Israeli-Palestinian conflict catches up with Qatar World Cup

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — It was a new territory for an Israeli journalist. Strolling through a rustic market in Doha before the start of the World Cup, he approached a rowdy man in his traditional headdress and flowing white shirt and asked for an interview.

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

Qatar was shocked. “Where?”

“Israel,” repeated the journalist. After a few seconds, the interview ended.

The exchange went viral on social media, reflecting the latest political flashpoint of the first World Cup – never mind that neither the Israeli nor the Palestinian national teams are competing in the tournament.

The row came after the Israelis and Palestinians entered Doha and showed just how entrenched and emotional their bitter century-old conflict remains.Palestinians want a future state, including the lands occupied by Israel.

Palestinians angrily confronted Israeli reporters live on television showing footage of the Doha meeting between the Qatari man and an Israeli journalist, along with other footage of Palestinians and Qataris. They see this as evidence that although Qatar has allowed Israelis to fly directly to Doha and receive consular assistance. for the first time in history, the conservative Muslim emirate does not intend to speak with Israel.

Tal Shorrer, a sports reporter for Israel’s Channel 13, said he was booed and insulted by Palestinians and other Arab fans during his live coverage of the tournament.

“You’re killing children!” several Arab fans shouted as they attacked him during a broadcast this week.

Meanwhile, the Qatari media published some such videos with the headline: “Not normal.” Qatari officials, with a history of public support for the Palestinians, insisted that the temporary opening to Israel was merely to comply with FIFA’s hosting requirements – not a step towards normalizing relations like Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates in 2020.. Qatar has warned that an escalation of violence in the occupied West Bank or the Gaza Strip would derail the deal.

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Still, thousands of Israeli soccer fans are expected to descend on Doha for the World Cup, diplomats said, including some 10 direct flights scheduled over the next month.

Many Israeli fans are surprised by the exciting novelty of being in a country that has no diplomatic relations with Israel. Security Citizens rate how safe they feel.

“My friends and family thought it might be dangerous, but it’s good,” said Eli Agami, an airline executive who lives near Tel Aviv. “I don’t say it around people, but I think nobody cares whether you’re Israeli or Jewish. Everyone just cares about the game.”

Six Israeli diplomats have set up shop in an office of a travel agency in Doha, ready to respond to crises big and small. To limit potential problems, the Foreign Ministry launched a campaign calling on Israelis to lie.

“We want to avoid any conflict with other fans and local authorities,” said panel member Alon Lavi, referring to the legions of fans from Iran, Saudi Arabia and other countries who are hostile or cold towards Israel, which now floods Qatar. . “We want to remind (Israelis) … you don’t have to stick your fingers in other people’s eyes.”

Israelis have made themselves at home among the glittering buildings of Doha. Qatar’s first kosher eatery has opened near the airport, serving hotels and fan zones with classic Jewish egg bread and olive and hummus sandwiches. They plan to prepare other dishes for the Jewish Sabbath, which begins Friday at sundown, with all ingredients complying with kosher dietary laws.

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“We’ve gotten a lot of questions and requests,” said Rabbi Mendy Chitrick, who oversees the effort.

Major Israeli networks were allowed to broadcast from Doha, providing Israeli viewers with continuous coverage of the games. But unlike other major foreign networks, which are centrally located in downtown Doha, the Israelis roam around without an official studio.

Schorrer said that while the interaction with the Qatari authorities was entirely pleasant, the streets were a different story. He said he advises Israeli fans to hide their Jewish kippahs and throw away Stars of David to avoid hostility. When a mobile phone salesman noticed his friend’s settings in Hebrew, he exploded with anger and shouted at the Israeli to get out of Doha.

“I was very excited to enter with an Israeli passport and I thought it would be a positive thing,” he said. “It is sad, unpleasant. People insulted and threatened 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 the creation of Israel, lined the streets of Doha this week with Palestinian flags. Some also had Palestinian bands.

A group of Palestinian youth living in Doha chanted “Free Palestine!” during a procession through Doha’s historic Souq Waqif market on Sunday.

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

He laughed uncomfortably when asked about the influx of Israeli fans.

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“I’m a little upset,” he said, adding that he was sure their presence was not Qatar’s choice. Doha mediates between Israel and the militant group Hamas, sending cash to pay civil servants in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.

As FIFA announced unprecedented direct flights from Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport to Doha, Qatari officials vowed that the trip would benefit Palestinians in both the occupied West Bank and Gaza, which has been under a devastating Israeli-Egyptian blockade for 15 years. , will apply. years when Hamas took control there.

But after five days of competition, it was unclear how officials would fulfill that prediction.

Senior Israeli diplomat Lior Hayat said all Palestinian fans who want to fly out of an Israeli airport must obtain permission from Israeli security to leave and return to the country, a cumbersome and unpredictable process. “It will take some time,” he admitted.

Imad Karakra, a spokesman for the Palestinian Authority for Civil Affairs, said he had not heard of any Palestinians asking Ben Gurion for permission to leave Israel. Palestinians from the West Bank traveled to Qatar this week from a Jordanian airport, while Palestinians in Gaza crossed into Egypt through the enclave’s Rafah border crossing.

Palestinian fans who made the long journey said their presence at the world’s biggest sporting event had a political purpose.

“I’m here to remind you that in 2022 our land will still be occupied,” said Moawya Maher, a 31-year-old businessman from Hebron, a particularly tense West Bank city. She danced at a concert at the FIFA Fan Festival wearing a Palestinian flag as a cover-up. “I think this is an unfortunate situation. But I’m also proud.”

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