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Qatar and its Jewish friends

Joseph Allaaham, whom JTA reports is an owner of kosher eateries, apparently received $1.45 million from Qatar to woo Jewish and other leaders to its side in its dispute with Saudi Arabia, according to Mother Jones. Allaham gave $100,000 to the Zionist Organization of America. In Allaham’s filing as an agent of a foreign government, he says he also gave $100,000 to Our Soldiers Speak and $50,000 to Mike Huckabee, a former governor of Arkansas. Both Our Soldiers Speak and Huckabee are pro-Israel.

American Jews have no business taking huge sums from Arab governments that do not recognize Israel and that, in Qatar’s case, support Hamas. American Jews have no business accepting payments to take sides in a complex intra-Arab dispute. Though these disputes have an impact on Israel, and though pro-Israel actors have the right to try to steer the policies of these countries as they see fit, the acceptance of large sums from these countries taints any influence they may have and any opinion they may express.

Morton Klein, head of the Zionist Organization of America, has said that he would return the $100,000 if he determined that the funds came from Qatar. This is only right.

Nick Muzin, an adviser to Republicans, also had a paid lobbying relationship with Qatar. He ended it. When Allaham ended his relationship with Qatar, he denounced Qatar.  Talk about two sides of one’s mouth. First, take the money, in the seven figures no less, then denounce the donor. There is no credibility in either the denunciation or the earlier, heavily subsidized efforts to do PR for Qatar.

Klein has visited Qatar. So has Malcolm Hoenlein, executive VP of the Conference of Presidents, Alan Dershowitz, and other pro-Israel activists. No problem here — since no money changed hands. The lobbying was done for its own sake, not for personal gain. Klein says he used his visit to express concerns about Qatar’s support for Hamas, its closeness to Iran and hostility to Israel on Al Jazeera, the Qatar-backed TV network. No doubt, other Jews have lobbied Qatar to change its policies.

How effective all this Jewish lobbying might be remains an open question. Here you have a complex dispute between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, with other Arab countries lining up on one side or the other.  We think professors and activists, however talented they may be, are out of their depth in the complexities and intrigues of intra-Arab diplomacy.

Further case in point: One Elliott Broidy, a Jewish giver to President Trump’s campaign, has joined an Arab-American businessman, George Nader, in lobbying the Trump administration on behalf of the United Arab Emirates, a backer of Saudi Arabia in the dispute with Qatar. Now, reports JTA, Broidy has sued Muzin and Qatar for allegedly hacking his emails, which led to revelations about his alleged sordid behavior in his personal life.

If you want to be a pro-Israel activist in public, especially in such uncharted territory as potential Arab friendship with Israel, you have to be squeaky clean, as anything else magnifies an offense.

You also have to be sober, skeptical, culturally alert, a quick study, a good judge of character —and a knowledge of Arabic wouldn’t hurt.

Copyright © 2018 by the Intermountain Jewish News

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