LONDON: This year’s FIFA World Cup welcomes fans from around the world and the quadrangular event is ground zero for journalists. Many football fans, however, ignored the Israeli journalists in a sign of Palestinian solidarity.
For weeks, fans flocked to Doha to be part of the spectacle. The 2022 World Cup held in Qatar was one for the ages. Its message is one of unity for the love of the game, and for the first time, people in fan zones, stadiums and even players expressed support for Palestine, raising the Palestinian flag and playing pro-Palestine slogans, chants and songs.
While this year’s World Cup has been tremendous fun, with Saudi Arabia beating the great Argentina in the group stage and Morocco suffering an emotional defeat by defeating the Spanish and Portuguese a few days ago, it is political considerations on full display that have dominated the discussion. Be a key point of.
While special direct flights brought fans from Tel Aviv to Doha for the tournament, many fans chose to give Israeli journalists the cold shoulder, as several journalists experienced and showed live on television.
Nearly two years ago, four member states of the Arab League signed the US-brokered Abraham Accords, through which Israel aims to forge formal ties with countries in the region. Qatar was not one of them.
Videos of fans, mostly Arabs, went viral on social platforms, prompting Israeli media to shrug off. On 18 November, a video was shared in Doha’s Souk Waqf of a Qatari national who refused an interview after learning that the reporter worked for an Israeli TV channel.
Two days later, another video showed a group of Lebanese fans walking away from a journalist after he revealed he was from Israel. One of them told a Channel 12 reporter: “There is no such thing as Israel. This is Palestine. Israel does not exist,” in an apparent rejection of the generalization.
Israeli journalist Raj Shechnik, who has been covering news from the FIFA World Cup in Doha, expressed his disappointment on Twitter. He shared on November 26 that Arab fans walked away from him when they learned he represented Israel. His video shows three women and a man carrying a Palestinian flag and telling the journalist: “There is no such thing as Israel. It’s just Palestine.
In the same video, the Moroccan fan, who posed first but, upon learning that Shechnik was from Israel, moved with one of them, said: “Israel, no. Palestine, yes. Moroccan Abraham in December 2020 Reporters shouted about the accord: “But we have peace,” and “You signed the peace accord”.
A Twitter thread by Yedioth Ahronoth’s reporter showed fans disrupting a live broadcast and waving the Palestinian flag and more Qataris refusing to speak with them, shocked when they heard the channel was Israeli.
Israeli journalist Moav Vardi tweeted on 27 November about being challenged by a Saudi football fan, who told a Kan 11 TV correspondent that he was “not welcome here (in Qatar)” and that “there is only Palestine; no Israel is not.
Using the tournament’s global platform, the Palestinian flag – along with pro-Palestinian sentiments – was ubiquitous throughout the Qatar World Cup, attracting considerable attention.
The Palestinian flag took center stage seven times.
The Morocco national football team extended this following their World Cup victories, including a 6 December win over Spain, when they made it to the quarter-finals despite the North African country’s government normalizing ties with Israel.
Moroccan fans in the stadium also held up a “Free Palestine” banner during their team’s victory over Belgium in Group E on 27 November.
Similarly, Tunisian fans raised a banner reading “Free Palestine” during the Australia–Tunisia game on 26 November, while Qatari fans waved Palestine flags of various sizes at the Qatar–Netherlands match on 29 November.
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This comes despite Israel’s PR campaigns in the region after it signed US-brokered peace deals with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in 2020, and later with Sudan and Morocco. After the deals are signed, Israel’s senior foreign ministry official Eliav Benjamin, at a briefing, expected to normalize relations with “all countries in the region, the Middle East and North Africa”.
“There is no doubt that what we saw at the World Cup is beyond a shadow of a doubt,” Daoud Kuttab, former professor of journalism at Princeton University and founder and former director of the Institute of Modern Media at Al-Quds University, told Arab News. One doubts whether the Arab public – and indeed most of the world – are true supporters of the right of Palestinians to be independent.”
Kuttab said: “The countries that signed the Abraham Accords claimed at the time that they hoped to be able to influence Israel’s policy towards the Palestinians, but, on the ground, a record number of Palestinians were killed by Israeli troops. and a well-known Palestinian-American TV reporter was shot dead by Israeli forces without agreeing to investigate the matter.
A Saudi journalist who has been closely following events in Doha said: “It is interesting that the typical Qatari behavior has dealt with the World Cup. While in Arabic, Qatari commentators were supporting the Palestinian cause, and refused recognition; in English and Hebrew he was welcoming Israeli fans and journalists and presenting them with souvenirs in front of the cameras.
“Usually, political statements would be banned or at least banned at sporting events, especially in a non-democratic country like Qatar. However, I would say that the pro-Palestinian rhetoric is exaggerated so that Arab sentiment is distracted from the fact that in reality, Doha, which has no diplomatic relations with Tel Aviv, has actually hosted Israeli fans and journalists. Is allowed.
“I am not saying that there is no sincere Arab solidarity with the Palestinians. I’m saying that if Israel doesn’t mend ways – and it’s unlikely to do so under a far-right government led by Netanyahu – we’ll see more anti-Israel PR stunts like we’ve seen in Doha,” he concluded. Removed. Saudi journalist.
Prior to the start of the World Cup, the Qatari network Al Jazeera Arabic posted stories and social media posts suggesting that Doha had ordered Israel to allow Palestinians to fly in and be able to watch the game; An obvious spin on the real story that Israeli Airlines and citizens were allowed to fly direct to Doha.
Around the same time, AFP’s Fact Check – the famous international French news agency’s fake news watch service – published a report detailing how the World Cup had been pushed ahead to shock Palestinian propaganda.
Archive images of Qatari buildings decorated with Palestinian flags were presented as recent, and fake stories of people converting to Islam were being circulated as a cover-up.
Of course, with an extreme right-wing government expected to form under prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s already difficult crusade to win over the Arab world is only likely to become more difficult.
Kuttab asserted that “the Israeli government, whether from the center or the right, will never win over hearts and minds as long as the Palestinian people are living under the occupation and colonial settlement enterprise.
He added, “Nothing short of ending their illegal and immoral occupation of Israel will change the minds of free people everywhere, and certainly will not change Arab and Muslim views.”