Following their victory against Portugal in the World Cup quarter-finals in Qatar, Morocco fans erupted in a song of support for the "Palestinian cause," with one member of Morocco's team posting a photo of himself on Instagram while draped in a Palestinian flag, together with a caption reading: Freedom.
Morocco and Israel signed a normalization treaty in December of 2020, but the display of support for Palestinians at the Qatar stadium was interpreted by many as a sign that the proverbial Moroccan "man-on-the-street" does not share the sentiments of his leaders.
Amro Ali is a Middle East analyst and professor of sociology at the American University in Cairo. According to him, Palestine was “the winner in this World Cup.”
“Arab regimes can pursue normalisation, but the people of the Arab world will have the final say,” Ali told Middle East Eye.
Indeed, Israeli journalists and tourists alike have had a frosty reception in Qatar, where banners with slogans supporting "Palestine" have been prominently displayed, fans have chanted songs against the "occupation," and Israeli journalists have been hard-pressed to find people willing to be interviewed.
According to Guardian correspondent Michael Safi who was in Qatar, "Everywhere I went, from inside World Cup stadiums to public markets and streets, people were carrying the Palestinian flag. Its prominence surprised a lot of people, and it tells us something really interesting about the Arab world.
"A few years ago, a bunch of Arab governments signed normalization agreements with Israel. They agreed to recognize Israel's existence, set up embassies, set up trading ... but none of these countries are democracies and their people were never consulted on whether they wanted to make deals with the country that's been illegally occupying Palestinian land [sic.] for more than 50 years.
"We've never really had a sense of what Arab populations think of these agreements, until this month," he continued. "Fans and teams have used the tournament to send a message that even though their governments now enjoy decent relations with Israel, that doesn't reflect what everyone in those countries thinks."
Meanwhile, Palestinian Arabs in Judea and Samaria, eastern neighborhoods of Jerusalem, and Gaza poured out onto the streets to celebrate Morocco's win.