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Hamas gets a new leader after releasing new political manifesto

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Update 05/17 #03

This Update concerns recent changes in Hamas, including the appointment of a new head of its politburo - who is basically head of the organisation overall - as well as the release of a new political "document of general principles and policies" which appears to soften some of Hamas' more extreme traditional stances.

We begin with a backgrounder on the new Hamas politburo head, former Gaza leader Ismail Haniyeh. In particular, the Middle East Media and Research Institute has put together a valuable dossier of Haniyah's past public statements and actions, complete with original sources. They include documenting Haniyeh's consistently extreme expressed views about Jihad and terrorism, about liberating all of "Palestine" and never recognising Israel under any circumstances, and his anti-American and even pro-bin Laden rhetoric. For this profile of Haniyeh in his own words, CLICK HERE

Next up is a good summary of the new political manifesto released by Hamas - which explicitly is a not a replacement for the group's blatantly antisemitic charter - from Israeli intelligence analyst Lt. Col. (ret.) Jonathan D. Halevi. Halevi explains what the document says in eight quick points, including the continued religious rejection of any non-Muslim rights anywhere in the land of "Palestine" and support for armed struggle to destroy Israel, as well as a new step of recognition of the PLO and cosmetic changes about not opposing Jews as such. Halevi then discusses the purpose of the release of the document at the present time, which include attempting to open dialogue with international actors to demonstrate time is not on Israel's side, and most importantly, laying the groundwork for taking over the PLO while undermining the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. For this solid short analysis of the Hamas document, CLICK HERE. For a more detailed look at the exact provisions of the document, see this analysis from the the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center - plus anyone who has not done so, should definitely have a look at the five key take-outs of the document produced by AIJAC's own Ahron Shapiro.

Finally, expert on Palestinian politics Jonathan Schanzer, together with colleague Kate Harvard, calls attention to one important salient commonality about the announcements of both the new Hamas leadership and the policy document - both took place in Doha, Qatar. This reflects the reality that Qatar is backing, whitewashing, and bankrolling Hamas, an internationally-banned terrorist organisation - and likely also had a hand in drafting the new "political document". Schanzer and Harvard also assemble evidence that Qatar is also backing al-Qaeda-linked groups and the Taliban, and allowing other terrorists free rein in Doha. They call on governments to start acting on the reality that Qatar is sponsoring terrorists. To read their argument in full, CLICK HERE.

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The Positions And Statements Of Hamas's New Political Bureau Head Isma'il Haniya

 

"We Are Truly A People Who Love Death As Much As Our Enemies Love Life"; Bin Laden Was A "Muslim Mujahid... May Allah Cover Him With His Mercy, Next To The Prophets, The Righteous, And The Martyrs"


May 9, 2017
MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6914
 
 
On May 6, 2017, Hamas announced that its senior official Isma'il Haniya had been elected as head of its political bureau, in place of Khaled Mash'al, who had held this position since 1996. Haniya, who had been Khaled's deputy, was elected in a movement-internal procedure that took place simultaneously in Gaza and the West Bank via video conference. Haniya previously served as Hamas's leader and prime minister in Gaza.

Over the years, MEMRI has presented Haniya's views and positions on various issues. In his statements Haniya reiterated his movement's commitment to the values of jihad and martyrdom, stressing that jihad is a religious duty that must never be subject to negotiations and that Palestinians are "a people who love death as much as [their] enemies love life." He emphasized that armed resistance is a Palestinian right and a "strategic option" which Hamas will pursue and intensify until the final liberation of Palestine "from the river to the sea." He also emphasized that Hamas regards it as its mission to develop increasingly sophisticated means of warfare, from rockets to attack tunnels, and to train the next generation of fighters in their effective use. Accordingly, he praised terrorists who had carried out attacks on Israelis, including on civilians, calling them heroes. He also emphasized that Hamas would never recognize Israel, under any circumstances.

