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February 23, 2018

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PAGE 12A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, FEBRUARY 23, 2018 By Ron Kampeas WASHINGTON (JTA)-- There's a battle going on among pro-Israel leaders, and it's over Qatar. It's like watching ice hockey players clear the bench for a brawl, only the antagonists are all on the same team. The folks lining up to praise or bury the emirate are best known for sharing the same stages, and often the same opinions about their overarching concern: Israel. But here they are, old friends at odds over another small Middle Eastern state surrounded by hostiles. What's going on? Here's a pocket history and a score- card. Who's fighting? In June, SaudiArabia spear- headed a five-nation blockade of Qatar seeking to punish the rival emirate for its support of Islamist groups and its close relations with Iran, the Saudis' main regional rival. Since then, both countries have been seeking favor with the United States, with Qatar aiming some of its charm offensive at Jewish and pro- Israel leaders. In recent weeks, some high-profile Jewish leaders-- including Harvard attorney Alan Dershowitz, Morton Klein of the Zionist Organiza- tion of America and Malcolm Hoenlein of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations--have paid visits to Qatar at the invitation of its rulers. Other Jewish and Israeli leaders have criticized the visits. On Feb. 9, Itai Bar Dov, a spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C told the The New York Times, "We do not approve of these visits by the Jewish organizations to Qatar." Why Qatar? Why now? Saudi Arabia has long seen itself as the pre-eminent Sunni Arab state in the Per- sian Gulf. Its royal family is the guardian of two of the holiest cities in Islam, Mecca and Medina. Most of its neighbors have been content to defer to its leadership. Most, but not Qatar. The AI-Thani family, which has controlled Qatar since at least the mid-19th century, has long chafed at taking instruc- tions from Qatar's massive neighbor. Their defiance of the Saudis has led to contra- dictions: Qatar was among the first Gulf Arab nations to openlywelcome Israeli travel- ers, but also backs Islamist groups like the Muslim Broth- erhood (although, it insists, not ISIS or al-Qaida). Home to the largest U.S. military base in the region, Qatar also enjoys friendly relations with Iran. Qatar, like its neighbors, closely controls expression in the country; it also bankrolls the freewheeling TV network Al Jazeera. When Mohammed bin Sultan, the tyro son of the cur- rent Saudi Arabian king, was named crown prince in June, he quickly flexed his muscles at home and in the neighbor- hood. Bin Sultan has marked territory in recent months in Lebanon and Yemen, and led the blockade of Qatar. Bin Sultan's manspread- ing also has much to do with the election of another alpha male: Donald Trump. The president has signaled he appreciates bold moves among U.S. allies. (Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is super friendly with bin Sultan and is perceived in the Middle East as having given the green light for much of the prince's recent posturing.) Not that the Trump admin- istration has been consistent, exactly. Trump tweeted sup- port of the blockade in June, even as his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, worked might- ily to undo it and last week called Qatar"a strong partner and longtime friend." Since then, both sides, the Qataris on one and the Saudis and smaller Gulf states on the other, have beenworking hard to gain Washington's favor. Bizarrely, those who have yet to formally recognize Israel have focused most intently on the pro-Israel lobby. Round 1: America's law- yer vs. America's rabbi Dershowitz, the constitu- tional lawyer and defender of Israel, said his visit to Qatar last month disabused him of much he had heard about the emirate and also made him warier of the Saudis. For one thing, Qatar was allowing an Israeli to compete in a tennis tournament, while the Saudis were keeping out an Israeli chess competitor. Saudi pres- sure to shut down Al Jazeera especially offended Dershow- itz, a free speech advocate. Qatar denied other of- fenses, including backing for Israel's deadly enemy Hamas. Dershowitz was skeptical but wanted to know more before endorsing steps as drastic as a blockade. "Qatar is quickly becoming the Israel of the Gulf States, surrounded by enemies, sub- ject to boycotts and unrealis- tic demands, and struggling for its survival," he wrote in The Hill on Jan. 12. Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90 Palestinians clash with Israeli soldiers in the West Bank city of Jenln, Jan. 18, 2018. (JNS)--Two Israeli soldiers who accidentally entered the Palestinian city of Jenin on Monday were attacked by a mob of dozens of young Pal- estinians who also stole one of their weapons. The two soldiers, a man and a woman, were lightly to moderately injured. Images of the female soldier's bloody face circulated through social media, after she was injured from shattered windshield glass. She was evacuated to a hospital in Afula. Video from the attack shows the mob haranguing and at- tacking the soldiers as they cried out. An initial investigation found that the soldiers had been misdirected into the Palestinian city by the Waze navigation app on their jour- ney from Shavei Shomron in Samaria to Afula in the Jezreel Valley. A Palestinian Authority po- liceman intervened to protect the Israeli soldiers, ultimately firing into the air to disperse the crowd. Over 100 members of the PA security forces were called out to escort the sol- diers to safety and return their jeep to Israel, according to a PA security official interviewed by The Jerusalem Post, who also said that the effort was made both to protect human life as well as to prevent Israeli reprisals in Jenin if either of the soldiers were killed. Israel has made multiple incursions into Jenin in recent weeks, including a clash dur- ing a manhunt for the mur- derer of Rabbi Raziel Shevah, who was killed in a drive-by shooting attack in December. It is not uncommon for Israelis--including sol- diers-to accidentally enter Palestinian-controlled areas. Between Jan. 1, and Nov. 8, 2017, 