Why Was Morocco’s Football Team Holding The Palestinian Flag?

Why Was Morocco’s Football Team Holding The Palestinian Flag

After qualifying for the quarter-finals of the 2022 World Cup Moroccan players posed with a Palestinian flag on the pitch at the expense of Spain. The same was also waived by the defender of Valladolid, Jawad el Yamiq. While there has been a multitude of political statements throughout this World Cup, the relationship that Arabs share with each other has been highlighted even more by bringing multiple nations together. 

2 Reasons Why Morocco’s Football Team Was Holding The Palestinian Flag

Morocco’s win encouraged pre-existing Arab unity: 

After the qualification of Morocco with their victory against Spain in the round of 16 at the Football World Cup, almost the entire Arab world celebrated. ​​It is the Palestinian flag that the Moroccan team waved on the lawn and in the locker room after their historic victory over Spain and their historic qualification for the quarter-finals. The omnipresence of solidarity with the Palestinian people is one of the lessons of the Qatar World Cup.

The jubilation that also gripped a large part of the Arab world helped us witness Morocco’s victory in the streets, in Baghdad in Iraq, in Beirut in Lebanon, in Ramallah in the West Bank, and also in Yemen, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. Even the Queen of Jordan, Rania, wrote a message on Twitter saying: “Congratulations to the Lions of the Atlas, you delight us, Wow Morocco!”.

A first qualification in the quarter-finals for an Arab country (unprecedented in history), all in an Arab country organizing the competition (again a first): this combination arouses great pride throughout the Arab world, the feeling of a community of values, particularly around language.

2 Reasons why the Moroccan football team posed with the Palestine flag:

Number 1: Nationalism

The first is that football is usually more about a team defending their colors, rarely those of a neighboring country. So we see there that there is also a form of supranational feeling in the Arab world, from the Maghreb to the Middle East. 

Number 2: More rival countries are opening up now

The second reason and an important one at that is to show how this popular jubilation contrasts with the political rivalries between the governments of these countries. It sends a form of a message to the various powers in place in the Arab world: stop quarreling among yourselves. It is also interesting to note that these first two weeks of competition have seen the great rivals of the Persian Gulf reconcile: the leaders of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates made the trip to Qatar, yet they were intimate enemies for years. 

Like this famous song in the Arab world , sung by supporters: “My dear Palestine, where are the Arabs? They sleep!” It is a denunciation of the inertia of the governments of Arab countries on the subject. Since the start of the competition, supporters of Arab teams have regularly waved Palestinian flags in the stands. All of this is indicative of a gap between, on the one hand, a whole section of Arab public opinion (which considers the Palestinian question as still a priority and unresolved); on the other hand the governments which are for many of them in a process of normalization with Israel. It is an extraordinary paradox since one of the most advanced countries in this standardization is Morocco, most precisely. 

Are Israelis safe in the 2022 Qatar World Cup?

A subject that takes a special place in this Moroccan victory landscape, is the question of Palestine and how the hosts of the 2022 world cup Qatar feels about keeping their guests from Israel safe in their country. 

Keen to show its support for the Palestinians, Qatar actually did not follow the path of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, two Gulf neighbors which normalized relations with Israel in 2020.

As you can tell, the majority of the population remains committed to the Palestinian cause Even though certain Arab countries have normalized their relations with Israel. Many fans, mostly Arabs, refuse to speak in front of Israeli cameras, while others chant “long live Palestine” during live broadcasts in Qatar where the world cup is being hosted currently. 

Many Qataris, hung Palestinian flags from their car windows. In the stands, some of the Qatari locals (whose country does not have official relations with Israel) wear armbands with the motifs of the Keffiyeh, a symbol of resistance to the Israeli occupation, 

Even the fact that Palestinian songs resound in the fan zones of Doha makes sense in Qatar because Qatar is home to nearly 250,000 Palestinians out of a total population of nearly three million, mostly made up of expatriates.

“Some foreigners don’t know the Palestinian flag and ask us questions,” said Yahya Abou Hantach, a 33-year-old Palestinian living in Doha.

“This is a golden opportunity to highlight our cause,” rejoices the supporter wearing a Qatar team jersey and a Palestinian flag.

For a 16-year-old Jordanian named Souhaib al-Issa, brandishing the Palestinian flag is a sign of peaceful resistance to express his country’s rejection of normalization with a country that occupies Palestine.

Are Israelites and Palestinians safe to travel together to Qatar?

An Israeli supporter even confides to the press that he did not take the flag of Israel and it was a first for this football fan who went to three other editions of the World Cup.

“I feel like I’m watching the World Cup in disguise which also makes the environment hostile towards us,” said the 57-year-old, who also removed the Star of David that usually hangs from his neck.

During the World Cup, the Israeli government has advised its nationals not to display Israeli or Jewish “symbols”. 

With such contrasting conditions, are the citizens from rival countries such as Russia-Ukraine, and Israel-Palestine, safer? 

The unprecedented establishment of direct flights between Tel Aviv and Doha has been welcomed by FIFA and the host Qatar was able to get the green light only on the condition that the Palestinians are authorized to board in the same way as the Israelis. 

Online sources reveal that no actual Palestinians have been registered on the first two flights, but some are expected to take the third as they receive massive support in Qatar.

Still, Qatar has been strict about political views as seen through security breaches: 

On Monday, November 28, 2022, during the match in the first round of the Football World Cup between Portugal and Uruguay, a man emerged from the stands and galloped on the lawn for a few seconds before being tackled to the ground by the service order from the Lusail stadium, fifteen kilometers north of Doha, the capital of Qatar. 

The International Football Federation (FIFA) banned the broadcasting of images of the streakers and serial pitch invaders and yet the televiewers who followed the match on their TV’s see nothing or almost nothing of the messages delivered by Mario Ferri, a regular of this kind of happening since 2009. 

Yes, the media blocks a lot of things that happen live but during the same evening, the press agencies broadcast the photographs detailing his cavalcade. First, a rainbow flag with the word “pace” (peace in Italian) on it to signify its solidarity with LGBTQ + and his wish for peace in the world. 

Then, on his Superman t-shirt, two messages of support, one to Iranian women and the other to Ukraine. Banned from stadiums for the rest of the competition, Ferri explains to many media that he wanted to protest against the censorship imposed by the authorities of Qatar and FIFA on these topics.

If Mario Ferri was entitled to great media coverage for his act of bravery, such was not the case for another streaker who chose the match between Tunisia-France to perform a beautiful acrobatic act on the lawn of the Education City Stadium in Al-Rayyan. 

He won over Tunisia and chanted “Falastine! Falastine!“ under the cheers of a large part of the public in addition to brandishing a Palestinian flag in his race to the football field and when the security service escorted him unceremoniously off the field, several Tunisian players even tried to intervene in his favor. We don’t know the name of this streaker, and no major Western media sought to question him. 

Final Verdict:

Since the beginning of the 2022 World cup, the theme of Palestine has been omnipresent and we see it in players like Moroccan player Jawad El-Yamiq who celebrated his team’s victory over Canada and their qualification for the round of 16 with a Palestinian flag waved in front of press photographers, but only a few Arabic titles and sites published the shot.

And it is this same flag that the Moroccan team waved on the lawn and then in the locker room after their victory on penalties against Spain and their historic qualification for the quarter-finals.

Due to supporters of qualified Arab or African teams (Morocco, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Senegal) Palestinian flags have been waved in the stands as a sign of solidarity but the phenomenon now affects other nationalities. We hope that Qatar keeps its attendees safe and sound. 

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