Responding to online furor over Israeli participation in a sports competition in Doha this week, a flag at Qatar’s Aspire Zone that has been flying, among others, outside of the Hamad Aquatic Center has been removed.

Several nations’ flags were raised as part of the FINA Swimming World Cup 2013, which the Aspire Zone hosted on Sunday and Monday. The international tournament featured athletes from all over the world, including Israel.

A row began brewing online after a tweet complaining about the Israeli flag flying outside of Aspire was posted on Sunday evening:

According to one resident, the flag was taken down by the next afternoon:

Last night, a security guard at the site told Doha News that staff removed the flag around noon on Monday because many people were taking photos of it. It is not clear who was responsible for taking it down. When reached for comment, an Aspire media representative said to speak to Aspire Logistics, which is in charge of venues.

The removal of the flag has satisfied some, but a local group said Qatar must go further than that, and revoke its long-standing invitation to Israeli athletes over the nation’s human rights abuses.

Tensions

Qatar, which has long been a champion of the Palestinian cause and just promised some$150 million in debt relief to the Palestinian Authority yesterday, has had a strained relationship with Israel in recent years.

Last year, the former Emir ruffled feathers when he made a historic visit to Gaza, the first head of state to do so since Hamas took power in 2007. And in 2009, an Israeli trade office in Doha that had been open for more than a decade was shuttered following Israel’s invasion of Gaza.

However, Qatar, which has bid for the Olympics and will host the World Cup in 2022, has been working to become a major player in the sports arena. And officials have said on numerous occasions that athletes from all countries are welcome to compete in the 2022 games.

Still, some segments of the population disagree with this approach.

With regards to this week’s tournament, the Qatar Youth Opposed to Normalization (QAYON) posted a letter to the president of the Qatar Swimming Association, urging the group to boycott Israel.

In an email to Doha News, QAYON member Esraa said, “It is great they removed the flag, but our demands were not limited to that.” see more

source: doha news