Can there be a greater indicator of accuracy for something to appear in the New York Times which supports a controversial position taken by Israel or her friends? Maybe, but it is hard to imagine one.
That is why a story in Saturday’s Times, brought to the attention of those who care by Middle East observer and journalist Jeff Dunetz, is so significant.
Qatar, the blindingly wealthy little country which owns its own (and we do mean own) global communications network, al Jazeera, is considered one of the main financial supporters of the terrorist organization Hamas. That is not news.
What is news is that Qatar also funds the Brookings Institution, and last year it agreed to bestow on Brookings a $14.8 million donation, to be paid out over four years. This wealthy Arab nation had already been generous with Brookings: Qatar helped fund a Brookings affiliate in its country (the Brookings Doha Center), as well as a project on U.S. relations with the Islamic World.
That is the same Brookings Institution at which President Obama’s Special Middle East Envoy, Martin Indyk, tasked with re-igniting the Palestinian Arab-Israeli peace talks, served as vice president and director of foreign policy. He held that position until he went to serve the administration in July of 2013, a position which he left in late June of this year.
Despite his resume (born to a Jewish family, U.S. Ambassador to Israel twice, a researcher for AIPAC at the beginning of his career) Indyk is considered by most strongly pro-Israel observers to be anti-Israel.
According to the Times article, there are quite a few former Brookings employees who caution readers of reports from the Institute that material which reflects poorly on Qatar may well be excised – or simply never written due to self-censorship – because it is understood at Brookings such positions are not acceptable.
“If a member of Congress is using the Brookings reports, they should be aware — they are not getting the full story,” said Saleem Ali, who served as a visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar and who said he had been told during his job interview that he could not take positions critical of the Qatari government in papers. “They may not be getting a false story, but they are not getting the full story.”
The New York Times article does not focus solely on Indyk, it deals more generally with financing of think tanks by foreign governments. There appears to be plenty of eyebrow-raising to go around.
The special investigation revealed that a little over a dozen U.S. think tanks have been the recipients of tens of millions of dollars from foreign governments. And, the Times claims, those think tanks have been “pushing United States government officials to adopt policies that often reflect the donors’ priorities.”
Ask anyone who cares strongly about Israel and watched last year’s efforts to kickstart the mercifully moribund “peace talks” between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs, and the Qatari moneyed Brookings Institution where Indyk hung his hat looms large. Indyk’s role as a mediator between two parties, one of whom is at least largely funded by your very own sugar daddy, seems beyond the pale.
Not that Indyk could have been called a Zionist before Qatar’s money belt was cinched around his office building. As Dunetz wrote, “it’s difficult to discern which came first, the hatred or the cash.”