American allies, especially Qatar and Turkey, have been providing material support to Hamas, which the United States has listed as a foreign terrorist organization. This support includes financial, diplomatic, media and even the provision of weapons that deliberately target Israeli civilians from behind Palestinian civilians who are used as human shields. It also includes harboring war criminals, especially leaders of Hamas, who direct their followers from the safety of Doha. Without the support of Qatar and Turkey, Hamas would never have started this bloody war that has caused so much human suffering.
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Qatar, which is more of a family-owned gas station than a real country, regards itself as untouchable because of its oil wealth. Its residents—they are not really citizens because there are no genuine elections or freedom of speech or religion—are the richest in the world. It can buy anything it wants including the 2022 World Cup, several American university campuses, some of the world’s greatest art, Al Jazeera television and other luxuries. It can also buy terrorist groups such as Hamas. Indeed after Iran, which is the world’s worst state sponsor of terrorism, Qatar ranks near the top of this dishonorable role of death.
Any individual who provides material support to a designated terrorist group such as Hamas commits a crime under the United States Penal law and the laws of several European countries. If Hamas were ever to be convicted of war crimes by the International Criminal Court, as it may well be, any individual who was an accessory to such crimes would be guilty as well. It is entirely fair, therefore, to describe Qatar as a criminal regime, guilty of accessory to mass murder.
In some ways Turkey is even worse. Its erratic prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has incited anti-Semitism, provoked conflict with Israel, provided material support to Hamas and undercut efforts to achieve a realistic end to the Gaza War. He has demanded that his Jewish subjects do his bidding, telling “our Jewish citizens’ leaders” that they must “adopt a firm stance and release a statement against the Israeli government.” He has suggested that if they fail to do so they will not be regarded as “good Turks,” thus raising the old canard of “dual loyalty.”
He also said, referring to Israel, that “they always curse Hitler, but they now even exceed him in barbarism.” And he responded to Americans who complain about the “comparisons with Hitler,” by saying “You’re American, what’s Hitler got to do with you,” forgetting that Hitler’s forces killed thousands of American soldiers and civilians. He also conveniently forgets that Turkey, which remained immorally “neutral” in the war against Nazism, provided Hitler with the playbook for his genocide, by its own genocide against Armenians. As Hitler asked rhetorically when planning his genocides: “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?” So Hitler matters to America, as it should to Turkey, which it still mendaciously denies, that it committed genocide against the Armenians.
Yet it was Qatar and Turkey to which Secretary of State John Kerry turned in his efforts to get Israel and Hamas to agree to a cease fire. This not only infuriated Israel, which considers these two countries as accessories to Hamas’ war crimes, but also Jordan, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority, which also see Qatar and Turkey as allies of Hamas and enemies of moderate Arab states.
The time has come for the United States and the international community to reassess the status of Qatar and Turkey. These two countries have become part of the problem, rather than part of the solution. A nation that hosts Hamas leaders and finances their terrorism should not also host the World Cup. Nor should American universities send their faculty and students to a nation complicit in terrorism that has taken the lives of many Americans as well as Israelis.
Turkey’s role in NATO must also be reevaluated. Membership in this organization entails certain responsibilities, and Turkey has failed in these responsibilities. They have become untrustworthy partners in the quest for peace.
It is a truism that we, as a nation, must deal with devils, because men and women are not angels. I do not fault Secretary of State Kerry for trying to use Qatar and Turkey to pressure Hamas into accepting a deal, although the deal they ultimately came up with was a bad one. My point is that Qatar’s wealth and Turkey’s size should not preclude us from telling it as it is: Qatar and Turkey are among the worst villains in the Gaza tragedy. Nor should we reward such villains, and such complicit in war crimes, by international gifts, such as the World Cup. Both Qatar and Turkey should be treated as pariahs unless and until they stop becoming state sponsors, supporters and facilitators of terrorism.
Alan M. Dershowitz is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard, a practicing criminal and constitutional lawyer and the author, most recently, of Taking the Stand: My Life in the Law.