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How deep is the connection between Celtic fans and Palestine?

Palestinian flags flown in this photo taken during Celtic match despite UEFA threats.
Palestinian flags flown in this photo taken during Celtic match despite UEFA threats. [File photo]

Thousands were touched by the Celtic fans’ show of solidarity with the Palestinian people. Large sections of the stadium turned into a sea of green, red, black and white as fans raised the Palestinian flag despite repeated warnings from European football’s governing body (UEFA). The fans earned further respect and acclaim around the world by raising more money than the fine imposed on the club through the campaign #MatchTheFineForPalestine.

For some, this impressive display of defiance was as moving as it was bewildering; why do Celtic fans repeatedly defy football’s governing body to show solidarity with the Palestinian people? It’s a question I’ve been asked a few times over the past few days.

Even before looking at some of the shared history and experiences behind this protest, it’s worth noting that there is a long history of ties between football and politics. The most well-known is the rivalry between Barcelona and Real Madrid, which began after the 1939 Spanish civil war: during the coup the dictator General Francisco Franco successfully captured the capital Madrid. Barcelona, as the capital of Catalonia, became a centre of protest against the capital and Franco’s policies.

As football began to attract larger crowds, stadiums became outlets for political defiance and protest. Barcelona attained the title of Mes que un club – more than a club – which to this day attests to their commitment to matters just beyond the football pitch and onto social and political affairs.

Though football culture is often ridiculed as the new religion and stadiums as substitutes to places of worship, the metaphor unveils a truth about the game which cannot be said of other sports. It’s not wild speculation to suggest that a number of football teams have their origins in some form of political protest. Football’s enduring appeal is still that of a working class sport with supporters that want to maintain independence and are uneasy with elitism.

Current manifestations of this tension can be seen between football clubs, on the main, reinforcing establishment politics tied to neo-liberal corporate culture on the one end, and grass root fans up and down the country challenging the elitist takeover of the game on the other. There is no question that Palestine will become a decisive as well as a divisive issue in challenging the establishment by football fans around the world. With the growth of BDS, which is a grass root movement progressing at a tremendous pace because of the abdication of moral and on occasion legal responsibility by established institutions, football stadiums will increasingly become staging grounds for political protest in the coming years.

The protest in Celtic Park was a sign of things to come. Organisers of the protest have offered their own reasons for their actions: “[We] took a stand last night because we had to. This was an Israeli team, one whose town is built on occupied Palestinian land.” The supporters’ only surprise is why more football fans have not yet joined them in their campaign, especially seeing as one of the main reasons for their protest is also because of their love of the game; they wanted to take a stance against Israel tainting the beautiful game by restricting Palestinian footballers from travel, leaving them no option but to go on hunger strikes in response to Israel’s brutal policies. As the supporters of the Celtic protest themselves noted: “They [Israeli players] were allowed to travel here freely for the game. Israeli football clubs can go anywhere they want, from Israel to any country in the world. That freedom of movement is not shared with Palestinian teams and players, who have restrictions imposed on them. There have been numerous incidents in recent years where that has happened”.

Celtic fans are more acutely aware of the injustice in Palestine and are able to empathise to a greater degree with a subjugated people because of their shared history. With a support base predominantly from the Catholic community, Celtic fans are more sympathetic to the Palestinian cause as they see parallels between the history of Ireland and Palestine. Many are descendants of Irish farmers who migrated from Ireland to escape the great famine, which many Irish people blamed on the British.

The club itself was formed in 1887 by a Catholic Cleric in order to generate revenue to feed the Irish residents of Glasgow. Eventually, as noted by season ticket holder at Celtic Park Marc Patrick Conaghan: “It became a beacon of hope and source of pride to the dispossessed people.”

Conaghan added: “Celtic fans have also shown solidarity with the oppressed people of South Africa under apartheid, the Basque people seeking independence from Spain and, of course, due to the club’s cultural heritage, the oppression and persecution of nationalists in the north of Ireland. The majority of these areas of conflict have been resolved amicably: the plight of the Palestinians has become increasingly worse.”

