Is xenophobia okay if one really dislikes the policies of a country and takes it out on individuals with that nationality? That’s what MSNBC’s Ayman Mohyeldin implied in a new column published on December 7, titled “The media is getting pro-Palestinian expression at the World Cup all wrong,” writing:
“When outlets point out how Israelis are not feeling welcomed at the first World Cup in the Arab world, it is yet another reminder of how out of touch the Western narrative is when it comes to the Arab world. Implying that Israeli journalists or fans are simply unwelcome guests in Qatar is an obfuscation of the underlying resentment Arabs feel toward a country that has been accused of committing apartheid against the Palestinian people.” (Emphasis added)
By “not feeling welcomed,” Ayman is referencing incidents like fans interrupting Israeli reporters by chanting “go home” or shouting “you are not welcome here.” Other incidents included a Qatari police officer telling an Israeli – who hid his identity – that if he was Israeli the officer would refuse to drive him. Elsewhere, a taxi driver kicked out an Israeli journalist, who was later escorted out of a restaurant and had his phone taken from him. The Israeli Foreign Ministry has even had to warn Israelis traveling to attend the World Cup to “downplay your Israeli presence and Israeli identity for the sake of your personal security.”
Whether or not Arabs feel legitimate resentment towards the policies of the State of Israel, the targeting of individual Israelis for hatred and hostility because of their national origin is textbook xenophobia. In his commentary, Ayman argues that making “Israelis,” in their individual capacity, “not feeling welcomed” is fine because of “resentment…toward [their] country.” It’s a classic case of holding individuals responsible for the alleged actions of others.
In making and publishing this argument, Ayman and MSNBC are openly promoting and justifying bigotry.