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November 30, 2022 11:51 am
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Israel Is Star of World Cup 2022 as Palestinian Activists Whip Up Hatred, Encourage Fans to Harass Jewish Journos

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avatar by Rachel O'Donoghue

Opinion

Soccer Football – FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 – Group B – Wales v Iran – Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan, Qatar – November 25, 2022 Iran fans celebrate outside the stadium after the match. Photo: REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

Israel’s hopes of qualifying for the 2022 FIFA World Cup that is currently being hosted in Qatar were officially dashed last year when Scotland triumphed over Moldova during the qualifying matches, meaning Israel missed a chance to jump to second place in Group F.

Yet despite Israel not even playing in the tournament, it seems that Israel is still the center of attention in Qatar — and not in a good way.

Palestinian activists and their supporters are presently waging an antisemitic campaign against Israel at the world’s most famous sporting event, in a bid to ostracize and stir up hatred against the world’s only Jewish state and its citizens.

What’s worse, it appears to be working.

On social media, footage of Israeli journalists tasked with covering the tournament being harassed and snubbed has gone viral, with keyboard warriors dubbing the unpleasant antics “heartwarming,” “beautiful,” and a good way to show “Zionists they are hated … like devils.”

One such video shows a horde of fans brandishing Palestinian flags and chanting over an Israeli reporter as he attempts to present a piece to the camera.

A Channel 12 reporter was snubbed by fans who discovered he is Israeli, while numerous live reports by Israeli journalists have been interrupted by soccer supporters screaming abuse and waving Palestinian flags.

In another ugly incident, one Channel 13 sports reporter, Tal Shorrer, was viciously shoved and subjected to vile insults — including being accused of “killing babies” — by what appeared to be Palestinian and Arab fans.

The vicious campaign to delegitimize Israel during a sporting tournament that is meant to be completely non-political — soccer’s governing body FIFA has consistently made known its opposition to political sloganeering by individual players, teams, and fans — is a troubling development.

However, FIFA appears to have a bit of a blindspot with Israel — and indeed Jews — when it comes to its efforts to ensure politics stay well away from the World Cup.

After all, the soccer governing body hadn’t had a word to say when it was revealed that both kosher food and Jewish prayer had been banned by Qatari authorities. Indeed, it took Herculean efforts not by FIFA, but by two rabbis — New York-based Rabbi Marc Schneier and Rabbi Mendy Chitrik, the Hasidic Chabad-Lubavitch movement’s emissary to Istanbul — to negotiate with Qatari officials to ensure some kosher food would be available to observant fans.

The litany of anti-Israel incidents in Qatar is the result of social media movements that are determined to stoke division in Doha, as activists capitalize on the proportionally larger number of Arab fans in attendance than at previous World Cup tournaments.

One Twitter campaign — dubbed the “Palestinian Dream” — calls on supporters to “make the Palestinian issue known to the world,” while fans are also told to don keffiyehs, the headscarves that have been associated with Palestinian militancy.

There have even been plans to set up “information camps” to distribute misinformation about Israel too, while youth groups acting as “Palestinian ambassadors” will attempt to engage fans on the street, despite the vast majority of people going to the World Cup simply to enjoy a game of soccer.

More worrying than the Arab and Palestinian-spearheaded crusade against Israel, however, is the way these disturbing incidents have been covered by the international media — either in the form of stone-cold silence or tacit acceptance that validates these unpleasant campaigns.

On Thursday, the Associated Press finally got around to covering the abuse that Israeli reporters have been subjected in a piece, “Israeli-Palestinian conflict catches up with Qatar World Cup.”

While the piece references several incidents of Israelis being abused, as well as the particularly upsetting Shorrer incident (although it is framed merely as an allegation from the sports journalist), the story downplays the antisemitism and anti-Israel bigotry that has been so publicly displayed in Qatar.

For example, reference is made to how “Israelis have made themselves at home among Doha’s glittering skyscrapers,” while “Qatar’s first kosher kitchen set up near the airport, supplying hotels and fan zones with the classic eggy Jewish challah bread and olive and hummus sandwiches.” But the AP fails to mention the initial ban on kosher food and Jewish prayer.

The fact is, the abuse suffered by Israeli journalists in Qatar is not just shameful, but is the antithesis of what the World Cup should be about — an event that unites fans from all over the world in their love of the beautiful game.

Indeed, when FIFA was asked about the decision to name Qatar as the host of the event, leaders of the organization announced that “no one people or culture or nation is ‘better’ than any other,” describing this principle as the “very foundation stone of mutual respect and non-discrimination” and core value of soccer in general.

“At FIFA, we try to respect all opinions and beliefs, without handing out moral lessons to the rest of the world. One of the great strengths of the world is indeed its very diversity, and if inclusion means anything, it means having respect for that diversity,” they added.

How hollow these words ring in light of the antisemitism and discrimination against Israelis that have characterized World Cup 2022.

The author is a contributor to HonestReporting, a Jerusalem-based media watchdog with a focus on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias — where a version of this article first appeared.

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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