Arab soccer fans in Qatar are ensuring their Israeli counterparts know their place at the first World Cup in the Middle East, by refusing to interview with Israeli journalists, heckling, and in some cases, even resorting to violence.
The scenes emerging from Doha dash hopes of broadening the Abraham Accords that saw Israel normalizing ties the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco.
Israel’s Channel 13 sports reporter Tal Shorrer said that during his time covering the event, he has been pushed, insulted and accosted by Arab fans including Palestinians.
“You are killing babies!” a group of Arab fans shouted as they rammed into him during a live broadcast.
“I was so excited to come in with an Israeli passport, thinking it was going to be something positive,” Shorrer said. “It’s sad, it’s unpleasant. People were cursing and threatening us.”
Qatari media has shared clips of such exchanges, captioning them, “No to normalization.”
Both Israel’s public broadcaster Kan and top-rated Channel 12 TV also had trouble securing interviewees.
Videos circulating on social media showed two Saudi fans, a couple of Qataris and three Lebanese fans turning away from Israeli reporters.
“Fly away from here as fast as possible,” one initially friendly Qatari told an Israeli journalist.
Around 20,000 Israelis are estimated to have flown to Doha for the World Cup.
مشجع سعودي يرفض الحديث مع مراسل إسرائيلي "ليس هناك إسرائيل هناك فلسطين فقط" …. "انت ليس مرحب بك هنا" pic.twitter.com/1fLzuhRGiM
— Haitham El-Tabei التابعي (@Haithamtabei) November 26, 2022
In another instance, Israeli soccer legend and panel member for Kan Eli Ohana initially told a Qatari policeman who was giving him a lift on his golf cart being that he was Israeli before backtracking. The officer asked him if he was joking, and Ohana then said he was really Portuguese.
The officer later disclosed that if he had been Israeli, he would have turned the car around and refused to drive him.
— כאן (@kann) November 25, 2022
Israel’s Foreign Ministry warned soccer fans to keep a low profile while in Doha, which does not share diplomatic ties with Israel.
Israeli soccer fans were given special dispensation to fly directly to the FIFA World Cup in Qatar from Tel Aviv for the first time. Israeli visitors entered the country with a fan ID in lieu of an entry visa.
The Biden administration hailed the development, saying it will “benefit Israeli and Palestinian soccer fans alike as a step towards expanding greater freedom of travel for all.”