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December 19, 2014 1:28 pm

Qatar Should ‘Give Gaza’ 2022 Soccer World Cup to Ease Middle East Tensions, British Analyst Says

avatar by Ben Cohen

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Migrant laborers in Qatar are living and working in appalling conditions. Photo: Twitter

A British journalist and commentator with extensive experience of both Israel and the Arab countries is turning to the healing power of soccer’s World Cup competition as a force for good in the Middle East.

In an article for The Guardian, Tom Gross argued that Qatar, the Gulf Arab emirate that will host the 2022 World Cup, “should give the World Cup to Gaza.” The oil and natural gas-rich state “should pay for it too,” Gross wrote.

Speaking to The Algemeiner, Gross explained that his proposal would benefit both the Palestinians and Qatar. The Palestinian Authority and Hamas would, he said, be able to demonstrate their commitment to improving the lives of Palestinians by staging the world’s biggest sporting competition, creating jobs and driving up tourism. As for Qatar, Gross said, the “public relations disaster” that has overwhelmed media coverage of the 2022 World Cup – Qatar has been accused of bribing executive members of FIFA, the governing body of soccer, in its bid to stage the competition – could be alleviated by an act of practical solidarity with Gaza.

“The regime in Qatar may eventually regret holding the World Cup,” Gross said in his interview with The Algemeiner. “They are able to get away with all sorts of human rights abuses, for example against the migrant workers they’ve brought in to build the World Cup stadiums and other infrastructure, more than 2,000 of whom have died while laboring in slave-like conditions, because unfortunately the world doesn’t care that much. But the world does care about soccer, and the World Cup is such a popular event across the globe that a much wider section of humanity is going to learn about the abuses in Qatar.”

The challenge now, Gross said, “is to find a way for Qatar to give up the World Cup without losing face.” Offering the competition to Gaza, he conceded, “may seem a bit ridiculous and far-fetched.” But, he continued, “it could work for Qatar as a goodwill gesture. And it could also work for supporters of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, because Hamas will lose a great deal of power in Gaza if it has to work with the whole world to do something positive, instead of building terror tunnels and launching rockets.”

Hamas, Gross said, would “find it very difficult to go on firing rockets at Israel for the next seven years while there is World Cup infrastructure being built. They would have to cooperate with Israel and Israel would have to cooperate them – doing so within the context of the World Cup could defuse tensions enormously.”

In his Guardian piece, Gross made two pertinent observations about the Palestinians; first, a wild enthusiasm for soccer that they share with many other nations, including Israel, second, that Gaza’s “key problem is not money, but rule by militant Islamism, combined with hopelessness.”

“We’ve got to find a force that is bigger than Hamas, or more popular than Hamas, and soccer may just be it,” Gross said. Staging the World Cup in Gaza would, he added, change outsiders perceptions of the region as being mired in conflict to one where cooperation is both possible and desirable.

Gross pointed to other factors that militate against holding the World Cup in Qatar, not least that temperatures there soar to 104 degrees in summer, when the competition is traditionally held. As a fast and highly physical contact sport, soccer is normally played in lower temperatures; concerns about the heat in Qatar have even led to proposals for air-conditioned stadiums, which would involve a major risk to the health of players, as such a method has never been tried before.

For its part, FIFA remains committed to holding the World Cup in Qatar. Yet the bribery allegations – which took center stage again this week, following the resignation on Wednesday of Michael Garcia, the former United States attorney for the Southern District of New York who was appointed as FIFA’s ethic investigator, in a row over FIFA’s refusal to publish his 450-page report detailing various instances of corruption, many of them related to the Qatar bid – are not going away.

Today, FIFA announced that what it described as a “legally appropriate version” of Garcia’s report would eventually be made available to the public. At the same time, FIFA President Sepp Blatter confirmed that the bidding process for the World Cup competitions of 2018 and 2022 in Russia and Qatar would not be reopened.

In theory, at least, Blatter’s decision would not prevent Qatar from voluntarily giving the World Cup to another party. And, as Gross pointed out in his Guardian piece, other countries in the region would also reap the rewards of such a move: “if Gaza is too small to host all the matches, why not also allow Ramallah, Cairo and even Tel Aviv to host a few?” he suggested.

