Israel scored its own goal with its charm offensive at the World Cup in Qatar 2022, highlighting the country’s isolation in the region.
What’s it like to be an Israeli living in Qatar? Ohad Hamo, Channel 12’s correspondent, covering the World Cup in Doha, received the query from the channel’s studio in Israel.
Hamo’s response was instructive. “Our presence here with the Israeli flag and Hebrew language is problematic,”
“There are many attempts from people here from Arab countries to oppose us,” Hamo remarked before Channel 12 displayed a clip of him trying to interview a fan in Arabic, who argued there was no such thing as Israel, only Palestine.
“We signed four normalization agreements with Arab regimes over the past few years,” he went on to lament, yet most Arabs he had spoken to did not want him there.
Qatar is one of the most isolated countries in the world regarding relations with Israel. There are no diplomatic ties between them, and Qatar does not recognize Israel as a state. Jews are barred from entering Qatar, so Israelis working for Israeli media outlets have had to work undercover or leave the country during this year’s FIFA World Cup tournament there.
It seems that instead of changing attitudes towards Israel through its presence at football’s biggest event, Jerusalem has only succeeded in drawing attention to how unwelcome it remains among many Arab nations.
Israel’s much-publicized attempts to build good relations with the Arab world may have scored its own goal, as endless clips on social media show young Arab football fans refusing interviews with Israeli journalists while proudly waving or draping in Palestinian flags.
This suggests that Israel’s charm offensive has gone no further than a few heads of government and that any normalization is far from being accepted by ordinary people in the region.
For many observers, it is clear that while Israel has put on a good show in its attempt to win over Arabs and Muslims through outreach during the FIFA World Cup 2022, this strategy may have backfired.
This is because what became apparent throughout the tournament was that instead of viewing Israel as a country like any other, or at least one with which they could empathize due to their shared love of football, most ordinary Arabs still see Israel as a colonial intrusion whose very existence they instinctively reject.
Furthermore, they continue to regard Palestinians as brethren who share in their struggle against Israeli occupation and brutality.
A reporter for the Israeli national network Kan named Dor Hoffman spoke about his journey to Qatar. On what he said was a “bad day,” the studio had captured him.
He said, “It started when we ordered a taxi,” before explaining how the driver had left him and his team by the side of the road after learning they were Israelis and refused to pay.
“He said we are killing his brethren.” That was only the start. Hoffman told his viewers that when he and his team later visited a restaurant, the proprietor got them ejected after finding out they were Israeli.
“He took my phone and requested that I delete every picture taken in his restaurant.”
The Israeli journalist Ohad Hamo appropriately summed up the situation.
Personal security, he replied, is fine. “However, many among the people reject our existence.”
Governments can ensure security at official events. They are unable to compel the populace to accept colonialists, though.
Nearly every game has had Palestinian flags flown. Fans have covered themselves in the Palestinian flag, and in some cases, football players have done the same.
The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is one of modern history’s most long-standing and complicated disputes. A resolution to the conflict has eluded diplomats for generations, and it seems even more unlikely in present times with ever-widening regional schisms.
In addition, many opponents of closer ties between Israel and Arab states argue that these nascent relationships are based purely on self-interest rather than any genuine desire for coexistence or respect for Palestinian rights. Specifically, allegations have been levied that Israel hones its relations with Arab countries primarily as a strategy against Iran’s presence in the region.
Although unfounded accusations like this often circulate during diplomatic progress by either side on this front (as seems to be happening currently), they nevertheless highlight some of the deep mistrust between Israelis and Arabs concerning anything related to Palestine.
Palestinians are encouraged and relieved to see that the genuine nature of the Arab people still exists by watching a video of Arab teenagers telling Israeli journalists that there is only Palestine and no such thing as Israel.
Even though Arab support is now restricted to the moral sphere, Palestinians are not the only ones struggling against the Zionist enterprise. Zionism is a political movement that supports establishing a Jewish state in Palestine. It emerged in Europe in the late 19th century and gained momentum after World War II.