February 15, 2023 Special Dispatch No. 10492

Palestinian Failure To Vote For Saudi Bid To Host 2027 AFC Cup Sparks Angry Reactions From Saudis

February 15, 2023
Saudi Arabia, Palestine | Special Dispatch No. 10492

During the 33rd Congress of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), held in Bahrain on February 1, 2023, Saudi Arabia was elected to host the AFC Cup in 2027. The Saudi kingdom received the votes of 43 out of 45 football federations that belong to the AFC. The only two federations that did not vote for it  were those of Palestine and Turkmenistan, whose representatives failed to participate in the vote, apparently due to a technical error. [1]  

Susan Al-Shalabi, the vice president of the Palestinian Football Federation and a member of the AFC Executive Committee, who attended the congress, clarified that the Palestinians' failure to vote for Saudi Arabia was an accident. The Palestinian representative, she explained, happened to be outside the hall when the vote stated. By the time he realized his mistake the voting apparatus was off and did not register his vote. Al-Shalabi added that after the incident she had immediately approached the President of the Saudi Football Association, Yasser Al-Mashal, and explained the situation; moreover, the president of the Palestinian Football Federation, Jibril Rajoub, met with Al-Mashal and explained the incident as well. [2] The Saudi sports magazine Al-Riyadiah tweeted a video of the meeting between Rajoub and Mashal, during which the former congratulated the Saudi people, and the Saudi king and crown prince, on the selection of the kingdom to host the games and said:  "Our representative obviously made a technical mistake during the vote." Al-Mashal agreed that there had been "a very simple error," and added that Turkmenistan had given a similar explanation for its failure to vote.[3]

Although the Palestinians' failure to vote for Saudi Arabia was apparently the result of an error, the reports about it sparked angry reactions from Saudis on social media, including from Saudi journalists and intellectuals, who slammed the Palestinians, some of them posting under the hashtag "Palestine is not my cause."[4] The posts accused the Palestinians of being hostile and ungrateful towards Saudi Arabia, and some of the writers stated that Palestine does not interest them. Similar sentiments were expressed in articles published in the Saudi press.

Palestinian Football Federation head Jibril Rajoub voting at the AFC congress (image:, February 1, 2023)

This report presents some of the Saudi reactions expressing anger at the Palestinians.

Saudi Intellectual: The Palestinians Are Hostile Towards Saudi Arabia In Every Context

Following the vote, Saudi intellectual Turki Al-Hamad, who is considered to be close to Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, tweeted: "In almost all [their] positions – whether political or non-political, simple or complex, related to the [Palestinian] cause or not –  the Palestinians, [both] the people and the leadership, without exception, show Saudi Arabia an ugly face, even without knowing what the controversy at hand is about. I really do not know what the Palestinians want from Saudi Arabia."[5]

Editor Of Saudi Online Daily: The Palestinian's Vote Does Not Interest Us

Saudi Journalist 'Adwan Al-Ahmari, editor of the online daily "Independent Arabia," tweeted: "Do we need the Palestinian vote? We do not. Yasser Arafat's [position] on the liberation of Kuwait [in the 1990s] was shrill and biased. He supported the [Iraqi] invasion and failed to condemn Saddam Hussein's [firing of] missiles into Saudi Arabia. [The Palestinians'] position did not interest us in war, so it definitely does not interest us in sports."[6]  

Saudi Intellectual And Researcher: We Must Take Care Of Our Own Interests

Saudi intellectual and researcher 'Abd Al-Hamid Al-Hakim responded to Al-Ahmari's tweet: "As a matter of fact, as the Palestinians' religious and political qibla [literally "direction of prayer", here in the sense of source of authority or inspiration], we should be interested in holding the keys to the Palestinian cause, which Israel and POTUS [i.e., the U.S. President] consider pivotal to making peace in the Middle East, and [when] Tehran, Ankara and the deluded people are trying to take control of it. Calm down and look at the issue like a pragmatic politician who realizes [Jibril] Rajoub is lying but pretends to believe him for the sake of our interests."[7]