Haniya's rhetoric has been consistently anti-American, for instance when he condemned the U.S. for killing "the mujahid" bin Laden, calling this an expression of America's "policy of oppression," and when he hoped that Allah would "declare war" on the U.S.

The following is a sampling of statements by Haniya, as presented in MEMRI reports published between 2008 and today.



Isma'il Haniya (image: palinfo.com)
 
"We Love Martyrdom, Whose Path Our Leaders Followed In Death"

At a March 23, 2014 Hamas rally in Gaza under the heading "Perseverance and Loyalty to the Martyr's Path," marking a decade after the death of the movement's founder, Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, Haniya stressed the value of martyrdom and called for liberating Palestine via resistance and sacrifice. He said: "All the decision-makers within Palestine and abroad must understand the message conveyed by this rally: Yes, we are a people that yearn for death, just as our enemies yearn for life. We yearn for martyrdom for the same goal for which our leaders died, just as the others love their seats of power. We do not demand jobs or seats [of power]. [You can] take all the jobs and all the seats and leave us the homeland."

Addressing Israel, Haniya said: "The resistance conceals more than you can imagine. The occupation will pay dearly for any aggression or foolish measure it takes. Oh Zionists, you still have Yassin's blood on your hands... We ejected you from Gaza in the days when we had limited weaponry and when you oppressed us in the solitary confinement cells of the Saraya [compound] in Gaza [once the seat of the Israeli prison, and the site of the rally]. Today we are stronger. We have developed the resistance and it has redoubled its strength..." He added: "Self-sacrifice and resistance are the way to liberate Palestinian soil and restore Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa... Out of deprivation, we shall establish the balance of terror. Out of the ruins, we shall rock Tel Aviv. We our bare hands, we shall dig into the rock and do the impossible..."

See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 5709, Hamas Gaza Rally: In A Few Years The Resistance Will Destroy Israel, April 11, 2014.
 
Palestine Will Be Liberated "From River to Sea"; "Jerusalem Shall Not Be Divided Into Western And Eastern Jerusalem"
In a Friday sermon he gave in Kairouan during a January 2015 visit to Tunisia, Haniya reiterated Hamas's commitment to liberating Palestine "from the river to the sea," telling his audience: "Your honor is the honor of Palestine – Palestine from the [Mediterranean] Sea to the [Jordan] River... The land of Palestine, oh brothers and sisters, is an Islamic waqf, as decreed by the second caliph, Omar ibn Al-Khattab. We shall not relinquish the Islamic waqf on the land of Palestine, and Jerusalem shall not be divided into Western and Eastern Jerusalem. Jerusalem is a single united [city], and Palestine stretches from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River, and from Naqoura [Rosh Ha-Niqra] to Umm Al-Rashrash [Eilat] in the south."
 
Hamas Will Never Recognize Israel
During this visit he also reiterated Hamas's refusal to recognize Israel: "[We say] to the monstrous entity on the land of Palestine: As long as the people in Tunisia, in Sfax, say: 'The people wants the liberation of Palestine,' we say to Israel: 'Dark days await you, Allah willing.' Dark days await the Zionist entity. Brothers and sisters, we were told [during the Gaza War] that if we wanted the war to stop and the siege to be lifted, and if we wanted the red carpet to be rolled out, so that we could reach the White House and other places, we would have to recognize Israel, to curse the resistance, and to release [Gilad] Shalit. We said, from the very heart of the siege, from under the ruins, from the places being bombarded by the F-16 planes… We said then, and I say to you now, in the capital of south Tunisia: We will never ever recognize Israel."

See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 4416, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya, in Visit to Tunisia: We Shall Not Relinquish Palestine from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River; Crowd Chants: 'Killing the Jews Is A Duty', January 11, 2012.
 
Terrorist Who Participated In Deadly Tel Aviv Shooting Is "A Hero"
Following a June 8, 2016 shooting attack in Tel Aviv, in which four Israeli civilians were killed and six were wounded, Haniya posted a response that welcomed the attack and praised its perpetrators, two cousins from Hebron named Ahmad Moussa Makhamra and Khaled Muhammad Moussa Makhamra. He tweeted a photo of one of the terrorists (see below), remarking: "This is one of the heroes that carried out the operation in Tel Aviv. A thousand [wishes of] mercy and light upon your good souls."



