Gerard Filitti
Human Rights Attorney

Qatar exploiting the Black Lives Matter movement

Earlier this week, slickly-produced anti-Semitic agitprop made the rounds on social media. It was produced by AJ+, which purports to be Al Jazeera’s Western Millennial-focused lifestyle brand. Like its parent company, AJ+ is nothing more than an appendage of the government of Qatar. Some people will take any opportunity they can to distort reality and create a false narrative based on lies and deceit to inflict pain and damage on the Jewish community. They manipulate tragedies experienced by minority communities to foster hatred and divisiveness. It is depressing, if not wholly unsurprising, to find such content strewn about the internet. But it is particularly pernicious when this type of propaganda finds its way into the mainstream at the behest of a foreign government.

In recent weeks, the world has watched with disappointment and disgust as anti-Jewish forces hijacked the demand for reform, equality and civil rights stemming from the tragic death of George Floyd in order to blame the Jewish community and even the State of Israel for his death. This is utter nonsense. It is a clear-cut example of a foreign government misappropriating the suffering of the African-American community to target another minority – the Jewish community – and undermine the civil rights movement.

Qatar is blatantly trying to manipulate the Black Lives Matter movement by appropriating and exploiting the pain of African-Americans, channeling it into Jew-hatred. This exploitation is effectively erasing more than a century of systemic bigotry, racism, discrimination and violence against African-Americans. Qatar’s narrative delegitimizes the pain and suffering of the African-American community, insulting the memory of every person who suffered the worst indignity – slavery – and then suffered under Jim Crow Laws, which transitioned into institutionalized bias and discrimination that persists to this day. Qatar’s deplorable narrative dehumanizes the African-American experience and is nothing less than racist.

Qatar’s record of racism and Jew-hatred is undeniable. According to the BBC, just last year, Al Jazeera posted a video that denied the facts of the Holocaust. Al Jazeera’s video, questioning the number of Jewish victims killed, suggesting that Jewish people manipulate the media, and claiming that the State of Israel benefits from the Holocaust, is a clear form of anti-Semitism. This is but one recent example of a pattern of reports that perpetuate Jew-hatred. Remember the highly inflammatory story that Jews had been warned in advance not to go to work on the date of the 11 September attacks? It should come as no surprise that the story came from Al Jazeera. Should it come as a surprise that Al Jazeera’s recent video likewise stokes the fires of anti-Semitism?

Qatar’s institutionalized racism is, likewise, no surprise. It is a country in which abuse and exploitation of low paid migrant workers, sometimes amounting to forced labor and human trafficking, have been extensively documented – even by Amnesty International. There is a significant record of physical and emotional abuse and death of laborers forced to live and work in deplorable conditions, with no enforceable rights and no means to escape. According to the non-profit group Due Process International, “Qatar offers up Asian and African workers like real life slaves.” Qatar and its Al Jazeera mouthpiece have no superior claim to morality – just the opposite. It is patently offensive that a country which, for all intents and purposes, still practices slavery, has the audacity to exploit Black Lives Matter.

Al Jazeera should be reporting on the very real human rights violations of its masters, not spreading lies and disinformation about America and perpetuating hatred against the Jewish community. But perhaps that’s the point. Perhaps Al Jazeera’s goal is to divert attention from its government’s own human rights abuses, including what amounts to slavery, by spreading lies about its favorite target: the Jewish community. Perhaps if enough people buy into the lies, they will no longer question Qatar’s abuses (as Pope Francis did, just a few years ago). Or perhaps the truth is far simpler: anti-Semites will stop at nothing, including manipulating the African-American community with lies and false sympathy, to achieve their goal of perpetuating hatred against the Jewish people.

Notably, this is hardly the first time Qatar has been caught trying to influence Americans by perverting historical fact and reality to suit its agenda. The Qatar Foundation and Qatar Foundation International – both controlled by Qatar’s royal family – have for years been exerting a pernicious influence on America’s education system. Their contributions of billions of dollars to universities are cloaked in secrecy. Their teacher-training programs for primary and secondary schools present a highly one-sided view of the Middle East, showing only positive aspects of Islam while downplaying or outright ignoring the vibrant, centuries-old traditions of Jewish and Christian culture. Of course, it goes without saying that no mention is made of modern-day slavery in Qatar in these Qatari-funded programs.

It is crucial for a democracy to have a well-informed public – a public that can reject institutionalized racism and discrimination and institute meaningful reforms to assure that every citizen is afforded dignity, respect and equality under the law. A well-informed public is not well served by the lies and cultural misappropriations of Al Jazeera and its Qatari masters. Their perversion of the truth is meant to benefit only Qatar, while harming American minority communities and inciting Jew-hatred in a vainglorious attempt to suppress our common demands for equality and justice. Al Jazeera’s videos should be seen for what they are – hateful lies that have no place in a democratic society trying to come together in defense of civil rights for all.

The world-wide movement for reform and equality sparked by George Floyd’s death must not be held hostage to the manipulation of a foreign government whose agenda includes hate, intolerance, racism and vile Jew-hatred. Qatar is blatantly trying to pit two minority communities against one another in order to destroy the American civil rights movement. This is an affront to our democratic values and a matter of grave concern to anyone who cares about protecting and fostering civil and human rights. Qatar’s vile attack on America and the African-American and Jewish communities must be recognized for what it is and must be addressed. Silence is not an option. People must loudly condemn this foreign attack and stand united against Qatar’s nefarious agenda.

About the Author
Gerard Filitti is is a New York City-based human rights attorney. He serves as Senior Counsel at The Lawfare Project, a Jewish civil rights litigation fund and think tank. He previously worked as a litigator in private practice for over 15 years and has broad experience in commercial and complex litigation across a wide variety of practice areas, in both state and federal courts.
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