We came across the following message on 14 October on a Singapore-based Telegram channel with over 4,300 members:
The message contains a 7-second long video of the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, giving a speech, with details of the speech provided in Arabic. The caption in the Telegram post reports that the emir had warned that Qatar would create a global gas shortage in support of Palestine ‘if the bombing of Gaza doesn’t stop’. This appears to be a reference to the current bombing campaign in the Gaza Strip by the Israel Defence Forces as part of the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.
Qatar is one of the world’s leading natural gas producers, and it is also a major supplier to Singapore. A halt in gas production is therefore likely to cause significant disruption across the world, including in Singapore’s energy market and economy.
When we ran the screenshot image through Google Lens’ automatic translation tool, we found that the Emir was quoted in the text as speaking about a ‘refugee crisis’ that was the result of ‘regonal conflicts, civil wars, and displacement operations based on racism’. The audio of the video also include a mention of Palestine by the Emir in Arabic.
When we did a keyword search across the web and social media platforms, it appears that the earliest suggestion of the ‘threat’ by the emir originated on 12 October on Iranian news sites, such as Iran Press News Agency and Mehr News Agency. While the ownership of IPNA is uncertain, Mehr is a semi-official media organisation owned by the Iranian government, and state-owned media in Iran often carries state propaganda.
On social media, the news appears to have first surfaced on Facebook through a user named Ahmed Shihab-Eldin on 12 October. Shihab-Eldin, a verified personality on Facebook, is an American-Kuwaiti journalist of Palestinian descent who has previously worked for Al Jazeera, VICE and Huffington Post, as well as contributing on BBC, CNN, NBC and other platforms.
It is uncertain if the news emerged first on Facebook or on the Iranian news sites. Timestamps corrected for timezones appear to indicate Shihab-Eldin having published the news first, but it may be possible that he had based the information in his post on a different source.
The news of the ‘threat’ gained significant traction when it appeared on X, formerly Twitter, where for the first time, it was shared alongside the video clip of the emir speaking. On 13 October, it was shared by the user Dom Lucre, a popular right-wing user who has been known to share disinformation, and who was recently suspended and then reinstated on X for tweeting an image of child sexual abuse. Lucre’s tweet gained over 9.4 million views and 14,500 retweets.
Years Away from the Truth
Users on social media responded to Lucre’s tweet to point out that the speech in the clip had no mention of Qatar cutting the world’s gas supply. They also indicated that the video was six years old, originating from the opening speech at the Doha Forum in 2017.
While captions for the video of the speech on YouTube are not available, translation of an article on Al Jazeera covering the event does not include any mention of a halt to gas supply. The article instead indicates that the Emir’s speech was titled ‘Development, Stability and Refugee Issues’, and that Sheikh Tamim spoke about Palestinian, Syrian and Iraqi refugees and the need for international cooperation to address terrorism, conflicts and the displacement of people.
The claim was also investigated by several outlets including AP News and Politifact. AP News found that the exact translation of the Emir’s speech in the clip was, ‘The issue of Palestine, I’ll begin by saying it’s a case of people uprooted from their lands, and displaced from their nation’.
AP News also reached out to Qatar’s government, which confirmed that the clip was being misrepresented and that ‘Qatar does not politicise its LNG supplies’.
It is therefore false that Qatar has threatened to create a global gas shortage in support of Palestine.