ADL Letter to Qatari Ambassador: Anti-Semitic Cartoons a 'Clear Violation of Qatar Laws'

December 20, 2018

In a letter to the Qatari Ambassador to the U.S., ADL explained that his government has a moral obligation to discourage anti-Semitic cartoons, as such hateful incitement constitutes a clear violation of Qatari law.

His Excellency Meshal bin Hamad Al Thani
Embassy of the State of Qatar
2555 M Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20037

Dear Ambassador Al Thani:

As you may know, ADL has long been monitoring international media outlets for anti-Semitic content, such as cartoons, and has documented them in articles and reports we publish and share with U.S. and foreign government officials.

I am writing you to raise concern about a broad array of anti-Semitic cartoons published in recent years by your country’s newspapers, most notably on Qatar’s al-Raya news site by cartoonist Umayya Juha. These cartoons, a sampling of which are included below, go far beyond questioning or critiquing Israeli policies and instead spread bigotry and hatred toward the Jewish people, drawing on some of the worst anti-Semitic themes and giving them new life.  

We are bringing this to your attention because, first and foremost, your government has a moral obligation to discourage this sort of hateful incitement. Second, such incitement constitutes a clear violation of Qatari law, to which your government has a duty to respond.

Qatar’s foundational 1979 press law prohibits – under penalty of closure, fines, or jail time – the publication of “any ridicule of or contempt toward any of the religions or their doctrines, including any motivation of sectarian, racial, or religious trends” or any content that harms goodwill toward a person through “defamation”.[1]

Yet many of these cartoons do exactly that, portraying Jewish people as delighting in or even drinking Palestinian blood, most recently by Juha on 11 December and 18 September, while many others dehumanize or demonize Jews and/or the Jewish state by depicting them as animals, often monstrous ones, such as a snake, a wolf, or an octopus strangling the al-Aqsa Mosque. Some cartoons in the Qatari press propagate anti-Semitic conspiracy theories of Jewish world domination.  Others make use of swastikas in ways that falsely suggest Israel is engaging in systematic and industrial-scale extermination of the Palestinian people akin to what Jewish people experienced in Nazi death camps.

The attached cartoons are only a small sample exemplifying the breadth and severity of anti-Semitic manifestations in Qatari cartoons, particularly those by Juha but by no means exclusively.  ADL is a strong supporter of freedom of the press both in the United States and around the globe.  At the same time, we insist that leaders have an obligation to stand up to hatred, and to uphold the standards set by their society.   I respectfully urge your government to enforce its press laws equally and to stop turning a blind eye to this bigoted and dangerous defamation of the Jewish people. 

Mr. Ambassador, recent tragic events have demonstrated that demonizing words and images have real consequences.  Not only do such messages foment hate and make coexistence and understanding more difficult to achieve, but they can incite some to violence.

I look forward to your timely reply and hope we can work together to convey a strong message whereby defamation and demonization have no place in the Qatari press.


Jonathan A. Greenblatt
CEO and National Director
Anti-Defamation League

[1] Qatar’s Law Number 8 of 1979 on Publications and Publishing, published in the official gazette on January 1, 1979. (http://www.almeezan.qa/LawView.aspx?opt&LawID=414&language=en)