Scottish football fans raise over 100,000 pounds for Palestine following flag controversy

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The defiant display of Palestinian flags in Glasgow last week by Scottish fans of the Celtic soccer team roused over £100,000 (just over $130,000) in donations online, all marked for helping Palestinians.

The news comes as Celtic gear up to play in Israel on Tuesday night against Hapoel Be’er Sheva. Israeli authorities have promised to arrest and prosecute any actions involving Palestine solidarity. And in Scotland, the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) is mulling what consequences Celtic fans should face for showing solidarity with the “illicit” Palestinian emblem. The Green Brigade, the hardcore cadre of Celtic fans who raised the Palestinian flag, responded to the threat of sanctions with a call for donations for Palestinian medical aid and a refugee camp.

“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 £75,000 which will be split equally between Medical Aid Palestine (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,” the group writes on its GoFundMe page, MatchTheFineforPalestine. The total the group is seeking to receive has since been raised to £110,000.

The Lajee Center, which provides extracurricular art activities for youth, posted a YouTube clip on Sunday thanking the Scots for their help.

“Celtic!” the children and young adults, some wearing Celtic jerseys, chant in unison in the video. “We all love Celtic!”

“Thank you Celtic, we appreciate all that you have done. Thank very much,” one woman, wrapped in an Irish flag, tells the camera.

A Scottish-Palestinian activist group, Palestine Alliance, was behind the distribution of the flags, which flouted both Champions league regulations and Scottish law.

The head of Palestine Alliance, a Palestinian Scot named Dr. Issam Hijjawi, spoke with Mondoweiss about what the Celtic act of solidarity means to him. He said it was evidence of the deep solidarity between every level of Scottish society, from unions, to churches, to the Scottish National Party, and the cause of Palestinian rights. There are about 1,200 Scots of Palestinian origin, Hijjawi said.

It also shows a common determination to oppose the British brand of white supremacy, which Hijjawi said expresses itself in Israel as administrative detention of Palestinians like Bilal Kayed, as well as the British Empire’s Balfour Declaration that promised to create a Zionist state in Palestine.

Dr. Issam Hijjawi of Palestine Alliance holds up a Scottish banner during a Skype interview with Mondoweiss.

Dr. Issam Hijjawi of Palestine Alliance holds up a Scottish banner during a Skype interview with Mondoweiss.

“The Balfour Declaration was issued by the British Empire, giving land which didn’t belong to them, which they don’t have any authority over, to a foreign people,” Hijjawi said, referring to the 1917 agreement. “In this sense we share with the Scots and Irish the feeling of being betrayed by the British empire, and we have both been subject to British white supremacy.”

Millions of Scots, like Palestinians, resent the colonial imprimatur that lets the Crown have final say over Scottish affairs, despite the semi-independent Scottish legislature at Holyrood. One major issue for Independence-backers is London’s stowing in Scotland of submarines armed with nuclear warheads.

Hijjawi said that the link between Scottish and Palestinian groups has grown stronger in the wake of Brexit earlier this year and the close vote over Scotland leaving the UK in 2014 (Scotland voted to stay). He praised Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon for telling minority groups, like Palestinians and Poles, in Scotland that they would be safe despite simmering nationalist, anti-immigrant sentiment in England.

Hijjawi said that Celtic solidarity with Palestine isn’t just a gimmick, but rather deep rooted in Scottish society, part of the “common cause” of standing up to the withered Empire emeritus.

“The Scots are much friendlier than the English. They are more social. We feel at home here because of the pro-Palestinian atmosphere,” he said, remarking that Scots also flew the Palestinian flag during Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza, which claimed over 2,000 lives, including at least 500 children.

Support for Palestine is strong among fans of the Celtic team in heavily Catholic Glasgow, and that sentiment has long had an corollary in Irish Republicanism across the Irish sea in Belfast and Derry. But similar sympathies exist among progressive Protestant Scots as well. The Church of Scotland has championed cause of Palestinian rights and has supported the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement. An American branch of the church, the Presbyterian Church USA, also in 2014 moved to divest from companies that aid in Israel’s military occupation.

But the Church of Scotland has made an even stronger stance against Zionism itself, especially Christian justifications for Zionism. A 2013 document entitled “The Inheritance of Abraham? A report on the ‘promised land’” shows how the Scottish Church interprets the Holy Land as a matter of analogy, not an ironclad justification for inhumanity.

“Christians should not be supporting any claims by Jewish or any other people, to an exclusive or even privileged divine right to possess particular territory. It is a misuse of the Bible to use it as a topographic guide to settle contemporary conflicts over land. In the Bible, God’s promises extend in hope to all land and people. Focussed as they are on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, these promises call for a commitment in every place to justice in a spirit of reconciliation,” the text reads.

