Posted: 24 Aug 2016 02:22 AM PDT
Guardian journalists Harriet Sherwood and Peter Beaumont had an interesting piece about Celtic supporters in today’s paper. They have always been amongst the more politically astute football fans in the UK having supported an Independent Scotland, reunification of Ireland, and an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Now they have been told by the Israeli police, Any attempt to wave Palestinian flags at Hapoel’s stadium in Be’er Sheva, a city in the Negev desert, would not be tolerated. I will let the two scribes take up the story.
|Celtic fans wave Palestinian flags last week during game against Israeli team Hapoel Be’er Sheva|
Israeli police warned against provocation at a football match on Tuesday night between Celtic and the Israeli team Hapoel Be’er Sheva after Scottish fans waved Palestinian flags and chanted support for Palestine at last week’s first-leg qualifier in Glasgow.
Any attempt to wave Palestinian flags at Hapoel’s stadium in Be’er Sheva, a city in the Negev desert, would not be tolerated, a police spokesman said.
Some 250 Celtic fans were expected to be at the match, which will decide which team goes through to the next stage of the Champions League.
Last Wednesday Celtic won 5-2. Since then, Celtic fans have raised almost £100,000 for Palestinian charities in response to their club facing disciplinary charges over the flag display.
More than 100 Palestinian flags were unfurled at Parkhead last week, in a protest organised by Green Brigade fans.
Celtic was subsequently charged by Uefa, which cited a rule that forbids the use of “gestures, words, objects or any other means to transmit any message that is not fit for a sports event, particularly messages that are of a political, ideological, religious, offensive or provocative nature”.
The case is scheduled to be heard on 22 September, with Celtic facing a fine of £15,000.
At the weekend, the Green Brigade set up an appeal on the gofundme website to match the expected fine, with donations destined for Palestinian charities. The appeal said: “At the Champions League match with Hapoel Be’er Sheva on 17 August 2016, the Green Brigade and fans throughout Celtic Park flew the flag for Palestine.
“This act of solidarity has earned Celtic respect and acclaim throughout the world. It has also attracted a disciplinary charge from Uefa, which deems the Palestinian flag to be an ‘illicit banner’. In response to this petty and politically partisan act by European football’s governing body, we are determined to make a positive contribution to the game and today launch a campaign to #matchthefineforpalestine.”
The money raised will be divided between Medical Aid for Palestinians, a UK-based charity, and the Lajee Centre, a sports and arts project in the Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem. The funds will be used to help launch a football team called Aida Celtic and buy kit.
The Lajee Centre posted a video thanking donors for “one of the biggest solidarity actions in European football history”. In Aida refugee camp, where thousands of Palestinians live in the shadow of the huge separation wall built by Israel, centre director Salah Ajarma said the support had been incredible.
“The flags at Celtic were one of the biggest demonstrations of support for Palestine and the Palestinian people and the Israeli occupation at a football match that I can remember,” he said.
Ajarma was tracking the amount raised by the appeal in his phone. “It’s amazing. It’s reached almost £100,000 pounds. I check every half hour and it’s more and more.”
The relationship between Celtic and Lajee goes back six years, and has seen players from the centre, which runs football courses and activities for some 80 girls and boys, visit Glasgow.
The connection, said Ajarma, was made initially by Palestinian activist Mohammed al-Azrak, who splits his time between the occupied territories and Glasgow.
Wearing the green and white striped Celtic strip – a gift presented when he visited the club’s ground in Glasgow – Ajarma Aboud Azam, who plays and coaches junior players, said: “I hope the money will help improve the talent of the children who are playing football in the camp. The donation from Celtic will help our players evolve.”
Yazar Ikkhlayel, 21, another player involved with the youth centre who has visited Glasgow, said he was proud that people wanted to show solidarity with Palestine. “I was amazed when I visited Glasgow. It has a real sense of social cohesion. And when Glasgwegians find out your are from Palestine they ask if there is any way that they can help.”
Football fans in Aida were not sure whether they would be able to watch the match. “We are boycotting Israeli television and we are not sure if it will be shown on Al Jazeera,” said Ajarma.
Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said that Scottish fans would not be allowed to wave Palestinian flags at Hapoel’s stadium. “Obviously it won’t be allowed – that is for sure. The flags would of course be taken off them,” he told the Daily Record. “This is a professional football game and not a political opportunity.
“In terms of the football game, it’s not going to add to the atmosphere and might start up tensions which could lead to other issues. Our aim is to prevent any incidents from taking place as a result of any unnecessary provocative behaviour by any of the fans.
“There will be security measures implemented to prevent those sorts of incidents from taking place. It is not illegal to have a Palestinian flag in Israel but provocation by fans of either side is, and we will not tolerate it.”
No one at Celtic football club was available for comment, but the team’s manager, Brendan Rodgers, said last week that he was looking forward to the second leg in Israel. “I have never been there. It is a beautiful country, good people.”
Celtic has been fined eight times in the past five years for offences including the displaying of forbidden banners and fans’ conduct. The club was fined about £16,000 two years ago after a Palestinian flag was displayed at a Champions League qualifier against KR Reykjavík.
Update Celtic lost 2-0 to Hapoel Beer Sheva in second leg but go through to Champions League proper on a 5-4 goal difference.
First published on the Guardian.