The Irish connection is a big factor in the Celtic Park protest. In the eyes of many Irish, Israel is “a little loyal Jewish Ulster” which is a reference to the Northern provinces of Ireland under British control that were seen as a bulwark against Irish nationalism just as Israel is a bulwark against Palestinian nationalism. Israeli propagandists may fight to keep these facts hidden in their quest to promote the Israeli brand, however it’s becoming clear to an increasing number of people that British plans for the region were dominated by a new version of settler colonialism that didn’t involve its own population.

Reasons for British support of Zionism are many but the unease amongst Britain’s colonial administrators about the Suez Canal and the future of Palestine were clearly some of the most powerful. Sir Ronald Storrs, the first British military governor of Jerusalem, perfectly captured this when he described Egypt as the “jugular vein of the British Empire” and that the Jewish colonisation of Palestine would bring forth “for England ‘a little loyal Jewish Ulster’ in a sea of potentially hostile Arabism.” Another British official described Palestine as the “Clapham Junction” of the British Empire. With so much at stake, finding a friendly population to settle in Palestine was imperative to Britain’s colonial design for the region. Some have even suggested that if Zionism didn’t exist Britain would have had to invent it.

The people of Ireland understood this more than most. In addition, their Catholic faith heightened their concern for the fate of Jerusalem. Subsequent Irish governments recognised these factors and adopted a highly critical stance towards Israel. Unlike other European countries, Ireland only recognised Israel as late as 1963 and to this day it recognises that a settlement of the conflict can only come about through restorative justice; undoing historical injustices through the repatriation of the maximum possible number of Palestinian refugees and full compensation, not as Israel and others have maintained, merely a resettlement of refugees.

The bond between Palestine and Ireland runs deeper than just historical parallels. Palestinians in Gaza were showing solidarity with Irish prisoners who went on hunger strike in 1981 in protest against British policy. Gerry McLochlainn who was one of those incarcerated spoke of the inspiration he felt having seen people he never met from faraway places he’s never visited campaigning for his freedom. He vowed upon his release “to work for Palestinian prisoners.” No doubt the ongoing hunger strike by Palestinians is partly inspired by the defiance of Irish prisoners against their oppressors.

Last week’s protest in Celtic Park was an expression of solidarity that runs deep and stretches back years. It’s inspired by a shared sense of historical injustice and common humanity. With Israel continuing a policy of settler colonisation of historic Palestine, these protests are surely a sign of things to come.


ArticleIsraelMiddle EastOpinionPalestine
  • Blake

    Just because Europeans occupy Palestine it doesnt mean ‘israel’ is in Europe

    • Fasdunkle

      Unfortunately the Asian FA is populated by many apartheid states

      • Blake

        Pot meet kettle.,,,,Says a privileged white racist impostor occupying Palestine and enjoying the natives land at their expense.

        • Fasdunkle

          Yep, so privileged that my beliefs carry the death penalty in several of those apartheid states

          • Blake

            Nothing at all to do with the facts I made. . In 1968, on “Israel’s 20th anniversary” of UDI in Palestine, Russell Warren Howe was granted an interview with the illegal entity’s first prime monster, David Ben-Gurion, and its newest, Golda Meir. When he asked Meir, a former Milwaukee resident, “why Israel didn’t do more to make itself accepted as a Middle Eastern nation,” Howe related, “”˜That’s the last thing we want to be!’ she thundered. ”˜We are and must remain a European nation.’

          • Blake

            Nothing at all to do with the facts I made. . In 1968, on “Israel’s 20th anniversary” of UDI in Palestine, Russell Warren Howe was granted an interview with the illegal entity’s first prime monster, David Ben-Gurion, and its newest, Golda Meir. When he asked Meir, a former Milwaukee resident, “why Israel didn’t do more to make itself accepted as a Middle Eastern nation,” Howe related, “”˜That’s the last thing we want to be!’ she thundered. ”˜We are and must remain a European nation.’

          • Eric11210

            That would be fascinating if it weren’t complete fiction. Of course, the jihadist never did learn the difference.

          • Fasdunkle

            even if she said that it is a perfectly reasonable thing to say – a country with a european outlook rather than a middle eastern one

  • Fasdunkle

    “This was an Israeli team, one whose town is built on occupied Palestinian land”

    Hapoel Be’er Sheva is based in Beetsheba in the Negev – that’s Israel, not “occupied palestinian land”

    • Frankie Mac.

