The 2022 World Cup in Qatar has already been marred by controversy, as thousands of native workers readying the country to become the epicenter of the global soccer economy are grossly mistreated and often unpaid. Add to that one ambitious and self-serving rabbi from the Hamptons, and things get messier.
Rabbi Marc Schneier, formerly of the Hampton Synagogue, is busy promoting his next project to unite Jews with the Gulf States: Bringing kosher hot dogs and sauerkraut to Qatar for the "thousands" of Israelis and Jews expected to travel to one of the world’s most vehemently anti-Semitic and anti-democratic nations. Schneier regularly shares photos and sweet messaging on his social media pages on the progress of his hot dog mission.
Schneier is liaising with Hassan al-Thawadi and Qatar’s Supreme Committee on Delivery and Legacy to supply the kosher food. On the Supreme Committee sits Managing Director Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad Al Thani, who has a troubled ethical past himself. The Sheikh narrowly avoided prison time for investor fraud and was recently sued by Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy for cyber warfare attacks — egregious, even before considering that the Al Thani family has ruled Qatar despotically for generations. Sheikh Mohammed’s father, Hamad al Thani, implemented a series of anti-Semitic, pro-terrorist policies still in place under the rule of Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Sheikh Mohammed’s brother. These include refusing to recognize Israel’s sovereignty, funneling billions of dollars to Hamas and providing a safe haven for Hamas terrorists. Other members of the Al Thani family have donated millions to al-Qaeda terrorists, as well as creating safe houses and doling out passports to sundry other Islamist terrorists.
And to add to the evident moral dilemma presented by collaborating with Qatari leadership is a more pragmatic fault with Schneier’s plan for hot-dog peace. Qatar does not permit Israelis to enter the country, a longstanding tradition making Schneier’s entire mission nearly impossible. Schneier claims that this policy will be vacated for the duration of the World Cup, although Qatari officials have been mute on the subject. But even if the Israeli passport ban were to be temporarily lifted, should this be hailed as a bridge-building triumph for Schneier? Qatar would, in all likelihood, snap back the policy the day following the conclusion of the tournament and go on with old habits. Schneier’s supposed "achievements" have not further advanced democratic causes or tolerance in Qatar; rather, they have exclusively served to benefit the country’s economic standing through Israeli tourism.
Coupled with the unresolved passport dilemma is the physical threat posed by Jews and Israelis entering Qatar; indeed, the lifting of a multi-generational passport ban on Israelis is not as simple as Schneier lets on. The anti-Jewish sentiment harbored institutionally in Qatar cannot amazingly disappear, even for a soccer tournament, and should Israelis actually attend the World Cup they will inevitably encounter profound persecution on the grounds of their nationality or religion. It wouldn’t be past the Qatari government to arbitrarily and inhumanely degrade Israelis, yet Schneier puts forth a fantasy of a Qatari-Israeli safe space during the World Cup — a naive goal for someone with his alleged breadth of knowledge on the Gulf states.
On the whole, Schneier’s actions aren’t just immoral to the Jewish people — they are also undemocratic and un-American. He’s consorted with top officials in a nation with values starkly in contrast to our own. Schneier, in his capacity as a figurehead not just for the Jewish community but as a high-profile American citizen, must carefully consider his priorities. He must decide whether he is so concerned with remaining relevant politically so as to sacrifice basic human values of equality and respect, or whether he will condemn and dissociate from the brutish Qatari leadership.
Noah Phillips is the founder of The Jewish Examiner.