Wolves in Sheep Clothing: Israeli Journalists Complain of Rejection during World Cup
December 02 2022

On Sunday, November 20, 2022, the 22nd FIFA World Cup began. It was a historical opening — the first-ever World Cup to be hosted in the Arab world.

Within the first week of matches, Qatar 2022 has been pivotal in shifting global perspectives of the Middle East, while also becoming a space to amplify solidarity with the Palestinian cause. Fans, players, and celebrities have been heavily advocating for Palestinian liberation within the matches and beyond: raising Palestinian flags, chanting in honor of freedom, and most notably, repeatedly refusing to engage with outlets and tourists from the Israeli apartheid state.

Since the first day of matches, social media has been filled with clips of fans from around the world refusing interviews with Israeli propaganda channels, and vocalizing support for Palestine. In response, Israeli tourists and journalists have turned to social media in an outcry, claiming to feel “unwelcome” in Qatar.

Raz Shechnik — a correspondent for Yedioth Ahronoth, an Israeli tabloid — used Twitter to voice his dismay at  “Arab fans,” who made him and his team feel rejected.

Upon recognizing fans' refusal to normalize relations with Israel, Shechnik and his partner began fronting as an Ecuadorian news station. Unsuccessful in their fraudulent attempts at impersonation, Shechnik — a notorious propagandist for the apartheid state — blamed Muslim and Arab groups for ostracizing Israelis during the World Cup and refused to note the ongoing support of Palestine by both Arab and non-Arab crowds.

The endless rejection encouraged Israeli journalists and tourists to shift their strategy. In efforts to intentionally provoke fans openly advocating for Palestine, they tried to traffic in hatred at the sporting event.

Guy Hochman has been broadcasting interactions he initiates with pro-Palestine fans across social media, questioning their refusal of normalization and, in a manipulation tactic, conflating their stances with anti-semitism.

Hochman — a member of the Israeli Occupation Forces, who has carried out numerous war crimes against Palestinian men, women and children — was weaponizing the notion of peace enforced by FIFA to antagonize supporters of Palestine at the tournament. Failing remarkably in all his attempts to provoke fans, he cut his visit to the Gulf country short.  

Qatar has allowed the 2022 FIFA World Cup to become a powerful space for resistance and Arab unity against the Israeli Occupation. Videos circulating on social media show numerous Israeli broadcasters questioning the repudiation of fans from Arab countries which have signed peace agreements with Israel. In one interview with Moroccan fans, a journalist is caught attempting to beg for their support, since the nation signed a normalization agreement in 2020. The shocked fans — who have no control over the decisions of their government — denounced the apartheid regime and refused to be interviewed.

Following Morocco’s monumental win over Belgium on Sunday, November 27, fans and players celebrated while raising Palestinian flags and chanting for freedom. Similarly, fans from normalizing states — such as the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia — have been abundantly clear in their refusal to abandon Palestinians. Players from Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and Qatar have worn pro-Palestine armbands during their matches in honor of liberation. Arab fans have made it clear that their governments’ endorsements of the Israeli regime are not a reflection of the peoples’ loyalty to the Palestinian cause. It has infuriated Israelis that the Arab people do not reflect the sentiment of their governments.

In response to the continuous media snubs, Israeli authorities have slandered Qatar a “hostile environment,” placing the country under a level 3 travel warning for Israelis.  Authorities have additionally sent a message of protest to Qatar and FIFA against Arab fans and launched slurs against Tunisia for openly supporting Palestine throughout the tournament.

With no reported incidences of violence or mistreatment, the Israeli regime — as usual — is pursuing a campaign of self-victimization, attempting to turn the world’s attention away from the continued ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. Since the start of FIFA 2022, Israeli Occupation Forces have demolished at least five homes and one school, conducted at least 14 raids, detained approximately 62 Palestinians, and murdered 13, if not more.  

Though Israelis try to manipulate viewers across the world, they have been unable to stop people from mourning Mahmoud Assadi, Ahmad Ajad Shehadeh, Jawad Rimawi, Thafer Rimawi, Mufeed Ekhlail, Raed Al-Na’san, Mohammad Badarnah, Mohammed Hirzallah, Issa Talaqat, Mohammad Assadi, Rani Abu Ali, Nai’m Al-Zubaidy, Ammar Mufleh among 205 Palestinians murdered by the Israeli regime this year alone.

Image credit: Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera
About The Author: 

Marah Abdel Jaber is a Palestinian writer and Masters candidate at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Chicago, focusing her research and writing on constructions of Palestinian identity and creative historical preservation of the Palestinian narrative. 

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