See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6466, Palestinian Reactions Immediately Following Tel Aviv Shooting: It Was 'A Natural Reaction'; 'A Ramadan Operation'; Palestinian Presidency One Day After Shooting: 'We Oppose Actions Against Civilians From Any Side' , July 9, 2016.
 
"Resistance [Is] A Strategic Option"; "Hamas Will Continue To Gradually Build Up Its Weapons... And Will Maintain Them Until Palestine Is Fully Liberated"
During a visit to a Hamas military training camp in April 2014, Haniya stressed that resistance is "a strategic option": "Hamas's enterprise focuses on resistance as a strategic option for [realizing the goal of] liberation and return and not [the goal of establishing] a temporary state or a state in the Gaza Strip." In a Friday sermon in early October 2014, shortly after the end of the round of fighting with Israel in July and August of that year, Haniya said: "Hamas will continue to gradually build up its weapons, its means of resistance, and its strength, and will maintain them until Palestine is fully liberated."

See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6020, Hamas Prepares For Next Military Confrontation With Israel, April 13, 2015.
 
"This Magnificent Creative [Palestinian] People, Which Began With Rocks And Continued With Rockets, Can Persist In Its Resistance And Its Intifada, Generation After Generation"
In a prerecorded video speech screened during a December 8, 2015 conference in Beirut, held under the title "Support the Al-Quds Intifada,"[1] Haniya said that the Palestinians' armed resistance would continue, "generation after generation, until liberation": "The intifada will continue, even by force of inertia, because our people have embarked on a path and will never stop, even if everything surrounding it is dense and difficult in light of the fading international [interest in the] matter and the countries' and peoples' attending to their own problems and wounds... The intifada has not yet revealed all its [means and methods] to the occupation. This magnificent creative people, which began with rocks and continued with rockets, can persist in its resistance and its intifada, generation after generation, until liberation." He also called on the Arab and Islamic ummah to support the intifada in all possible ways.

See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6258, Hizbullah Deputy Secretary-General Na'im Qassem At Beirut Conference For Palestine: Our Goal Is To Eliminate Israel, January 12, 2016.
 
Our Training Camps Are "A Strategic Enterprise [Aimed At] Raising The Generation Of Victory And Liberation"; Resistance And Bearing Arms Have Become "A Culture Embraced... By Every Palestinian Home And Every Palestinian Sector"
On January 27, 2015, at the closing ceremony of a Hamas camp that provided military training to Gaza teens, Haniya stressed the importance of training the next generation of fighters, saying: "The people's rallying around the resistance will thwart all of [Israel's] plans to harm the image of Hamas and of [its military wing,] the 'Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades... The Al-Qassam Brigades' camps are a strategic enterprise [aimed at] raising the generation of victory and liberation. Resistance and preparations for bearing arms against the enemy are no longer optional, but have become a culture embraced not only by Hamas, but by every Palestinian home and every Palestinian sector."

See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6020, Hamas Prepares For Next Military Confrontation With Israel, April 13, 2015.
 
"The Weapon Of Tunnels Played A Prominent Role In Achieving Our Victory"
In his January 29, 2016 Friday sermon at a Gaza mosque, Haniya spoke of Hamas's tunnels, describing them as a strategic weapon for fighting and defeating Israel. He said: "Gaza bids farewell to the martyrs of the preparations for any conflict with the Israeli occupation that may come. Gaza has constructed twice as many tunnels as there were in Vietnam.[2] The Al-Qassam Brigades have dug tunnels around Gaza in order to defend the people and liberate Al-Aqsa and the holy places." He added: "This weapon, the weapon of the tunnels, played a crucial role in bringing about our victory. From these tunnels, the mujahideen emerged to carry out the Nahal Oz operation. [3] From these tunnels, the mujahideen emerged to capture (Israeli MIA soldier) Oron Shaul. These tunnels enabled the fighters to emerge behind enemy lines. Thanks to these tunnels our military spokesman said: 'The mujahideen carried out their operations, and returned safely to their bases.

