Photos of an Israeli flag at the FINA Swimming World Cup in Doha, Qatar, triggered a wave of angry reactions on Twitter, including calls for future sports boycotts against Israel.
While it is notable that Israeli swimmers participated in the October 20-21 competition - including Amit Ivry, winner of a silver medal - hundreds of Twitter users, including Qatari journalists, took to Twitter to express shock at their government’s decision to allow the Israeli flag to fly outside the Hamad Aquatic Center along with flags representing various other countries competing in the event.
Many of the Tweets condemned the participation of the Israeli team and demanded the removal of the flag form outside the Aquatic Center. Others Tweets protested what they described as the “normalizing of relations with the Zionist Entity.” Several users posted an image of a poster that reads, “Israel not-welcomed in Qatar.”
Reports from the region indicate that the Israeli flag was taken down before the end of the event in response to the reaction on Twitter. A graphic of the Israeli flag was also distorted on the television broadcast of the event when an Israeli swimmer medaled.
One Twitter user wrote, “Boycott should become universal; one of the results should be to ban the Zionist Entity from playing in the World Cup with an official FIFA resolution.” The FIFA World Cup is scheduled to be played in Qatar in 2022.
This incident raises concerns over Qatar’s ability to host international sporting events without succumbing to pressure from those who seek to politicize sports.
As more Arab countries host international sporting events, some Israeli athletes have encountered challenges. Most international sporting federations mandate that host countries allow all qualifying athletes to compete. However, in 2009, the United Arab Emirates refused to issue a visa to Israeli tennis star Shahar Peer to enable her to compete in the Dubai Tennis Championship, a stop on the Women Tennis Association (WTA) tour. The barring of Peer violated the guidelines of the WTA (which were subsequently tightened further) and the UAE was forced to pay a fine.