Qatar Trying to Arrange Meeting With Jewish American Leaders as Part of PR Push

'They need to stop funding Hamas,' says ZOA chief, who refused meeting with gas-rich emirate, currently paying to improve its relations with U.S. Jews

A photo provided by the Qatar News Agency shows Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani  attending the inauguration of the new Hamad Port in Doha on September 5, 2017.
A photo provided by the Qatar News Agency shows Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani attending the inauguration of the new Hamad Port in Doha on September 5, 2017. HANDOUT/AFP

Qatar is trying to arrange meetings between its senior leadership and the heads of major Jewish American organizations during next week's UN General Assembly.

The natural gas-rich country has reached out to the heads of a number of prominent Jewish groups and asked if they would meet with the emir and crown prince while they visit New York City. 

The offer was made by Nick Muzin, a public relations adviser whom Qatar recently hired to improve its image in the United States, including within the Jewish community.

Muzin, a former adviser to Republican senators Ted Cruz and Tim Scott, explained last week, "Engagement with Qatar can only be in the best interests of the United States and the Jewish community, as we cannot allow Qatar to be ostracized by its neighbors and pushed into Iran's sphere of influence."

Three senior official in Jewish American organizations told Haaretz about the invitations on Tuesday. 

According to a report published last week on O'Dwyer's PR Report, a website specializing in advertising industry news, Qatar is paying Muzin's PR firm Stonington Strategies $50,000 a month to improve its image in the U.S. Jewish community

One Jewish leader who refused to meet with the Qataris is Mort Klein, the head of the Zionist Organization of America, who told Haaretz, "It looks very much like this is a public relations attempt to moderate Qatar's image as a country that supports and funds terrorism."

Klein added that "it's wrong to meet with them without seeing that they've made serious movement toward reform and change. They need to stop funding Hamas. They need to change the format of Al Jazeera, their TV station, which incites against Israel."

"If they did some of those things, at least started, I would be interested in meeting them," Klein said, "but first I have to see serious proof that they really are changing. Why meet with them if they don't change?" He added that Qatar is too close to Iran.

Jonathan Schanzer from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington-based think tank that has been very critical of Qatar for its ties to terrorist groups, told Haaretz that "this outreach campaign from the primary state sponsor of Hamas and the broadcaster of Al Jazeera'a anti-Israel invective is decidedly awkward."

He added: "The message is essentially, 'We love Jews, just not the only country in the world where they are a majority.' Good luck with that."

Qatar is currently suffering from regional pressure and isolation as a result of its ongoing dispute with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and other leading Arab countries, which accuse the rich emirate of supporting terrorist organizations and using its influential satellite channel, Al Jazeera, to encourage revolutions in other countries.

Israel has also accused Qatar of supporting Hamas and hosting the organization's senior leadership.