Melbourne theatre’s anti-Israel partners

 Hot on the heels of learning about anti-Semitism at a the Red Rattler a fringe Sydney theatre –

– comes news that a mainstream theatre in Melbourne has entered into a sponsorship deal with Qatar Airways, which is wholly owned by the government of terror-supporting Qatar.  Some facts:

An absolute monarchy, under the Emir of Qatar. who is head of state and head of government. Sharia Law is the main source of Qatari legislation.

Flogging is used in Qatar as a punishment for alcohol consumption or illicit sexual relations. Article 88 of Qatar‘s criminal code declares the punishment for adultery is 100 lashes. Adultery is punishable by death when a Muslim woman and a non-Muslim man are involved. In 2010, at least 18 people (mostly foreign nationals) were sentenced to flogging of between 40 and 100 lashes for offences related to “illicit sexual relations” or alcohol consumption.

Stoning is a legal punishment in Qatar. Apostasy is a crime punishable by the death penalty. Blasphemy is punishable by up to seven years in prison and proselytizing can be punished by up to 10 years in prison. Homosexuality is a crime punishable by the death penalty for Muslims.

Under Qatar‘s sponsorship laws… the visa sponsorship system allows the exaction of forced labour by making it difficult for a migrant worker to leave an abusive employer or travel overseas without permission.. Cases of ill-treatment of immigrant labour have been observed. The Nepalese ambassador to Qatar, Maya Kumari Sharma, described the emirate as an “open jail”.

There is no electoral system. Political parties are banned.

Now you’d think such a regime would be avoided. Yet the prestigious Melbourne Theatre Company was happy to enter into a sponsorship deal with Qatar Airways that will see the airline open an exclusive lounge. It announced

“Proudly supporting the Qatar Airways MTC Lounge”

Melbourne Theatre Company (2010). Founded in 1953, Melbourne Theatre Company is the oldest professional theatre company in Australia. Credit:

MTC is delighted to welcome Qatar Airways as a Major Partner. The partnership reflects both companies’ commitment to offering world-class experiences, premium service, and promoting Melbourne as a world-class arts and travel destination.

The all-new, exclusive Qatar Airways MTC Lounge at Southbank Theatre is available exclusively to MTC Members and VIPs. The Lounge operates one hour before all mainstage evening performances at The Sumner Theatre…

At the annual Skytrax World Airline Awards in 2014, Qatar Airways was awarded World’s Best Business Class for the third consecutive year, and World’s Best Business Class Airline Lounge for the second consecutive year. Qatar Airways operates daily non-stop flights from Melbourne and Perth to more than 140 destinations worldwide via its international hub in Doha, and is part of the oneworld global airline network.

There is something distasteful about welcoming Qatar, given that country’s appalling human rights record and its support for terrorism worldwide..

Even the UK is having second thoughts about cosying up with Qatar. The Telegraph reported that ministers were warned to cut business ties to Qatar:

Qatar, which has multi-billion-pound business interests in the UK, is now the focus of growing disquiet over its links to the financing of jihadists fighting for both al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isil).

A US Treasury blacklist of designated terrorists identifies at least seven extremists with connections to Qatar, but the UK Treasury’s list contains just one.

Qatar has enjoyed close ties with Britain in recent years and invested billions of pounds buying up landmark businesses and stakes in major companies. MPs are now demanding Britain gets tough with Qatar and other Gulf states, such as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, and questioning why the British terrorist list has identified fewer fund-raisers.

Mike Freer, the Conservative MP for Finchley and Golders Green, said: “The glaring difference between the numbers of people on the list in the UK compared to the US does raise questions as to whether we are not as rigorous as the Americans – or else are we being blinded by commercial interests?”

Zac Goldsmith, the Conservative MP for Richmond Park and North Kingston, called for a rethink of Britain’s relationship with Qatar.

He said: “Here in the UK, we do big business with our ally Qatar, including in arms, and yet there are countless reports…of that country’s government actively courting key bankrollers of al-Qaeda and Isil.

“Its record of cooperating in counter-terrorism has, according to Hillary Clinton, been among the worst of any country…If we are serious about countering groups like Isil, we need to fundamentally rethink the nature of our relationship with the countries that fuel them.”

Jyllands-Posten wrote, in The Terror-Funding Roads That Pass Through Qatar,

The role of Qatar as a hub of terror financing is becoming more and more widely publicized as the Islamic State advances on Kobani and Baghdad.

