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Reaction to Israelis in Qatar reveals lingering hatred toward Israel

Local news sites reported a common theme: Israelis are not so welcome at the World Cup

Fans unveil a banner with the message 'Free Palestine' at a match between Tunisia and Australia during the World Cup in Qatar, Nov. 26, 2022 (Photo: REUTERS/Marko Djurica)

Despite Qatar opening up its borders to Israeli fans coming to the World Cup – without diplomatic relations between the two nations – Israeli journalists reported harsh responses from Arab fans at the 2022 World Cup after discovering their identity.

Some journalists said they were treated well in the host nation – until they revealed themselves to be Israelis. 

Videos that went viral within Israel showed reactions of Arabs in Qatar upon learning that the reporter speaking to them is from Israel. Some went from enthusiastically speaking to the journalist and either gradually growing quiet or immediately storming off. 

Even the Iranian-owned ParsToday news site ran an article highlighting the poor treatment of Israeli journalists. The site also displayed a video of fans waving a giant “Free Palestine” flag. 

Qatar has been under scrutiny since it won the bid in 2010 to host this year’s World Cup. The independent emirate adjacent to Saudi Arabia has a checkered human rights history, and several Western news agencies covered Qatari human rights abuses in the run up to the 2022 World Cup. 

In order to have a smooth hosting experience, Qatari officials restricted practically all forms of political protest. Videos on social media showed Qatari officials leading away fans with t-shirts critical of the Iranian regime. Fans protesting Qatar’s stance on issues such as homosexuality or women’s rights have been denied access to the arenas. 

However, one form of political protest is not only allowed but apparently encouraged – criticism of Israel. Pictures of various dignitaries and fans wearing armbands with “Free Palestine” or waving large Palestinian flags at the soccer matches circulate freely on social media in the Middle East. 

In one video shared widely in Israel, an Egyptian journalist is harassed and told to “go back to Palestine” by a crowd of Saudis who mistook him for an Israeli. Another reporter described how a Qatari host told him, “I would like to say ‘Welcome,’ but you’re not welcome. Get out of here as soon as possible.” 

The Abraham Accords showed the possibility that Israel and the Arab world could improve.

While Bahrain, an Abraham Accords partner, recently hosted Israeli President Isaac Herzog, ongoing protests and hostilities toward Israel demonstrated the most vocal civilian sentiment toward the Jewish state.

Qatar has not joined the Abraham Accords and remains critical of Israel despite allowing Israelis to attend the World Cup games. 

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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