Another Church of Scotland pamphlet describes the denomination’s involvement in Palestinian affairs as a Christian imperative to promote the dignity of human beings. The pamphlet, called “Peace and Justice in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” also mentioning Kairos Palestine, a 2009 declaration by Palestinian Christian groups to end the occupation.

“Christians have a calling to stand on the side of the poor, the vulnerable and the marginalised, and to warn against oppression,” the pamphlet reads. “In Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory, we are asked to stand in solidarity with our fellow Christians and all those who are oppressed. The presence and experience of the Church of Scotland in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, added to the call of the rest of the Christian community, has made this international issue a major focus for the Church’s General Assembly in recent years. Kairos Palestine says: ‘The mission of the Church is prophetic, to speak the Word of God courageously, honestly and lovingly in the local context…Our vocation as a living Church is to bear witness to the goodness of God and the dignity of human beings.’”

While Scots seem to have no trouble using the word “occupation” in their description of the plight of Palestinians, the term is toxic to some Americans, especially politicians who’d rather not pop their heads up on the issue.

Hijjawi hopes that Americans will learn to mimic the Scottish spirit of courage on behalf of justice for Palestine. At the very least, Hijjawi hopes Americans, billions of whose tax dollars go to aiding the Israeli military, will learn more about the subject and come to their own conclusions.

“We hope that the American public will start to check the facts of what is happening in Palestine, and take the Scottish attitude, as some sort of inspiration and to learn from it and to not be afraid of the terrorists. That’s what I call them, the terrorist campaign against people voicing their opinion against what’s happening to the Palestinians,” Hijjawi told Mondoweiss. “My appeal to the American people is to be brave as the Scots have proved to be brave.”

Screenshot from Lajee Center video thanking Celtic fans.

Screenshot from Lajee Center video thanking Celtic fans.

About Wilson Dizard

Wilson Dizard is a freelance reporter and photojournalist covering politics, civil rights, drug policy and everything else. He lives in Brooklyn with his bicycle, camera and drum set.

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27 Responses

  1. glaikit
    August 23, 2016, 10:29 am

    Never mind the champions league Celtic are featured on Mondoweiss… Seriously though, it just goes to show how a small seemingly insignificant action can snowball into something that has raised tens of thousands of pounds and made the news all around the globe bringing Palestine into focus among a new audience. So proud of my fellow Celtic fans right now that i think my heart is going to burst.

    • John O
      August 23, 2016, 12:27 pm

      My thoughts exactly, glaikit. And, according to the Guardian, there will be lots of Scottish flags on display in the OWB tonight.

    • inbound39
      August 23, 2016, 1:56 pm

      The Israeli’s are now concerned about Palestinian flags being flown at the match in Israel and Israel Authorities have said it won’t be tolerated. Interesting times….especially when you challenge a Scotsman……lol.

      • amigo
        August 23, 2016, 2:32 pm

        So , Palestinians will be forbidden to fly their own flag in their own country but then the zionists deny there is a Palestine , in which case they should grant citizenship to all of the citizens of the so called “Greater Israel”.

        I am a great believer in the concept of having one,s cake and eating it but I have yet to find a way of being in two places at one time.Are the chosen one,s hiding something from we lesser beings.

      • Froggy
        August 23, 2016, 7:26 pm

        inbound39 :: “The Israeli’s are now concerned about Palestinian flags being flown at the match in Israel and Israel Authorities have said it won’t be tolerated.”

        The thing to do is take the Scottish Saltire and paint/dye the Scottish flag using the colours of the Palestinian flag., replacing the blue background with green, keeping the white cross, but adding a black line along the outer edge of the cross, and a red line down the centre.

        Or was the Saltire banned too ?

        Some democracy !

    • Froggy
      August 23, 2016, 3:15 pm

      Ye’re nae sae glaikit. ;)

    • Cazador
      August 24, 2016, 9:04 am

      You have all the reasons for being proud. Well intentioned Scots showed the EUFA the way to human care for victims of apartheid and genocide. Israel couldn’t control that one in the international press. That’s also a great achievement for its rarity from the Celtics’ fans.

  2. amigo
    August 23, 2016, 2:24 pm

    Zionists must have missed the lesson on kinetic energy or deleted it from their lexicon.The more they act as they do , the more their targets react.Zionists think they can beat Palestinians until they learn to love them.They believe they can go on for eternity accusing those who support human rights and equality of antisemitism and Jew hatred .It won,t work.It will eventually bury zionism and none too soon.

    Remember this ad –!!.

    “You tell two friends and they will tell two friends” and so on .Soon a lot of people will be in the know.

    Keep up the good work zios.

  3. Marnie
    August 23, 2016, 2:30 pm

    This is so cool – come on everyone else, where’s your pride?

