Morocco’s success has breathed new life into a once-lost identity, as people from across the Arab world celebrated the team’s victories.
“People had said that Arab nationalism was dead, we’re not united anymore,” North African football expert Maher Mezahi told CNN. “The Olympics, Algeria’s run in the 2014 World Cup, and especially now this, as trivial of a notion as it seems, it exists, and we’re seeing it manifest in real time.”
The Palestinian cause, which is central to the identity of many Arabs around the world, has been omnipresent in the stadiums and on the streets during this tournament.
When the Moroccan team posed with the unmistakable tricolor flag during their celebrations, the cause – which supports Palestinian self-determination – benefited from the oxygen of a global media platform.
A Monday night stroll through Qatar’s Souq Waqif revealed football fans from all over the region who were draped in both the Palestinian and Moroccan flags.
CNN spoke with 15-year-old boys from Syria and Egypt, 17-year-old girls from Sudan, a man from Algeria and another from the occupied West Bank city of Nablus. “All Arab countries, from the Gulf to the sea, are one body,” said Anwar Ramadan, who walked through the Souq with a “Free Palestine” scarf around his shoulders. He told CNN that he wears the flag so that the rest of the world can see that “Palestine is present in every corner.”
“We hope that Arab leaders will be capable of uniting this region in the same way that the Emir of Qatar was able to unite all Arabs in this country during the World Cup,” Ramadan said.
Amro Ali, a Sociology professor at the University of Casablanca, argued that Qatar has given supporters of the Palestinian cause an “unfiltered and unmediated” space, where they could express solidarity with the plight of Palestinians in occupied territories.
In 2020, Morocco was one of four Arab countries to normalize relations with Israel, departing from a long-time regional policy that conditioned normalization on ending the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, where Israel still maintains a blockade alongside Egypt. Sweeping displays of solidarity with Palestinians highlights the disconnect between those governments’ official positions and continued hostility towards Israel.
“If anything, [the World Cup] has shown the stark contrast between the rulers and the ruled, between the regimes and the publics,” he said. “Palestine has not been forgotten.”
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