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December 20, 2022 11:29 am

Palestinians in Mass Street Brawl, French Flag Burned — Media Miss the Story

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avatar by Rachel O'Donoghue


Soccer Football – FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 – Final – Argentina v France – Lusail Stadium, Lusail, Qatar – December 18, 2022 General view during the closing ceremony before the match. Photo: REUTERS/Hannah Mckay

Morocco surprised soccer fans around the world with its historic run during this year’s FIFA World Cup, which included spectacular wins over Belgium, Spain, and Portugal.

Last Wednesday, the North African team’s run of sporting glory came to a halt when the team was brought down by the French team in a 2-0 loss at Qatar’s al-Bayt stadium.

The win for France — a former colonial power in Morocco — brought jubilant scenes in the streets of Paris and other cities, as the team’s supporters came out in force to sing, dance, and drink.

However, the night quickly took a turn when large numbers of Moroccan and Arab fans caused unrest in several European cities, including Montpellier, where a 14-year-old boy died after being run over when a group of men spooked a car driver by attempting to rip off a French flag that adorned the vehicle.

But the riots were not just limited to Western Europe. In Israel, frustration was vented at Morocco’s elimination from the tournament with clashes occurring in Baqa al-Gharbiyye, a city just east of Hadera, where a French flag was set alight.

In Shu’afat, in eastern Jerusalem, a large fight among young men erupted in the streets, while in the West Bank city of Ramallah, fans used chairs as weapons during violent skirmishes.

The unpleasant scenes were, sadly, expected. Ahead of the game, Israeli police were placed on high alert following similar ugly incidents when Arab citizens rioted in the Negev towns of Rahat, Lakia, and Tel Sheva during what should have been joyous celebrations when Morocco knocked Portugal out of the competition.

Morocco’s success during the tournament was seized on by Palestinians, who used the team’s progress to highlight the “cause.”

Likewise, Morocco’s fans and players embraced Palestinian activism, with the territory’s black, white, green, and red flag seen in the crowd during matches and even unfurled by players on the pitch.

Indeed, this was how CNN characterized the Palestinian politicization of the World Cup:

The Palestinian cause, which is central to the identity of many Arabs around the world, has been omnipresent in the stadiums and on the streets during this tournament. When the Moroccan team posed with the unmistakable tricolor flag during their celebrations, the cause – which supports Palestinian self-determination – benefited from the oxygen of a global media platform.

A Monday night stroll through Qatar’s Souq Waqif revealed football fans from all over the region who were draped in both the Palestinian and Moroccan flags. CNN spoke with 15-year-old boys from Syria and Egypt, 17-year-old girls from Sudan, a man from Algeria and another from the occupied West Bank city of Nablus. “All Arab countries, from the Gulf to the sea, are one body,”said Anwar Ramadan, who walked through the Souq with a “Free Palestine” scarf around his shoulders. He told CNN that he wears the flag so that the rest of the world can see that “Palestine is present in every corner.”

Israel formalized ties with Morocco in 2020 as part of the US-negotiated Abraham Accords, which also saw Jerusalem strike new relationships with several Gulf states.

But Morocco’s link to the Jewish state goes much further, and runs significantly deeper than two-year-old official bilateral ties.

Hundreds of thousands of Israelis have Moroccan heritage as a result of more than 250,000 Jews who fled the country in the face of harsh persecution when the State of Israel was established.

In fact, it almost amounts to journalistic malfeasance that outlets such as CNN highlight the “plight of Palestinians in occupied territories” but don’t mention the deliberate and calculated alienation of Jewish fans of Moroccan descent who have celebrated the team’s victories.

Furthermore, news outlets that have used articles about the Palestinian presence at the World Cup to take subtle digs at Israel carefully glossed over Morocco’s internal issues, including numerous cases of human rights abuses and repressive laws that have been well documented.

While Morocco may be out of the World Cup, Palestinian activists have claimed victory — all with the help of a supine and uncritical international media.

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.

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