      WRONG!!!! Bir Seb’a (Arabic) is stolen land. All of Israel is built on occupied stolen land. Who gave foreigners the right to invade and slaughter the natives? The UN had absolutely no authority to give away the indiginous peoples land to foreigners. But lets just pretend for a second that they did have a right to give it away. UN 181 had Bir Seb’a in the land given to the natives. Israel illegally declared its independence (UN 181 stated that this could only happen if the natives agreed) and the very next day they put in motion a military operation that was planned for years, Operation Plan Dalet. Plan Dalet was to invade the areas outside of the 55% the UN and Brits promised the Jews. And that is exactly what they did. That is when the surrounding small Arab armies got involved and ruled the West Bank and Gaza. In 1967 after 20 years of planning the ZioNazis invaded the West Bank and Gaza. You need to check your facts buddy.

      • Eric11210

        You have some rather strange delusions. The Arabs were not natives. That’s first of all — Arabs are natives of — wait for it — Arabia. Not the Land of Israel. Second, 181 granted nothing to anyone. It was a suggestion to defuse a potential civil war. That’s it. The Treaty of Sevres, signed by the leaders of the Ottoman Empire granted the land to the Jewish people for a national home. The Arabs didn’t like it and tried to start a war of annihilation. They lost. Deal with it. And no, 181 never says anywhere that Israel was forbidden to declare independence unless your fellow Muslims agreed. That is a complete fabrication. As for Plan Dalet, clearly you never read it. It states that this is a plan to defend the nascent state of Israel from invading Arab armies and that’s what it did. It makes no mention of invading anything. Oh and as for the “surrounding small Arab armies,” you are amusing. The Arabs invaded 15 minutes after Israel declared Independence. The Egyptian Air Force bombed Tel Aviv 15 minutes later. If you are going to tell Grand Lies, at least take the time to do some basic research.

        • Frankie Mac.

          It is you that needs to do research. Here are some places to start:

          1. You should start by understanding the Arabization of the Middle East. The natives of many different Middle Eastern countries were heavily influenced by Arab culture. Or maybe you can show me the mass migration of Arabians to all these Arab countries in the Middle East and N Africa and the complete annihilation of the natives of these lands when the Arabians arrived and took over. Is that what nonsense you are trying to put forward? That all Arabs are originally from Arabia? Hit yourself a slap in the face. It is very simple to prove you Zionist thieves and murderers wrong by simply asking questions. Show me the mass migration of Arabians to Palestine and the mass murder of the natives who lived there.

          2. Tel Aviv, Hebrew, John Hopkins, Huddersfiled, Duke, and Columbia university’s along with the Albert Einstein School of Medicine all concluded from their genetic research, which originally set out to find cures to genetic disease that affected Jews, that Palestinian Jews, Muslims and Christians had the exact same DNA while Ashkenazi Jews were European with a male ancestor that left Palestine 80-120 generation ago, ~3000 years. So explain how this ties in with your nonsense that they are from Arabia.

          3. The treaty of Sevres was a treaty to break up the Ottoman Empire. That treaty adopted the Belfour Declaration in which the Brits, one group of foreigners, gave Zionists, another group of foreigners, the land that belongs to the native indigenous people of Palestine. Which is what I said in my original post. No foreigners have a right to give other foreigners the land that belongs to the native people. Just like I can’t give someone else your home. But the Belfour declaration is null and void due to the natives not accepting it and the foreign Zionists not adhering to the conditions. “it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.” Zionist instead brought terrorism to the land and massacred village after village while brutally stealing it. The McMahon-Hussein correspondence also had the Brits promising the native Palestinian people self-determination for the first time since the Israelite’s invaded thousands of years ago.

          4. Which leads me to my next FACT. Jews, Abraham, are from Ur Babylonia, which is SE Iraq. The first 5 books of the bible go into this in detail and speak about Israelite’s invading Canaan. So saying it is the “land of Israel” is laughable. That would be like me saying Christianity started there so it is my land. Pathetic.

