Palestine: The World Cup's 33rd team, biggest winner
Despite Palestine not being among the 32 qualifying teams, Arab fans at Qatar's World Cup stadiums embraced the Palestinian cause and portrayed their solidarity with Palestine, making it the 33rd team and perhaps the biggest winner in the tournament.
When Qatar decided to allow Israelis to "temporarily" enter its territory in compliance with FIFA rules, some observers thought that the Gulf country was paving the way for a normalization agreement with the Israeli occupation.
The US State Department, the number one sponsor of Israeli terrorism in the region, hailed the flights opened between Qatar and "Israel" as holding "great promise to bolster people-to-people ties and economic relations," while Washington continued to apply its policy of siege, wars, and sanctions in West Asia.
The supporters of the Palestinian cause even considered it a blow and felt betrayed and disappointed by the Qatari decision, knowing that Doha did not normalize ties with "Tel Aviv" and had previously condemned the so-called "Abraham Accords".
Despite the announcement made by a Qatari official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, that the decision was purely to comply with hosting requirements from FIFA, such actions are hardly justifiable under any circumstances, since "Israel", a usurping and a colonial regime, continued to assassinate, oppress, and subjugate the Palestinian people as football fans were cheering on their teams in Qatar.
Little did the Israelis and their allies know what was waiting for them when the 2022 World Cup kicks off. While Israeli officials voiced hope that "a positive, hassle-free Israeli presence in Qatar could advance Israel's ambitions to further integrate into the region after the normalization deals," as per Israeli media, the situation on the ground dashed their hopes, as football fans from all around the world have been snubbing Israeli journalists in the Gulf country.
Since the start of the World Cup in Qatar, a number of videos went viral on social media showing the masses, Arabs and non-Arabs, refusing to give Israeli channels interviews in support of Palestine and in rejection of normalization, proving that the normalization deals inked by four Arab leaderships with the Israeli occupation did not convey the sentiments of their nationals.
From #Arab, #Brazilian, and even Japanese #WorldCup fans, Israeli media seem to be having trouble during the big event. It seems that "Israel's" long history of colonialism, occupation, and massacres against #Palestinians is not going unnoticed by people around the world. pic.twitter.com/5bA0GMqAOX— Al Mayadeen English (@MayadeenEnglish) November 27, 2022
Touching on this matter, an article in the Israeli newspaper Israel Hayom entitled Qatar World Cup shows 'Israel' is still hated, considered that "All those who claim that the inhabitants of the Gulf states harbor no ill will toward the State of Israel, have now seen their theory shot to pieces and have woken up to an entirely different reality."
Though several Arab states have shamefully normalized ties with the Israeli occupation, and despite Palestine not being among the 32 qualifying teams, fans at Qatar's World Cup stadiums embraced the Palestinian cause and portrayed their solidarity with Palestine through various means, making it the 33rd team and perhaps the biggest winner in the tournament.
Palestinian flags and pro-Palestinian banners, such as "Free Palestine", have become a staple at the World Cup, as barely any expression of support for the Israeli occupation is being seen at the biggest sporting event in the world.
We've witnessed football fans all over the stadiums wearing armbands of the Palestinian flag and the Palestinian keffiyeh, the head-dress indigenous to Palestine, with the Palestinian song "Alli El-Keffiyeh", which translates to Raise the Keffiyeh, playing regularly in fan zones.
What makes #Palestine the actual winner of the #WorldCup this year? pic.twitter.com/XlJjGJNb53— Al Mayadeen English (@MayadeenEnglish) December 6, 2022
The Moroccan national team even celebrated its advance into the quarter-finals through its victory over Spain with the Palestinian flag, expressing solidarity with the Palestinian people. It was not the first time the Moroccan team celebrates its win by waving the Palestinian flag, as player Jawad El Yamiq was seen carrying the Palestinian flag and celebrating his team's win over Canada. The win qualified Morocco for the round of 16.
In other words, the settings formed a golden opportunity for Arabs to raise awareness about the Palestinian cause among foreigners unfamiliar with it, knowing that the World Cup is a huge sporting event, followed by millions of people around the world.
The main reason behind the absence of Israeli sentiment is the Israeli occupation government urging Israelis attending the World Cup "to be less visibly Israeli," Israeli media reported. The Israeli occupation pressed Israelis to keep a low profile, most notably hiding Israeli symbols.
"This is a serious blow to anyone who thought normalization was right around the corner and that normalization with Arab countries was just a matter of time," an Israeli journalist at Israel Hayom wrote in an article entitled The World Cup in Qatar, A Mirror for the Israelis: They Do Not Like Us nor Want Us.
The article argued that the World Cup put the Israeli occupation before a harsh and bitter reality.
"Everyone claiming that the people of the Gulf do not have enmity toward Israel saw that they have been tricked, and they are experiencing a different reality," the article stressed.
It concluded that "Unless the Palestinian cause is solved somehow that is acceptable by all parties, we are not and will not be welcome in Arab countries. Even in countries that have signed normalization agreements."
Commenting on this matter, Abdulaziz Alghashian, a Saudi researcher who studies Riyadh's policy toward "Tel Aviv" explained that "Arab people, even those who are citizens of countries that normalized relations with Israel, still have their fair share of grievances with Israel, and that is not going anywhere soon."
This confirms the results of public opinion polls that show that the majority of Arabs oppose normalizing ties with the Israeli occupation.
On his part, Ohad Hemo, a veteran Israeli television reporter, considered that the so-called "Abraham Accords" did not bring a fundamental change. He said: "The people of the Middle East — not the regimes — do not really accept Israel."
All of the heartwarming pro-Palestinian moments witnessed during the 2022 World Cup in Qatar were essential in spreading awareness about the Palestinian cause and exposing the Israeli occupation's brutality. They also show that, unlike their leaders, Arabs have not given up on the Palestinian cause and a free Palestine.
However, much more is needed in order to liberate Palestine and end the occupation, in light of the increasing security and economic deals and agreements between "Israel" and some normalizing Arab states. The equation remains very clear: There is no alternative other than continuous armed struggle.
Read more: FIFA's Infantino defends Qatar, accuses West of "hypocrisy"