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Fact-checking site refutes Fox News claims on Qatar financing of Hezbollah

Fox News reported that Qatar was allegedly financing Hezbollah [Getty]

Date of publication: 9 August, 2020

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An Arabic fact-checking site has refuted misleading claims by US network Fox News that Qatar is allegedly financing Iran-backed Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.
The Arabic fact-checking site Misbar has refuted a report by the US network Fox News claiming that Qatar is providing assistance to the Iran-backed Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

The report, authored by Benjamin Weinthal and Jonathan Spyer and published on August 5 by Fox News, claimed that a "member of the Qatari royal family" had "allegedly authorised the delivery of military hardware" to Hezbollah, which is designated as a terrorist organisation by the US and the EU.

The Fox News report was picked up soon afterwards by UAE-based Sky News Arabia and Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya.

The sole source cited by this report, however, was a private security contractor identified only as "Jason G". While Fox News said that it had seen and verified documents provided by this contractor, none were published in the report.

Misbar said that there are no verifiable sources for the allegations made by the network. 

The Fox News report tried to add credibility to its allegations by quoting a range of politicians known for their hostility to Qatar.

French senator Nathalie Goulet was quoted as saying: "We must have a European policy regarding Qatar and especially be careful with its financing of terrorism."

However, the report failed to mention Goulet's relations with Saudi Arabia and the UAE - both of which cut ties to Qatar in 2017 and imposed a land and sea blockade - and her well-publicised praise for the Saudi regime, which she has continued even after the international outcry that followed the 2018 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Read more: Trump reportedly rejected Saudi proposal to invade Qatar

The Misbar report also found that other quotes cited in the Fox News report were presented in a misleading fashion, with no mention of the circumstances surrounding them.

German Development Minister Gerd Muller was quoted as saying in 2014 that Qatar could have been assisting the Islamist extremist group IS.

"You have to ask who is arming, who is financing ISIS troops. The keyword there is Qatar – and how do we deal with these people and states politically," Muller is reported to have said.

However, soon after this statement was made, Germany quickly apologised to Qatar, expressing regret for Muller's remarks and saying there was no evidence that Qatar was funding IS.

This information was left out of the Fox News report, which Misbar said had "collected and pasted information from differing contexts and time-periods".

The Fox News report also cited Qatar's 2007 offering of sanctuary to Dr. Azmi Bishara, a Palestinian-Israeli professor and former Knesset member, as evidence of Qatar's ties to Hezbollah. The network failed to mention that Bishara has been a frequent critic of Hezbollah and has distanced himself from the movement's ideology.

The only source for this allegation against Bishara is the Israeli government.

Further claims made by the Fox News report include that Jason G. said that the Qatari ambassador to Belgium, Abdulrahman bin Muhammad Al-Khulaifi, told him "The Jews are our enemy," but there was no verifiable source confirming that this anti-Semitic remark was ever made.

One of the authors of the Fox News report, Benjamin Weinthal, is a research fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD), a neo-conservative, pro-Israeli think-tank which has previously worked with the scandal-hit pro-UAE lobbyist George Nader and hosted conferences heavily critical of Qatar.

Weinthal, who the FDD describes as being its own "eyes and ears in Europe", is known for his efforts against pro-Palestinian activists from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

The Qatari embassy in Washington published a statement calling the Fox News piece "poorly sourced" and "inaccurate" and pointing out that Qatar was the first country in the Middle East to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the US to combat terror financing.

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