Questions are emerging over possible conflicts-of-interest after The New York Times highlighted Qatari funding for U.S. think tanks, including the Brookings Institute, employer of former U.S. envoy Martin Indyk, who was directly involved in recent negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
“Qatar, the small but wealthy Middle East nation, agreed last year to make a $14.8 million, four-year donation to Brookings, which has helped fund a Brookings affiliate in Qatar and a project on United States relations with the Islamic world,” according to The Times.
The report comes just weeks after Israel vociferously voiced objection to Qatar’s funding of its major adversary, terror group Hamas.
In July, then Israeli President Shimon Peres told United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who was visiting the region, that Israel would not stand by while Qatar continued to finance Hamas militants.
In his last full day in office, Peres, a historically dovish leader, struck a defiant tone in a statement delivered to the media after meeting Ban at the President’s Residence, in Jerusalem.
“Qatar does not have the right to send money for rockets and tunnels which are fired at innocent civilians,” Peres said. “Their funding of terror the must stop.”
Newsweek‘s Benny Avni reported that the Qatari government also paid for the UN Secretary-General’s flight through the Middle East at the time, where his first stop was Doha, where he denounced Israel’s Operation Protective Edge.
While Brookings said its personnel were “not influenced by the views of our funders,” in 2012, The Times noted, the Qatari foreign ministry said that – thanks to a new accord with the institute, “the center will assume its role in reflecting the bright image of Qatar in the international media, especially the American ones.”
Additionally, in a recent report appearing in the UK-based Telegraph, both Qatar and Kuwait were singled out for openly, and even avidly, aiding fundraising efforts for Islamic State/ISIS terrorists who are currently engaged in fierce clashes with the Syrian army alongside Israel on the Golan Heights.
Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal, who lives in the Qatari capital, Doha, said on Aug 21, that “Our relationship with Qatar is not new… We appreciate Qatar’s stand, the brave political stand of its government and people,” after a meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. “Qatar’s support is not just for Hamas movement, the country extends its support to all the Palestinian people,” Meshaal said, according to local media.
In comment over the figures in The Times’ report, Prof. Gerald Steinberg, president of Jerusalem-based funding watchdog, NGO-Monitor, told The Algemeiner that, “Indyk’s Brookings activities have been a part of the focus of this article, and the fact that Qatar is a primary funder of Brookings and that Qatar is also a major funder of Hamas are very clear conflicts of interest that Indyk never acknowledged, which makes all of the activities even more problematic than before.”
“Indyk was never forthcoming about that issue, and that’s the overall criticism that he’s faced,” Steinberg said.
Steinberg says that the report exposes a wider issue of NGO influence on U.S. and Israeli politics.
“This is a problem that Israel has faced for 20 years, and now it’s clear that this is something that the Americans are waking up to,” he noted.
“This isn’t just about Qatar,” he said. “It’s about Norway, it’s about the European Union. What the article didn’t say, for instance, was that the European Union provides money to political groups, NGOs, and think tanks, to lobby against the death penalty.”
“And, of course, they’re heavily manipulating Israeli politics in a much more intensive effort, basically to control the Israeli democratic process on issues like war and peace, and boundaries.”
Steinberg said that such issues “…have to be addressed just like funding for academic programs that specialize in the Middle East and are funded by Saudi Arabia, or another oil-rich countries; all are problematic because they inevitably have the spin the donor puts on them.”
On Facebook, commentator Rabbi Shmuley Boteach termed the article, a “devastating expose” of the Brookings Institute as an “agent of Qatar.”