564 Israelis were re- turned to Israeli authorities after accidentally entering into Palestinian areas. Giuseppe Cacace/AFP/Getty Images Qatar's emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, at the Gulf Cooperation Council sum- mit at the Bayan Palace in Kuwait City, Dec. 5, 2017. That was too much for Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, the celebrity rabbi who advocates for Israel and against anti- Semitism as the head of the World Values Network. In a Jerusalem Post column, he wrote that likening Qatar to Israel is "an absolutely shock- ing statement that must be totally and completely rebut- ted." He called Dershowitz, his one-time debate partner (they teamed up at Harvard in 2002 against two pro-Palestinian advocates) a "Jewish junke- teer" and a "mouthpiece." Dershowitz wrote to the Post saying that Boteach's column "mischaracterizes what I actually said and then rails against the straw man he has deliberately substituted for the truth of what I said." On Twitter, Boteach called the letter a "personal attack." In fact, Dershowitz's letter was to the point and Boteach was the one using pejoratives like "junketeer," but then, yes, Dershowitz got personal on Twitter. "I once made mistake of being in a debate at Harvard with @RabbiShmuley on my side," Dershowitz said. "He screamed and yelled like a child. Hurt the cause of Israel. I promised never again to be in debate with him." On Monday, the Forward reported that Boteach had clamored to join the same Qatar junket, according to the Jewish PR firm that orga- nized the trips there, but was turned down when the Qataris came to the conclusion that he wasn't (yikes) influential enough. Boteach is not quite down-- he was on Twitter Tuesday morning still challenging Dershowitz to "repudiate his preposterous sycophantic, obsequious, brown-nosing, & deeply libelous" comparison of Qatar and Israel. Round 2: Flack vs. flack In August, Bluelight Strat- egies, a public affairs firm, began touting a London con- ference organized by Khalid AI-Hail, a Qatari businessman who is one of the leaders of the political opposition in Qatar. It was an early sign that pro- and anti-Qatari forces were seeking influence among a Jewish audience. Bluelight is run by Steve Rabinowitz andAaron Keyak, long experienced in repping progressive causes in the pro-Israel community and pro-Israel causes among progressives. Bluelight's work was not limited to promoting the September conference to Jews, but Keyak told JTA that was certainly part of its strategy-- and of Bluelight's appeal to AI-Hail. Then in September, Nicolas Muzin, an observant Jew and a rising star among conserva- tive Republicans, announced that his own government and public relations firm was go- ing to make Qatar's case to the Jewish community. (A trade publication said his fee was $50,000 a month.) "Engagement with Qatar can only be in the best inter- ests of the United States and the Jewish community, as we cannot allow Qatar to be os- tracized by its neighbors and pushed into Iran's sphere of influence," he said at the time. This seemed to set up a partisan cast to the appeals: Muzin (who has advised the House Republican caucus, and Sens. Tim Scott of South Carolina and Ted Cruz of Texas), was the Republican representing Qatar. Keyak, who has worked for House Democrats, and Rabinowitz, a veteran of the Bill Clin- ton White House, were the Democrats repping Qatar's antagonists. In fact, while the hirings of Muzin, Keyak and Rabinowitz signaled how seriously foreign actors take the American Jew- ish community, the flacks, in this case, were playing in different arenas. The Bluelight hiringwas aone-off, ahead of a conference. (Keyak and Rabi- nowitz for a short period also touted an October conference in Washington that slammed Qatar, but edged away when Steve Bannon, Trump's for- mer top strategic adviser, was invited as a keynote.) Muzin is drawing a monthly salary from Qatar (now $300,000, according to Politico), and so is more invested long-term in his assignment. Paying Muzin to be persistent had divi- dends-he arranged for the five and counting pro-Israel leaders, including Menachem Genack of the Orthodox Union and Hoenlein, to visit the country. Keyak and Rabinowitz were working for an individual, and thus not subject to the stringent restrictions of the Foreign Agents RegistrationAct. Muzin must make public his payments and whomever he meets with to advance his agenda. Round 3: Mort vs. Mort In September, the Zion- ist Organization of America dismissed its invitation to visit Qatar. "Rather than change any of those monstrous and evil actions, Qatar may be trying to create the optical illusion of Jewish support to moder- ate their image by hiring a well-connected PR firm and by having 'secret' meetings with Jewish leaders -which of course won't be a secret, as the whole reason for the meetings may be for the Qataris to point to them as evidence that the 'Jews' (and thus Israel) don't view them as enemies," ZOA President Morton Klein said in a release at the time. Klein soon changed course: He visited Qatar in January, and yes, it was leaked to Haaretz. Why did he go? "At first I refused because of their support for Hamas and the anti-Semitism being broadcast on AI Jazeera," he told the newspaper. "But over time, I saw that more and more Jewish leaders were go- ing there, and I realized that at this point, they won't be able to use me for propaganda because everyone is already going, but I might use the visit to push them on these issues." Klein subsequently spoke to the Jerusalem Post's Seth Frantzman and clearly em- phasized two things: He was not paid for the visit; and he did not hold back. The ZOA put together a 50-page report on Qatar's perceived transgressions against Israel, and Klein said he handed it to every official he met and had a two-hour conversation with the emir of Kuwait. "Reports relayed to me said I was the roughest and toughest of all the leaders in presenting the issues," he told Frantzman. "Some others were obsequious and overly warm and overly friendly. I was forceful and focused." Roughest and toughest, but boy did Klein appreciate those Qatari pajamas. "The airline had great service," he told Frantzman. "They handed out pajamas, the softest I ever felt. I wear them every night."