliations with the PIJ, which, per the Council on Foreign Relations, “does not participate in the political process.” Yet QCRG chairman Ambassador Mohammed Al Emadi engages the PIJ’s most prominent leaders—meeting Khaled Al Batsh, the PIJ’s “leader in Gaza,” and Khader Habib, a senior leader, both of whom Emadi invited to his residence in October 2019.
In mid-2019, Emadi attended (and presumably hosted) a press conference featured in photos with the PIJ. There, he expressed his respect for “all Palestinian factions” and “their sacrifices,” while describing the PIJ as “one of the most important factions.” He further acknowledged having “direct meetings and contacts” with the PIJ’s leadership, whom he commended for its “positive attitudes.”
Unsurprisingly, Emadi has been thanked by the PIJ’s leadership for Qatar’s role in Gaza, and likewise, by the leadership of Hamas. Emadi regularly meets high-profile officials such as Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’s “political bureau chief,” and Yahya Sinwar, Gaza’s “de facto ruler” whom Emadi also received in his residence.
In 2012, former Qatari Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani even joined Emadi in meeting Ismail Haniyeh—presumably to oversee the implementation of charity projects, a testament to Qatar’s willingness to embrace terrorist organizations at its highest levels of governance (0:09).
Qatar has also engaged organizations with second-degree ties to Hamas. Cue the Ibn Baz Charitable Society—a Salafist organization presumably named after its namesake, “the most senior Islamic authority to open the door to the religious legitimization of Palestinian terrorism.”
It has received $3.5 million despite its leader, Sheikh Omar al-Homs, having espoused anti-Semitism, claiming “the Jews have inflicted harm on all nations that have lived with them.” While acknowledging tensions with Hamas, al-Homs has encouraged further cooperation, observing, “the goal that we see is to bring hearts … closer and postpone disputes before the battle with the Jews … Hamas bears the slogan of Islam, and whatever our differences, Islam brings us together.”
Sheikh al-Homs ultimately seeks to “expand” his organization’s base and radicalism “to the West Bank.” Qatar hosted al-Homs when he was once unable to return to the Gaza Strip.
A last beneficiary warranting mention is the Islamic Charitable Society of Hebron (ICSH). A “part of Hamas’s daw’a network” between 2000 and 2004, ICSH has been outlawed by Israel and identified by the German Intelligence Service as “directly linked to HAMAS.” It functioned as a “coordinating organization” for the Union of Good, which, fabricated by Hamas’s leadership, transferred funds to Hamas and was consequently designated by the U.S. Treasury in 2008. In 2020, the Palestinian Authority arrested ICSH’s head, Fadeel Jabareen, alongside other suspected Hamas activists for illegally distributing charity in the West Bank. It has received almost $5 million in Eid Charity aid.
In sum, Qatar’s “philanthropy” has allowed it to boost its public relations while shrouding in impunity its efforts to engage Islamists. The newly-revealed Eid Charity documents serve as a reminder that much remains to be discovered when it comes to investigating the breadth and consequences of Qatar’s financing, whether in the disputed Palestinian territories or elsewhere around the world.
Jordan Cope is the Middle East Forum’s Qatari Finance Fellow.
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