Flashes of Arab unity at World Cup after years of discontent
Palestinian groups that have for years been engaged in a power struggle among themselves have made a united, collective move to boycott the World Cup in order to break the political impasse.
The Palestinian Football Association announced on Monday plans to boycott the event until the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is completed. The move followed years of tensions and disagreements among the various Palestinian factions, who have repeatedly failed to meet through open dialogue.
The decision to boycott the event has caused a storm in Egypt, where the Palestinian football association has received the support of its counterpart group, and the organization has decided to send its members to the World Cup without making it official.
“The Palestinian Football Association is committed to the international law of peaceful resistance and Palestinian human rights,” Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said in a televised address. “The Palestinian Football Association respects the right to boycott peacefully the world’s biggest sporting event.”
Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Abul Gheit said in a statement that “we welcome the decision of the Palestinian Football Association to boycott the World Cup.”
The Palestinian decision was not without critics, as most of the Arab League has expressed no immediate support.
Israel, which is also sending a team to the world’s biggest sporting event, slammed the decision, and threatened to boycott the tournament, while it defended itself against allegations that it mistreated Palestinians on a number of occasions during the past two decades, in particular the war in Syria.
“We cannot accept a boycott,” Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said, according to the Jerusalem Post. “The main thing is to be a positive partner.”
“The decision of the Palestinian people is an important step in ending the conflict,” he told the newspaper on Monday. “The decision by the Palestine Football Association is a first step to building a Palestinian country.”
The World Cup in Brazil, which kicks off on Thursday, has been in the heart of controversy since the first game was played in 1994, when Palestinian terrorists, the PL