Fans of Scottish football club Celtic made a political protest against their team’s Israeli opponents, Hapoel Beer Sheva FC, on Wednesday night during a UEFA Champions League playoff game in Glasgow, with hundreds flying the Palestinian flag.
The protest was organized on Facebook via an event page entitled “Fly the flag for Palestine, for Celtic, for Justice,” with more than 1,000 people saying they were attending.
The Scottish champions could face sanctions from UEFA for failing to prevent fans from bringing in Palestinian flags since the governing body outlaws political protests at matches, as outlined in Article 16 of its regulations.
Activists from Palestine Alliance group also had handed out fliers and flags prior to kick-off, detailing why the protest was going ahead and explaining the 1948 conflict which resulted in the creation of Israel.
The event’s Facebook page gave the following description:
“As you all know Celtic have been drawn with an Israeli football team who under UEFA’s own rules should not be allowed to participate in this competition due to the system of apartheid laws and practices including religious and ethnic based colonisation, military occupation and segregation of what remains of Palestinian land and over 90 laws which discriminate against indigenous Palestinians who make up 20% of the population of current day Israel.
“Come gather at the entrance of The Celtic Way where we will be distributing free Palestine flags to those who will fly them. We will not be pushing them on those who do not want to participate, we respect your choice as fans to simply watch the game and support our team.
“We hope in return those fans will respect in turn that for many, 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.
“In support of the Palestinians we Celtic fans invoke our democratic rights to display our opposition to Israeli Apartheid, settler – colonialism and countless massacres of the Palestinian people, such as the one carried out in besieged Gaza in the summer of 2014 by showing the Palestinians and the world where we stand.
“We stand for justice, for freedom and end to all forms of racism and oppression. Throughout these years the Palestinians struggled and died while the world looked elsewhere. No more is this the case and around the world the inspiring and unstoppable boycott, divestment and sanctions movement has grown and grown and global civil society, people like us, are finally making Israel accountable.
“We are part of that movement and until there is end to the brutal occupation and medieval siege of the West Bank and Gaza, until the Palestinian citizens of current day Israel have the chains of apartheid lifted from them and until all Palestinian refugees are allowed to return to their homeland we will always be visually and openly in support of the Palestinians and opposed to their Israeli colonisers and oppresses.”
Most of Celtic supporters are Irish Catholics, who are known for being notably pro-Palestinian in their leaning on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with many viewing the Palestinian cause as similar to that of the Irish under British occupation in Northern Ireland.
While the stands became a political staging ground, the game itself saw the Scottish champions as 5-2 winners in the first-leg of the playoff match. The second leg in Israel is scheduled for next week.
This article initially appeared on Newsweek