"...East of the city of Gaza, there are heroes underground, digging through rocks and building tunnels. West of Gaza, there are heroes testing rockets every day. This is all in preparation - in tunnels underground, by means of missiles in the air, as well as in the sea, and everywhere. This constant preparation is for the sake of Palestine, Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa, and for the sake of the Jerusalem Intifada."

Haniya also referred to the tunnels at the March 23, 2014 Hamas rally in Gaza under the heading "Perseverance and Loyalty to the Martyr's Path." Calling to formulate a joint national strategy "and enlist all means of power, primarily armed resistance, and all categories of struggle," he noted that "the Al-Qassam Brigades have launched a new strategy in the confrontation with the Israeli occupation by means of the tunnels. The mujahideen are attacking the Israeli occupation above and below ground to remove it from Palestine's soil."

See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 5709, Hamas Gaza Rally: In A Few Years The Resistance Will Destroy Israel, April 11, 2014.
 
"The Strategic Option Of Jihad Was Determined By Allah For This Nation... At No Time May Muslims – Especially Under Occupation – Negotiate Whether There Should Or Shouldn’t Be Resistance Or Jihad"
In a sermon he delivered in September 2010, Haniya spoke of Ramadan as the month if jihad, while stressing that jihad is a religious duty decreed by Allah as well as a strategic option that must never be subject to negotiation. "Anyone who studies the history of Islam discovers that most of the great victories and decisive battles took place in the blessed month of Ramadan – beginning with the Battle of Badr, followed by the conquest of Mecca, the Battle of Hittin, the Battle of Ein Jalut, the conquest of Andalusia, and the 1973 war.... Even the mujahideen in Palestine – Allah has granted them success in the holy month of Ramadan, crushing their enemy, thus pleasing the hearts of the believers...

"The strategic option of Jihad was determined by Allah for this nation... At no time may Muslims – especially under occupation – negotiate whether there should or shouldn’t be resistance or Jihad. This cannot be discussed by a group of believers, a Muslim people, especially a people under occupation. This is inconceivable. We have no choice in this matter. The strategic option was determined when the first arrow was shot, the first spear cast, and the first bullet fired."
 
Haniya Condemns Killing Bin Laden: "An American Policy Based On Oppression"
Reacting to the killing of 'Osama bin Laden by a U.S. force on May 2, 2011, Haniya condemned the U.S. for "the killing of a Muslim mujahid" and hoped that Allah would "cover [bin Laden] with his mercy": "We believe that this continues an American policy that is based on oppression and on the shedding of Arab and Muslim blood. Regardless of the different views in Arab and Islamic circles, we, of course, condemn the assassination or killing of a Muslim mujahid and an Arab. We pray for Allah to cover him with His mercy, next to the prophets, the righteous, and the martyrs."
To watch a MEMRI TV clip of his statements, click on the player below:
 
"The American Enterprise In The Region Has Begun To Crumble"
At a televised address he delivered in early September 2010, following the withdrawal of the majority of U.S. forces from Iraq, Haniya saluted the "heroic Iraqi resistance" for "breaking the backbone of Americans," who came to Iraq in order to swallow it up," and predicted that the American enterprise would crumble. He said: "On this day of blessed celebration, the glad tidings of victory are emerging. The first is the defeat of the U.S. army in Iraq. Those Americans, who came to Iraq in order to swallow it up, along with the entire region, and in order to strike a blow at the Arab and Islamic countries, and to strike a blow at the enterprises of resistance, and to try to eliminate the Palestinian issue – the price they paid in Iraq was very high, in terms of material and human losses.