          5. You are not being honest in saying that Jews accepted the partition while the natives didn’t. Of course the natives didn’t. Who would accept foreigners coming to their land, bringing terrorism, massacring villages while leaving a trail of death and destruction, getting 55% of their land? The Hagganah, Ingrun and Stern Gang, the terrorists who are todays IDF, rejected it and Menachen Begin, who would become the terrorist Prime Minister of Israel stated: “”the bisection of our homeland is illegal (Homeland? Where Europe?). It will never be recognized.” Begin was sure that the creation of a Jewish state would make territorial expansion possible, “after the shedding of much blood.” This is exactly what Israel continue to do today. Exactly what he said. Expand their territories by shedding the blood of the natives.

          6. You say “your fellow Muslims”. I am Irish Catholic but Zionists don’t let the truth get in the way of their fictional stories. Why start now?

          7. A civil war is not fought between foreigners (Europeans) and natives (Palestinians). Lets call a spade a spade and not pretend Europeans are from Palestine. See the Tel Aviv and Hebrew University’s genetic research for reference.

          8. The Arab forces had a combined manpower of ~12,000 troops while some higher estimates are ~20,000. While the European Zionist thieves had ~35,000 Haganah, Stern Gang and Ingrun terrorists, and thousands were ex British soldiers. So lets stop with your whining little lie that Israel was outnumbered.

          9. Plan Dalet (Plan D), March 1948. Guided by a series of specific operational plans, the broad outlines of which were considered as early as 1944, Plan Dalet was drawn up to expand Jewish-held areas beyond those allocated to the proposed Jewish State in the UN Partition Plan. Its overall objective was to seize as much territory as possible in advance of the termination of the British Mandate — when the Zionist leaders planned to declare their state. And this is EXACTLY what they did. And still do to this day. They cant help themselves. They are natural born thieves and murderers. And not just in Palestine. They have invaded and attacked every one of its neighbors multiple times. Israel declared its independence on stolen land, that was won through the blood shed of the natives, on May 14th 1948. Plan Dalet was implemented at the start of April 1948 where the Zionists invaded the Arab communities inside the Jewish boundaries and drove them from their homes and then attacked Arab communities inside the Arab boundaries of UN 181. So how do you start a “defensive” operation a month and a half before any Arab nations got involved? That’s like me hitting you a dig in the face today and then claiming it was because you hit me 6 weeks later. It is ridiculous.

          And let’s not forget that it was massacres like Dier Yassin on April 9th 1948 that was the reason the surrounding Arab armies took notice. And your bullshit about it being defensive is shred to pieces by Israel’s operations in Palestinian territories allocated to the natives. Operations from as early as the very first day of April 1948, about 6 weeks before any Arab countries got involved due to the Zionist massacres. Operation Nachshon April 1st, Operation Harel April 15th, Operation Hametz April 27th, Operation Maccabi May 7th, Operation Ben’Ami May 14th. And this doesn’t include another 8 operations, weeks before the Arab countries got involved, in territories allocated to Jews to drive out the natives which were permitted to remain as per UN 181 such as Operation Hametz, Yiftach, Mateteh etc. So no matter how much you try to pretend it was Arabs that attacked Israel, Israel’s military operations call you a liar. Maybe you can explain? Has your Hasbara puppet master told you how to extend your lies on this subject?

          10. You said the Arabs lost so deal with it. They did lose to foreign butchers who have no business being on their land and who brought terrorism with them. Imagine if someone said “the Germans won, deal with it”. Would you agree with that? Or are you a hypocrite that thinks it is ok for your thugs to slaughter people but not for other thugs to slaughter your people? That is the difference between ZioNazis and decent human beings. Slaughter, theft, genocide, ethnic cleansing is never ok. Never. Not when done to or by Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Asians, Africans, Irish… one!

          • Eric11210

            A whole bunch of wild eyed assertions and outright lies without a scintilla of evidence. Classic idiot jihadi.

          • Frankie Mac.

            Typical Zionist reply. I took the time to detail the facts and your only reply is to say they are not correct without even stating why and explaining. But that is typical from ZioNazis. Next you will probably call me a Jew hater, or if I was a Jew you’d call me a “self hating Jew”. Pathetic.

            Look below. Same thing from the other ZioNazi Fasdunkle. I stated facts and he comes back with a nonsensical reply just like you.

      • Fasdunkle

        You’ve been drinking the (apartheid funded) BDS kool aid

        • Frankie Mac.

          And you pathetic answer shows you are struggling to come up with a reply. Bir Seb’a is on occupied land and your pathetic reply will not change that.

