The fudging of anti-Semitism: Qatari official refuses to denounce hate speech against Jews

Doha representative responds meekly when asked to denounce anti-Jewish hate rife in the Middle East

A Jewish Moroccan prays at the synagogue of Tetouan, Morocco, March 15, 2008. Since the founding of Israel in 1948, the kingdom's Jewish community has shrunk from around half a million to less than 7,000 today.  Eve Coulon/The National
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Anti-Semitism in Qatar has come under rare international television spotlight, with a Qatari official refusing to make an outright denunciation of speech demeaning of the world’s Jews, some of which is rife on Doha's state-backed media.

In an appearance on the German Deutsche Welle channel, Qatari Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Lolwah Al Khater also declined to issue blanket condemnation of attacks by the Islamist movement Hamas on Israeli civilians.

Her responses were likely do little to deflect criticism against Qatar, which hosts the Hamas leadership that rules the Gaza Strip and whose influence greatly lies in media outlets seen as promoting anti-Semitism.

Asked about anti-Semitic preachers on the payroll of the Qatari government, one of whom had described Jews as “deceitful, lying, treacherous, fornicating”, Ms Al Khater said such statements were “unacceptable and discriminatory”.

“Yet in other venues you have Islamophobic discourse happening in Europe,” she said.

Last month, the Qatari state-funded Al Jazeera television channel was forced to withdraw an Arabic-language video produced by its social media division that doubted the massacre of six million Jews in the Second World War and promoted conspiracy theories about Jewish control of international media and finance, reinforcing falsehoods that had gained traction through the backing of Arab governments in many parts in the Middle East.

Despite the withdrawal of the video, Al Jazeera remains perceived to be shying away from taking a clean line against anti-Semitism. Several of its high-profile journalists are sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood, whose ideology is partly anti-Semitic. The channel had taken a pro-Iranian stance since the dispute between Qatar and its Arab neighbours began two years ago, glossing over the role of Iranian-backed militias in Syria.

Ms Al Khater declined to condemn attacks by the Qatari and Iranian-backed Hamas group on Israeli civilians as terrorism without linking the attacks to what she described as terrorism by Israel against the Palestinians.

“You want to call it terrorism, fair enough. But the problem is you are not dealing fairly with the different parties here. We're talking in the context of occupation. There is Israeli occupation that is killing people on a daily basis,” she told the network’s host Tim Sebastian.