"The U.S. administration and the American people are no longer able to bear the cost, both in human lives and in material losses. They had no choice but to withdraw from Iraq, on the grounds that they could not attain victory on the soil of our sister, Iraq. Therefore, we salute the heroic Iraqi resistance, which persevered in the true battlefield of resistance – confronting the occupier and the Western coalition. Iraq has paid the price with the blood of its sons, and with prisons such as Abu Ghreib, but they were steadfast and broke the backbone of America.

"Today, none of the U.S. leaders, past or present, can deliver a victory speech. There is no victory. There is only withdrawal from Iraq in the dark of night. These are the first glad tidings of victory. It has bearing upon the blunder in Afghanistan – the blunder and collapse in terms of security and morale of the armies of the Western coalition in Jihad-fighting and Muslim Afghanistan. Yes, dear brothers, we can say with all confidence that the American enterprise in the region has begun to crumble, from Iraq to Afghanistan, and here, on the land of Palestine."
To watch a MEMRI TV clip of excerpts from this address, click on the player below:
 
Haniya To U.S.: "The Time Has Come For Allah To Declare War On You, Oh Usurers"
In a speech that aired on Al-Aqsa TV on October 10, 2008, on the eve of the Gaza war (December 2008-January 2009) and at the height of the financial crisis in the U.S., Haniya stated that Allah would punish the Americans for their position on Palestine and for their practice of usury: "Oh Americans, Allah will punish you because you have attacked Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia, and because you have fought anyone who raised the banner of Islam. The time has come for Allah to declare war on you, oh usurers! How could He not? After all, in the Koran, Allah declared war in only one case - that of usury. 'Be warned of war from Allah and His Messenger.'"
 

[1] "The Al-Quds Intifada" was the name given by Palestinians to the wave of terror attacks that began in Jerusalem in October, 2015 and continued until mid-2016.
[2] A reference to the tens of thousands of miles of Cu Chi Tunnels dug by the Viet Cong during the war.
[3] On July 28, 2015, several Al-Qassam gunmen used a tunnel to breach the Israeli border and infiltrate an army base near Kibbutz Nahal Oz, killing five soldiers.

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Article 2

Hamas’ New Political Document: Its Implications and Objectives


Lt. Col. (ret.) Jonathan D. Halevi

 
On May 1, 2017, Hamas leader Khaled Mashal presented Hamas’ much anticipated political document, which does not abrogate the Hamas Charter but outlines the strategies that the group has tailored to its current political circumstances.1

The main points of Hamas’ new political document are:
  • Full reliance on Islam as the group’s sole source of authority for its strategies and objectives.
  • Denial of the Jewish people’s right to self-determination in the Land of Israel, while claiming that Israel’s establishment as a state is entirely illegitimate and depicting Zionism as the enemy of humanity. Hamas claims it “does not wage a struggle against the Jews because they are Jewish but wages a struggle against the Zionists who occupy Palestine.”
  • Conferral of an “Arab-Islamic” and “sacred Islamic” character on all of Palestine, entailing the complete denial of any bond or right of the Jewish people or of Christianity to the land. [Hamas believes, based on the Koran and Islamic sources, Jesus was neither a Jew nor a Christian but a prophet of Islam who received the Islamic doctrine from Allah.]
  • Justification of the current nature of the struggle to liberate Palestine, that is, the armed struggle, while granting legitimacy to the existence and activity of the “struggle organizations” – namely, the Palestinian terror organizations and their activity.
  • Willingness for a Palestinian state to be established within temporary borders (1967 lines) as a step toward continuing the armed struggle to destroy Israel – “from the river to the sea.”
  • Recognition of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), while also demanding new elections to its institutions and denying the validity of the organization’s political line and of the agreements it has signed with Israel.
  • Praise for the “free people” in the world who support the Palestinian struggle against Israel.

What’s behind Hamas’ Document Release?

An analysis of Hamas’ policy in recent years, together with the wording of the new political document, indicates that the objectives of this document are to demonstrate an ostensible political flexibility and thereby create a dialogue with the West, international institutions, and the United Nations, thus gaining recognition for Hamas as a legitimate political actor while working to annul its designation as a terror organization. Hamas’ senior officials are again trying to foster the impression in the international community that time is working in the Palestinians’ favor, and that alliance with Israel will not pay off in the long run.

