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Tunisian fans display large ‘Free Palestine’ banner at World Cup in Qatar

While no Israeli or Palestinian national teams are competing in the World Cup in Qatar, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict seems to resurface time and time again

Tobias (Toby) Siegal is a breaking news editor and contributor to The Times of Israel.

Supporters of Tunisia hold a flag that reads "Free Palestine" during the World Cup group D soccer match between Tunisia and Australia at the Al Janoub Stadium in Al Wakrah, Qatar, November 26, 2022. (AP/Petr David Josek)
Supporters of Tunisia hold a flag that reads "Free Palestine" during the World Cup group D soccer match between Tunisia and Australia at the Al Janoub Stadium in Al Wakrah, Qatar, November 26, 2022. (AP/Petr David Josek)

A large pro-Palestinian banner was displayed by Tunisian soccer fans at the Al-Janoub Stadium in Al-Wakrah, Qatar, on Saturday – in the latest incident to draw attention to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the World Cup.

In the match between Australia and Tunisia over the weekend, some fans held up a banner bearing the Palestinian flag and a caption that read: “Free Palestine.”

FIFA generally prohibits teams, players and fans from bearing signs or symbols with political, religious or personal messages during official matches.

Ahead of the tournament, FIFA president Gianni Infantino urged the 32 participating countries to “let football take center stage” over politics.

It was not clear whether fans or the Tunisian team would face repercussions for the incident.

Tunisia is known for its support for the Palestinians and resistance to normalizing relations with Israel.

Though both countries opened official “interest sections” — de facto consulates — in the 1990s, ties were severed with the outbreak of the Second Intifada in 2000 and have not been restored.

Only 11% of Tunisian citizens are interested in normalizing relations with Israel, according to data released last month by Arab Barometer, a nonpartisan research network that examines the social, political, and economic attitudes and values of ordinary citizens across the Arab world.

Saturday’s match between Tunisia and Australia was not the first time the Palestinian issue was brought up during the first week of the international event in Qatar.

Other examples include Qatari fans and players wearing armbands and ribbons featuring the Palestinian flag during Qatar’s opening match against Ecuador on Sunday, and some Saudi fans holding Palestinian flags during their match against Argentina on Tuesday.

Israeli journalists attending the games in the Gulf state have also reported hostility while reporting and identifying as Israelis.

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