Scottish football club, Celtic, have defied warnings from UEFA and police after a large section of supporters flew Palestinian flags at their Champions League qualifying match with Israel’s Hapoel Beer Sheva.
It is the ninth time in just five years the Glasgow side have been in trouble with European football body UEFA, which forbids political expressions at games.
The waving of the Palestinian flag not only breaches this rule, it is a direct provocation given the opposition.
Police Scotland earlier this week urged fans not to make a statement in the first-leg playoff on Wednesday night and warned them they faced being arrested.
CUFI can reveal that the demonstration was organised by a Facebook community page Celtic fans for Palestine, which set up an event with over 1,200 attendees titled “Fly the flag for Palestine, for Celtic, for Justice.”
Before the start of the Champions League cup qualifier, activists from the group Palestine Alliance also handed out flags and leaflets.
Green Brigade, a group of Celtic supporters with its own membership, participated widely in the demonstration. (Continues below)
The Green Brigade, which was founded in 2006, describes its aim “to fuse together Ultra culture with politics in the stands of Celtic Park and beyond”.
In March this year Celtic announced the introduction of a safe standing area especially for the Green Brigade ‘ultras’. The club faced a backlash from some of their fans over plans to move season ticket holders to make way for the new section.
Some of their most controversial acts have involved reguarly singing pro-IRA songs at matches. In 2014, seven members stood trial alleged to have behaved in a way “likely to incite public disorder” by singing the pro-IRA song at Celtic Park.
Many Celtic fans took to social media to express their disgust at the pro-Palestinian demo on Wednesday. One fan commented on CUFI’s page, “As a Celtic fan and a Jewish supporter I can only hope the fans that are there are kicked out and not the actual team as responsibility lies with the fans behaviour, as its not like team can control the actions of the few ignorant supporters.”
CUFI is calling upon UEFA to take action against participating Celtic fans and for the football club itself to ban the Green Brigade group.
Failure to act will send the message that this kind of provocation against an Israeli team is acceptable. As comments following the video above demonstrate, Celtic has received endorsement from neutrals around the world following Wednesday night’s flag flying, much of it steeped in anti-Semitism expressing support for the club. Celtic football club have the opportunity to make a positive stand against anti-Semitism by taking appropriate action.
TAKE ACTION: CONTACT UEFA