Israeli police have warned against provocation at a football match on Wednesday night between Celtic and the Israeli team Hapoel Be’er Sheva after Scottish fans waved Palestinian flags and chanted support for Palestine at last week’s first-leg qualifier in Glasgow.
Any attempt to wave Palestinian flags at Hapoel’s stadium in Be’er Sheva, a city in the Negev desert, will not be tolerated, a police spokesman said.
Some 250 Celtic fans are expected to be at the match, which will decide which team goes through to the next stage of the Champions League.
Last Wednesday Celtic won 5-2. Since then, Celtic fans have raised more than £90,000 for Palestinian charities in response to their club facing disciplinary charges over the flag display.
More than 100 Palestinian flags were unfurled at Parkhead last week, in a protest organised by Green Brigade fans.
Celtic was subsequently charged by Uefa over the display, citing a rule that forbids the use of “gestures, words, objects or any other means to transmit any message that is not fit for a sports event, particularly messages that are of a political, ideological, religious, offensive or provocative nature”.
The case is scheduled to be heard on 22 September, with Celtic facing a fine of £15,000.
At the weekend, the Green Brigade set up an appeal on the gofundme website to match the expected fine, with donations destined for Palestinian charities. By Tuesday it had raised more than £90,000.
The appeal said: “At the Champions League match with Hapoel Be’er Sheva on 17 August 2016, the Green Brigade and fans throughout Celtic Park flew the flag for Palestine.
“This act of solidarity has earned Celtic respect and acclaim throughout the world. It has also attracted a disciplinary charge from Uefa, which deems the Palestinian flag to be an ‘illicit banner’.
“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.”
The money raised will be divided between Medical Aid for Palestinians, a UK-based charity, and the Lajee Centre, a sports and arts project in the Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem. The funds will be used to help launch a football team called Aida Celtic and buy kit.
The Lajee Centre posted a video thanking donors for “one of the biggest solidarity actions in European football history”. Scottish saltires will reportedly be hung from homes in the West Bank and Gaza during this evening’s match.
Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said Scottish fans would not be allowed to wave Palestinian flags at Tuesday’s match. “Obviously it won’t be allowed – that is for sure. The flags would of course be taken off them,” he told the Daily Record. “This is a professional football game and not a political opportunity.
“In terms of the football game, it’s not going to add to the atmosphere and might start up tensions which could lead to other issues. Our aim is to prevent any incidents from taking place as a result of any unnecessary provocative behaviour by any of the fans.
“There will be security measures implemented to prevent those sorts of incidents from taking place. It is not illegal to have a Palestinian flag in Israel but provocation by fans of either side is, and we will not tolerate it.”
No one at Celtic football club was available for comment, but the team’s manager,Brendan Rodgers, said last week that he was looking forward to the second leg in Israel. “I have never been there. It is a beautiful country, good people.”
Celtic has been fined eight times in the past five years for offences including the displaying of forbidden banners and fans’ conduct. The club was fined about £16,000 two years ago after a Palestinian flag was displayed at a Champions League qualifier against KR Reykjavík.
[Source: The Gurdian]