Celtic fans show support for Palestine hunger strikers

May 11, 2017
Celtic fans wave Palestinian flags and banners in support of hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners on May 6.

Fans of Glasgow’s Celtic football club showed their support for more than 1500 Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails, with large banners and Palestinian flags at Celtic’s May 6 football (soccer) match against fellow Scottish side St Johnstone FC.

Members of Celtic’s “ultras” fan group, the Green Brigade, along with Celtic Fans for Palestine, lifted a huge Palestinian flag, as well as large banners with the slogans “Freedom and Dignity” and “Hungering for Justice”.

Celtic won the match, 4-1, while its supporters cheered for their team and for the Palestinian people.

Last year, Celtic fans for Palestine and the Green Brigade raised US$220,000 in donations for Palestinian charities. The fundraising came in response to a fine levied on the club by   UEFA when its fans waved Palestinian flags when Celtic played Israeli team Hapoel Beer Sheva last August.

The funds went to support Lajee Center in the Aida refugee camp in occupied Palestine and Medical Aid for Palestine.

At the time, Celtic Fans for Palestine insisted that “Radical politics and Irish politics have always existed in Celtic Park”. The group denounced the “system of apartheid laws and practices including religious and ethnic based colonisation, military occupation and segregation of what remains of Palestinian land”.

More than 1500 Palestinian prisoners have been on hunger strike since April 17, Palestinian Prisoners’ Day. The prisoners are demanding basic human rights. These include: an end to the denial of family visits; the right to access higher education; appropriate medical care and treatment; and an end to solitary confinement and so-called administrative detention (imprisonment without charge or trial).

The prisoners have faced harsh repression, including solitary confinement, denial of legal and family visits and confiscation of personal belongings, including the salt that the strikers use to sustain themselves along with water.

Leaders of the strike, like Fatah central committee member Marwan Barghouthi, have been isolated. An increasing number of prominent Palestinian political leaders, such as Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine general secretary Ahmad Sa’adat and Nael Barghouthi, the longest-serving Palestinian prisoner, have joined the strike.

The Green Brigade has a strong social justice approach, including a long history of support for Irish struggles for justice and liberation.

Celtic Fans for Palestine members also took part in a protest earlier that day in Glasgow as part of a Scotland-wide Day of Action to support Palestinian hunger strikers organised by We Are All Hana Shalabi, Scotland Supports Palestine and other Palestine solidarity groups.

There have been a growing number of protests and actions to support the hunger strikers around the world, alongside ongoing mass support inside Palestine. Prominent figures such as Palestinian resistance icon Leila Khaled, as well as students and community activists around the world, have also launched hunger strikes to support the prisoners.

[Abridged from The Palestine Chronicle. Protests in support of Palestinian hunger strikers are scheduled for Monday May 15 in Sydney, 6.30pm at Town Hall and Brisbane, 5pm at King George Square.]

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