Political deceit: Hamas does not recognize the authority of the United Nations, its institutions, or its resolutions, including Resolution 181 on partitioning the Land of Israel/Palestine. In recent years, however, the group’s policy has changed. It is now prepared to take part in the political game as long as it serves its objectives, does not contravene the basic Islamic tenets that guide it, and brings the jihad closer to the goal of liberating Palestine and destroying Israel. 

Laying the groundwork to take over the PLO: At present, Hamas’ overriding aim is to translate the political power it has accumulated via its control of the Gaza Strip and the support it receives from Islamic states such as Iran to take over the representative Palestinian institutions that are recognized by the international community. Hence, Hamas is demanding to join the PLO. Although portrayed to the outside world as a reconciliation process, it is actually an effort to conquer this organization – internationally recognized as the sole and exclusive representative of the Palestinian people – from within. If Hamas can gain control of the PLO, it will secure the legitimacy it needs to rule all the Palestinian territories. It believes it can then use the international community to support its jihad struggle against Israel.

Challenging the Palestinian Authority: The Palestinian arena is in a zero-sum struggle between the PA, which does not rule Gaza, and Hamas, which is openly contesting the legitimacy of PA rule and working to oust it and take over the PLO institutions. Hamas keeps striving to undermine the PA’s control of the West Bank. It does so by stepping up the intifada in its different forms, waging a propaganda campaign to deny the PA government’s legitimacy, and building up the organizational infrastructure to take part in the succession battle after Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) leaves the scene.

For the time being, Hamas seeks to maintain the status quo in the conflict with Israel. At this stage, Hamas has no interest in initiating a round of military conflict with Israel in Gaza unless it believes it would further the goal of toppling the PA and assuming control of the PA’s West Bank institutions.

To subvert Israel’s power and its exercise of the right to self-defense, Hamas will employ diplomatic, legal, and propaganda means, using diplomatic pressures, resolutions of international institutions, sanctions, and rulings of international courts. Hamas assigns a special importance to liberal organizations and activists in the world who support the Palestinian struggle.
* * *
Note

Lt. Col. (ret.) Jonathan D. Halevi is a senior researcher of the Middle East and radical Islam at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He is a co-founder of the Orient Research Group Ltd.

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Article 3

By Hosting Hamas, Qatar is Whitewashing Terror

 
By Kate Havard and Jonathan Schanzer

Newsweek, 11/05/17 at 4:52 AM
 
After getting booted from their first two hotels in Qatar over concerns of violating U.S. terror finance sanctions laws, Hamas leaders held a press conference last week at the Sheraton Grand Doha hotel to announce the release of a new political document. The document, promoted as a more moderate version of the group’s founding charter, is neither a new charter nor is it moderate. Hamas remains committed to violence as a strategy. But the entire episode serves to highlight an ongoing problem: Qatar, nominally an American ally, regularly aids in the whitewashing of terrorist organizations.

Doha is home base for many Hamas figures. The country welcomed Hamas political leader Khaled Meshaal in 2012, after Hamas could no longer stomach the Assad regime’s slaughter of Sunnis and Palestinians, prompting him to close Hamas’s offices in Damascus. The new political leader, Ismail Haniyeh, is now on his way to Doha from Gaza, along with a coterie of aides. When Hamas military leader Salah al-Arouri was forced to leave Turkey after planning the kidnapping of the three Israeli teenagers that sparked the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas, he made his new home in Doha in 2015. Ezzat al-Rishq, the spokesman for Hamas, calls Qatar home. We could go on.


Exiled chief of Hamas's political bureau Khaled Meshaal speaks at a conference in the Qatari capital, Doha, May 1. The Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas unveiled a new policy document that it claimed eased its stance on Israel. Karim Jaafar/AFP/Getty

Qatar is also Hamas’s ATM. In 2012, the former Emir of Qatar Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani traveled to Gaza and pledged $400 million to the Hamas government. After the 2014 war, Qatar pledged $1 billion over several years to a reconstruction fund for Gaza (more than any other nation). Hamas has reportedly used those funds to rebuild its network of terror tunnels.