  4. John Douglas
    August 23, 2016, 7:34 pm

    My father was raised in a tenement as one of nine children in the Gorbals, the most notorious of Glasgow’s slums. He was an ardent Celtics fan (until he moved to Boston at age 21 and got a Red Sox hat.) This display of caring and good sense by the Scots makes me proud.

  5. xanadou
    August 23, 2016, 7:44 pm

    Go Scotland!
    Nobody tells the feisty Scots what they can or cannot do or say, so I expect there will be a vigorous display by both sets of fans, unless the Israeli authorities will try to confiscate the Palestinian flags. And then there will be a big fight to end the “match”.

    I hope that Celtic will play a friendly match with the Palestinians to cover up the foul stain for agreeing to play in Israel.

    Whatever possessed Celtic to play in Israel in the first place?

  6. xanadou
    August 23, 2016, 8:23 pm

    Have found the answer to my question why Celtic played In Israel, won the game, of course, with no incidents:
    https://www.theguardian.com/football/2016/aug/22/celtic-fans-raise-45000-for-palestinian-charities-after-flag-protest

    and a few choice words from Celtic fans and usual hasbara meddling:
    https://www.theguardian.com/football/2016/aug/23/celtic-fans-palestinian-flags-fundraising

  7. ritzl
    August 23, 2016, 8:54 pm

    Every once in a while a story pokes out out of the fog of cynicism and vitriol that really gives you a lift.

    People are getting it!! Lots of people! (…and acting on it.)

    Great story.

    {sniffles}

  8. JWalters
    August 23, 2016, 9:04 pm

    Perhaps this will inspire the Scottish descendants in the U.S. military to rebel against the Israeli usurpers …

    • Citizen
      August 25, 2016, 2:42 am

      Probably not; it appears the Hagee types are taking over the US military.

  9. zaid
    August 23, 2016, 9:20 pm

    Take a stand

    Egypt Judo (Few years ago):

    Muhammad Salah (Roma-Italy):

    During Gaza war:

    • Cazador
      August 24, 2016, 9:10 am

      Thank you very much for these videos, another proof that some people care, and the most famous they are, the more influence they have on ordinary badly informed people, but also the more risk they, the most famous, take and could get into trouble for it from the people who pull the $tring$ for Israel.

  10. Misterioso
    August 24, 2016, 10:37 am

    The road ahead is long and difficult, but there is no denying the fact that Palestinians and their supporters now have the momentum. They have history, justice, human rights law, international youth (including righteous Jews), demographics and long term geopolitics on their side. Although it tries to remain cool and unconcerned, the Zionist camp is in panic mode.

  11. Vera Gottlieb
    August 24, 2016, 11:25 am

    What a world…Standing up for oppressed people now is punishable. And speaking truth too? Don’t play in israel…period.

  12. Ossinev
    August 25, 2016, 11:13 am

    Patience is the order of the day. Currently JSIL despite its Levantine location and unlike its neighbours is affiliated to UEFA , takes part in in European Team and and nations championships. Same situation applies to other sports.

    Very soon inevitably JSIL will be a full frontal in your face apartheid state and the European sporting bodies will have no choice but to kick it out.

    The principled and heartwarming actions of Celtic supporters and the support given by the Scottish and Irish people in general to the Palestinian cause is but a foretaste of what is in store for JSILis in the very near future.

    Zionist sewer funding may have bought and corrupted America (to its eternal shame ) but no amount of money will corrupt the minds of European peoples such as the Scottish and Irish who in the recent past have themselves suffered from oppression and brutalities from colonial thieves.

    BOYCOTT UGLY APARTHEID ISRAEL
    SUPPORT BDS
    TELL YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS ABOUT BDS

  13. eljay
    August 25, 2016, 1:11 pm

    … “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. …

    Donation made.

  14. DaBakr
    August 25, 2016, 11:53 pm

    Not all zionists have strong opinions against these Scots football fans raising monies to help palestinian youths. And if these organizations are accountable to their donors by giving over 80% of the donations to the actual kids programs all the better. Some zionists have learned a long time ago that getting worked up about ever slight, every political statement and more accomplishes nothing productive to help the conflict except meaningless scoring of pr ‘points’

    Good for these Scots taking meaningless controversy and turning into concrete results.

  15. jaspeace2day
    August 26, 2016, 3:56 pm

    On the matchthefineforpalestine site there is a statement that just shows the amazing lengths good people are will to go to in support of Palestine: “Many people have got in touch to say they intend to donate after being paid at the end of the month and asking to be given the chance to do so.” Amazing!
    Now we in the US should be able to do the same. Any takers on starting a fund for the oppressed in Palestine by the illegal occupation of the israeli terrorist and apartheid regime? I’ll donate to it too along with matchthefineforpalestine!

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