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June 1, 2015 12:01 am

Say it Loud, Say it Clear: No World Cup for Qatar

avatar by Ben Cohen / JNS.org

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The Brazil and Croatia match at the FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

JNS.org In a normal world, it wouldn’t be Israel that is the target of a campaign for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions. The tiny Gulf emirate of Qatar is a far better candidate.

Why Qatar? There are many reasons. Let’s start with its internal system of governance. Although a smattering of ordinances inherited from the period of British rule remain in place, Qatar is a state based on Islamic sharia law. Practically, that means you can be stoned to death for blasphemy, apostasy and, of course, the paramount “crime” of homosexuality. And if you’re a non-Muslim about to fall in love with a Muslim in Qatar, don’t—such “illicit” sexual relations will result in your receiving several lashes.

About 2 million people live in Qatar, but only 10 percent of the population, at most, possess the rights accorded to full Qatari citizens. There’s a word for that, and it’s frequently applied, deceitfully and wrongly, to Israel. I’m talking about apartheid, of course. The term is far more accurate in the Qatari case because, as in South Africa during the bad old days, a wealthy, privileged, and enfranchised minority rules over a downtrodden, disenfranchised majority. The group that suffers most from this grotesque system are Qatar’s migrant workers, estimated at approximately 1.4 million, who come to the emirate to earn money for their families back in countries like Bangladesh and Nepal, and who end up, quite literally, as slaves in private houses or on construction sites.

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There is, nonetheless, a twist. We know that other Gulf Arab states, most obviously Saudi Arabia, are similarly repressive. Unlike the Saudis, however, the Qatari royal family is extremely skilled when it comes to public relations and marketing, into which they’ve invested billions of dollars of revenue gleaned from their oil and natural gas exports.

As a result, many Westerners regard Qatar as an Arab version of Singapore: conservative and traditional, maybe, but also an economic powerhouse that fosters an entrepreneurial business culture. That false image is reinforced by Qatar’s global economic profile, which befits the world’s richest country on a per capita basis. Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund, with assets of $256 billion, has bought up choice properties, companies, and financial institutions across the world. If you buy a Volkswagen car, if you shop at the Sainsbury’s supermarket chain or at the exclusive Harrods department store in the U.K., if you attend a soccer match involving the leading French club Paris St Germain (PSG), or if you bank with Credit Suisse, a good portion of your hard-earned cash will be going into Qatari coffers.

Indeed, anyone who watches soccer will be struck by how many top clubs, like Spain’s FC Barcelona, wear jerseys embossed with the Qatar Airways logo. Qatar also promotes itself through the grandly named Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, a “non-profit” that is entirely funded by the royal family. In America, the Qatar Foundation partners with the Weill-Cornell Medical College and has enabled several prominent international universities, among them Carnegie Mellon, Texas A&M, and University College London, to set up campuses in the Qatari capital, Doha.

But it is in the world of sport—and soccer in particular—that Qatar has established its dominance. Much of the slave labor in the country is used to build the stadiums for the 2022 World Cup that Qatar, for the moment anyway, is hosting.

Like Russia, which hosts the World Cup in 2018, Qatar was awarded the 2022 World Cup thanks to its bribery of key officials at FIFA, world soccer’s governing body. This week, 14 FIFA officials were indicted by the U.S. on corruption charges, many of them related to Qatar. Those officials will stand trial here because, in using American banks to carry out these illegal transactions, they broke American laws. In the coming months, we can expect an endless stream of stories that will underline just how FIFA has become the most corrupt organization in the world, and many of those will have Qatar at the center.

Now, therefore, is the time to say loudly and clearly that Qatar should be stripped of the 2022 World Cup. Other countries far better suited to hold such a competition, among them England, the United States, and Australia, had their bids dismissed simply because they are not in the bribery business. Handing the World Cup back to one of these democracies isn’t just the right thing to do in terms of morality—it will actually save lives. The International Trade Union Confederation, which diligently monitors the barbaric treatment of Qatar’s slaves, predicts that 4,000 migrant workers will have died by the time the first ball is kicked in 2022. Now, I love soccer, but the idea of watching a competition built upon a foundation of death and exploitation leaves me physically sick.

Just as sickening is the news that the callous Qataris refused to allow Nepalese migrant workers to return home after the recent devastating earthquake. Under the “kafala” labor system that operates in Qatar, employers seize the passports of their migrant workers, force them to work more than 12 hours a day in the searing heat, and then dump them in the squalid, unsanitary camps that pass for living quarters. Tek Bahadur Gurung, Nepal’s labor minister, recently revealed that his country had “requested all companies in Qatar to give their Nepalese workers special leave and pay for their air fare home. While workers in some sectors of the economy have been given this, those on World Cup construction sites are not being allowed to leave because of the pressure to complete projects on time. They have lost relatives and their homes and are enduring very difficult conditions in Qatar. This is adding to their suffering.”

