Israeli-Palestinian conflict catches up with Qatar World Cup

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — It was uncharted territory for an Israeli journalist. Before the start of the World Cup, wandering through a rustic open-air market in Doha, he approached a Qatari man in his traditional headdress and flowing white robe and asked for an interview.

“Which channel?” the Qatari asked. The journalist replied that he was from the Israeli public broadcaster Kan.

The Qatari was stunned. “Where?”

“Israel,” the reporter repeated. A split second later, the interview was over.

The exchange ricocheted around social media, reflecting the latest political flare-up at the first World Cup in the Arab world – despite the fact that neither Israel nor Palestine are participating in the tournament.

After Israelis and Palestinians entered Doha, there has been controversy, revealing just how entrenched and emotional their violent century-old conflict remains.including Israel’s indefinite occupation of lands the Palestinians want to create for a future state.

Palestinians shared on live TV a meeting between a Qatari and Israeli journalist in Doha, as well as other clips of Palestinians and Qataris angrily confronting Israeli journalists. They saw this as evidence that while Qatar has allowed Israelis to fly directly to Doha and receive consular support For the first time in history, the conservative Muslim emirate has no intention of pleasing Israel.

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

“You’re killing babies!” some Arab fans shouted as they slammed him during the show this week.

Meanwhile, Qatari media have published some of the following videos with the caption: “No to normalization”. Officials in Qatar, with its public support for the Palestinians, have insisted that the temporary opening to Israelis was merely to comply with FIFA’s admission requirements — not a move to normalize relations, as neighboring Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates did in 2020.. Qatar has warned that an increase in violence in the occupied West Bank or Gaza could derail the deal.

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

Many Israel fans marvel at the intriguing novelty of being in a country that does not have diplomatic relations with Israel. Safety-minded residents note how safe they feel.

“My friends and family thought it might be dangerous, but it’s good,” said Eli Agami, an aviation executive who lives near Tel Aviv. “I don’t go around telling people, but I don’t think anyone cares if you’re Israeli or Jewish. All they care about is the game.”

Six Israeli diplomats have set up shop in the travel agency’s office in Doha, ready to respond to crises big and small. To limit potential problems, the Foreign Ministry has launched a campaign urging Israelis to lie low.

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

Israelis have felt at home among the glittering skyscrapers of Doha. Qatar’s first kosher kitchen set up near the airport, supplying hotels and fan zones with classic egg Jewish challah bread and olive and hummus sandwiches. They plan to prepare other dishes for the Jewish Sabbath, which begins Friday at sundown, and all ingredients comply with kosher dietary laws.

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“We’ve had many, many questions and requests,” said Rabbi Mandy Chitrick, who oversees the effort.

Israel’s main channels are allowed to broadcast from Doha, providing Israeli viewers with uninterrupted coverage of the games. But unlike other major foreign chains based in the heart of Doha, the Israelis roam without an official studio.

Schorer said that while interactions with Qatari officials have been very pleasant, the streets are a different story. He said he advises Israeli fans to hide their Jewish kippahs and ditch the Stars of David to avoid provoking hostility. When the mobile phone salesman noticed his friend’s settings in Hebrew, he exploded with anger, shouting at the Israelis to get him out of Doha.

“I was so excited to come with an Israeli passport because I thought it would be something positive,” he said. “It’s sad, it’s unpleasant. People cursed us 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 to create Israel, walked the streets of Doha this week wearing Palestinian flags. Some also wore Palestinian bracelets.

A group of young Palestinians living in Doha chanted: “Free Palestine!” walking through Doha’s historic Souq Waqif market on Sunday.

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

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She laughed awkwardly when asked about the influx of Israeli fans.

“I’m a bit disappointed,” she said, adding that she was sure their presence was not Qatar’s choice. Doha mediates between Israel and the Hamas militant group and sends cash for civil servants’ salaries in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

When FIFA announced unprecedented direct flights from Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv to Doha, Qatari authorities promised that the travel arrangements would also extend to Palestinians in both the occupied West Bank and Gaza, which has been under a crippling Israeli-Egyptian blockade for 15 years. years since Hamas took control there.

But five days into the tournament, it was unclear how officials would enforce the requirement.

A senior Israeli diplomat, Lior Hayat, said all Palestinian fans wishing to fly out of an Israeli airport must obtain Israeli security clearance to leave and return, an often tedious and unpredictable process. “It takes a while,” he admitted.

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

Palestinian fans who made the long journey said they believed their attendance at the world’s biggest sporting event served a political purpose.

“I’m here to remind you that in 2022 our land is still occupied,” said Moaviya Maher, a 31-year-old businessman from Hebron, a particularly tense West Bank city. He danced at a concert at the FIFA Fan Festival wearing a Palestinian flag as a cape. “I think it’s a sad situation. But I’m also proud.”

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