Less than half of Qatar’s billion-dollar pledge has been paid out. But earlier this year, Haniyeh announced that Qatar’s new emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani would pay out $100 million to Hamas-controlled Gaza in 2017 alone. And when a recent feud between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority created a massive energy crisis, and sparked protests against Hamas in the Gaza strip, Qatar stepped in and provided Hamas with $12 million for fuel.  
 
In short, Qatar doesn’t merely tolerate Hamas—it serves as the group’s financial and political patron. And it is now Hamas’s marketing consultant, too. Doha’s fingerprints are all over the attempted political shift conveyed in the political document Hamas released last week at the Sheraton in Doha. We can expect more Hamas repositioning out of Qatar in the days and weeks to come.

And Hamas isn’t the first terrorist group that Qatar has helped to whitewash. When the Nusra Front announced its “split” from Al-Qaeda in 2016, they reportedly did so at Qatar's urging, with promises of increased funding. It happened with the blessing of Al-Qaeda leadership and involved little more than a name change, and a claim made by Nusra’s leaders that they no longer had a “relationship with any foreign party.”

Qatar took the lead in promoting the so-called split, airing two lengthy interviews on its state-owned Al-Jazeera network with Abu Mohamed al-Jolani, Nusra’s leader. Revealing his face to the media for the first time, Jolani talked at length about Nusra’s newfound independence and moderation, under the guise of the new group, known as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham.


Qatar's Al-Jazeera publicised Abu Mohamed al-Jolani, leader of the Al-Qaeda-affiliating Nusra front, in two lengthy interviews.

Of course, he did not renounce his loyalty oath to Al-Qaeda or reject its ideology. And, as Al-Qaeda’s leadership increasingly relocates to Syria, Jolani’s new group can work with them while claiming to reject “foreign” influence—providing a measure of cover for Qatar, as it bankrolls the group in Syria.

The Taliban also benefits from Qatar’s whitewashing operations. In 2013, when the Taliban decided to open up its first “embassy,” it did so in Doha. It was a convenient location because many of the Taliban’s leaders lived there already. After the government of Afghanistan protested, the “embassy” was closed—in name only.  

In 2015, senior Taliban officials traveled to Doha to negotiate the prisoner swap between American Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl and the notorious Taliban Five, high-level prisoners in Guantanamo Bay. Today, the Taliban Five live luxuriously (but under a travel ban) in Doha. The Qataris reportedly paid for the lavish homes of Taliban leaders, and U.S. officials have even quietly met with Taliban leaders there as recently as October 2016.

More broadly, in a recent report by our colleague David Weinberg, Qatar was not able to find “a single specific instance of Qatar charging, convicting, and jailing a U.S. or U.N.-designated individual.” In other words, terrorists roam free in this tiny corner of the Middle East. In some cases, the government actively tries to help them rebrand. In others, the government simply turns a blind eye to their activities.

All of this is rather shocking in light of the fact that we continue to regard Qatar as an ally. Although it must be noted that few on either side would call this an alliance forged on common values. This is a transactional relationship, based on Qatar granting the U.S. military to operate out of a massive air base, Al Udeid, which has become crucial to our forward operations in the Middle East against ISIS, Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

The insanity of this arrangement is highlighted by the fact that the base is essentially down the street from the same hotel were Hamas has unfurled its new political document, and a stone’s throw from the Taliban’s “non-embassy.”

Some in the military insist that this is not a problem. Some beltway analysts insist that the government in Doha is changing. But this amounts to little more than a rebranding campaign of our own. Qatar is sponsoring terrorism. It is time to demand that this shifty Middle East country choose sides.

Kate Havard is a research analyst at Foundation for Defense of Democracies, where Jonathan Schanzer is senior vice president for research.

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