Social media users slam a former Qatari sportsman for welcoming Israelis to Qatar during an interview with Israeli media.
Social media users have rushed to condemn and reject pro-Israel statements made by a former Qatari rally driver who said Israelis are welcome in Doha during the upcoming World Cup 2022.
In an interview with Israeli media on Thursday, Hamad Al-Suwaidi, who has gained national attention for creating a massive replica of the World Cup trophy outside his home, advocated for normalisation with the Zionist state.
During his interview with the Israel’s Kan broadcaster, Al-Suwaidi promised a “warm reception to the Israelis who will attend the World Cup,” saying that “Doha belongs to everyone.”
“Welcome to Doha, which is for everybody,” Suwaidi said in a message to Israeli travelers, promising to be the first Qatari to visit Tel Aviv.
“This is also their country and they will be like brothers to us.”
He stated that Israelis should feel welcome in Qatar and that he intends to travel to Tel Aviv, pushing for complete establishment of ties between the nations.
“We can’t banish Israel and Israel can’t leave,” he said from Doha. “People need to be realistic.”
‘He does not represent us’
However, the Qatari appeared to stand alone in his support for normalisation.
Shortly after the interview was released, Qataris took to social media to denounce his controversial comments under the hashtag #QatarisAgainstNormalisation, calling his statements “shameful” and “unrepresentative of the Qatari people.”
“Recently, there have been some lone voices calling for normalisation with the Zionist entity, and welcoming settlers to visit Doha! Since when was Qatar their country? Since when were they our brothers and friends? ” Qatari Twitter user, Ahmed Al Binali, said.
“We neither welcome nor be friends with those who kill the people and children of Palestine.”
Qatari journalist, Jaber Al Harmi joined the online protest stating that those who support Israel have no value and do not represent Arabs as a whole.
“Appearing on the Zionist media, talking about being friendly and welcoming is nothing but cheap talk. Whoever made the statements has no value and does not represent Arab societies. Look at all those who appeared in the Zionist media, they are looking for attention. In short, Zionists only deserve disrespect,” he tweeted.
Another user, “Abu Shehab,” wrote: “Yes, I am Qatari and against normalisation and against the Israelis.. Hamad Al-Suwaidi does not represent our people from the Al-Suwaidi family.”
Speaking to the Israeli channel, Al Suwaidi appeared to be nonchalant at how hwe would be perceived.
“Certainly there will be criticism, but I have done nothing wrong,” he said.
“I love peace, hope that peace will spread around the world and all the wars and problems will end. You will also live in peace like me. We are tolerant peoples, thank God,” he continued.
However, following a wave of backlash online, Al-Suwaidi deleted a tweet that promoted the interview.
QAYON strikes back
Meanwhile, Qatar Youth Against Normalization issued a statement to respond to the interview, describing it as a “condemned act of normalisation. Not to mention the consistency of his rhetoric with the twisted Zionist rhetoric about the alleged peace.”
“The perpetuation of the occupation never justifies accepting the fait accompli. It will not erase the dark history of this usurping entity, nor will we forget the blood that it shed, the brutality it shed, the brutality it practiced, and the struggle of the Palestinian people,” the statement added.
The local anti-normalisation group also pointed out that “what Al-Suwaidi and his ilk in the region want is that we, as Arab and Muslim peoples, give up the Palestinian cause, that is, that we give up our right to resistance, dignity and free living, and that we accept to be an exception among nations and open our arms to those who usurp our land, insult our sanctities, and attack our sanctities.”
The movement echoed Qatar’s firm position against Isreal as well as the state’s vocal support for the Palestinian cause, noting it will not be moved by such outspoken voices.
“This was confirmed by the continuous denunciations by the Qatari public since the publication of the clip,” the group added.
On October 1, QAYON released a statement in which it stated that it saw the World Cup being held in Qatar as an opportunity to highlight the importance of the Palestinian cause and how deeply ingrained it is in the political consciousness of Arab peoples.
The organisation urged supporters of Palestine in Qatar and the Arab world to embrace this opportunity to show their allegiance to the cause and serve as a constant reminder by carrying and prominently displaying Palestinian flags inside and outside stadiums throughout the tournament.
Qatar, a pro-Palestine supporter
Qatar is a vocal supporter of the Palestinian cause.
During his speech at this year’s United Nations General Assembly in New York, Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani highlighted key issues concerning the Middle East region.
Amir Tamim renewed the need to implement international resolutions and press Israel to end its illegal occupation.
“The Palestinian cause is still unresolved, and in light of the failure to implement the resolutions of international legitimacy and with the persistent change of facts on the ground the settler-occupation has pursued a fait accompli policy,” said Sheikh Tamim.
The leader renewed Qatar’s full solidarity with Palestinians “in their aspiration for justice” while calling on the Security Council to “compel Israel to end the Palestinian territories’ occupation.”
The latest developments come amid a wave of controversial moves by some Arab nations to normalise ties with Israel.
In 2020, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed the Abraham Accords to establish full ties with Tel Aviv, in a move condemned by Palestinian factions across the board as a betrayal of their cause.