The Doha Forum, which was held on Dec. 10-11, markets itself as a “global platform for dialogue” at which policymakers discuss global challenges like “energy transition” and “vaccine innovation.” But a sizeable chunk of this year’s two-day conference, held in the wake of the Oct. 7 Hamas massacre, concentrated on Qatar’s real passions: defending Hamas and defaming Israel.
On day one of the forum, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said, “Hamas is an integral part of the Palestinian mosaic.” This was restated in a later panel by Al Sharq Forum president Wadah Khanfar, who declared that the Palestinians should not “try to please anyone” because Hamas has popularity, legitimacy and “has to be part of [a Palestinian future].”
Moderator and former Al Jazeera anchor Mehdi Hasan agreed that this “was clearly true sitting here in the Middle East.” The remainder of the discussion was spent regurgitating buzzwords demonizing Israel as an “apartheid,” “racist,” “settler-colonialist project” that needed “decolonizing.”
Even before the weekend’s main event, the Doha Youth Forum featured Norman Finkelstein, who in the past has accused Jews of exploiting the memory of the Holocaust. He chose not to label Hamas “despicable murderers” because, to him, “this is a more complex moral question.”
Of course, no country is more pro-Hamas and anti-Israel than Iran, which provides 93% of Hamas’s “military” budget and gleefully celebrated the killing of the one-thousandth Israeli. Day two featured Iranian Foreign Minister Hossen Amir-Abdollahian, whose remarks declared Hamas a “liberation movement,” minimized its atrocities and explained that Oct. 7 “was not the starting point.”
Amir-Abdollahian’s “contextualizing” comments echoed those of the keynote speaker, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Infamously, Guterres said on Oct. 24 that the massacre of 1,200 people and kidnapping of 240 more on Oct. 7 “did not happen in a vacuum.” In his speech at Doha, Guterres reiterated his disappointment at the failure of a U.N. resolution—activated by him—that sought to rescue Hamas by calling on Israel to implement a permanent ceasefire in Gaza. As should be obvious, such a move would only help Hamas rearm, cling to power and further immiserate the Palestinians themselves.
All this was music to the ears of the forum’s sponsors, Qatar’s ruling Al-Thani royal family, whose patronage and ongoing defense of Hamas has been entirely unmasked. Rather than denounce Hamas on Oct. 7, the Qatari Foreign Ministry issued a villainous statement saying “Israel alone” was responsible for what happened even while the burnt corpses of kibbutzniks were still smoldering. Meanwhile, Qatari-controlled Al Jazeera continues to pump out a relentless stream of slick documentaries attacking not only Israel but other nations like Germany and India deemed inappropriately supportive of the Jewish state. Hamas is depicted as a humanitarian organization.
In the wake of Oct. 7, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken rightly stated, “There can be no more business as usual” between Hamas and Qatar. The Doha Forum was a missed opportunity for influential speakers to make the same point.
Qatar cannot be allowed to continue to host the orchestrators of that heinous crime against humanity, including Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh, who lives in luxury in Doha, from which he celebrated Hamas’s savagery. Qatar must detain Haniyeh and his senior Hamas accomplices and remand them into U.S. or Israeli custody.
Moreover, Qatar could have brought Hamas’s 240-plus hostages home on Oct. 8 by exercising its leverage, given the $360-$480 million it gives Hamas each year. Instead, Qatar has chosen to negotiate on behalf of Hamas in hopes of hamstringing Israel and keeping the terrorists in power. Despite Qatar’s much-vaunted “mediation” role, 20 hostages have already died while in the hands of Hamas, which has just threatened to kill the remaining 137.
Yet in the end, Doha Forum participants either parroted Qatar’s rhetoric or looked the other way.