Authorities in Doha said the move does not reflect Qatar’s stance towards normalisation.
Qatari pro-Palestine youth activists have expressed their shock over Doha’s approval of direct flights between Israel and Qatar, who do not hold formal diplomatic ties, during the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
“It has come as a shock to us that days leading to the World Cup, Qatar has entered new territories of normalisation with the announcement that direct flights will now operate between apartheid Israel and Doha,” Qatar Youth Against Normalisation (QAYON), a vocal group of 24 members that are mostly Qataris, said late on Thursday.
“It is very unfortunate that the resolute popular stance towards normalisation continues to be ignored.”
In a joint announcement on Instagram, QAYON and Boycott Divestment Sanction (BDS) Arabic emphasised their refusal “to invite, host or even allow the entry of any sports and media delegations belonging to the Zionist entity to Qatar before, during and after the hosting of the World Cup.”
FIFA has agreed on a deal that will allow thousands of Palestinians and Israelis to attend the World Cup in Qatar via direct flights from Tel Aviv to the Gulf nation.
Doha officials, however, have assured the move is not reflective of Qatar’s stance on normalisation with the regime.
The agreement on flights “is part of Qatar’s commitment to FIFA’s hosting requirements and it should not be politicised,” the Qatari official told Doha News.
“Because of this agreement, Palestinians will now be able to enjoy the first World Cup in the Arab and Muslim world.”
“Our stance on normalisation has not changed,” the official said, adding that Doha remains to hold a staunch position in resolving the Palestinian file, “including a two state solution in accordance with the relevant Security Council resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative.”
“Qatar conveyed to Israelis that any escalation in Jerusalem, Gaza, or West Bank during this time will risk the cancellation of the agreement including the direct flights,” the Qatari official told Doha News.
QAYON further expressed their dismay saying: “We assure that Israeli fans will not find a welcome from the Qatari people and from the Arab and Muslim residents in Qatar, and will not feel comfortable while they are on our land.”
In the joint announcement, the two activist groups further called on all Qatari citizens and general Arab public to carry the Palestinian flag in and around stadiums, in the streets, and over cars and homes throughout the entirety of the World Cup 2022.
A source familiar with the matter told Doha News the move will see direct charter flights temporarily operating between Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv and Hamad International Airport in Doha by the Royal Jordanian, which already has existing rights to land in Qatar, for the duration of tournament.
The agreement stipulates every flight departing Tel Aviv must have both Israelis and Palestinians onboard or the deal risks falling apart, the source added. More than 8,000 Palestinians have been approved to travel to the World Cup, while Israelis will account for roughly 3,000 of those attending the tournament in the Gulf state.
The deal also outlines that Israel must allow for football fans and journalists from the besieged Gaza Strip, which has been under a brutal Israeli blockade since 2007, to board the Qatar-bound flights, effectively breaking years-long restrictions on Gazan freedom of movement, the source confirmed.
Israeli citizens will be provided consular services via a privately-operated international travel company located in an office building, the source added, noting a consular office will not be opened at a diplomatic area in the Qatari capital.
While Qatar has all-out refused for the Zionist regime to operate a temporary consulate in Doha, western nations have also refused to allow for Israelis to make use of their embassies in the Qatari capital to conduct their affairs, the source added.
The travel office will open a few days before the tournament and close shortly after.
In addition to ongoing occupation by Israel, Palestinian athletes face frequent obstacles when participating in competitions.
Palestinian footballers struggle to find places to play due to destruction of facilities across Palestinian lands by Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF).
The apartheid state cancelled the FIFA Palestine Cup in 2019 by denying Gazan players travel permits. This has been highlighted by rights groups as just one example of the flagrant human rights abuses committed by Israel in an effort to isolate Palestinians both at home and abroad.
Israel’s restrictions on the movement of Palestinians is highly repressive, with at least 700 obstacles placed around the West Bank and up to 140 checkpoints.
Palestinians and activists from all around the world have long accused FIFA of ignoring letters to suspend the Israeli Football Association’s membership.