World Cup slap in the face of Israel

TEHRAN, Nov. 28 (MNA) – With the world cup in Qatar well underway, the regime occupying Palestine saw an opportunity to try and further extend its occupying hand toward the Arab and Islamic world.

But events at the world's most popular sporting event have painted a completely different picture.

Such is the disgust toward Israeli policies at the prestigious occasion that even reporters dispatched by the apartheid regime have been investigating and reporting on the 'Cup of Hatred' (as one Hebrew newspaper headline put it) towards Israelis on the streets of Doha. 

The report speaks of the dangers for Israelis in Qatar and how they have been exposed to enemies from all sides.

If Israel had any hopes for a thaw in ties, it was mistaken. 

Instead, soccer fans in particular Arabs, at the first World Cup in West Asia are steering well clear of Israeli journalists in Qatar who have been trying to interview them in an attempt to send home attractive headlines to the war criminals in Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.

Before the event even kicked off, Israeli officials had expressed hope that the so-called U.S.-brokered "Abraham Accords" reached with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in 2020, and later Sudan and Morocco, would inspire further normalization, with a lot of that hope pinned on one of the region's influential player Saudi Arabia.

But the scenes have illustrated the challenges facing the wider Israeli ambitions two years after some Persian Gulf states forged formal ties with the occupation.

Attempts to try and even interview some Arab fans have fallen flat with Israeli reporters from the regime's biggest news broadcasters saying they are being snubbed reflecting the strong boycott and opposition by the people of the rulers of Arab and Islamic countries that normalized ties over the past two years.

Footage has gone viral online showing how Saudis, Qataris, and Lebanese fans, among others, walking away from Israeli reporters.

One Israeli reporter said Palestinian fans held an impromptu protest next to him, waving their flags and chanting "go home", in reference to the European and American countries from which Israeli settlers migrated to Palestine over the past decades, prompting the brutal Israeli ethnic cleansing campaigns against the native Palestinians.

On the other hand, the widespread support for the oppressed Palestinian people has been displayed with Palestinian flags being waved inside and outside stadiums despite the fact that Palestine did not qualify for the tournament. Fans from many Arab and Islamic countries have carried Palestinian flags prominently at matches and worn them as capes around their necks. 

Saudi national Khaled al-Omri, who works in the oil industry and was in Qatar to support his home team, told Reuters some "countries in the Arab world are heading towards normalization – but that's because most of them don't have rulers who listen to their people," 

Aseel Sharayah, a 27-year-old Jordanian at the tournament, said he would have also refused to talk to Israeli journalists, though Amman signed a peace deal with the regime in 1994.

"If I did see any of them, there'd be absolutely no time of interaction," said Sharayah, who works for the European-Jordanian Committee in Amman. "[Israeli] policies are closing the door on any opportunity for more ties between the countries."

In another case of the sheer disgust toward Israel among the Arab world, Israeli media have reported that a Qatari taxi driver kicked one of the apartheid regime's journalists out of his taxi after he discovered the reporter was an Israeli.

According to Israeli media, the driver refused to accept the reporter's money because "they kill his [Palestinian] brothers," the Israeli journalists added, "he dropped me in the middle of nowhere, said he wouldn't take money because we kill his brothers and all that stuff".

The Israeli journalist also claims that security guards were sent to remove him and his filming crew from a Qatari beach.

The report says security guards were sent to remove him and his filming crew from a Qatari beach after he asked a local restaurant to film on its premises. "The owner asked to know where we're from...he called for security guards to escort us away after finding out we were Israeli," the journalist said.

The restaurant beach owner also took the journalist's phone, demanding he deletes every photo taken in his restaurant, the reporter claimed "I felt threatened."

One video circulating online shows an Egyptian football fan smiling serenely as an Israeli broadcaster introduces him live on air. Then he leans into the microphone with a message: “Viva Palestine.”

Another clip that has gone viral from the streets of Doha this week shows a group of Lebanese men walking away from a live interview with a reporter after they learned he is Israeli. One shouts over his shoulder: “There is no Israel. It’s Palestine.”

While neither the Israeli occupying regime nor Palestine is playing in the tournament; Palestine has featured prominently in West Asia's first World Cup. 

During the opening ceremony before the first match, a phalanx of Qatari men came to the Al Bayt Stadium chanting, “Everyone is welcome,” carrying with them a large Palestinian flag. “We are taking care of people in Palestine, and all Muslim people and Arab countries are holding up Palestinian flags because we’re for them,” the flagbearer told the media.

