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Hamas’s friend in the Gulf

High-rises in Doha: far from the rubble of the Gaza Strip. Getty

Amid the horrors of the attack on Israel, says John Jenkins in The New Statesman, much has been made of the close links between Hamas and Iran. But while it’s certainly true that the bloodthirsty mullahs in Tehran watched Hamas’s “performative savagery” with glee, there is one Arab state whose longstanding support for the rulers of Gaza manages to “avoid the critical scrutiny it deserves”: Qatar. The tiny, vastly rich petrostate supports Hamas’s “oppressive and often brutal rule in Gaza” through transfers of cash – around $30m a month – and fuel. Meanwhile, the proscribed terror group’s leaders live comfortably ensconced in Doha high-rises.

Qatar’s commitment to Hamas reveals a fundamental split in the Arab world. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain realised during the Arab Spring that overmighty religious groups like the Muslim Brotherhood can be highly destabilising, and pulled their support. Qatar, in contrast, decided that “Islamists were the future” and kept supporting them everywhere except in Qatar itself. The Saudis and Emiratis made the better bet. Polling across the Middle East shows that most young people prefer “security, economic growth, jobs, services and certain social freedoms” over the “millenarian promises of Islamism”. And the two great success stories of recent years have not been “Qatar or anywhere Islamists are in power”, but Saudi Arabia and the UAE, where a new, future-looking focus on prosperity is winning out over entrenched conflicts and “hatred of Israel”. In the modern Middle East, you can’t avoid picking sides – and Qatar has picked the wrong one.