Saudi Journalist: The Palestinian Betrayal Was Expected; They Support Iran

Saudi journalist Ahmad Raba'i shared an old video of Gazans holding up pictures of the Iranian leader and crying out "Death to [the Saudi royal family] Aal Sa'ud," and tweeted:  "The Palestinian betrayal is not surprising. They are the ones who supported the Houthis and Iran against the [Saudi] kingdom, called out anti-Saudi slogans and held up signs [supporting Houthi leader] 'Abd Al-Malik Al-Houthi and [Iranian general Qassem] Soleimani. [So] Today they abstained from voting [in favor of] Saudi Arabia hosting the Asian Cup in 2027. #Palestine Isn’t My Cause."[8]

Saudi Journalist: This Is Further Proof Of The Palestinians' Ingratitude

In a column titled "We Won and Palestine Lost" in the Saudi daily 'Okaz, journalist Ahmad Al-Shamrani contended that the Palestinians' abstention during the vote had again proved their "ingratitude" towards Saudi Arabia and showed that the Palestinian cause is in unworthy hands. He wrote: "We won and we do not need any of your votes…  We have long seen and heard you insulting the [Saudi] kingdom, and our leaders told us, 'Ignore them, they do not represent Palestine or its just cause!' Over the years our leaders supported Palestine much more than that [you] Palestinians did, even though you  never supported Saudi Arabia!

"Your failure to vote [for us] gladdened us rather than angered us, because it proved that you repay our [supportive] positions and our kindness with ingratitude and insults. The honorable people among our brothers in Palestine will continue to be esteemed by us, but following this [Palestinian] position, they should take a fair attitude towards our positions on the children of Mahmoud 'Abbas and the servants of Hamas!... This unsurprising position of yours served [our relations] with the Arab and Islamic world, for now everyone understands the truth regarding the [Palestinian] cause, which is just but is in unreliable hands…"[9]

Article In Saudi Daily: The Arabs Have Long Since Given Up On Supporting The Palestinians

In his column in the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Mamoun Fandy, a political scientist at Georgetown University and the director of the London Global Strategy Institute, wrote that the Arabs have long since come to see the Palestinian cause as a heavy burden and have given up on it: "Whoever follows the discourse in our written and electronic [media], including on TikTok accounts, has surely noticed that we are all now uncomfortable bearing the Arab man's burden [i.e., the Palestinian cause] and wish to shake it off our backs. Our problem is not with the morality of renouncing this justified burden. It is finding excuses for our behavior. We invent tales that are not even worthy of being bedtime stories for children younger than ten. Our stories are many, and we invent them in order to justify throwing off this burden [and leaving it] by the side of the road. Sometimes we say that 'the Palestinians have betrayed their own cause,' so why should we carry it, and at other times we say that 'the whole thing is one big lie,' as was said by Saddam [Hussein], whom we thought wanted to liberate Jerusalem by way of Kuwait or by Iran, which claims that the way to Jerusalem passes through Damascus, Beirut, Sanaa and Baghdad.  But I am not talking about the burden of the Iranian man… but about the burden of the Arab man.

"In our conversations and writings these days, I am amazed by the many excuses used by some people to explain that [the Arab man] bears a burden that he does not really bear… and that he wants everyone not to rebuke him but rather to applaud him for being brave enough to declare that he can no longer live his life bearing the burden of this Palestinian cause. When did we [ever] carry it, that [the Arab] now wants to put it down? For many of us Palestine was a crutch to lean on, and when we were told to discard it, we did not hesitate for a moment but got rid of it… This requires a mature and calm discussion, not in order to rebuke or condemn [anyone], but in order to face ourselves in a moment of truth…"[10]


[1], February 1, 2023; Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), February 2, 2023.

[2], February 1, 2023.

[3], February 1, 2023.

[5], February 1, 2023.

[6], February 1, 2023.

[7], February 2, 2023.

[8], February 1, 2023.

[9] 'Okaz (Saudi Arabia), February 2, 2023.

[10] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), February 6, 2023.

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