When the Qatar is shown in television ads in Washington it is totally unrecognisable.
In these Saudi-sponsored spots, Trump administration officials denounce Qatar’s aid to terrorists while fires burn in the background.
Qatar is a peaceful, globalist city and it is a harsh and largely unfair judgment of the peaceful.
In an unusually dangerous neighbourhood, Qatar is a wealthy state and has prudently pursued a foreign policy designed to avoid making enemies and friends with everybody.
This has clearly included support for groups that opponents would label terrorists.
Qatar hosted the enormous Al Udeid Air Base, the regional headquarters of the US Central Command housing more than 10,000 Americans in comfort and safety.
Qatar even welcomed the US military after being pressured to leave Saudi Arabia. Even now, the US military does not express alarm about its hosts’ alleged ties to terrorists.
Qatar itself has pursued liberal globalisation with a vengeance, a pursuit that meshes with Western values far more than with its fundamentalist neighbours.
In Western economies it has vast investments, Qatar’s public policies have aimed to make it a respected global citizen.
In the foreign policy of Qatar it has stressed humanitarian aid, including $100mn to American victims of Hurricane Katrina; it has offered its service as a mediator in regional conflicts from Eritrea to Gaza; it has provided refuge for exiles and dissidents espousing a wide range of opinions in politics and religion.
American officials have often welcomed the presence of antagonists in Doha where they can be readily monitored.
Qatar has invited six US higher education American universities — Northwestern, Carnegie Mellon, Weill Cornell Medicine, Texas A&M, Virginia Commonwealth and Georgetown — to locate overseas branches in the multi-billion-dollar campus called Education City.
All the schools operate with their own faculty and administrators, with complete academic freedom, and under their own university standards.
Most of the students studying in these schools are not citizens of Qatar, but still these universities are fully and generously financed by their host.
The woman in Qatar drive their own cars, attend co-educational classes and serve at high levels of the government as well as the broader society.
Compared to their male counterparts, Qatari women are better educated and better prepared for their professions.
Qatar created, subsidised and protected the media network Al Jazeera, the most widely watched news channel in the Arab world.
The news channel is trusted because Qatar has allowed it unprecedented freedom for the region to report the news of the world, including airtime for dissidents, for Israelis and for critics of autocratic regimes.
Its role in the Arab Spring made it the go-to source for honest coverage of the demonstrations and uprisings.
Not surprisingly, shutting down Al Jazeera has been a key demand of the Arab states now aligned against Qatar.
In his far-from-uncritical study, Qatar: A Modern History, Professor Allen J Fromherz described Qatar as “a forum for independent thought in the Middle East.”
There is an environment of open debate as well as of religious tolerance.
Qatar, for one, has not followed its Sunni neighbours in raising the level of sectarian hostility between Sunnis and Shias.
The annual Doha Interfaith Conference has brought together Muslim, Christian and Jewish leaders about a dozen times; UCLA’s Enriching the Middle East’s Economic Future Conference has met annually in Doha for the last decade; Qatar hosted the UN Climate Change Conference in 2012; and my own school, Georgetown University, hosts hundreds of high school students from around the world at a Model United Nations every year.
On the recently opend Sidra Medical Centre, Qatar has spent billions of dollars. The centre is for world-class research devoted to women’s and children’s health issues.
Unlike the ruling family in Saudi Arabia constrained by its alliance with Wahhabi clerics, Qatari rulers have determinedly pushed their traditional society toward globalisation and westernisation. If allowed, they will continue to do so.
l (Gary Wasserman’s book on his time in Qatar, The Doha Experiment: Arab Kingdom, Catholic College, Jewish Teacher, will be published this fall).