But Morocco’s surprise string of wins at the World Cup in Qatar have stirred a joy and pride among Arab fans that have, at least for a moment, eclipsed the region’s many political divisions. Perhaps most striking is the love fest between Palestinians and the Moroccan team, despite the Moroccan government’s normalization of ties with Israel as part of the 2020 Abraham Accords. The Moroccan team waved a Palestinian flag after its victory over Spain last week, thrilling Palestinians. Throughout the tournament, the Palestinian flag has been unfurled all over, carried by Arab fans and some non-Arabs — so much so that the running joke is that Palestine is the 33rd team at the World Cup.
In contrast, Algerian state TV has not even reported on Morocco’s wins, leaving them out of daily World Cup reports. For Palestinians, the games have been a breath of fresh air. The peace process with Israel has long mouldered in a jar on the shelf; a far-right government in Israel is poised to take office; tensions have risen in recent months with several deadly Palestinian attacks in Israel, near daily Israeli raids in the West Bank and increasing harassment by Jewish settlers. At the same time, many Palestinians feel they have been forgotten by Arab governments; besides the Abraham Accords, countries like Egypt and Jordan have largely gone silent on the Palestinians’ future while increasing cooperation with Israel.