  • Frankie Mac.

    1.Really? Ive heard it all before and it only takes a simple follow up question to prove you are wrong. Show the mass migration of these people to Palestine. Just like this.

    The First Aliyah (1882-1903) – 35,000 Jews migrate to Palestine
    The Second Aliyah (1904-1914) – 40,000 European Jews migrate to Palestine
    The Third Aliyah (1919-1923) – 40,000 European Jews migrate to Palestine
    The Fourth Aliyah (1924-1929) – 82,000 European Jews migrate to Palestine
    The Fifth Aliyah (1929-1939) – 250,000 European Jews migrate to Palestine
    Aliyah Bet (1939-1948) – 110,000 European Jews migrate to Palestine
    (1948-1950) – 687,000 European Jews migrate to Palestine

    Surely if you are claiming they all came from somewhere else in the last 100 years then there will be documentation of mass migration????

    2. Wow. This is a head scratcher. You say no study exisist then post a link which is part of the exact same study. Ashkenazi (German) Jews are European with an ancestor on the male side who was from Palestine 80-120 generations ago (2000-3000 years). And that the maternal genes are European. This EXACT same study done by many universities, including Tel Aviv and Hebrew, concluded Palestinians are the indigenous people with all Palestinians, Jews, Muslims and Christians having identical DNA.

    3. The Ottoman Empire didn’t give the land to Zionists. You seem confused. And no one has the right to give another foreign people the natives land. It only takes a little bit of decency to know that. The idea of it being illegal to go to someone else’s house and murder them while stealing it was not always a law. But it did not have to be a law in order to know this was disgusting behavior.

    4. You know that book you use to justify stealing another people’s homes and land? Right in that it says Jews are from Ur Babylonia which is SE Iraq. It also talks about the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, and you ask me to show you something about these people? A simple google search and the internet is filled with historical facts about Canaanites. I guess in Israel they don’t allow you to google certain facts about their real history or you wouldn’t have asked that question. As for Jews being Aboriginal people, Abraham was from Iraq wasn’t he? And again refer to the DNA study I touched on in number 2, or your post or mine above.
    There is not a single country on earth which was not invaded and conquered at some point in history. Show the Canaanites as an extant community and you can talk. Otherwise, the Jews are here and we’re the aboriginal people.

    5. Tell me how you Plan to invade the areas outside the 55% of the natives land the UN had already immorally given you months before the Arab countries got involved?

    Plan Dalet (Plan D), of March 1948, is the most noteworthy. Guided by a series of specific operational plans, the broad outlines of which were considered as early as 1944, Plan Dalet was drawn up to expand Jewish-held areas beyond those allocated to the proposed Jewish State in the UN Partition Plan. Its overall objective was to seize as much territory as possible in advance of the termination of the British Mandate — when the Zionist leaders planned to declare their state.

    6. I don’t care.

    7. The US civil war was about 400 years after Europeans invaded the land. Israel isn’t even 100 years old and the time you mentioned, 1947-1948, was when the European Jews first invaded. That is an invasion not a civil war. A civil war is between CITIZENS of the same country.

    8. In reality, 23,500 is still less than 35,000. Even the Zionist exaggerations are still much less but real historians put it at ~12,000. Either way 35,000 is much larger.

    Grand lies? Like the DNA study you posted a link to after calling it lies? Yeah good one. The great thing about facts is that they can be backed up by Israeli and Jewish sources. Like the Tel Aviv and Hebrew universities, Israeli military plans and operations, the Jewish Bible, and last but not least, your link!!!!

    • Eric11210

      Zero evidence. Of course — the idiot Jihadi can’t be bothered because it knows it’s lying. Classic. What a moron.

      • Frankie Mac.

        The typical Zionist reply. You cant sustain your lies so you just slobber as usual. I’m surprised you haven’t resorted to calling me anti Semitic yet. You must have been off that day of Hasbarra school.

        What’s wrong? Are you afraid you might post something that contradicts your lies again? Haha. Eejit! I loved how you started by saying “No such study exists” then you post a link to a report on the exact study. Comical.

        • Eric11210

          I can make things up too. But unlike you, I chose to supply links for everything I said. You supply no links at all because you are a lying Jihadi. It’s all you know how to do. You have a sick mind.