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  • PeterHiggin

    This is a homeopathic cure: personally, I would say here is enough poison in Israel-Palestine without throwing Sepp Blatter in there too.

  • Liz

    Great suggestion – if you want a lot of beheaded and kidnapped soccer players, no audience, new hiding places for rocket launchers, and more excuses to bring cement into Gaza to use for terror tunnels. Nothing like giving the World Cup to another major human rights violator. Remember all the children killed by Hamas while building Hamas’s terror tunnels?

    By the way, it’s illegal for American officials to travel to Gaza. And the State Department strongly advises others to stay away from this hotbed of Hamas violence too.

    Qatar isn’t exactly safe either, with all the Hamas officials living in luxury homes in Qatar and running their terrorist operations from there. Either way, we’re risking another Munich Olympics on steroids. Just remove the World Cup from Qatar and try to find someplace normal for it.

  • Valery

    Of course, this sounds serious – World Cup Soccer in Gaza … But to defeat extremism to defeat terror – to help the civilian population of the Gaza Strip to establish a normal human life. A person who has a job, income, home and family are less prone to acts of terror and violence.
    Israel hopes, hopes to force of arms – so what? Is the motivation of the Palestinians against Israel changed? .. No.
    Together with a strong army and Israel needs good relations with the Arabs. And to change the attitude of the Palestinians to himself, Israel must make full use of economic instruments. Then become possible political changes in the Palestinian enclave and opt for moderate politicians with whom you can negotiate.
    Blockade – the best way to restore the population against itself, the best environment for the emergence of new terrorists.

  • Far fetched it will never happen

  • Monty Lasovsky

    …….and Israel will stand by and watch these stadiums being “built”?
    All the stadium supplies will be used in building tunnels with athletic tracks, swimming pools,and trapezes etc which Israel would damage “a little” and make the strip a flat trace track which woild remian a “race track” for some years to come…..Ben Cohen i’m suprised by you!

  • Wonderful idea, Hamas will never accept.

  • art

    Nice little pipe dream. More likely hamas/pa will try to ban Israel and Jewish players. The stadiums etc will be shields from which hamas will attack and then dare Israel to retaliate and risk condemnation for possibly damaging the stadiums.

    hamas/pa will also financially have a windfall with extortion, bribery, and skimimg, kickbacks, patronage etc

  • Natalie

    Holding the World Cup in Gaza would cause terrific logistics problems, and present the Arabs with multiple opportunities to wreak havoc in Israel and put Israeli lives at risk. Not to speak of preventing Israeli athletes from competing. If Qatar does this, then Israel must have some way of vetoing it. This Mr. Gross is an idealistic lunatic.

  • TheAZCowBoy

    Typical Jewish hypocrisy – Showing photos of migrant workers ‘roughing it’ in Qatar.

    Why not photos showing the Palestinians ‘toughing it out’ in thin UN donated canvas tents this winter in horrendously cold weather and unseasonable heavy rains with their tiny butane space heaters out of butane and their (((chattering))) teeth to remind them who the MF’ers are that have raised their suffering up several floors this winter!

  • stephen yaffe

    They could play in the tunnels. Much cooler down there.

  • Dr. Stephen Steinlight

    Brilliant idea! The last time the Palestinians had a major part to play in the Olympics in Munich where they murdered 11 Israeli athletes — and the show went on.
    It was as if killers broke into your house during supper and slaughtered your guests. And once the bodies were carried out you calmly went on eating. I assume the journalist has short-term memory.

  • Tuvia Fogel

    ‘A bit ridiculous and far-fetched’, as Gross says himself. He’s usually a good journalist, but this one deserves a Saturday Night Live sketch more than serious discussion. Just how would Gross convince spectators (you know, the people who pay for the whole circus) to travel to Gaza, let alone enter stadiums where a suicide bomber would be easier to meet than a hot-dog – sorry, kebab – vendor?

  • E Pluribus Wombat

    Plus Hamas can launch rockets into Israel on air during the games and there’s nothing the Jews can do about it.

    • noellsq

      correct and Hamas could say that Israel is doing it to themselves to ruin the games. Will Israel be allowed to compete?

    • zadimel

      The “Jews,” eg, the Israelis could do a great deal to end these festivities. Their responses could cause an immediate shutdown of these matches.