The FIFA World Cup in Qatar continues to be underway, however there’s already one early winner: Palestine. It’s scoring within the hearts and minds of followers from the world over.
Wanting on the considerable variety of Palestinian flags, seeing the Palestinian armbands and bracelets, and listening to the “free Palestine” chants on the stadiums, fan zones, within the streets and on social media, one might imagine that Palestine is among the many 32 international locations whose groups have participated on this World Cup. Certainly, some Latin American media shops have branded it the “thirty third nation” on the event.
However the Palestinian nationwide team shouldn’t be enjoying, so why is Palestine so ubiquitously current?
It’s as a result of the World Cup is far more than a sporting occasion. It’s a large gathering of individuals from world wide coming collectively to share their ardour for football and rejoice range and human solidarity.
This yr’s version of the World Cup is the primary one ever to be held in an Arab nation. Therefore, it has been extra accessible – geographically, logistically and culturally – to folks from the area than any earlier World Cup. It has additionally given folks from the area house to assemble in giant numbers with out the same old concern of repression.
Because of this, Palestine has mechanically taken centre stage, uniting Arabs in a joyful and celebratory environment and reaffirming their dedication to the Palestinian trigger.
On this uncommon Arab vox populi second, supporting Palestine seems to be an expression of freedom, a logo of resistance not solely in opposition to the continual occupation of Palestine but additionally in opposition to the neo-colonial order of repressive Arab regimes. It brings recollections of highly effective moments in the course of the tried revolutions from greater than a decade in the past when Arabs additionally flew the Palestinian flag and chanted “free Palestine” alongside their calls for for freedom and dignity.
Certainly, the Palestinian flag is an indication of Arab political company and has been a relentless function within the stands at soccer matches.
We noticed a giant one unfurled on the Tunisia-Australia match on November 26 after which one other one on the Morocco-Belgium match a day later. The enormous flag stored coming again in subsequent matches.
On the Tunisia-France recreation, a Tunisian fan waving the Palestinian flag ran onto the sphere and did just a few flips within the air earlier than being forcibly escorted out by safety; his feat impressed “Falastin, Falastin!” (Arabic for Palestine) chants within the viewers.
Morocco’s gamers raised the Palestinian flag on the pitch to rejoice defeating Canada and making it to the spherical of 16 after which once more after they scored a historic victory in opposition to Spain to qualify for the quarter-finals.
Moroccan followers have additionally been seen celebrating at Doha’s iconic Souq Waqif, singing the well-known Rajawi chant:
Our coronary heart is gloomy for you
Our eyes have been tearing for you for years,
Oh beloved Palestine
The place are the Arabs, they’re sleeping
Oh, essentially the most stunning of all international locations, resist
Could God defend you…
Various matches have additionally seen Palestinian flags raised on the forty eighth minute, accompanied by pro-Palestinian chants, to remind the world of the Nakba (disaster) Palestinians skilled in 1948 when a whole bunch of hundreds of Palestinians have been dispossessed and become refugees for all times.
Nevertheless it has not been simply Arabs expressing their help for Palestine.
“Free Palestine, Free Palestine”, Brazil followers have been heard chanting on the Doha metro, as they headed to their match in opposition to Cameroon. Followers from all around the world have been joyful to just accept and wave Palestinian flags given away by Palestinians within the streets of Doha.
Israeli media and residents have been allowed to attend the World Cup beneath FIFA necessities, though Israel and Qatar shouldn’t have formal diplomatic ties. The Israeli authorities most likely thought the event was an unimaginable alternative to display as soon as once more that it is ready to overcome the decades-old Arab coverage of not partaking with the Israeli colonial state. Nevertheless it didn’t end up that means.
Followers have overwhelmingly rejected Israeli media. Dozens of viral movies have circulated on social media exhibiting Israelis making an attempt to speak with followers and completely failing. Lebanese, Saudi, Moroccan, Egyptian, Jordanian, Qatari, Yemeni, Tunisian, Palestinian, but additionally Japanese, Brazilian, Iranian, and different followers have been caught on digicam adamantly refusing to interact.
“You aren’t welcome right here”, a Saudi Arabia fan tells an Israeli journalist in a single video. “Though that is Qatar, it’s nonetheless our nation. There isn’t a Israel, solely Palestine.”
In one other video, just a few England followers line up behind an Israeli reporter showing prepared to speak. He asks them “is it coming dwelling?” “It’s coming dwelling,” they reply. “However extra importantly Free Palesteeeeen!” one among them shouts into the microphone earlier than they stroll away.
Apparently, it received so unhealthy for the Israeli media that a few of its reporters began to faux they have been from different international locations, like Portugal, Germany and Ecuador. Others continued to strive.
“Now we have peace, huh? You signed peace, you signed on the peace settlement,” implored one Israeli journalist, desperately making an attempt to persuade Morocco followers to speak to him. As they walked away, they shouted: “Palestine, no Israel.”
Certainly, in 2020, Morocco, together with Bahrain, the UAE and Sudan, signed agreements to normalise diplomatic relations. That allowed Israelis to journey to the UAE – amongst others issues – the place that they had a heat reception. This expertise might have misled them to suppose they’d be welcome within the area, however that isn’t the case.
The Israeli media has been busy speaking about Israelis feeling like persona non grata in Qatar, being kicked out of eating places and taxis as quickly as they are saying they’re from Israel. There appears to be a rising realisation in Israel that normalisation efforts will not be as profitable as they could have thought.
Arabs have recognized all of it alongside: normalisation and peace offers are solely legitimate on paper with governments that don’t characterize the folks. Their hearts stay with Palestine till Palestinians turn into free, which is able to solely occur when the remainder of the area can be free.
The survival of the Israeli apartheid state is actually depending on dictatorial anti-democratic regimes that flip a deaf ear to the voices of their folks on all issues freedom, together with Palestine.
The viral movies of Israeli misadventures within the World Cup appear to have receded. Israeli diplomats have reportedly expressed discontent with how Israeli residents have been handled and known as on FIFA and Qatar to make sure the protection and luxury of its journalists.
Complaints from the Israeli media have been obtained with mockery, with some pointing to the lengthy listing of Palestinian journalists Israel has abused, arrested and killed, together with Al Jazeera’s reporter Shireen Abu Akleh. Her portrait may be noticed on the event.
This robust Palestinian presence, rising day after day within the World Cup, has served as a reminder to the worldwide neighborhood that the state of affairs in Palestine is insupportable and can’t be ignored. Because the World Cup proceeds, Palestinians are being killed, displaced, deported, intimidated and arrested with no resolution on the horizon. A coalition of far-right events has taken over the Israeli authorities, threatening to escalate apartheid violence in opposition to the Palestinians much more.
Within the World Cup, the Palestinians have additionally seen a chance to strengthen their Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions motion (BDS). Whereas Ukraine and its supporters have managed to get FIFA and UEFA (Union of European Soccer Associations) to droop the Russian nationwide crew and soccer golf equipment from competing of their tournaments over Russian aggression, the Palestinian efforts to get the identical therapy for Israel over its occupation of Palestinian land have up to now failed.
Nonetheless, Palestinians and their allies have succeeded in making this boycott occur at FIFA’s greatest occasion in their very own means: from the underside up. Whereas it stays to be seen how this highly effective present of solidarity will translate into political motion, this World Cup will certainly be remembered for a clear-cut historic victory: Palestine vs Israel 1-0