by Dave Bender

indyk and peres
Israeli President Shimon Peres shaking hands with United States Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations Martin Indyk. (Mark Neiman/GPO)

Questions are emerging over possible conflicts-of-interest after The New York Times highlighted Qatari funding[1] for U.S. think tanks, including the Brookings Institute, employer of former U.S. envoy Martin Indyk, who was directly involved in recent negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

"Qatar, the small but wealthy Middle East nation, agreed last year to make a $14.8 million,[2] four-year donation to Brookings, which has helped fund a Brookings affiliate in Qatar and a project on United States relations with the Islamic world," according to The Times.

Also from the New York Times:

"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 report comes just weeks after Israel vociferously voiced objection to Qatar's funding of its major adversary, terror group Hamas.

In July, then Israeli President Shimon Peres told United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who was visiting the region, that Israel would not stand by while Qatar continued to finance Hamas militants.

In his last full day in office, Peres, a historically dovish leader, struck a defiant tone in a statement delivered to the media after meeting Ban at the President's Residence, in Jerusalem.

"Qatar does not have the right to send money for rockets and tunnels which are fired at innocent civilians," Peres said. "Their funding of terror the must stop."

Newsweek's Benny Avni reported that the Qatari government also paid for the UN Secretary-General's flight through the Middle East at the time, where his first stop was Doha, where he denounced Israel's Operation Protective Edge.

While Brookings said its personnel were "not influenced by the views of our funders," in 2012, The Times noted, the Qatari foreign ministry said that — thanks to a new accord with the institute, "the center will assume its role in reflecting the bright image of Qatar in the international media, especially the American ones."

Also from the New York Times:

In their contracts and internal documents, however, foreign governments are often explicit about what they expect from the research groups they finance.

"'In Washington, it is difficult for a small country to gain access to powerful politicians, bureaucrats and experts,' states an internal report commissioned by the Norwegian Foreign Affairs Ministry assessing its grant making. 'Funding powerful think tanks is one way to gain such access, and some think tanks in Washington are openly conveying that they can service only those foreign governments that provide funding.'"

Additionally, in a recent report appearing in the UK-based Telegraph,[3] both Qatar and Kuwait were singled out for openly, and even avidly, aiding fundraising efforts for Islamic State/ISIS terrorists who are currently engaged in fierce clashes with the Syrian army alongside Israel on the Golan Heights.

Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal, who lives in the Qatari capital, Doha, said on Aug 21, that "Our relationship with Qatar is not new... We appreciate Qatar's stand, the brave political stand of its government and people," after a meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. "Qatar's support is not just for Hamas movement, the country extends its support to all the Palestinian people," Meshaal said, according to local media.[4]

In comment over the figures in The Times' report, Prof. Gerald Steinberg, president of Jerusalem-based funding watchdog, NGO-Monitor,[5] told The Algemeiner that, "Indyk's Brookings activities have been a part of the focus of this article, and the fact that Qatar is a primary funder of Brookings and that Qatar is also a major funder of Hamas are very clear conflicts of interest that Indyk never acknowledged, which makes all of the activities even more problematic than before."

"Indyk was never forthcoming about that issue, and that's the overall criticism that he's faced," Steinberg said.

Steinberg says that the report exposes a wider issue of NGO influence on U.S. and Israeli politics.

"This is a problem that Israel has faced for 20 years, and now it's clear that this is something that the Americans are waking up to," he noted.

"This isn't just about Qatar," he said. "It's about Norway, it's about the European Union. What the article didn't say, for instance, was that the European Union provides money to political groups, NGOs, and think tanks, to lobby against the death penalty."

"And, of course, they're heavily manipulating Israeli politics in a much more intensive effort, basically to control the Israeli democratic process on issues like war and peace, and boundaries."

Steinberg said that such issues "...have to be addressed just like funding for academic programs that specialize in the Middle East and are funded by Saudi Arabia, or another oil-rich countries; all are problematic because they inevitably have the spin the donor puts on them."

Also from The New York Times:

"Several legal experts who reviewed the documents, however, said the tightening relationships between United States think tanks and their overseas sponsors could violate the Foreign Agents Registration Act, the 1938 federal law that sought to combat a Nazi propaganda campaign in the United States. The law requires groups that are paid by foreign governments with the intention of influencing public policy to register as 'foreign agents' with the Justice Department.

"'I am surprised, quite frankly, at how explicit the relationship is between money paid, papers published and policy makers and politicians influenced,' said Amos Jones, a Washington lawyer who has specialized in the foreign agents act, after reviewing transactions between the Norway government and Brookings, the Center for Global Development and other groups."

On Facebook, commentator Rabbi Shmuley Boteach termed the article, a "devastating expose"[6] of the Brookings Institute as an "agent of Qatar."


Martin Indyk was on the executive board of the radical-left New Israel Fund, which funds anti-Israel NGOs only. He is currently The Brookings Institute's vice president and director of its Foreign Policy Program. He may laud impartiality but vituperative one-sided blame often characterizes his speech. He was and is in print for harsh criticism of Israel, whatever the facts. When the recent peace-talks failed, he blamed Israel. And only Israel. Others thought Indyk's and Kerry's obvious partiality towards the Arabs coupled with a high degree of arrogant unprofessionalism was responsible not only for the "peace" failure but for the war that followed.

Clearly, Indyk is an odd choice for a supposedly neutral U.S. negotiator. But then Barack Obama makes his bigotry clear despite often shellacking his prejudices with a thin coat of neutrality.

Lee Smith in an article entitled "How Peace Negotiator Martin Indyk Cashed a Big, Fat $14.8 Million Check From Qatar" (The Tablet made an important point that is seldom highlighted:

"Another fact buried deep inside the Times piece is that Israel—the country usually portrayed as the octopus whose tentacles control all foreign policy debate in America—ranks exactly 56th in foreign donations to Washington think tanks. The Israeli government isn't writing checks or buying dinner because—it doesn't have to. The curious paradox is that a country that has the widespread support of rich and poor Americans alike—from big urban Jewish donors to tens of millions of heartland Christian voters—is accused of somehow improperly influencing American policy. While a country like Qatar, whose behavior is routinely so vile, and so openly anti-American, that it has no choice but to buy influence—and perhaps individual policymakers—gets off scot free among the opinion-shapers."


[1] foreign-powers-buy-influence-at-think-tanks.html?_r=0


[3] How-our-allies-in-Kuwait-and-Qatar-funded-Islamic-State.html




Dave Bender is a writer for Algemeiner on a variety of subjects. This article appeared September 7, 2014 in the Algemeiner and is archived at brookings-institute-home-of-former-u-s-mideast-envoy-indyk%E2%80%8F/.

The article has been amplified by Think-Israel to include citations from the New York Times, Reference [1].

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