As accusations continue to mount over Qatar's alleged involvement in the financing of terrorist groups including Hamas and Islamic State (IS,) The Algemeiner has learned that New York's Metropolitan Museum is tonight holding a glitzy, invitation-only party in honor of Sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah al Thani. The sheikh is a prominent member of the ruling family in the Gulf emirate and the head of the Qatar Investment & Projects Development Holding Company (QIPCO.)
The black tie event, organized by Lady Elizabeth Anson – a London-based planner of exclusive parties who is also the first cousin of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II – is being held to mark the opening at the museum of "Treasures from India: Jewels from the Al-Thani collection." According to Forbes magazine, "no one has amassed a more dazzling collection" of Indian royal jewelry than Sheikh Hamad, who is described in the same article as "a man accustomed to getting what he wants."
But Qatar's involvement in the financing of terrorism across the Middle East is casting a shadow over tonight's launch.
"It is disturbing that at a time when Qatar is playing a role that undermines America's interests and goals in the Middle East, and has supported not only Hamas but other terrorist entities, one of its leaders is honored with a reception at the Metropolitan Museum of Art," Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, told The Algemeiner. "There should be some standard to determine whom our major cultural institutions honor and to whom they pay tribute."
"Tonight's event is proof that the United States still isn't serious about forcing Qatar to end its support for terrorists," Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told The Algemeiner. "The signal we're sending to the Qataris is that they can have their cake and eat it. Qatar's leadership spends a lot of money patronizing the arts, higher education and other areas, but they haven't moved away from supporting terrorism. Supporting arts and education is laudable, but incompatible with supporting terrorism."
The Algemeiner made several calls to the Metropolitan Museum seeking comment, but none of our inquiries were responded to by press time.
After a summer which saw Israel dragged into another war in Gaza as a result of continued Hamas missile attacks, as well as the onslaught of Islamic State terrorists across Syria and Iraq, both Israeli and American officials have highlighted Qatar's role as a terrorism funder. In an oped for the New York Times in August, Ron Prosor, Israel's Ambassador to the UN, referred to Qatar as a "Club Med for terrorists," asserting: "Every one of Hamas's tunnels and rockets might as well have had a sign that read 'Made possible through a kind donation from the emir of Qatar.'"
Sheikh Hamid, the guest of honor at the Metropolitan Museum tonight, is, according to Forbes, a first cousin of the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.
Back in April, David Cohen, Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence at the Treasury Department, warned that "Qatar, a longtime U.S. ally, has for many years openly financed Hamas, a group that continues to undermine regional stability. Press reports indicate that the Qatari government is also supporting extremist groups operating in Syria." Cohen specifically pointed out that, in December 2013, the Treasury Department sanctioned Abd al-Rahman bin Umayr al-Nu'aymi, who has raised money in Qatar that was channeled to Al Qaeda elements in Syria, Yemen, Somalia and Iraq.
In September, the Daily Telegraph reported that "key institutions and officials of the Qatari government have hosted and supported individuals who back [Islamic State,] including Harith al-Dari, a designated terrorist and leader of the Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS) in Iraq…Only a month after Washington designated al-Dari as a sponsor of the group that became [Islamic State,] he was allowed to meet the Emir of Qatar. He has made numerous visits there since; the US designation of al-Dari as a terrorist mentions Qatar as an alternative location for him."
Qatar has long been the primary backer of Hamas, and recently pledged $1 billion for reconstruction following the Gaza war. "This very generous Qatari support to the Palestinian people was made thanks to Hamas movement and the head of the movement's politburo Khaled Mashaal, who is based in Qatar and has good, friendly relations with Qatar," senior Hamas leader Ahmad Yousuf said.
QIPCO, Sheikh Hamad's company, has not escaped the scrutiny which Qatar is currently undergoing for both its support of terrorism and its woeful domestic human rights record. In June, the Financial Times reported that Royal Ascot, the famous horse racing competition in the UK which attracts wealthy executives, celebrities and royalty from around the world, had signed a sponsorship deal with QIPCO "untroubled by the controversy engulfing the tiny Gulf state over World Cup corruption allegations and concerns about migrant worker abuses." Hundreds of migrant workers from Nepal and other Asian countries have been killed while building stadiums for the FIFA World Cup to be held in Qatar in 2022, amid a flurry of allegations that the hosting of the competition was secured through bribery.
The Financial Times quoted Simon Chadwick, a professor in sports business at Coventry University in England, who said that questions about Qatar's suitability as a World Cup host "will continue as Qatar struggles to deal with the attention directed at 2022 World Cup bidding allegations, denied by bid organisers, and its controversial system of kafala, or bonded labor. 'Qatar needs to be seen to be making tangible inroads into dealing with some of the challenges it faces, otherwise it potentially exposes the likes of QIPCO to scrutiny and risk of reputational damage,'" Chadwick said.
In a letter to the Independent newspaper in Ireland criticizing an earlier article which repeated the claim that funding for IS has come from Qatar, David Redvers of Qatar Racing claimed that QIPCO is a private company that "has no involvement in either the funding or the policies of the state of Qatar." However, given that all the members of QIPCO's Board of Directors are also members of the Qatari ruling family, such a distinction appears questionable. "Legally you can make the separation. The Qataris are finding out the hard way – bad publicity – that politically the separation is harder to make," Simon Henderson, the Baker Fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told The Algemeiner.
"Gulf states like Qatar need to do more to make sure that money from their countries does not go to support terrorist groups," Henderson added. "Qatar is currently the poster-child for this campaign but, even if electronic transfers were stopped, it is still likely that cash in suitcases would get through to the Islamic State or al Qaeda affiliates. A major challenge for the U.S. – which no doubt the Qatari government points out to Washington – is that there is an inconvenient overlap in policy objectives: the removal of the Bashar al-Assad regime in Damascus."