Qatar World Cup: Israeli-Palestinian conflict is catching up to Qatar

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — It was uncharted territory for the Israeli journalist. He was wandering through Doha’s outdoor market before the World Cup began when he saw a Qatari man wearing a traditional headdress and white flowing dress and asked for an interview.

“Which channel?” the Qatari asked. The journalist replied that he was from Kan in Israel’s public broadcaster.

The Qatari was stunned. “Where?”

“Israel,” the journalist repeated. The interview was ended in a split second.

The exchange ricocheted around social media, reflecting the latest political flash point at the first World Cup in the Arab world — never mind that neither Israeli nor Palestinian national teams are competing in the tournament.

Controversy followed Israelis and Palestinians who poured into Doha. It revealed just how controversial. Their violent, century-old conflict is still deeply rooted and emotiveIncludes Israel’s open ended For a future state, the Palestinians want to be occupied of the lands they have seized..

The footage of the Doha encounter between a Qatari man with an Israeli journalist was shared by Palestinians. They also shared clips of Palestinians and Qataris arguing with Israeli journalists live on TV. They saw it as proof that Qatar has not been a terrorist state. Allowing Israelis to fly directly into Doha and receive consular assistance The conservative Muslim emirate of Islam has no plans to cozy up to Israel for the first time ever in history.

Tal Shorrer (Israel’s Channel 13 sports reporter) said that he was pushed, insulted, and accosted by Palestinians during his live reporting from the tournament.

“You are killing babies!” a few Arab fans yelled as they rammed into him during a broadcast this week.

Qatari media meanwhile has published some such videos with the caption: “No to normalization.” Officials in Qatar, with their history of public support to Palestinians, have insisted the temporary opening to Israelis was purely to comply with FIFA hosting requirements — not a step to normalizing ties like In 2020, neighboring Bahrain and United Arab Emirates did the same.. Qatar warned that violence could escalate in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, threatening to derail the agreement.

Diplomats predict that thousands of Israeli soccer fans will descend on Doha to watch the World Cup, with some even taking 10 direct flights over the next month.

Many Israelis are fascinated by the novelty of living in a country with no diplomatic relations to Israel. Security-minded citizens comment on how secure they feel.

“My friends and family thought it could be dangerous but it’s fine,” said Eli Agami, an aviation executive who lives near Tel Aviv. “I don’t go around telling people but I think no one cares if you’re Israeli or you’re Jewish. Everyone just cares about the game.”

Six Israeli diplomats set up shop in Doha at a travel agency, ready to respond quickly to any crises. To minimize potential problems, the Foreign Ministry launched a Campaign to encourage Israelis to lie low.

“We want to avoid any friction with other fans and local authorities,” said Alon Lavie, a member of the delegation, citing legions of fans from Iran, Saudi Arabia and other countries either hostile or frosty toward Israel now flooding Qatar. “We want to remind (Israelis) … you don’t need to shove your fingers in other people’s eyes.”

Israelis have found a home among Doha’s glittering skyscrapers. Qatar’s first Kosher Kitchen opened near the airport. They supply hotels and fan zones with traditional Jewish challah bread as well as olive and hummus sandwiches. They plan to prepare other food for the Jewish Sabbath which begins Friday at sundown. All ingredients will be kosher.

“We have received many, many questions and requests,” said Rabbi Mendy Chitrik, who oversees the effort.

Israel’s main channels are allowed to broadcast live from Doha, giving Israeli viewers continuous coverage of the matches. The Israelis, unlike other major foreign networks that are centrally located in downtown Doha have no formal studio.

Shorrer stated that while the interactions with Qatari officials were pleasant, the streets were quite different. He said that he recommends Israeli fans hide their Jewish kippas from Qatari officials and get rid of their Stars of David in order to avoid hostility. The Israeli cellphone salesman became furious at his friend’s Hebrew settings. He demanded that he get out of Doha.

“I was so excited to come in with an Israeli passport, thinking it was going to be something positive,” he said. “It’s sad, it’s unpleasant. People were cursing and threatening us.”

Palestinian fans from across the Arab world — including descendants of those who fled or were forced from their homes in the 1948 war over Israel’s creation — traipsed through the streets of Doha this week draped in Palestinian flags. Others wore Palestinian armbands.

A group of young Palestinians who live in Doha chanted, “Free Palestine!” while marching through Doha’s historic Souq Waqif market on Sunday.

“We want everyone to know about the occupation and what people experience in Palestine so that more people support us,” said 26-year-old marcher Sarah Shadid.

When asked about the influx in Israeli fans, she laughed awkwardly.

“I’m a little bit upset,” she said, adding she was sure their presence was not Qatar’s choice. Doha acts as mediator between Israel, Hamas militant group, and sends cash for salaries of civil servants in Hamas’-ruled Gaza Strip.

FIFA announced unprecedented direct flights between Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport and Doha. Qatari authorities assured that the travel arrangement would also be available to Palestinians in Gaza and the occupied West Bank. The latter has been under a crippling Israeli/Egyptian blocade for 15 year since Hamas took over.

Five days into the tournament, however, it was still unclear how officials would implement that premise.

A senior Israeli diplomat, Lior Haiat, said all Palestinian fans seeking to fly out of Israel’s airport must get Israeli security approval to leave and return — an often-grueling and unpredictable process. “It takes a while,” he acknowledged.

Imad Qaraqra of the Palestinian General Authority for Civil Affairs said that he hasn’t heard of any Palestinians asking for Israeli permission for them to leave Ben Gurion. This week, Palestinians from the West Bank flew to Qatar from Jordan’s airport. Gazans travelled to Egypt via the Rafah border crossing.

The long-distance journey was made by Palestinian fans who felt their presence at the largest sporting event in the world served an important 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 wearing a Palestinian flag as his cape and dancing at the FIFA Fan Festival. “I suppose it’s a miserable situation. But I’m also proud.”

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