By Rabbi Shmuley Boteach/JNS.org
The first responsibility of rabbis is to know the difference between right and wrong.
The recent news report in The Jerusalem Post that a group of prominent rabbis and Jewish leaders, led by Rabbi Menachem Genack, traveled to Qatar to meet with the country’s emir is shocking and heartbreaking. Here you have Qatar, the world’s largest funder of Hamas—a terrorist organization dedicated to the annihilation of not just Israel, but Jews anywhere—being whitewashed by Orthodox rabbis. And not just any Orthodox rabbis, but the head of the Orthodox Union’s global kosher authority.
That’s pretty ironic.
You can kosher cheese and you can kosher steak. But how can you kosher the financing of terror? The first biblical rule of kosher food is that blood is not kosher (Leviticus 17:10-12).
How can rabbis in America condone the killing of Jews in Israel by meeting and legitimizing the government that pays for their murder?
A few weeks ago, I was myself invited to meet the emir by the man organizing the whitewashing effort. My organization responded with two full-page ads in The New York Times declaring, “If Qatar Wants a PR Makeover, Stop Funding Terror.” On the bottom we added the headline, “Meeting with Qatar Condones Murder.”
Why? Because this is exactly what Qatar wants—to finance the slaughter of Jews without paying a price in international diplomacy.
Who would have thought that Orthodox Jews would be at the forefront of this legitimizing effort?
To clarify, Qatar isn’t any Arab state. It is, rather, the leading funder of Hamas, whose founding charter expresses the goal to kill Jews “wheresoever they may be found.” In 2012, Qatar pledged $400 to the Palestinian terror group. Apparently pleased to see Hamas had used this money to launch more than 5,000 rockets against Israeli civilians, Qatar ratcheted up its commitment by promising another $1 billion to the blood-thirsty leadership of Gaza in 2014.
As if its Jew-hatred couldn’t be more clear, Qatar hosts not just the Hamas leadership, but the man who may be described as the world’s number-one anti-Semite: Yusuf al-Qaradawi. Worse than denying the Holocaust, Qaradawi has praised Hitler for his slaughter of European Jews and prayed that Allah help him finish the job. “Oh Allah,” he cried in a sermon, “take this oppressive, Jewish, Zionist band of people…count their numbers, and kill them down to the very last one!” Qatar didn’t just tolerate that kind of genocidal hate speech—the country actually broadcast it on its own Al Jazeera network.
I’m not saying Qatar should never be allowed to repent. If the emir of Qatar wants to be brought back into the community of nations, all he needs to do is announce the immediate cessation of all funds being sent to Hamas and repudiate its genocidal killers. He should immediately expel Qaradawi, as well as Hamas terror leaders Ismail Haniyeh and Khaled Mashaal, who have been granted sanctuary in Qatar. He should stop the daily demonization of Israel that takes place on Al Jazeera, a veritable glut of anti-Semitic poison designed to make the world hate the Jewish state. Until such steps are taken, Qatar cannot be allowed to whitewash its crimes.
This is not the first time Rabbi Genack and I have clashed over Israel. We live in the same community in New Jersey, and I have always respected Rabbi Genack as a scholar and friend. Years ago, I invited him to my home to meet my close friend Cory Booker, at the time mayor of Newark and now a U.S. senator. Cory had served as president of my student organization, the Oxford University L’Chaim Society, and regularly attended our Shabbat dinners in Englewood, N.J.
Later, when Cory shattered American Jewish hearts by voting for the Iran nuclear deal, amid Iran’s daily promises of a second holocaust of the Jews, Rabbi Genack was one of the Jewish leaders instrumental in trying to protect Cory’s reputation in American Jewry and hold on to his quickly vanishing Jewish support.
This led to serious pain in my relationship with Rabbi Genack. It was just beginning to heal when I suddenly saw this shocking story about Qatar.
The Orthodox Union put out a statement that Rabbi Genack is in Qatar in a private capacity and that his actions do not reflect on the organization at all.
Sorry, that won’t cut it. You cannot have a top executive of the most prominent Orthodox Jewish organization in the U.S. playing global diplomat with terror financiers against Jews, and then suddenly say that his actions have no reflection on the organization where he occupies a senior post.
Protectors of Qatar, especially those who are on the country’s payroll, are attempting to portray the isolation of Qatar as a Middle East power play and a dispute with Saudi Arabia. They’re saying that the Saudis are just as bad, so why is Israel growing closer to them?
Obviously, nobody is saying the Saudis are blameless. Indeed, Saudi Arabia has a long way to go to so show that its current reforms actually bring about a moderate Islam that never again incites the faithful.
But Saudi Arabia is not funding Hamas. It is not financing the slaughter of Jews through a genocidal organization committed to Israel’s destruction. It is not cozying up to Iran—a mutual arch-enemy of Israel and Saudi Arabia.
The concept of kosher is more than just an examination of body parts and mixing milk and meat. It communicates a vital idea of taking something as mundane as meat and elevating it into the realm of holiness. It conveys the human capacity to live a sacred life in accordance with God’s will.
Rabbis cannot kosher countries like Qatar. The emir can only kosher himself by immediately ceasing all funding of terror against Jews.
No matter how much you package it, blood is never kosher.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is the international best-selling author of 31 books, most recently “The Israel Warrior.” The winner of the London Times Preacher of the Year Award, he has been called by Newsweek “the most famous rabbi in America” and named by The Jerusalem Post as one of the 50 most influential Jews in the world. Follow him on Twitter: @RabbiShmuley.