Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Qatar, the elephant in the room in war between Israel & Hamas

Qatar, in recent days, has been praised for helping broker a temporary ceasefire between Hamas and Israel which saw the release of dozens of hostages held by the terror group and over 100 Palestinians held by Israel.

While Qatar's position as a mediator cannot be disputed, the irony is that without Qatar's help Hamas might not even exist in the first place.

More than $1.8 billion has been supplied to Hamas, designated a terrorist organisation by a number of governments around the globe including the European Union, the United Kingdom and the United States. Indeed Qatar is a key financial backer and ally of the Palestinian militant organisation.

Hamas has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007, repeatedly attacking Israel. Hamas was founded in the 1980s and has been opposed to the late Yasser Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) since its inception. Unlike the PLO, Hamas does not recognize Israel's right to exist. Its emblem depicts the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, and the outline of the territory of Israel, Gaza and the West Bank as a single Palestinian state.

In this regard, and especially since the 7th October terror attacks on Israel, Hamas is seen as an existential threat by Israel.

In 2006, Hamas won the absolute majority in Gaza's general elections. In 2007, it solidified its hold on the coastal enclave through a violent coup. Since then, the West Bank has been controlled by the moderate Fatah party under Mahmoud Abbas, while Gaza has remained under Hamas' control.

But it has cemented its control only through vast sums of money flowing from its allies, the biggest of which is Qatar.

Qatar, which has been pouring money into the region since at least 2009, has insisted the money is not to help Hamas but rather the Palestinian people as a whole. However, given Hamas controls everything from the health ministry to its own military machine, this is a naive statement at best.

Qatar's hosting of a number of Hamas leaders on its own territory also seems to show where the gulf state's allegiance lies.

Moreover, following the Hamas surprise attack on southern Israel on 7th October 2023, and the outbreak of the 2023 Israel–Hamas war, Qatar's hosting of the Hamas political office in Doha has come under greater scrutiny.

Speaking to the media in Doha alongside Qatar's Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman al-Thani [pictured], US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, "there can be no more business as usual with Hamas."

But this call has largely fallen on deaf ears within the Qatari regime which continues to criticise Israel for what it calls a disproportionate military response to those attacks.

Putting aside Israel's response to the October terror attacks, and the large number of civilians that have been killed, Qatar too, has much to answer for.

So too have countries that have allowed Qatar to build its wealth within their territories.

If Qatar is responsible for funding a terror group, so too surely are nations complicit if they allow Qatar to raise funds on foreign soil.

Yet there appears to a blind eye turned when it comes to Qatar's business interests.

Much of this foreign investment is managed through the Qatar Investment Authority set up by Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani a member of the ruling Al Thani Qatari royal family. It is now headed by his son Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

Amongst its main holdings, the QIA have a number of key assets including Harrods as well as significant shares in a number of financial institutions and other companies.

The $1.8 billion reportedly given to Hamas is relatively insignificant compared to the billions invested in and made by the QIA as a whole. But nonetheless no-one has called out the financial links between Qatar and a designated terror group.

It is not only Hamas that Qatar is funding. Qatar has also been accused of indirectly funding other terrorist organisations of allowing terror financiers to operate from within Qatar.

Yet al Thani is welcomed by world leaders without a flinch of concern. Earlier this year the Qatar leader was greeted by the UK PM Rishi Sunak in Downing Street, yet there was no mention of financial ties to Hamas or the funding of terrorism. Indeed it was more focused on further financial deals with Qatar buying more UK assets [No.10]. And even this last week al Thani shook hands with Israeli President Isaac Herzog in Dubai at the beginning of COP28 where the main topic of discussion was rising global temperatures [Times of Israel].

India and China have been criticised for not doing enough to temper global climate change which has also been labelled an existential crisis.

But state sponsorship of terror groups is also a global threat. As such  al Thani and others like him need also to be called out for their complicity and funding of terror groups.

tvnewswatch, London, UK

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