World Cup Treachery

What will the Arab governments that yielded to Trump’s blackmail and betrayed Morocco say to their peoples?

By Abdel Bari Atwan

It was shocking and shameful that seven Arab states voted for the US-led three-country North American bid to host the 2026 World Cup football finals at the FIFA Council meeting held in Moscow on Wednesday.

This was a treacherous stab in the back. When the choice was between Morocco, a fellow Arab and Muslim country, and the US, which backs Israel’s occupation of Islamic holy places and its crimes against the Palestinian people, there should have been no question about which bid these countries should naturally and rightly side with.

Morocco lost, honourably and with dignity, to a bullying and cynical opponent whose president openly threatened to punish or halt financial aid to any country that did not vote in its favour –in blatant violation of FIFA rules. It still managed to win the votes of 65 delegates who refused to submit to this American blackmail, in addition to the sympathy of hundreds of millions of people worldwide.

The Moroccans have every right to be angry at being betrayed by the governments of countries they thought were fraternal, whose citizens they welcome with open arms and whose causes they have always supported in tough times — none more so than those, such as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, that actively and openly lobbied and garnered votes for US-Canada-Mexico bid.

It is hard to understand the behaviour of some of the Arab states that betrayed Morocco and stood in the trench of Donald Trump. These include Iraq, whose people suffered incredible privations from a US invasion, followed by an occupation and preceded by a crippling blockade that led to the death of more than one million people. Or Lebanon, where Hezbollah is a partner in government and which raises the banner of resistance against occupation and suffered repeated US-backed Israeli massacres. Or even Bahrain, which nowadays raises the banner of ‘Arabism’ against a supposed conspiracy by Persian Iran. Or even the UAE, which is ruled by the heirs of the late Sheikh Zayed who always stood by fellow Arabs and championed Arab unity, famously declaring during the 1973 war that ‘oil can never be dearer than Arab blood’ when he took the initiative to halt oil supplies to the US in solidarity.

There are those who argue that Saudi Arabia and the UAE may have voted against Morocco because it sent food aid to Qatar after they blockaded it last year, or because Qatar ‘secretly’ promised to cover the costs of Morocco’s hosting of the World Cup if it won the bid. But this argument is spurious, first because the crisis between Qatar and Saudi/UAE is unlikely to last until 2026, and secondly because there is nothing wrong with one Arab country providing assistance to another when it is suddenly subjected to a blockade. It’s not as if the Moroccans supplied warplanes, missiles or submarines to Qatar. They only sent symbolic shipments of agricultural produce, canned sardines and cooking oil.

It was particularly galling that Jordan, just emerging from a crisis caused by mass popular anti-austerity protests, voted in favour of the US after it moved its embassy to occupied Jerusalem, recognised it as the Israeli occupation state’s eternal capital and over-rode Hashemite jurisdiction over its holy places, and is it is preparing to lift the veil on a ‘Deal of the Century’ aimed at dissolving the Palestinian Arab cause. Why, Jordan?

The consolation is that 13 Arab states – led by Algeria which rose above its longstanding differences with Moroccoto behave like a good neighbour — announced from the outset that they would vote unhesitatingly for the Moroccan bid. These countries — Egypt, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Oman, Somalia, Djibouti, Qatar, Mauritania, Tunisia, Libya, and finally Palestine – should be thanked for delivering a big ‘no’ to American blackmail and siding with Morocco regardless of the price they may be forced to pay.

The Arab governments that voted for the American should hang their flags at half-mast in shame. They have dealt a heavy blow to inter-Arab solidarity and provided an invaluable gift to the racist anti-Arab and anti-Muslim current in the West that stands against the kind of coexistence that Morocco embodies.

How can they hold their heads up when they kow-tow to the US while countries such as South Africa, Brazil, France, and Belgium in addition to many African states refuse to bow to its dictates? What will they ay to the Moroccans? Indeed, what will they say to their own peoples who – we have no doubt at all – in their overwhelming majority absolutely reject their stance?