One Israeli man, who gave only his first name, told the Guardian newspaper “the majority of the masses here do not accept the presence of Israelis.”

Israeli officials have posted videos urging their settler entity fans to keep a low profile.

"The Iranian team will be in the World Cup and we estimate that tens of thousands of fans will follow it, and there will be other fans from [Persian] Gulf countries that we don’t have diplomatic relations with,” said Lior Haiat, a senior Israeli official.

“Downplay your Israeli presence and Israeli identity for the sake of your personal security,” Haiat added, addressing the Israeli fans.

He also expressed hope of a positive, hassle-free Israeli presence in Qatar that could advance Israel’s ambitions to further integrate into the region after the normalization deals with two of Doha’s Persian Gulf neighbors.

“We very much hope things will go smoothly,” Haiat said.

With the extent of so many other incidents involving Israeli settlers going viral at the tournament, it appears that things are not going as "smoothly" as the Israeli regime had anticipated. 

It also shows the immense show of solidarity with Palestinians and the resentment toward Israeli war crimes and massacres against children. Qataris themselves have a history of support for the Palestinian cause.

More importantly, what has been highlighted in Doha, is that despite a few Arab rulers and monarchies normalizing ties with Israel, the people of those countries are against any form of normalization with the regime.

Over the years there has been a growing boycott of athletes from different sporting events boycotting matches against Israeli opponents at fixtures in protest against the apartheid regime. 

This is while Palestinian flags have been waved in matches involving even Western teams who play Israel, perhaps most notably in the stands at Celtic Park in Scotland. This is despite rules introduced by the UK authorities to ban Palestinian flags inside the stadium in the Scottish city of Glasgow.

At times, entire sections of fans at Glasgow Celtic's stadium displayed Palestinian flags to protest Israeli occupation. During games against Israeli teams, Scottish fans turned whole sections of the stadium into a sea of Palestinian flags, ignoring the official ban.

Demonstrations for Palestine in Scottish football matches have been organized by several groups including one that usually posts on social media platforms the words “Fly the flag for Palestine, for Celtic, for Justice.”

The group’s creators have also called on Celtic fans to support the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, saying that people should express their “democratic rights to display our opposition to Israeli apartheid, settler colonialism, and countless massacres of the Palestinian people”.

Organizers also say that UEFA (the governing body of football in Europe) should not support Israel and its policies. 

“When someone is representing Israeli [regime] institutions it is sadly never merely a game; football, UEFA, and Celtic FC are being used to whitewash Israel’s true nature and give this rogue state an air of normality and acceptance it should not and cannot enjoy until its impunity ends and it is answerable to international law and faces sanctions for the countless UN resolutions it had breached,” the organization's social media post read.

Research conducted by the Qatar-run Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies shows how large majorities across the Arab world have disapproved of and are strongly opposed to any form of the normalization process. 

It found that “an overwhelming majority (88%) of Arabs disapprove of recognition of Israel by their home countries, with only 6% accepting formal diplomatic recognition,”

The study also finds powerful support for the Palestinian cause among ordinary Arabs, who identify the conflict as an Arab issue. “Over three-quarters of the Arab public agree that the Palestinian cause concerns all Arabs, and not the Palestinians alone,” the report says. 

“When asked to elaborate on the reasons for their positions, respondents who were opposed to diplomatic ties between their countries and Israel focused on several factors, such as Israeli racism towards the Palestinians and its colonialist, expansionist policies,” 

The study confirms how much the colonialist past and the Western hegemony over the Arab world following World War I have driven the political sentiments of the Arab and Islamic worlds toward the aggression and expansionist policies Israel is committing today.

Many other polls over the past two years show a similar pattern after the signing of the controversial "Abraham Accords" between Israel and some Arab states.

A poll by The Washington Institute shows the already shaky support for normalization among Arab public opinion has dropped further.

The few "Arab countries officially normalizing relations with Israel over the past several years stand in contrast with a growing lack of public support for the Abraham Accords in the [Persian] Gulf.” 

The reality is even some monarchies in some Kingdoms have embarrassed themselves by normalizing ties with Israel, despite strong opposition from their citizens.

The reality is there would have been no normalization if the people of these monarchies have the right to voice their opinion on such controversial matters.

First published in Tehran Times

News Code 194180

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