You, dear readers, know what to do with Qatar. Boycott. Divest. Sanction. Tell your elected representatives that this nasty and oppressive little emirate should not be honored with sport’s most popular and lucrative competition. Tell Qatari representatives on social media (the Qatar Foundation’s handle on Twitter is @QF) exactly what you think of their slavery policy, and ask them whether their “community development programs” apply to the migrant workers living in that desert hell.

One final point of note: Qatar is the main financial backer of the Palestinian Islamist terror organization, Hamas. That truly is a match made in heaven.

Ben Cohen, senior editor of TheTower.org & The Tower Magazine, writes a weekly column for JNS.org on Jewish affairs and Middle Eastern politics. His writings have been published in Commentary, the New York Post, Haaretz, The Wall Street Journal, and many other publications. He is the author of “Some of My Best Friends: A Journey Through Twenty-First Century Antisemitism” (Edition Critic, 2014).

The opinions presented by Algemeiner bloggers are solely theirs and do not represent those of The Algemeiner, its publishers or editors. If you would like to share your views with a blog post on The Algemeiner, please be in touch through our Contact page.

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  • What a hypocrite Cohen?

    If Israel were to host 2022 world cup and if anyone were to revolt against slave labour of West bank Palestinian children, you could have cried anti semitism

    • Ariella Bergier

      Yes, but that would never happen! Israel doesn’t exploit anyone! Much less children!
      And there are reams of evidence to support this!
      The terror groups which are funded by these monsterous, greedy, tyrants exploit and expose children to terror and death routinely. And other foolish, ignorant people either look the other way for personal gain or are just not able to see what’s so obvious because of massive brain washing and intimidation.
      Israel is the biggest threat to these mass terror exploiters specifically because of it’s democratic approach to government and free speech (which would never allow the brutal exploitation of workers which is routine in Qatar and much of the Islamic world). Let’s take a look at the work standards among the many nations which enforce the brutal system of sharia law. Oh wait, we can’t do that …or we’ll have our heads cut off.

      Now go ahead and cry that this is anti-Islamic!

  • steven L

    Qatar should be expelled from the FIFA for the murder of hundreds of slave-workers who die, have died or will die so the FIFA Games can take place. These stadiums are constructed by future DEAD people. The Islamists want to bring humanity back to the 7th and 8th centuries while the Western world wants to bring us back to the gladiators time!!!
    This is utterly shameful. Sepp B. cares about $ but not about the poor and abused enslaved and dead workers.

  • Fritz Kohlhaas

    No World Cup in Qatar!

    • Caleb Cox

      I totally agree with you! No World Cup in Qatar!

  • Leo Toystory

    All readers should please remember that Qatar, which finances a great many anti-Israel activities, is now also financing the Brookings Institution. Their scholars
    have sold out and are now “hawking Qatar’s talking points and taking both sides of the issue on Islamist censorship.” Please see Steve Emerson’s very detailed and complete investigation of this insidious relationship at:

    http://www.investigativeproject.org/4630/ipt-exclusive-qatar-insidious-influence-on

  • Eric R.

    Given that soccer is really just an excuse for Latin America n fans to party and riot, and for European fans to not only riot and kill (Huysel Stadium, anyone?) but also to yell racist and anti-Semitic epithets, how about we just get rid of that miserable excuse for a sport?

    • Eric Cantona

      You’re an idiot. This is the greatest sport in the world. No sport requires such a degree of physicality and athletic ability. It’s beautiful. Clean it from corruption.

    • David

      That’s the stupiddest idea I’ve heard in a long time (excluding the deal with Iran, of course). Clearly you have no idea of what soccer is and of how beautiful is this sport and of how rooted it is in European tradition (including in jewish tradition, if we take into account that some of Europe’s greatest clubs, like Ajax, have been founded by jews). You can’t blame a sport for the stupidity of some of it’s own fans. And you can’t generalize. I’m an Italian jew and a Juventus fan, I saw what happened at Heysel live and I remember it as if it was yesterday.

    • Good sentiments but there is too much money involved.

    • Don’t show your American ignorance, soccer is the only true world sport, not like the stupid MLB where the ‘world championship’ is between two American teams or maybe a Canadian team or American football where you can throw the ball forwards. Now those are two really silly sports.

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