Is it a coincidence that at a time Palestine’s popular Islamic liberation movement HAMAS is commemorating 35 years of its founding, Qatar 2022 has turned the World Cup into a celebration of solidarity with Palestine?
Whether it is or not, what cannot be denied is that both have converged to demonstrate that Palestine remains embedded in the hearts and minds of millions across the world.
HAMAS has developed tremendous capacity to not only withstand the military brutality of the occupying regime possessing nukes and weapons of mass destruction (WMD); but also grow its aggressive military posture that remains unmatched in the Arab neighbourhood.
A remarkable feat indeed for leading a freedom struggle reviled by Israel, US and the west in general as “terrorism”, in much the same way as South Africa’s anti-apartheid struggle was slandered.
The US Department of Defense listed the ANC in a 1988 report billed as profiles of “terrorist groups”.
In fact Nelson Mandela remained on US “terrorist watch list” until 2008.
Recall this statement by former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher during 1987: “The ANC is a typical terrorist organisation... Anyone who thinks it is going to run the government in South Africa is living in cloud-cuckoo land.”
The absurdity of America’s arbitrary classification of individuals and movements engaged in liberation wars as “terrorists” is demonstrated in the sad experience of Barbara Masekela.
In 2007, the former South African Ambassador to the United States from 2003 to 2006, was denied entry into the US to visit her sick cousin because she (Masekela) is a member of the ANC.
She was unable to obtain her visa to see her relative who later died in America.
Just as the ANC was involved in a war of liberation, so is HAMAS today.
The similarities are striking: both movements share the goals of political struggle against apartheid.
South Africa may have become a democracy since the end of apartheid in 1994, but the settler colonial entity in Occupied Palestine has not.
Thus, the struggle continues.
Those who orchestrated and believed that “Normalising” ties including diplomatic and economic between unelected Arabian oligarchies and Israel would marginalise if not eliminate Palestinian resistance, have been rudely awakened in Qatar.
Mitchell Plitnick in Mondoweiss captures it well: “The World Cup has pierced the illusion that the Abraham Accords are anything more than agreements between an apartheid state and brutal dictatorships.”
What is it about the Abraham Accords that its architects had hoped would permanently eradicate Resistance and erase HAMAS from living memory?
Plitnick describes it as an agreement brokered by Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, that “normalised relations between Israel and the UAE, Bahrain and, in a more qualified fashion, Sudan.”
“The Accords represent the idea that Israel can find normal relations with the Arab world, and especially the wealthy Persian Gulf autocracies led by Saudi Arabia, without dismantling their apartheid system or recognising the human, civil, and national rights of Palestinians at all.”
That the Accords and the entire concept of “normalisation” faces severe setbacks, is evident both in Qatar’s soccer stadiums and souks as well as in the commemorative events by HAMAS in Gaza and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
As it launched its 35th anniversary under the slogan “We are coming with a roaring flood”, HAMAS chose the residence of its founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, in a gesture of defiance.
Having founded HAMAS in 1987, Yassin was instrumental in forming security groups known as the “Palestinian Mujahideen” which evolved into the backbone of the resistance, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades.
Sheikh Ahmed Yassin gained martyrdom when zionist rulers of the apartheid regime launched cowardly missile attacks as he emerged from Fajr (dawn) prayers in his wheelchair on March 22, 2004.
The euphoria and ecstatic display of Palestinian flags, freedom songs and enthusiastic chants among waves upon waves of football fans in Qatar, is not only historic but signifies the rejection of “normalisation”.
Though it appears to be confined to the World Cup, it certainly echoes solidarity with HAMAS, Islamic Jihad, the formation of the Jenin Brigades, and all other resistance groups including the courageous “Lions’ Den” in Nablus.
Iqbal Jassat is Executive Member of the Media Review Network, Johannesburg, South Africa