Qatari activists criticize government over Tel Aviv-Doha World Cup flights
The protest was small but notable in a state where citizens very rarely speak out against authorities
A group of Qatari activists campaigning against normalizing ties with Israel have said they are shocked that their government has authorized direct flights between Tel Aviv and Doha during the soccer World Cup.
The protest - by Qatar Youth Against Normalization, a vocal group of 24 members, mostly Qataris - was small but notable in a state where citizens very rarely speak out against authorities.
"It has come as a shock to us that days leading to the World Cup, Qatar has entered new territories of normalization with the announcement that direct flights will now operate between apartheid Israel and Doha," the group said late on Thursday.
There was no immediate response to requests for comment sent to Qatar's government communications office, World Cup organizers, the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, or FIFA, soccer's world governing body.
FIFA said on Thursday it brokered the deal between Qatar and Israel, which do not hold formal diplomatic ties, to facilitate the attendance of eligible Israeli and Palestinian fans at the World Cup, which runs from November 20 to December 18.
A Qatari official told Reuters on Thursday that the flight agreement did not change his country's stance on Israel.
While Qatar's Gulf neighbors, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, forged ties with Israel under U.S.-brokered pacts in 2020, Qatar has said normalization with Israel is linked to creating a Palestinian state.
The agreement on flights "is part of Qatar's commitment to FIFA's hosting requirements, and it should not be politicized," the official said.