While discussing the 2022 FIFA World Cup, MSNBC hosts Mehdi Hasan and Ayman Mohyeldin used the discussion to lecture Americans over the Supreme Court’s ruling on abortion, while also downplaying Qatar’s own history of human rights abuses.
On Sunday, Mohyeldin attempted to equate the United States with Qatar, wondering whether people will boycott the next World Cup in the U.S. over perceived human rights abuses. He said that while nobody is saying Qatar is perfect, he urged people to resist parroting “oriental tropes” about the Middle Eastern country.
Then, Mohyeldin seemed to suggest that criticism of Qatar stemmed from European racism, rather than a genuine concern for human rights.
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“I wonder if this debate is truly about migrant workers’ rights and human rights or is that European countries who view themselves as the guardians of global soccer for their own selfish economic purposes can’t stomach the idea that an Arab Middle Eastern country will host this venerable global gathering,” he said.
Mohyeldin turned his attention to the United States and questioned whether “grandstanding” pundits will call for America to be stripped of its ability to host the 2026 World Cup for the way elected leaders have “rolled back reproductive rights” or are “trying to ban the word gay” in public schools.
Europe also faced criticism from Mohyeldin, with the host criticizing countries in the region for their own treatment of migrants traveling from Africa. He also called it “dubious and disingenuous” to place Qatar in the same category as Russia and China when it comes to human rights abuses.
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Fellow MSNBC host Hasan also made a similar argument while discussing the controversy surrounding Qatar, noting that it is possible to appreciate the World Cup being held in a Middle East, Muslim-majority country for the first time, while also recognizing human rights abuses associated with the tournament in Qatar.
However, Hasan also expressed frustration at the “hypocrisy of folks,” such as the French, who have banned fan zones and outdoor screens in protest of Qatar. The MSNBC host’s claim of hypocrisy stemmed from French President Emmanuel Macron’s decision to attend the World Cup finale in Russia in 2018, and the country seemingly unconcerned with Qataris owning the soccer club Paris-Saint Germain.
“Also, if Trump comes back in ’24, will folks boycott the next World Cup in ’26 in the U.S.? Should the U.S. be boycotted anyways because of *our* human rights abuses (Guantanamo still open! Iraq invasion! Support for bombing of Yemen! Etc etc etc)? Who decides who gets boycotted?” Hasan added.
The tournament – which began on Nov. 20 – has faced backlash from human rights groups for allegations regarding Qatar’s exploitation of migrant workers during construction of stadium infrastructure. The Muslim nation has also faced significant criticism for criminalizing the LGBTQ+ community, its anti-Israel sentiments, and treatment of women.
Hasan and Mohyeldin’s dismissal of Qatar’s abuses is a far cry from their positions on Israel, as both anchors have regularly used their platforms to perpetuate accusations of human rights violations and have repeatedly expressed support for boycotting the Jewish state over its treatment of Palestinians.
In a 2018 video for The Intercept, Hasan took it upon himself to do some “myth-busting” in an attempt to convince critics to embrace the anti-Israel BDS [The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions] movement which seeks to boycott Israeli-made goods. Hasan said that the movement started as a response to “human rights violations and its illegal occupation of Palestinian territories.” by Israel.
It’s not about “Jews, or even the Jewish state,” he said at the time. “It’s all about human rights. Maybe the rights of humans you don’t like, but human rights, nevertheless.”
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More recently, Hasan used Russia’s war in Ukraine to attack Israel when he compared the invasion to past Israeli military operations against Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip.
“Wonder how people in Gaza feel about the intensifying debate over no-fly zones in Western capitals right now,” Hasan wrote on Twitter, including a link to a 2021 ABC News article and a 2014 piece written by Amnesty International referring to Israeli strikes on Hamas, the terrorist group in control of Gaza, as “possible war crimes.”
The British-American journalist came under fire in October after he hosted ‘Squad’ member Ilhan Omar on his show to react to comments made about American Jews, while glossing over her own history of antisemitic remarks.
Earlier this year, Hasan seemingly took issue with foreign nationalism and peaceful exchanges in the Middle East when he criticized Israel’s national anthem, Hatikvah, being played as Israeli President Isaac Herzog was welcomed by Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed to the UAE presidential palace. “The Mehdi Hasan Show” host claimed that the warm welcome signaled foreign dictators getting “on board” with Israel’s occupation amid the Palestinian conflict.
A month later, while responding to a report from Amnesty International, Hasan claimed that there were “many similarities” between apartheid in South Africa and Israel, adding that to suggest as much shouldn’t be considered “antisemitic.”
“You don’t have to believe Israel is committing apartheid… what you cannot do is simply shout down all references to apartheid as antisemitic… you have to engage with the evidence… you have to speak to Palestinians,” he told viewers.
Mohyeldin also boasts a long history of anti-Israel positions, some of which have landed him in hot water in recent years.
In 2019, Mohyeldin claimed that supporters of the BDS movement are in fact peace seekers who’ve rallied behind a new strategy to achieve stability between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
“The peace process hasn’t worked since 1993. We are not there. So let’s try something new,” he said.
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Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., have publicly condemned the BDS movement as an attempt to delegitimize and target Israel. In May 2021, Mohyeldin hosted a one-on-one interview with BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti, offering him a platform to make his case for those critical of the movement.
“They don’t support yet, but they’re on their way. Now they realize Israel is an apartheid state,” Barghouti said of U.S. political leaders. The BDS co-founder later praised progressive lawmakers who’ve called to cut military aid to Israel entirely.