Qatar is under growing international pressure because of millions of terror dollars allegedly being pumped into the Islamic State and other radical Islamist movements from offices in the wealthy emirae…. Huge amounts from generous supporters and ransom laundered by the small oil state are channeled, disguised as humanitarian charity, to terrorist movements such as Islamic State, without the regime in Doha dealing effectively with the problem, say Western leaders and analysts…

… the regime in Doha is officially supporting the coalition against the Islamic State, and the United States has an important air base in the country. But at the same time the Qatar government ignores traffickers who use Qatar to launder terrorist money. Critics argue that the regime in Qatar could easily stop the flow of money, if they wanted to.

According to the Americans and the British, money from Qatar is not only going to Islamic State, but also to an al-Qaeda branch in Syria, the Nusra Front, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Hamas in Gaza…

Qatar has for many years openly financed Hamas. It also aids the Muslim Brotherhood, Jabhat al Nusra, al-Qaeda affiliates, Libyan Islamists, and even ISIS.

The key Qatari link to the Muslim Brotherhood has been Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the most important spiritual authority in the international MB movement…including its Palestinian branch, Hamas. Through his fatwas, he supported Hamas suicide bombing attacks against Israeli civilians…

In 2002, his foundation was designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. government.

During Operation Protective Edge, there was one striking news report…claiming that the Qatari government threatened to evict the head of the Hamas political bureau, Khaled Mashaal, in the event that his organization accepted the latest Egyptian proposal for a cease fire.

Qatar provided a base from which Khaled Mashaal could run Hamas operations. But now it had become clear that Qatar was not only providing a convenient sanctuary for the most hard-line part of the Hamas leadership, but it also took an active part in seeing that Mashaal maintained this position. Rather than help resolve the conflict, it appeared that Qatar wanted to prolong and even exacerbate it.

In 2012, the former Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani became the first head of state to visit the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. He pledged $400 million to Hamas…The commitment of Qatar to its Hamas ties was demonstrated in a statement made by Sheikh Tamim in a meeting with Mahmoud Abbas on August 21, 2014, which was leaked: “The U.S. and the Arabs are angry at us for hosting Hamas, but I say it is an honor for us

… the Qatari Red Crescent raised more than $10 million at an event at which a Hamas leader, Hussam Badran, appeared and spoke. In December 2013, Badran used his Twitter account to support bombing attacks in Tel Aviv…

It should be of concern to all civilised people that a Melbourne icon is partnering with Qatar, chief supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood, whose offshoot, Hamas, calls for the destruction of the State of Israel, the introduction of Sharia law and the creation of an Islamic State ‘from the Jordan River to the sea.’

Equally concerning is that another cultural icon, The Melbourne Recital Centre, is sponsored by the United Arab Emirates:

Melbourne Recital Centre. Credit:

Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, is a proud supporter of Melbourne Recital Centre. We share a commitment to exceptional performance and inspired customer service experiences. Voted the World’s Leading Airline from 2009 to 2012, Etihad Airways is delighted to bring the Centre’s superb international artists to Melbourne to enrich the cultural life of the city and its people. We invite you to experience the luxury, convenience, and modern Arabian hospitality of Etihad Airways when next you fly.

Etihad Airways is proud of its long standing partnership with the Centre. It symbolises the airline’s commitment to supporting the communities in cities to which it flies and in practical terms, enables the Centre to program a variety of superb international artists for the enjoyment of all Victorians…It demonstrates our shared aim to deliver exceptional performances and inspiring experiences filled with generosity and warmth…

...As Melbourne Recital Centre’s International Airline Partner, the Etihad Airways’ team plays an important role in bringing some of the world’s best musicians to perform in the Centre’s acclaimed performance venues, enriching Melbourne audience experiences and helping to build an international reputation for the Centre.

Emirates is also Principal Partner of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra:

Emirates connects travellers around the globe, bringing people together to discover, enjoy and share experiences. The MSO is a prestigious and internationally acclaimed musical ensemble, which boasts a strong heritage and provides Melburnians with world-class entertainment. Emirates’ eleven-year partnership with the MSO showcases our support for music lovers in Melbourne, across Australia, and around the globe.

Given that UAE often deny entry to Israelis and even Jews with an Israeli stamp in their passport, it is worrying to see our arts centres, frequented by many Jews, being sponsored by anti-Israel countries, especially when you consider that some of the main benefactors of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra are Jewish:

A few examples of the anti-Israel bias by UAE:

  1. An airline owned by the UAE wiped Israel from its flight map:

Etihad has an official travel-route map that shows all surrounding countries, including Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Cyprus — but not the Jewish state or its major cities.

