Why Celtic fans showed solidarity with the people of Palestinehttp://www.glasgowlive.co.uk/sport/sport-opinion/celtic-fans-showed-solidarity-people-11767772Martin Milligan, one of the supporters involved in last night’s protest at Celtic Park writes for Glasgow Live explaining exactly why they took a stand.
|| Last night hundreds of Celtic fans showed their support with the people of Palestine, flying flags inside the ground and protesting outside the stadium.
|| The show of ‘solidarity’ was arranged for the visit of Israeli champions Hapoel Be-er Sheva for the opening leg of their UEFA Champions League play-off.
|| They did so despite warnings from Police Scotland and the possibility of sanctions from European football’s governing body.
|| It has been a topic of debate among fans for weeks and last night the story travelled around the world.
|| Some have criticised those involved, others have praised them. Here one of the supporters involved, Martin Milligan, explains their reasons:
"We took a stand last night because we had to. This was an Israeli team, one whose town is built on occupied Palestinian land.
"They 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.
"The vast majority of people who spoke to us last night were supportive and on our side. Umpteen people approached us to thank us for doing it.
"We tried to talk to as many of them as we could to explain our reasons. We want to talk to people, let them know what’s happening and get them on board.
"Some have argued that we should keep politics and football apart.
"The example I use is the 1988 Scottish Cup Final at Hampden where Maggie Thatcher appeared as the ‘guest of honour’.
"I always ask people ‘did you show her a red card when you were there that day’. The answer is always ‘yes’. So people choose themselves when it is time to make a personal, political stance at the football.
"That is ultimately what last night came down to, personal choice. It is our right to protest and choose where we protest, not the right of others.
"This was about standing up for humanity. People lose their lives there daily. We see incidences of small children being jailed by Israeli soldiers. Land is stolen, homes are stolen and people are basically living in a prison.
"They cannot go anywhere, their land is shrinking around them. They have to pass through checkpoints any time they try to move and if a family in Gaza has relatives in the West Bank they cannot visit them.
"If this happened in any other country in the world there would be an outcry. It’s not a war, it’s apartheid and it’s barbaric.
"Last night we were trying to highlight the plight of the Palestinian people and show UEFA up as well. Why should we not be allowed to fly Palestinian flags? It is a national flag representing a country, like any other. It seems that the powers define what is a flag and what is a political statement.
"Some have also told us that we were harming the club and that we should think about sanctions or punishments. To be honest, that wasn’t something we took into consideration. We set out to highlight what is happening and in some ways, if UEFA do take action they will only highlight the situation further.
"This show of solidarity means everything to people in Palestine. It shows that people are willing to support them and stand by them. They feel at times that no one in the world cares about them and how they are treated.
"Why do Celtic fans have a history of supporting this cause? We have always stood for oppressed people. Our club was founded on those principals.
"People talk about the club’s reputation and the negatives, but positives have come from this as well. Look at how this story has travelled. Look at the places it has reached. The response from people in Palestine and across the region has been incredible."
|| Celtic might even have woken up this morning to find that they have five million new fans.