This article was originally intended to be about the transfer window, but I wasn’t looking forward to writing it as it left me decidedly underwhelmed, in spite of Celtic signing the strikers we’ve been crying out for. It feels like too little, too late.
(Especially as one of the deals is hanging in the balance. I don’t even want to go there.)
I am glad I found something else to write about, but I’ll tell you something; I’m sitting here, right now, and I am absolutely furious about what that something is.
UEFA has decided to warn two Scottish clubs over the conduct of their fans, the clubs being Celtic and St Johnstone, because their supporters had Palestinian flags at recent European games.
This, says UEFA, is a breach of their articles on political expression.
I am staggered by this notion, and I hope to God that neither club stands for it. Not only is it a nonsensical position for UEFA to take, but it is hypocritical and itself politically weighted. It defies belief that they would actually argue such a thing, and it will be an immoral disgrace if the clubs simply roll over and accept it.
Palestinian flags have long flown at Celtic Park. It is an expression of solidarity with an oppressed people, and an expression of support for the cause of establishing a fully-fledged Palestinian state, a cause supported right across the world. It is not anti-Israeli and it is not a flag of war. Indeed, in 2012 the United Nations granted Palestine the status of an observer state. This is one step away from giving them full recognition as an autonomous nation. It is the same status as is held by the Holy See and it was the legal position of Switzerland until 2002.
Is UEFA saying it would not recognise the Vatican City State flag as that of a nation state, but would consider it a “political statement”?
UEFA is based in Switzerland, where it presumably flies its national flag. Did it refuse to do that before 2002? Because surely that would have been a political statement too, right?
I’ll go even further. In 1999, the European Union itself recognised the right to a Palestinian state, in the Berlin Declaration. Palestine is a signatory to a number of international treaties, including the Convention on War, the Geneva Convention and the Vienna Conventions on Treaties and Diplomatic Relations. The nation state is recognised by 134 United Nations members.
The Celtic and St Johnstone fans were not holding up a political banner. The clubs have been prosecuted because their supporters held up a national flag, one that is recognised by almost every country on Earth, the European Union and the United Nations.
Furthermore, Palestine is a recognised nation in football too. They are member of the Asian Football Confederation and are recognised by FIFA.
There are no words for the contempt I feel for this decision.
According to reports, UEFA deem the flag a political symbol because of the on-going struggle in the Middle East, and it’s this notion I find most offensive.
Because how can they deem a national flag a political symbol, unless they themselves are viewing it through the prism of political ideology? There are only a few countries which do not recognise it as the flag of a nation state. The UK is one. America is another, and, of course, so is Israel. UEFA’s refusal to recognise the flag, even as the European Community does, is a blatantly political statement and a blatant taking of sides in the conflict.
No-one would ,or should, suggest that Israeli clubs do not fly their own national flag. Yet they are on the other side of this conflict. To label one side in a certain way and not the other is, itself, a profoundly political decision. It stinks to high heaven that they reckon they can do this kind of thing with impunity, as if the contradiction is not obvious to any right thinking person.
The Green Brigade were sanctioned last year for their Wallace and Bobby Sands banner shortly before UEFA ordered every club in every member nation to observe a minute of silence to remember the life of the great Nelson Mandela. People within the Celtic support were asking how one could be alright and not the other. They pointed to the similarities between these three men and this was further borne out when Sands’ contemporary Gerry Adams was chosen by the Mandela family as part of his funeral guard of honour.
UEFA ties itself in knots when it does this stuff and it doesn’t even appear to realise it.
The promotion of anti-racist organisations is a profoundly political statement. Their awareness campaigns on homophobia are political statements. I agree with them on these particular political issues, but that’s not the point.
They allow Scotland, England and Wales, as well as the north of Ireland, to compete in their competitions as separate states, although all are members of a single political, social and economic union. This is a political decision, and it could be argued that at the moment Scotland fans have less actual right to fly the Saltire at football than to fly the Palestinian flag, as the nation state of Scotland doesn’t presently exist on the world stage, at any level, far less that for which Palestine has recognition.
Where does UEFA get off here? Are the SFA really going to stand for this? Are the two clubs going to let this pass? This impacts especially heavily on Celtic, as we’ve had a pull for political expression before and with our fans propensity for flying the flag it may well not be our last warning in this regard. In fact, it almost certainly won’t be.
Peter Lawwell has a seat on the SFA board. This would be a good time to put it to use, to stand up for both of our clubs and their supporters. UEFA ought to be made explain this one, publicly, to argue the reasons why they deem a national flag as something else and this verdict, which I predict will become a notorious one, reversed.
We should be using social media to promote the hypocrisy of this to other clubs and their fans. We should get the idea of flying that flag out there, and get it to go viral. Widespread condemnation and public opinion should be brought to bear on this issue.
I hope to God we don’t remain silent here. This one has to be challenged. Peter Lawwell gets a hard time on this blog, but he will go up in my estimation enormously if he takes this one on, on behalf of the two clubs and their fans.
This can’t be allowed to stand.
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