The carrier, which partners with Virgin Australia, also has refused to transport any Israelis, who aren’t allowed in the UAE. In 2010, it even began teaching its flight agents how to identify Israeli travellers by their “accents and traits,” the BBC reported.

Justin Ross Lee, a Jewish travel expert from New York, fumed that he wouldn’t support an airline that discriminates.

“As a frequent flyer who holds both US and Israeli passports, I would sooner donate my miles to Hezbollah than travel on Etihad Airways,” said Mr Lee.

“I’d probably be interrogated less.”

  1. UAE refused a visa to an Israeli tennis player:

The United Arab Emirates does not recognize Israel as a state, and the two countries do not have diplomatic or economic relations.

In February 2010, Israeli tennis player Shahar Pe’er was denied a visa by the UAE, and thus prevented from playing at the Dubai Tennis Championships. …Tournament director Salah Tahlak said that Pe’er was refused on the grounds that her appearance could incite anger in the Arab country, after she had already faced protests at the ASB Classic over the Gaza War. The WTA said that it would review future tournaments in Dubai. Due to the action, Tennis Channel decided not to televise the event and The Wall Street Journal dropped its sponsorship… Andy Roddick chose not to defend his title, with prize money of over $2 million, to protest against the UAE’s refusal to grant Pe’er a visa.

        3. UAE often bars Israelis and those with an Israeli stamp in their passport:

A new partnership between Qantas and Emirates Airlines is causing turbulence in the company’s relations with the Jewish community, prompted by fears for the safety of Jews and Israelis who purchase seats on the “Flying Kangaroo.”

The 10-year deal will mean Dubai will now replace Singapore as the major hub and layover spot for customers flying to and from Europe.

As part of the United Arab Emirates, Dubai prohibits Israeli passport holders from entering its territory. The UAE and Israel do not have formal diplomatic relations.

In a letter to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry said it wanted the UAE government to make a definitive public statement guaranteeing that anyone traveling via Dubai will not “suffer any adverse consequences whatsoever by reason of having Israeli travel stamps in their passports.”

The ECAJ’s submission was bolstered by Shurat HaDin, the Israeli Law Center. Andrew Hamilton, an Australian-born solicitor for Shurat HaDin, cited the case of Cyril Karabus, a 78-year-old South African doctor who was arrested in August while in transit at Dubai airport…

It’s not difficult to imagine the repercussions from such a partnership: Israeli and even Jewish actors and musicians (unless they are of the Miriam Margolyes/Daniel Barenboim ilk) being barred from performing.

 If the price of sponsorship means sacrificing integrity, it is too high a price to pay.

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  1. Leon Poddebsky

    Is any Qatari money swirling around in the Sydney University Peace Centre?

  2. Good question Leon. I think we should know exactly how much money is given, not just to the Peace Centre, but to all universities from countries hostile to Israel. There are always strings attached.

    • Yesterday on the polling booth I was having quite a verbal stoush with an upstart young Green and a young guy with his mother came past. I finished my 3rd or 4th dose of aggravation for the day and walked away.
      The woman and her son were waiting for me and what an amazing couple of Israel supporters I found.

      What delightful people. They are Greek and have many Jewish friends. The guy is amazing. Around the 21 mark and a Law student at UNSW. This kid’s knowledge puts most of our own to shame, even down to when the invented people were ‘born’! Oslo Accords, UN resolutions. Even using Judaea and Samaria instead of the West Bank of Jordan.

      Anyway I asked him if he’d heard about the USYD incident. He hadn’t but told me the uni had become a nightmare with these leftists and no one was doing anything about it.

      We aim to keep in touch.

      Sorry for any typos. I am on my phone.

  3. Shirlee, when you find rare gems like these people it restores your faith in humanity.

    That the young guy is so knowledgeable is wonderful, and maybe he could become a voice to inform us what is happening on UNSW campus. Even a few good people can make a difference.

  4. has anyone heard about the peace and tolerance festival in melbourne where 6 year old muslim clerics were the guest speakers, they dressed up in fake beards and spoke to thousands of devoted followers about how 9-11 was committed by jews, and afterwards jews had a party to celebrate.

    peace and tolerance right?

  5. No I haven’t Gary, can you please find some info

  6. Gary, there was an article in the Australian just before it was held. I’m about to write an article on it, as one of the speakers claimed Jews were responsible for 9/11 – the usual sort of Peace and Tolerance we’ve come to expect!

  7. The truth is that they’d probably be more concerned about partnering-up with Israel, which they would probably consider to be on a lower moral place than Qatar.

    Good piece, Pam.