During an international football match between Glasgow Celtic and Israel’s Hapoel Beer Sheva, entire sections of fans in the Scottish stadium displayed the Palestinian flag, despite a ban by stadium officials.
Prior to the match’s start, activists from the group “Palestine Alliance” handed out flags and leaflets on the Nakba, or Catastrophe, the 1948 war that led to the creation of Israel and rendered millions of Palestinians refugees.
The demonstration for Palestine was organised a week in advance, according to the Jerusalem Post. More than 800 people joined a Facebook group titled “Fly the flag for Palestine, for Celtic, for Justice”, and the group’s creators called on Celtic fans to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, saying that people should express their “democratic rights to display our opposition to Israeli apartheid, settler colonialism, and countless massacres of the Palestinian people”.
The Facebook group also said that UEFA, Europe’s football governing body, should not support Israel and its policies.
“When someone is representing Israeli state institutions it is sadly never merely a game; football, UEFA, and Celtic FC are being used to whitewash Israel’s true nature and give this rogue state an air of normality and acceptance it should not and cannot enjoy until it’s impunity ends and it is answerable to international law and faces sanctions for the countless UN resolutions it had breached,” it read.
Scottish police urged fans to not bring Palestinian flags, threatening them with arrest, the Daily Record reported.
Wednesday’s match isn’t the first where Celtic has run into controversy over Palestinian flags. In 2014, UEFA fined the club more than $18,000 for waving Palestinian flags during a match against Iceland’s KR Reykjavik. UEFA said at the time the fine was imposed because the flags violated their rule that prohibits political expression.
Celtic won Monday’s match 5-2 and now appear likely to qualify for the lucrative group stages of the UEFA Champions League, in which Europe’s top clubs compete for the game’s most sought after trophy.