Celtic fans raise funds for Palestine, Palestinians say 'thank you'

August 26, 2016

Chanting “I love Celtics”, Palestinians have released a video praising the fans of Scottish football team Celtic FC for “one of the biggest solidarity actions in European football history”.

It came as Celtic fans raised more than £100,000 by August 23 for Medical Aid Palestine — who deliver health and medical care to those “worse affected by conflict, occupation and displacement” — as well as to the Lajee Center for equipment to start a youth league, TeleSUR English said that day.

During an August 17 European Champions League qualifying fixture in Glasgow against Israeli club Hapoel Be'er Sheva, fans of Glasgow's Celtic FC flew the Palestinian flag in solidarity with Palestine's struggle for freedom. The action came in defiance of European football governing body UEFA threats to punish the club if fans flew the flag — and even Scottish police threats to arrest fans.

In response, EUFA has charged Celtic for flying “illicit banners” as part of its ban on “political” expressions during football games.

In 2014, EUFA fined Celtic £15,000 for its fans displaying Palestinian flags at a match. In expectation of a similar fine, Celtic fans began a crowdsourcing campaign using the hashtag “#matchthefineforpalestine”, which has far exceeded any expected fine.

The campaign has been organised by Celtic's Green Brigade fan group, which is known for its anti-racist, anti-imperialist and internationalist stance.

In an August 18 statement defending flying the Palestinian flag, the Green Brigade said: “From our work with grassroots Palestinian groups in the West Bank and the refugee camps of Bethlehem, we know the positive impact international solidarity has on those living in the open prisons of the Occupied Territories.

“We also know that their suffering cannot be ignored by the international community and last night's actions also sought to raise awareness of the boycott, divest, sanctions (BDS) campaign which seeks to challenge the normalisation of the Israeli occupation.”

Lajee Center international coordinator Mohammed Alazraq said: "The Celtic fans sent a huge message … It was one of the biggest solidarity actions in European football history, it was amazing, and we wanted to thank them for that, that's why we posted the video. We just really want to let the fans know that what they have done is appreciated."

The Celtic crest has been beamed onto buildings in Palestine and Alazraq said the Celtics banner was unfurled across the occupied territories again on August 24 when the East End club played its rematch against Hapoel Be'er Sheva in Israel. Celtic won the first leg, but lost the second — progressing through to the Champion League's group stage on goal difference.

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