Qatar – One can be forgiven for thinking Palestine is playing in the World Cup. The cities of Qatar have the Palestinian flag in full view while hundreds of fans have draped themselves with it. While many issues have been raised at this World Cup, the plight of the Palestinians have been at the front and centre of the Qatar World Cup.
Fans from the Arab world and beyond have raised the Palestinian flag and made sure the world knows who they support. Arab teams have also taken to the pitch with the Palestinian flag in a show of support that is hardly ever seen. It is an uplifting and incredible moment seeing Arab teams and fans making known to the world who they support in the Israel-Palestine conflict, expressed Roshan Dadoo, Member of the South Africa BDS Coalition.
“It has been extraordinary to see, from the Tunisia and Morocco games, the free Palestine flags being raised in the 48th minute in each game commemorating the 1948 Nakba. To see the rejection, by the populations of countries, of the Abraham Accords and normalisation which really puts to rest any myths that they were popular. That was the story put out that people of those countries were supporting those normalisation efforts. Particularly Morocco. It’s very clear nobody there is in favour of normalisation with Israel. It’s difficult to express these things in some of these countries.”
Moroccans have come in full force to show they are not in support of the normalisation agreement that King Mohamed VI has recently signed. These protests can no longer be suppressed, as they are in Morocco. In Qatar the Moroccans are letting the world know they do not stand with King Mohammed VI.
“There is a big anti-normalisation in the streets there but they do get repressed. We work with them through the Pan-African Palestine Solidarity network. Although they have massive demonstrations, very often they also get repressed and their demonstrations get broken up.”
Palestine is still the issue beating at the heart of the Arab world
The support shown by Arab fans has created awareness about Palestine. There are many videos doing the rounds on social media of fans rejecting to speak to Israeli journalists and voicing their stance on the war crimes perpetrated by Israel. This speaking out on national television is extremely important, said Dadoo. It only shows where the hearts of Arab fans are but also creates awareness in Qatar and across the world about Palestine.
“What’s interesting is that it has affected fans from all over the world. It raised up the issues and normalised the fact that Palestine needs to be free … It has been a successful World Cup for Palestine even though they didn’t qualify. We have to really use this moment and momentum. It will really give the global BDS campaign against Israel being a part of FIFA a boost. We here must start putting pressure on SAFA to kick Israel out.”
A glimmer of hope for the people of Palestine
It is not just Arab fans who are waving the flag of Palestine proudly but also fans from across the world. English fans were seen shouting slogans of support for Palestine when they were being interviewed on an Israeli TV channel. This kind of support should fill the hearts of Palestinians with joy as they are experiencing intense violence from Israel, said Dadoo.
“It must be very heartwarming for people in Palestine to see this level of support at the World Cup given it has been the bloodiest year for decades. Two hundred people have been killed. The new minister of security was congratulating the soldier that had executed someone a few days ago. The resistance in Palestine must be so heartened to see this kind of popular support so visibly from across the world.”
What is also interesting to see is the mainstream media cannot do anything to censor these remarks, stances and flags being flown, stated Dadoo.
The brutality that Palestinians face can no longer be hidden. Israelis who support the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians are now finding it harder to defend their actions. What is needed now is for the momentum that fans and teams have created to be carried forward, said Dadoo. With the momentum and awareness at an all time high, there is much hope that more people will start supporting Palestinian causes and help to finally free Palestine.