Prior to last night’s match with Hapoel Beer Sheva a collective of Celtic fans and Palestinian activists in Glasgow called on fans to show our support for the Palestinian people and fly the flag for Palestine. Like many fans throughout the stadium, the Green Brigade answered this call.
From our work with grassroots Palestinian groups in the West Bank and the refugee camps of Bethlehem, we know the positive impact international solidarity has on those living in the open prisons of the Occupied Territories. We also know that their suffering cannot be ignored by the international community and last night’s actions also sought to raise awareness of the Boycott, Divest, Sanctions (BDS) campaign which seeks to challenge the normalisation of the Israeli occupation.
Some have argued that football and politics do not mix, including European football’s discredited governing body. In Palestine, however, there is little dispute. The occupation has seen the Palestinian national stadium destroyed twice by Israeli bombs and footballers killed, maimed and imprisoned. In 2013 we were proud to welcome Mahmoud Sarsak, a Palestinian international footballer detained without crime or trial for three years in an Israeli prison, to Glasgow. Mahmoud had only recently been released from prison after a 96-day hunger strike and widespread international protest.
The BDS campaign builds on the success of earlier anti-apartheid campaigns. In the 1980s fans and citizens protested against South African sports teams and ultimately shamed the authorities into excluding apartheid South Africa from sporting activity. The late anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela, whose death was marked by a minute’s silence at European matches on UEFA’s instructions, famously remarked that ‘we know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians’.
Mandela was right, and like the wider Celtic support we will continue to fly the flag for Palestine.
The response we have had since last night has been overwhelming, with messages of support pouring in from our fellow fans, human rights organisations and the global Palestinian community. We would like to thank them sincerely for their backing and tonight re-iterate our support for justice and freedom in Palestine.
We also understand that a downmarket tabloid newspaper may tomorrow run a story suggesting our group in some way mislead Celtic plc and told them that we would not be displaying our support for Palestine. This is a complete fabrication and we condemn anyone who spreads smear stories attacking football fans to The Sun.