Tunisian fans show their support for Palestine. Palestine does not have a team in this year’s World Cup. But according to the New York Times “Palestine has become the World Cup’s unofficial team”. Read more….
You might think that the Palestinian team was in the finals at the World Cup. Nope, not even close. Palestine didn’t even qualify. But, despite a nominal ban on political displays, Palestinian flags, keffiyehs and “Free Palestine” banners are everywhere. And neither FIFA nor Qatar appear willing (or able) to prevent the Palestinian cause from suffusing the games.
Arab teams and fans from across the Global South have been using the tournament’s global stage to elevate the Palestinian cause in the stands and on the field. Waving the Flag of the World Cup’s Unofficial Team, according to the New York Times.
“Waving the Flag of the World Cup’s Unofficial Team” – New York Times
However, Israel did allow a small number of Palestinians to get out of the West Bank to attend the games. Those who made the long journey said they felt their attendance at the world’s biggest sporting event served a political purpose.
“I am here as a reminder that in 2022, our land is still occupied,“ said Moawya Maher, a 31-year-old businessman from Hebron, a particularly tense West Bank city. He was dancing at a concert at the FIFA Fan Festival, wearing a Palestinian flag as a cape.
From player demonstrations to unfurled flags, the Palestinian struggle has been visible and fearless at the World Cup. CBC senior sports contributor Shireen Ahmed traveled to Qatar to cover the World Cup. In an interview with the Nation magazine, Ahmed marveled that she had never seen so many Palestinian flags carried by people from other countries, or so many fans supporting Palestinian liberation. “As someone who was born and raised in Canada and who has always had to navigate my own support for Palestinian resistance through a lens of whitewashing the occupation and the struggles, challenges, and cultural genocide of Palestinian people, this was really impactful,” she said. “The whole experience was transformative for me.”
Israel scores an own goal
Israeli journalists, seemingly expecting a warm “post-Abraham Accords” welcome at the World Cup, were rejected at every turn. One British fan, in a live interview on Israeli TV, was asked if he hoped England would bring the Cup home. “It’s coming home…but more importantly, free Palestine!” was his shouted reply.
“As a Palestinian, Arab and human, I was not pleased with Qatar’s decision to allow Israeli journalists into the country for the World Cup”, wrote Ahmed Abu Rtema of Gaza. “However, the presence of Israeli media around Arab football fans is a rare opportunity to gauge popular opinion. And it showed – with abundant clarity – that the prevailing attitude is a strong, moral, popular Arab rejection of normalization with Israel, the colonial entity.”