Although the Qatari government would not win the award for most vile Arab government (Emir of Qatar is one of the region’s most progressive leaders and the royal family is not plagued by drunk and uncouth free-spending princes as in the House of Saud), it may well win for the most hypocritical. The government plays a game of normalizing relations with Israel while not making public statements on the matter and preventing Qatari media (official and otherwise) from reporting on it either.
The schizophrenic nature extends beyond that. The government has friendly relations with Iran, the Palestinian Islamists of Hamas, and the Lebanese Shia party-cum-militia Hezbollah; all the while hosting an American naval base and maintaining cordial contact with Israel.
Qatar is the only Gulf nation to have official, albeit not recognition, relations with Israel. The fact that it would be Qatar is odd given that the nation is the biggest champions of the Palestinians in the Gulf as opposed to, say, Saudi Arabia which downplays the occupation of Palestine in its subservience to America.
During Israel’s genocidal attack against the Palestinians in Gaza – an attack that killed over 900 Palestinian civilians of whom over 400 were children – Qatar closed its Missions Office in Tel Aviv and required Israel to do likewise in Doha.
But relations seem to be repairing and for no apparent reason given that since Gaza Israel elected a far-right government that continues to ethnically cleanse Palestinians from Jerusalem, build illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank, blockade Gaza and has threatened war against Iran that would destabilize Qatar’s region.
A few months back, the Qatari government officially hosted Israeli president Shimon Peres in a state visit, which the local media did not cover. And now they have hosted a pseudo Israeli dove musician, which, again, remains a secret affair. An official in Qatar wrote the following to the Angry Arab:
I am writing to you about Daniel Barenboim’s orchestra which held a private concert last night attended by the Emir and the upper echelons of Qatar: Just two days ago in a press conference, Qatar’s Minister of Culture introduced the events for Doha Arab Cultural Capital 2010. He stressed that Palestine, Jerusalem and Gaza will all be important themes in this year’s events in Doha, yet they kicked-off the year by hosting Barenboim in Doha! There was no public announcement about this beforehand but there were many rumors going around about “Israeli musicians performing in Doha.” Not a word of protest has been published in any newspaper.
In my opinion, this is purely an attempt of cultural normalization between elite Arabs and soft Zionists who equate the victim with the aggressor (like Seeds of Peace, Tikkun and others) and Edward Said is now flipping in his grave. I vividly recall exactly one year ago when Qatar decided to shutdown the Israeli trade office and Sheikha Mozah made some public criticisms of Israel assault on Gaza schools, while Barenboim was claiming that both Israel and Hamas are equally at fault. Also, note that all Qatari Arabic dailies did not dare to mention that there were Israeli musicians in the orchestra, they refer to them as “Western musicians:”
If Qatar is so keen on greeting Israelis, then why not do it in broad daylight instead of hiding them like sneaking in a hooker in the night.
So why has Qatar reached out to Israel again? Your guess is as good as mine. It is not going to engender some goodwill on behalf of Israelis that will lead them to respecting Palestinian rights, that’s for sure. This trip is unfortunate since it gives Israel the legitimacy its wants without tying such acceptance with gains for the Palestinians. It is little wonder the U.S. has given up pressuring Israel. If Arab governments are submissive, why should then the U.S. even bother?
The collective voice of the Arab people – al-Jazeera – is financed by the Qatari government. While the Emir welcomes Peres, his own network continues to preach resistance against Israel and no acceptance of the state; and calls Arabs who meet with Israeli officials collaborators.