[ £117,547 and rising; raised for Palestine charities ]
What have the generous folk in Scotland done? Quite simply, in terms of peaceful civil rights movements, they have produced a “game changer” which will go on to have a profound effect on the future of the already powerful global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.
Thousands of ordinary Celtic fans picked up and waved Palestinian flags at their Celtic Park Stadium during a match against an Israeli team, as reported here in MEMO; the flag-waving demonstration flew in the face of police advice. This simple but powerful act of mass defiance created a storm of media attention across the Middle East, which has now propelled Celtic alongside the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester United in terms of stature and popularity in the region.
Football’s European governing body, UEFA, warned that it would fine Celtic for its fans actions, but the fans retorted that they would match any fine imposed on the club, pound for pound, in donations to Palestinian causes. True to their word, the Green Brigade has raised nearly £100,000 in a crowdfunding appeal for Palestinian charities; the total continues to rise.
By way of showing their appreciation, Palestinians have come together to produce video messages like this one on social networks declaring, “We are all Celtic.”
In a statement, the Green Brigade explained that Celtic fans waved Palestinian flags at the Champions League match with Hapoel Beer Sheva on 17 August in an act of solidarity which “has earned our club 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 what the group calls a “petty and politically partisan act” by UEFA, Celtic fans remain determined to make a positive contribution to the game. “We are today launching a campaign to #matchthefineforpalestine. We aim to raise £75,000 which will be split equally between Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) and the Lajee Centre, a Palestinian cultural centre in Aida Refugee Camp on the outskirts of Bethlehem. From our members’ experiences as volunteers in Palestine, we know the huge importance of both organisations’ work and have developed close contacts with them.”
“This was very much home grown and very deep and very profound,” said Mick Napier, a co-founder of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign. “There are moments in a campaign where something burst outs into the public domain that was never imagined and has a huge effect. It was a mass public declaration that the injustices of the brutal Palestinian occupation will not be tolerated.” He described the protest at Celtic Park Stadium as hugely significant. “There aren’t very many democratic avenues for ordinary people to demonstrate this sort of huge public outpouring. What happened in the stadium that night cannot be ignored and will alarm the Israeli authorities and send out a clear message of support for the BDS movement.”
Napier pointed out that the primary task of protesting through BDS is to send a message to the beleaguered people of Palestine that they’re not alone. “You can put up with being in a prison if you know there’s real solidarity out there for you. This gesture from Celtic Park also shows Palestinians that there’s a huge gulf between our rulers and the ordinary people.” The actions of the Celtic fans, he added, will encourage and give support to the BDS movement at a time when supporters of Israel are trying to criminalise the entirely peaceful campaign. The generosity and solidarity of Glasgow Celtic fans is a game changer indeed.