Palestinians hail Celtic fans’ support

Published August 23rd, 2016 - 05:12 GMT
Celtic fans wave Palestinians flags when their team played an Israeli side last Wednesday in Glasgow
Celtic fans wave Palestinians flags when their team played an Israeli side last Wednesday in Glasgow

When Glasgow Celtic fans raised Palestinian flags during a match last week with an Israeli team, they were not only sending an infuriating message to the Israelis — they were also sending a clear message to Palestinians: We support you.

And the simple gesture also reminds jubilant and appreciative Palestinians that things are changing and there is increasing public support around the world for their cause.

“There are seeds of success,” said Hunaida Ganem, Director of West Bank-based Palestinian forum for Israeli studies Madar.

“As the Arab world is busy with their own problems and internal wounds, and despite everything related to Islamophobia, the Palestinian cause is making gains on the ground,” Ganem told Gulf News.

“Thanks to active Palestinian diplomacy, but most importantly to the public Boycott Divestments and Sanctions movement which is practically around the world, there is a growing gap between politicians and people” when it comes to support for the Palestinian cause — the longest unresolved political conflict in modern history.

“Initially, we might think the picture is a little gloomy,” Ganem said. “Nevertheless, it is not. Things are changing.”

While many western governments are taking what many Palestinians believe to be a biased position favouring Israel, western civil movements and organisations are taking pro-Palestinian positions.

“It is interesting to see [Scottish] people who took into consideration that there will be a punishment and that there will be a price to pay [for flying the Palestinians flag], and yet they took the decision to pay for a political stance in the stadium,” Ganem concluded.

Celtic FC has been charged by football officials and will know the outcome of the case on September 22.

“Waving the Palestinian flag during a football match does actually show support to the Palestinian people,” said Zuhair Al Sha’er, a journalist in the West Bank city of Nablus.

“Some Palestinian media people are going to discuss ways to express their support to the Scottish people,” said Gaza-based Mueen Faraj, head of the Atlas Sports website, the first such dedicated to Palestinian sport.

To Faraj, if any punishment is merited, it should be on Israelis, for imposing strict measures that contradict all international conventions when it comes to both Palestinains and sports.

Last July, players from Gaza Strip were not allowed to enter the West Bank to play Palestinian cup matches. Initially, only six out of a 30-member team of players, administrators and media were allowed to cross the Israeli checkpoints. Two days later, and after the involvement of Fifa — the Federation of Internation Football Associations — Israelis allowed the rest of the Palestinian team to cross. Even then, they were interrogated and had to wait a further 16 hours at a checkpoint.

“I have a message to the Israelis: sports is a language of peace and love,” Faraj said. “Let us exercise it. Let us love what we like from football, like the rest of the world. We are not terrorists. We love peace and football.”

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