Flying the flag for the powerless

European nights at Celtic Park have a special place in my childhood memories.

I have treasured images in my long-term memory of sitting on a crush barrier and watching

Wee Jimmy tearing Red Star Belgrade apart on his own.

He was a superhuman dynamo that night in 1968 and all because he wouldn’t need to get on board an aircraft to Yugoslavia.

He had a deal with the Big Man.

The last time I was at Celtic’s home ground was to watch a European fixture.

Celtic was facing Euro oblivion for this season if they couldn’t get the better of Lincoln Red Imps FC.

As I waited for the match to start an old school friend came into my row in the South Stand, and it reminded me of what this football club means to the socially excluded community that reared me.

Last night Celtic were up against much tougher opponents and Hapoel Be’er Sheva Football Club are very strong on their home ground.

Next week in the boiling heat of the Negev desert it will be a time for courage.

I don’t know if any of Tom Rogic’s Ozzie ancestors were at Beersheba in 1917, but his heroics at Celtic Park last night started the cavalry charge towards the Israeli goal.

The dogged visitors hit back with two potentially tie changing away goals, but Celtic weren’t finished scoring.

When I was first taken to Parkhead as an enthralled youngster, the team would often win by such a swashbuckling score line.

The man from Burnbank in the dugout knew he was in the entertainment business.

Last night the Antrim chap got all of his big decisions spot on.

Consequently, Celtic travel to Israel with a precious three-goal lead to protect.

The view that politics and sport should be kept apart is generally an admirable aspiration.

Parking political differences and concentrating on the game can have a restorative effect on a society that is damaged.

Here in Ireland the Kerry County football team helped heal the awful fratricidal wounds of the Civil War generation.

When Celtic were gubbing the best in Europe on those magical nights, I watched men getting arrested at rugby matches in England via the wonder of our wee black and white telly.

I asked my grandfather if these were bad men and he told me that they weren’t and that they were doing a good thing.

I might have been no more than ten at the time.

The reason these men were being apprehended wasn’t for the usual Glasgow reasons.

They were drunkenly violent, but they were angry.

No, this was because Apartheid South Africa wanted to play their beloved Rugby Football with other countries.

Essentially, they wanted to be accepted by the sporting world.

Yet back home in their own country millions of people suffered appalling institutional discrimination on the basis of their skin colour.

It is the judgment of history that those non-violent campaigns to isolate and shame the South African regime of Vorster and his Boer brethren was entirely justified.

In the 1980s I remember taking part in an anti-Barclays bank demo at fresher’s week in university.

They did business in South Africa, so they were untouchable for decent students.

I recall that many of the Young Conservatives on campus flaunted the fact that they banked with Barclays.

Although ultimately all analogies fail the labelling of modern Israel as an ‘Apartheid state’ is not that far off the mark.

It is a state that attacks its neighbours, illegally occupies their land and Israel has weapons of mass destruction.

Come to think of it if they were Muslim and had oil then they would have been ‘liberated’ by the Brits and the Yanks a long time ago!

History lasts a long time and the country that Celtic will travel to next week is a confection of malicious British statecraft.

Moreover, the chaps in Westminster were thinking of my country when they conceived of the idea.

Sir Ronald Storrs, the first British Governor of Jerusalem, stated that a “Jewish homeland” in Palestine meant for the British Imperium in the eastern Mediterranean: “It will form for England,” he said, “a little loyal Jewish Ulster in a sea of potentially hostile Arabism.”

As the UK was relegated to the status of a junior partner after World War Two, the Zionist state was adopted by the USA as a client state, and so it has remained.

Any organisation that can have Michel Platini as President is probably capable of any corrupt folly.

So far this season Celtic have been required to travel to central Asia on European business.

For the avoidance of doubt, neither Israel nor Kazakhstan are in Europe.

Celtic should not have had to play any team from these countries for that simple topographical fact.

However, Israeli teams should not be in UEFA competitions for a far more important fact than geography.

Playing sport with them sends a message that the country, the state, is essentially ok.

Dear reader Israel is not ok.

Moreover, opposing Zionism is not anti-Semitic, and these Jews would agree with me.

Jewish not Zionist Jews for Palestine

Just like the shaming of the regime in Pretoria, it was a global task, and many of us played a part.

The rugby boycott was an important part of letting Apartheid South Africa know that they weren’t ok.

If anywhere in the sporting world Israelis are reminded what the much of the world thinks about the oppression of Palestinians then that will, in time, seep into the collective Israeli consciousness.

Of course, other things must happen as well to topple that disgusting polity.

Last night the flag demonstration was trending well outside of Planet Fitba.

I have received several emails this morning from friends and comrades in the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate (PJS) expressing their appreciation to those involved.

Celtic undoubtedly have an anti-social element among their ‘ultras’.

In the past these chaps apparently have had have no issue with wrecking seats as part of their match day experience. and they appear to think that pyrotechnics in the stadium aren’t a health and safety concern.

Moreover, they appear to think that unauthorised use of pyrotechnics in the stadium is not a health and safety concern.

In the past few seasons, the banner brigade has scored some spectacular own goals.

The away game at Udinese in December 2011 specifically comes to mind.

The then Celtic manager Neil Lennon was withering in his criticism:

“My only surprise is that they got the spelling [on the banner] right. I am very disappointed, they have let me down, they have let the board, players and background staff down and 99.9% of the support down.”

However, there are some rule infractions that are to be welcomed and last night was one of them.

No doubt UEFA will take some action against Celtic for this ‘offense’.

during the UEFA Champions League Play-off First leg match between Celtic and Hapoel Beer-Sheva at Celtic Park on August 17, 2016 in Glasgow, Scotland.

during the UEFA Champions League Play-off First leg match between Celtic and Hapoel Beer-Sheva at Celtic Park on August 17, 2016 in Glasgow, Scotland.

Apparently, the governing body wishes to promote the ‘Respect agenda’.

However, the condition of the Palestinian people is controlled by the Zionist state in order to strip them of their self-respect and, often, of their very lives.

If you look the other way on this then I can’t respect that.

UEFA should be looking at the justification for having Israeli teams in their competitions in the first place.

If you’re not outraged by the colonisation of the West Bank and by the bombing of Gaza, then I worry about the orientation of your moral compass.

It is only half-time in this European tie, and I hope that Celtic will prevail.

However, there are more important things than association football.

If you exist in Gaza under the predatory gaze of Israeli drones, then you know that Bill Shankly was wrong.

Last night Celtic stepped up on the field of play and so did the supporters.

The Palestinian people need that from all of us in any way that we can.

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