Rassegna Esteri

And the World Cup goes to Palestine

Tehran Times – Fans from around the world supporting their national teams along with other soccer fans at the Qatar World Cup have displayed their strong opposition toward Israel in another slap in the face for the occupying regime.

The increasingly vast number of videos going viral on social media show a rising number of nationals from around the world, supporting their own different international teams have been avoiding, intruding, shouting, and even shoving Israeli journalists. Other videos show loud disruptions of Israeli live broadcasts by football supporters from around the globe chanting pro-Palestine slogans.

In one of the latest such videos that have been doing the rounds on the internet, an England fan shocked an Israeli World Cup reporter in Qatar by shouting “free Palestine” during a live TV broadcast.

The video shows the England supporter, Harry Hatton, being interviewed by the Israeli journalist after the English national team beat Senegal 3-0 when he screamed “It’s coming home! But more importantly, free Palestine.”

The phrase “it’s coming home” is in reference to a song released when England was hosting its first major football tournament (the 1996 UEFA European Football Championship) since the national team won the 1966 World Cup.

The Israeli reporter can be seen shaking his head and raising his hand in frustration as Hatton and his three friends – all of whom were wearing English football shirts – cheered in support.

Following a wave of online support for Hatton, the England fan later wrote in a social media post “I am glad I got to (play) my small part in highlighting this issue.”

Another sports reporter for Israel’s Channel 13 said he has been shoved, insulted, and accosted by fans during his live reports from the tournament. “You are killing babies!” fans yelled as they rammed into him during a broadcast.

The Israeli journalist says he is now advising Israeli visitors to hide any of their Israeli identity so as not to provoke hostility. He also says that when a cell phone salesman noticed his friend’s settings were written in Hebrew, the salesman exploded with anger, screaming at the Israeli to get out of Doha, let alone his cellphone store.

“I was so excited to come in with an Israeli passport, thinking it was going to be something positive,” the journalist said. “It’s sad, it’s unpleasant. People were cursing and threatening us.”

Israeli journalists, who are the most visible symbols of their regime at the world’s most popular tournament, have also been angrily scolded at or ignored by local residents as well as fans from the Arab and Islamic world.  

This has served as a reminder for the apartheid regime that despite signing the 2020 normalization deals with three Persian Gulf Arab Kingdoms, ordinary citizens in those Kingdoms and the wider region have deep animosity toward Israel and strongly oppose any relations with it.

The Qatar world cup has also highlighted the unity among Arab and Islamic visitors to Doha in their support for Palestine and anger toward the regime. This is something that regional conferences also focus on but do not grab any attention from the global mainstream media.

Fans supporting different teams are wearing armbands, and other symbols of Palestine and waving flags in support of the Palestinian cause. They have also chanted songs in support of the Palestinians at multiple venues with some stadiums seeing massive Palestinian flags on display at the stands.

On Wednesday, a man wearing a Tunisia shirt interrupted a game by running onto the field with a Palestinian flag. Another case involved Tunisian fans raising a huge “Free Palestine” flag during their game against Australia.

Violence has erupted in the occupied West Bank this year and just hours after news emerged that a number of Palestinians were shot dead in the West Bank, Arab fans at the World Cup in Qatar chanted (in Arabic) “With spirit and blood, we will redeem you, O Palestine”

Before the World Cup began, FIFA announced that fans from Israelis [settlers squatting on occupied Palestinian territories] would be allowed to fly directly to Qatar for the World Cup from the occupied Palestinian territories for the first time. 

The indigenous Palestinians from the occupied Palestinian territories have also been allowed to travel to Doha by military occupation.

Qatari officials have a history of public support toward the Palestinian cause and have insisted the temporary opening (of its airways) to Israelis was purely to comply with FIFA hosting requirements – not a step to any form of a move toward normalizing ties. 

The Qatari government says that Doha has informed Israeli officials that “any escalation in al-Quds (Jerusalem), [the besieged] Gaza Strip or the [occupied] West Bank during this time will risk the cancellation of the agreement – including the direct flights.”

If anything, the World Cup in Qatar has highlighted the failure of the so-called “Abraham Accords”, an agreement brokered by former U.S. President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, that normalized relations between Israel and the UAE, Bahrain, and Sudan.

It comes amid protests across Bahrain against the visit by Israeli President Isaac Herzog to the Persian Arab Kingdom for the first time. This is despite a heavy crackdown on protests in the Kingdom, which protesters have defied, signaling the Bahraini citizen’s strong opposition toward their ruler’s decision to normalize Manama’s ties with the regime.

Earlier this year, a public opinion survey in the region found that the people of West Asia are overwhelmingly opposed to any form of normalization deals with Israel.

The annual Arab Opinion Index (AOI) published by the Arab Centre for Research and Policy Studies, found that more than 85 percent of its 28,000 respondents opposed any diplomatic recognition of Israel. Just six percent of those polled said that they would support such a move.

Surveys in Sudan show almost 80 percent of the country’s citizens who responded to polls said that they also oppose any form of normalization.

Any attempts to try and maintain some kind of illusion that the so-called “Abraham Accords” were anything other than a military and trade agreement between an apartheid entity and a few monarchies in the Persian Gulf is facing serious barriers.

Nowhere has this been more evident than during the World Cup in Qatar where the support for Palestine has been on full display and the disgust at the Israeli apartheid regime has hit international headlines.

As witnessed in Doha, support for the Palestinian cause goes beyond West Asia. It has stretched to the populations of people from around the world.

The harassment of Israeli journalists at the World Cup by supporters of international teams is a drop in the ocean in comparison to the harassment of Palestinians by the Israeli regime. Palestinian who are living under a strict military occupation. The war crimes and genocidal campaigns along with the mass murder of children cannot be compared. 

Nevertheless, it has been a deeply embarrassing World Cup event for Israel and a PR campaign that has spectacularly backfired. 

The Palestinian flags waved at the world cup and the chants in support of the Palestinian cause at the international tournament reflect the fact that Palestine has become a symbol of freedom among the free people in the world.

On the other hand, over the past decade, footage showed that Israeli flags have been waved at white supremacist rallies in the United States and the United Kingdom among other western states. This is while chants in support of the regime have been heard at extremist neo-Nazi rallies in Western Europe marching on the streets.

Just think. The irony!

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