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Qatar 2022 has shown that Palestine lives on in the hearts of the people

December 5, 2022 at 11:00 am

A general view inside the stadium prior to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group B match between England and USA at Al Bayt Stadium on November 25, 2022 in Al Khor, Qatar [Eddie Keogh – The FA/The FA via Getty Images]

The Palestine football team did not qualify for the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, but the Palestinians had more than one team playing in their name. They had an overwhelming presence in the hearts of the Arab teams and hundreds of thousands of Arab and foreign fans. Even the streets of Qatar were decorated with the Palestinian flag; fans wore the distinctive Palestinian keffiyeh; and they were adorned with slogans in support of Palestine. This popular Arab consensus was unprecedented and took advantage of the unique opportunity afforded by the tournament being played in an Arab and Muslim country for the first time. It confirmed to us all that Palestine is still the issue beating at the very heart of the Arab world.

Palestine is in the heart and conscience of every Arab, and Qatar has witnessed it being discussed in languages from around the world. This is significant, because the first summit of the Arab people was held in Qatar, and there was nothing but Palestine on its agenda; Palestine from the river to the sea. Normalisation has been dealt a serious blow, even in those nations whose Zionist regimes have declared their open links with Israel.

Arab football fans refused to speak or give interviews to the Zionist media, giving full support to the Palestinians as they did so. “It’s called Palestine, not Israel,” said more than one. A flag vendor gave customers a Palestinian flag as a gift when they bought their own national flags from him. A taxi driver refused to take a customer who was, he discovered, an Israeli. “You are killing our Palestinian brothers,” he told him.

Perhaps the most powerful message came from Tunisian and Moroccan fans who raised a huge banner with “Free Palestine” on it at the 48th minute of the games against Australia and Belgium respectively. The Nakba, of course, started in 1948, when Israel was created in occupied Palestine.

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The Moroccan fans sang some powerful words after their victory over Belgium — which supports Israel — but they weren’t about football. “Our Beloved Palestine, the most precious country, resist, may God protect you from the injustice of the enemies and the Zionists,” they chanted. “We will not leave you, Gaza, although you are far, O Rafah and Ramallah, our nation is sick, they made it sick with problems and the corruption of governments. We will never kneel except to our Lord, the Lord of the universe, and freedom will come, God willing, there will be joy in Jerusalem.”

This was a powerful message to the ruler of Morocco, King Mohammed VI, who has signed a normalisation agreement with the Zionist state. Such agreements do not reflect the wishes of the people. Israeli journalists viewed the Arab football fans’ refusal to speak to them as evidence of the failure of Israel’s decision to normalise with some Arab and Muslim states. “My experience in Qatar,” said Israeli journalist Raz Shechnik, “ended any hope of improving our relations with the Arab peoples.”

Another journalist claimed that he was “kicked out” of a restaurant, whose owner took his phone and “deleted all pictures of Qatar” from it. “The Arabs and many foreigners get angry and turn away from us when they know that we are Israelis.”

Arabs snub Israel media at Qatar World Cup - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

Arabs snub Israel media at Qatar World Cup – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

All of this suggests that the Arab sense of the nation is still in good health, and that Palestine can never be removed from our hearts no matter how hard the Zionists try. It confirms what we already know: the Arab people reject normalisation and regard Israel as the enemy, despite the normalisation moves by the Arab regimes.

The supportive atmosphere in Qatar has been tempered, though, by the painful irony of the UN General Assembly decision to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba with a high-level session on 15 May next year. The 15 May 1948 was the day that the international organisation announced the establishment of Israel on the land of Palestine.

Moreover, the UN announced this decision on 29 November, the anniversary of the issue of its shameful Resolution 181, the 1947 Partition Plan for Palestine. In 1977, of course, the UN opted for 29 November to be commemorated as the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. The UN Secretary General at the time was Kurt Waldheim, who said that by celebrating the solidarity day the UN was reaffirming its commitment to uphold the rights of the Palestinian people. However, he did not tell us why he did not restore those rights, or what was keeping him from upholding his commitments. Does the UN, which enabled the Zionists to usurp the land of Palestine, really have the right to show solidarity with the Palestinian people?

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I think that Waldheim and his successors have insulted our intelligence and continue to pull the wool over our eyes. The UN facilitated the loss of Palestinian rights and has done everything to ensure that Israel gets away with its murderous settler-colonialism. Its choice of dates for Palestinian “solidarity” rubs salt into the wounds and exposes the hypocrisy of the international community.

Although solidarity on one or more days will not return the land of Palestine to its people, we have not seen anything from the UN on the ground as an expression of standing with the Palestinians. The Zionist Arab governments have actually erased this day from their memory and calendar. We did not hear a single word, or see any reference or hint about that fateful day on TV to remind the Arabs and Muslims about the Nakba and the importance of the struggle for Palestinian freedom. Such deliberate disregard by the Zionist Arab governments is what normalisation really means; it is nothing positive, and not even a shameful secret any more.

If our history is to be preserved in our collective memory, then it needs to be discussed and disseminated so that fake narratives cannot take its place. This is what happens around the world, but not in the Arab regimes which bend over backwards to please the Zionists and their allies.

The Arab and Muslim peoples have demonstrated during the FIFA World Cup in Qatar that the Palestinian cause burns in their hearts and that its flames will not be extinguished with the passage of time and normalisation by their governments. No matter how much the Zionists within the Arab world rush to normalise with Israel, the people will continue to preserve the Palestinian cause, regardless of the challenges faced.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.