Palestine is the real champion of the World Cup 2022: Football fans refuse to 'legitimize Israel'
"Israel" has succeeded in winning the recognition of some Arab regimes, but it has entirely failed to win the support of the Arab people.
Israeli journalists have traveled to Qatar to cover the World Cup, some to get Arabs to speak to Israeli media. However, fans have graciously declined the offers, as captured by social media. Some refused to talk, others expressed support for the Palestinian cause, while others walked away when they realized the reporter was an Israeli. Arab and Muslim fans have shunned Israeli media after knowing who they represent.
The World Cup in Qatar is one of the few opportunities for Arabs to gather and express themselves. Arab residents' silence sends a clear message to Middle Eastern and Western leaders that they oppose normalization. Israeli journalists covering the World Cup in Qatar face hostility and silence from Arab fans. Israeli journalists are ostracized at the World Cup in Qatar, with many spectators shouting at them and refusing to give interviews once they discover they are Israeli. Israeli journalists in Qatar for the World Cup had no one to interview since fans worldwide have refused to participate in interviews as a token of solidarity with Palestinians.
World Cup 2022 has changed worldwide perceptions of the Middle East and bolstered Palestinian unity. Fans, players, and celebrities have raised Palestinian flags, chanted for freedom, and refused to interact with Israeli apartheid state media and tourists. Since the start of the matches, social media platforms were loaded with footage of fans from around the world refusing Israeli propaganda interviews and supporting Palestine. Likewise, Israeli visitors and journalists have taken to social media to express being "unwelcome" in Qatar.
The Palestinian flag has been flying alongside supporters from different nations and racial origins over the last several days in Qatar. Before the 2022 World Cup, hundreds of football fans waved Palestinian flags. Qatari residents and supporters who traveled to the Gulf state for the games waved flags, wore the Palestinian Kufiyah, and danced the Dabke to show solidarity with the Palestinian people. Tunisian fans displayed a banner stating "Free Palestine" during the Australia-Tunisia match.
According to the Israeli channel's journalist in Qatar, the young Lebanese men became angry when they learned the person speaking to them was from an Israeli media organization. The correspondent stated, "The young Lebanese men refused to recognize the existence of Israel" while emphasizing that "Israel" is in fact Palestine.
"Israel" has succeeded in winning the recognition of some Arab regimes, but it has entirely failed to win the support of the Arab people. Instead of speaking, Arab people have held up a mirror in front of Israeli cameras, reminding viewers of what they have persistently tried to forget, Palestine. As a result, Israeli journalists and their readers are reminded of settler colonialism, ethnic cleansing, occupation, Palestinian refugees, and the continuing Nakba (catastrophe) that has been ongoing since 1948.
Most importantly, in the 48th minute of the World Cup match between Morocco and Belgium, Moroccan fans unfurled a "Free Palestine" banner as a tribute to the Palestinian cause. However, what is striking is the Israeli amazement upon observing reflections that the anger over "Israel's" violence and construction on stolen Palestinian land has not diminished with time.
In an interview, Dr. Abida Rafik, a former research fellow at the Institute on Conflict and Security Studies in Islamabad, Pakistan, who specializes in US, Asian, Middle Eastern, and Arab issues, remarked that "while many Arab countries have normalized their diplomatic ties with Israel over the past few years, yet public support for Israel has been eroding.”
Likewise, with the continued oppression of the Palestinian people at the hands of "Israel's" apartheid regime, public opinion has hardened in resistance to normalization ties with "Israel". Hence, Israeli journalists — the noticeable Israeli symbols at the Qatar world cup have at times been insulted or rejected by local residents and Arab visitors, a warning sign that despite the 2020 normalization agreements with three Arab governments, many ordinary people in the region continue to oppose closer ties with "Israel". The normalization agreement with several Arab governments has in no way reduced Arab nations' hostility toward "Israel".
Dr. Abida further stressed that what happened at the World Cup proves that the Arab public and the majority of the worldwide people are sincere supporters of the Palestinians' right to freedom. Nothing, not even an unlawful and immoral occupation, can sway the perceptions of the Arab and Muslim people. She added that the "World Cup's support for the Palestinians shows that the Arab street won't warm up to Israel as long as Israel's military control over the Palestinians persists."
"Israel", as usual, is self-victimizing to deflect attention from its racial cleansing of Palestinians. However, after receiving a popular effort at the FIFA World Cup, where the Palestinian flag is prominently waved by footballers and fans alike and with slogans chanting "free Palestine" and more, the misery of Palestinians living under Israeli rule is once again in the spotlight.
The Palestine Ambassador to the United Nations, Riyad Mansour, remarked that the World Cup in Qatar "destroyed Israel's illusions. The winner of this World Cup has already been determined; Palestine, whose flag is hoisted by people from every corner of the Arab world and the rest of the world, is present at every game and in the fans' chants. It is a sign for Arab countries that even though they are willing to devalue the Palestinian cause, their people are not, and the Arabs across the region strongly oppose peace with an occupier."
Muna Al-Kurd, a Palestinian activist, cautioned Qatari fans that Israeli reporters may mask their media logos to conceal their identities to secure interviews with Arab fans. She urged followers in an Instagram story to constantly inquire about the channel's authenticity when approached by reporters.
Thus, regardless of how many normalization deals "Israel" signs with Arab regimes, Arab citizens who remain silent clearly state to those in authority in the Middle East and the West that they reject "Israel". Refusing to communicate is an act of resistance. It is paradoxically telling the Arab regimes, "Israel", and the rest of the world the truth. Arab supporters have clarified that their governments' support of the Israeli occupation does not reflect their commitment to the Palestinian cause. Israelis are enraged that Arab people don't support their governments. Hence, the hate and anger are not limited to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory. Instead, the issue is all about "Israel" being there.