Israeli-Palestinian conflict gathers steam with Qatar World Cup

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — It was uncharted territory for the Israeli journalist. While walking through the rustic outdoor market in Doha before the start of the World Cup, he spotted a Qatari man in his traditional headdress and white flowing robe and asked for an interview.

“Which channel?” Qatari asked. The journalist replied that he was from Israel’s public broadcaster Kan.

The Qatari was stunned. “Where?”

“Israel,” repeated the reporter. After a split second, the interview was over.

The exchange sprung up around social media, marking the latest political flash point in the first World Cup in the Arab world – never mind that neither the Israeli nor Palestinian national teams are competing in the tournament.

Israelis and Palestinians have arrived in Doha to reveal just how deep and emotional their violent centuries-old conflict is, including over Israel’s open occupation of land that is being used as part of a Palestinian future state. want for

Palestinians shared footage of the Doha encounter between a Qatari man and an Israeli journalist, as well as other clips of angry confrontations between Palestinians and Israeli journalists live on Qatari TV. He saw this as evidence that although Qatar has allowed Israelis to fly directly to Doha and receive consular support for the first time in history, the conservative Muslim emirate has no intention of rapprochement with Israel.

Israel’s Channel 13 sports reporter, Tal Shorer, said he has been heckled, humiliated and insulted by Palestinians and other Arab fans during his live reports from the tournament.

“You’re killing children!” During a broadcast this week some Arab fans started booing at him.

Qatari media have meanwhile published some videos with the title: “No to generalisations”. Qatari officials, with its history of public support to the Palestinians, have insisted that the temporary opening to Israelis was purely to comply with FIFA hosting requirements – neighboring Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have broken ties in 2020. Not a step to normalize. Qatar has warned that an escalation of violence in the occupied West Bank or Gaza Strip would derail the regime.

Still, thousands of Israeli soccer fans are expected to descend on Doha for the World Cup, diplomats say, with 10 direct flights planned next month.

Many Israeli fans marvel at the interesting novelty of being in a country that has no diplomatic relations with Israel. Security-minded citizens comment on how safe they feel.

“My friends and family thought it might be dangerous but it’s okay,” said Eli Agami, an aviation executive who lives near Tel Aviv. “I don’t go around telling people but I think nobody cares if you’re Israeli or you’re Jewish. Everybody just cares about sports.”

Six Israeli diplomats have set up shop at a travel agency’s office in Doha to respond to crises big and small. To limit potential problems, the Foreign Ministry has launched a campaign urging Israelis to remain calm.

“We want to avoid any friction with other fans and local officials,” said Alon Levy, a member of the delegation, citing legions of fans from Iran, Saudi Arabia and other countries either hostile or frosty toward Israel. Now there is flood in Qatar. “We want to remind (Israelis) … You don’t need to stick your fingers in other people’s eyes.”

Israelis have made themselves at home among Doha’s gleaming skyscrapers. Qatar’s first kosher kitchen has been set up near the airport, supplying classic eggy Jewish challah bread and olive and hummus sandwiches to hotels and fan zones. They plan to cook other meals for the Jewish Sabbath which begins at sunset on Friday, with all ingredients conforming to kosher dietary laws.

Rabbi Mendi Chitrik, who oversees the effort, said, “We’ve received many, many questions and requests.”

Israel’s main channels have been permitted to broadcast from Doha, providing Israeli viewers with continuous coverage of the matches. But unlike other major foreign networks based in the heart of Doha city center, Israelis roams without a formal studio.

Shorer said that although the talks with the Qatari officials were on the whole pleasant, the story on the streets was a different one. He said he advises Israeli fans to hide their Jewish kippahs and discard their Stars of David so as not to stir up hostility. When a cellphone salesman saw his friend’s settings in Hebrew, he exploded with rage, yelling at the Israeli to get out of Doha.

“I was very excited to come away with an Israeli passport, thinking it was going to be something positive,” he said. “It’s sad, it’s unpleasant. People were cursing and threatening us.”

Palestinian fans from across the Arab world – including descendants of those who fled or were forced from their homes upon the creation of Israel in 1948 – marched through the streets of Doha this week draped in Palestinian flags. Some even wore Palestinian armbands.

A group of young Palestinians living in Doha chanted, “Free Palestine!” Marching through Doha’s historic Souk Waqf market on Sunday.

Marcher Sarah Shadid, 26, said, “We want everyone to know about the occupation and what people in Palestine experience so that more people can support us.”

She laughed awkwardly when asked about the influx of Israeli fans.

“I’m a little upset,” she said, adding that she was sure his presence was not to Qatar’s liking. Doha mediates between Israel and the Hamas terrorist group and sends cash to pay for civil servants in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

When FIFA announced unprecedented direct flights from Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv to Doha, Qatari officials promised that the travel arrangements would also apply to Palestinians in both the occupied West Bank and Gaza, which since 15 Israel- Egypt is under blockade. years, since Hamas gained control there.

But it remained unclear until day five of the tournament how officials would fulfill that premise.

Lior Hayat, a senior Israeli diplomat, said that all Palestinian fans who wish to fly through Israeli airports must obtain Israeli security clearance to leave and return – an often-gruesome and unpredictable process. “It takes some time,” he admitted.

Imad Qaraqara, a spokesman for the Palestinian General Authority for Civil Affairs, said he had not heard of any Palestinian requesting Israeli permission from Ben-Gurion. West Bank Palestinians traveled to Qatar this week from a Jordanian airport, while Palestinians in Gaza entered Egypt through the enclave’s Rafah border crossing.

The long-travelling Palestinian fans said they felt their presence at the world’s biggest sporting event served a political purpose.

“I am here as a reminder that in 2022, our land is still occupied,” said Mowya Maher, a 31-year-old businesswoman from Hebron, a particularly stressed West Bank city. He was dancing at a concert at the FIFA Fan Festival. , wearing a Palestinian flag as a cloak. “I think it’s a pathetic situation. But I’m also proud.”

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