At the Champions League match with Hapoel Beer 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. We aim to raise £15,000* which will be split 50/50 between Medical Aid Palestine (MAP) and to the Lajee Centre, a Palestinian creative cultural children's centre in Aida Refugee Camp, Bethlehem.
“Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) works for the health and dignity of Palestinians living under occupation and as refugees. MAP delivers health and medical care to those worst affected by conflict, occupation and displacement.Working in partnership with local health providers and hospitals, MAP addresses a wide range of health issues and challenges faced by the Palestinian people. With offices located in Beirut, Ramallah, Jerusalem and Gaza City, MAP responds rapidly in times of crisis, and works directly with communities on longer term health development.”
Aida is one of 19 refugee camps in the West Bank and has for 66 years played temporary home to Palestinians forcibly expelled from their homes in Hebron and Jerusalem. Its residents live in the shadow of Israel’s apartheid wall, cut off from social and economic opportunities by the wall and neighbouring illegal settlements and military checkpoints. For the young people of Aida, the Lajee Centre offers hope and an escape from the realities of life under Israeli occupation via its art and culture programmes and sport programmes.
The camp’s only football pitch was built last year by the Lajee Centre, at the heart of Aida. The pitch is now protected by metal netting after it was damaged by tear gas canisters fired by the Israeli Forces. Residents had previously played on recreation ground stolen by the wall. The money will be a much needed boost to the Lajee Centre who will be able to extend their activities to bring much needed relief via their arts, dance and football programmes. One such programme is that of youth football, with the Lajee Centre looking to organise a youth football team to take part in the Bethlehem Youth League.
In recognition of the show of support from Celtic fans and all those around the world Salah Ajarma, Coordinator of the Lajee Centre will name the team ‘Aida Celtic’: “it will mean so much to our young people to be part of an official team, to have boots and strips and to represent the camp wearing the colours of our friends. Aida Celtic will be a source of pride for all in Aida”. Let’s #matchthefineforpalestine and show the footballing establishment the true spirit of the game.
* The £15k target is based on the previous fine for the displaying of Palestinian flags that Celtic received in 2014. This will be amended as required when UEFA decide on the amount the fine will be around the 22nd of September 2016.