When I read it yesterday, I was astounded at The Green Brigade’s attack on the Celtic board. Flatly astounded. It was a preposterous rant and it contained a number of elements which I found disturbing.
I wrote a version of this and then shelved it.
I was far too angry. I wanted clarity and precision in this piece, but it came off every bit as ranting as the statement which provoked it. Then, I read the statement released by the St Pauli fans and I realised what it was that I really wanted to say.
Their statement is magnificent. Magnificent.
You can read it at the bottom of this piece; I cannot commend it highly enough.
It is the statement The Green Brigade should have written.
It acknowledges the German left’s sensitivity towards Israel and the historical reasons for it. It speaks of empathy. It is respectful towards its own club, who released a statement standing up for the Israeli people, and it respects those amongst the fan-base who disagree with them. It expresses regret for all the lives being lost and did not simply mention the suffering of the Palestinians.
These things are impressive enough, but it goes much further in that excoriates Hamas and the murder of innocent people.
It doesn’t bang the war drum. It calls for peace across the region.
It differentiates, clearly, between the Palestinian right to “self defence” and cold-blooded murder, which it calls out.
It equates Hamas with the murderous thug Netanyahu and in doing so it gets to the heart of this matter in a way that The Green Brigade statement misses by miles.
It is coherent. It is calm. It is measured. It seeks to bring the club and all its elements together.
It was not self-aggrandising in any way.
What a staggering contrast. Staggering.
The Green Brigade statement does none of that, and whereas that made me angry last night, this afternoon it just makes me sad, and a little bit sick. The least I expected, and hoped to see, from our own fan group, was some sympathy expressed for those who are dead on the Israeli side. Condemnation of Hamas would have significantly healed this whole club.
If you cannot find compassion for people murdered at a concert or dragged out of their beds in the dead of night and summarily executed, then I don’t know what’s wrong with you.
Their statement attacks Celtic. It accuses the club of hypocrisy.
It does not call for unity but basically promotes the idea of a protest.
The call for fans to take Palestinian flags to the Celtic-Atletico Madrid Champions League tie puts the club in the crosshairs of UEFA again, and at just the right moment after their last banner has hauled us into the dock once more, and to nobodies benefit and will make our support look uncaring about the situation facing Israeli citizens or worse; on the side of those who are murdering them.
Yes, it will be a symbol of support for Gaza, but the citizens of Gaza are very obviously going to have more to worry about than whether Celtic fans have flags at a game. It is egotism to think that this will make a blind bit of difference to someone burying a loved one, or cowering in a bomb shelter or contemplating the wreckage of the house in which they once lived.
The only major, real-world, consequence it will have will be a negative one on Celtic, and the rift it causes between our club and our fans. The risk here – more than a risk now, I think – is that this has escalated into a pissing contest between The Green Brigade and Celtic and one that might rumble on, and that is going to obscure any positive that comes out of this.
Indeed, I don’t see any positive which can emerge from something like that, but I’ve said this on the subject of pyro; long before UEFA threatens to shut a stand Celtic itself will act and that action will be unpopular but the club will have no other option.
So I cannot shake the notion that what The Green Brigade are, in effect, asking fans to do here is show their contempt for the Celtic board. In short, my concern is that at its roots, the Green Brigade is not really asking fans to bring Palestinian flags to the game in support of the Palestinians at all. They are asking fans to bring them to the game in support of The Green Brigade.
I cannot read that preening, egotistical statement in any other way. The St Pauli one hit every single note that they missed. The Green Brigade’s statement reeks of contempt for everyone at Parkhead who does not see the world as they do. They have consistently refused to listen to Celtic on issues like this, and here their position is manifestly absurd.
Because in light of that banner at the weekend, what else was Celtic supposed to do?
That banner at the weekend, whether intentionally or not, will have appeared to many people as one in support of appalling violence against Israel’s civilian population, and anyone who thinks that Celtic can or should ever have endorsed that is obviously an idiot.
And nor could Celtic have remained silent on it … that would have been an act of moral cowardice. That banner was a gross insult to many of our fans, at least one of our players and at least one former footballer as well.
To pretend it hadn’t happened would have been to tacitly endorse it.
Who says so?
The Green Brigade themselves do, with their closing quote, which I’ll get to in due course.
Celtic fans come from every background, religion and nationality.
I find it utterly incomprehensible that anyone would fail to understand why the likes of Nir Bitton and Liel Abada would have been horrified by what that banner appeared to endorse.
But whereas the contempt towards the club for doing what it had no other option but to do makes me angry, the failure to express sympathy for the weekend’s atrocities against Israeli civilians just makes me frankly depressed.
People are dead and dying in Gaza because of Israel’s brutal behaviour. And people are dead and dying in Israel because of the terrorist attack launched by Hamas. There will be dead and dying in large numbers in the Lebanon before long.
I deplore all of it. Every act. Every killing. Every atrocity.
Most of us can sympathise with all of the affected.
There is no hierarchy when it comes to feeling sick for people being bombed or terrorised.
One’s suffering is no better or worse than that being suffered by someone else.
Do you think the Hamas gunmen stopped to ask any of the people they killed what their political affiliations were before they shot them? We know now that Americans, Brits, French, Germans and other citizens of various countries were amongst the dead … these weren’t just Israelis. They didn’t care about that.
There are probably Israeli dead who cared deeply about the plight of the Palestinian people. Do you think Hamas excluded those people from their target list?
And the Israeli defence minister’s contempt for the people of Gaza makes no effort to differentiate between those who support Hamas and those who abhor them; he’s happy dropping bombs on all of them just the same.
He’s just like the people he hates; he’s lost in his own bloodlust and his own desire for violence.
He’s a sadist. He is a war criminal, and he should be charged on that basis just for what he said at the weekend about putting Gaza under a siege which deprives 2.5 million people, almost all of them innocent, of water, electricity, medicine and food.
People like this “made” Hamas as surely as the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood of which it is an offshoot.
Israeli violence and repression has radicalised thousands of Palestinians.
You put people in cages, you treat them like animals, and some of them will bite you.
But that does not justify a decent into barbarism. Nothing does.
I also feel genuine bafflement about how the statement can attack our club for being so selective in choosing the victims they embrace, which is what the infuriating paragraph on our club offering succour to Ukrainian refugees does.
There are political dissidents and ethnic minorities being murdered all across the world, and if you’re not banging the drum for them why are you criticising those who bang it on behalf of the Ukraine and not for Palestine?
If it’s a double standard to promote the plight of Ukraine and not Gaza, isn’t it equally problematic to promote the plight of Gaza and not the Ukraine? For that matter, how are we supposed to take seriously a statement which demands that we all take a moral position whilst it refuses to condemn Hamas for committing mass murder?
I think the part of the club’s statement which decries politics is absurd and stupid.
Our club should be proud that it has taken a moral and ethical stand at times.
But here’s the more important bit; ” Celtic is a football club and not a political organisation.”
Nothing but a fact there. Nothing but true.
Those who have crazily suggested we should have been condemning Israel all these years … have they mistaken Celtic Park, a football ground, for a meeting of the Communist Workers Party?
It is not our place to do anything of the sort.
Which brings me to their big finish, and I’ve heard this one elsewhere.
The quote they choose to end with “If we are neutral in situations of injustice we have chosen the side of the oppressor” doubtless sounds good in some political seminar or in some pub where you’re trying to make yourself sound like you’re a part of something bigger than you are, but in reality it’s simple-minded, infantile claptrap which seeks to reduce the whole word to a set of binary choices when in fact things are a Hell of a lot more complicated than that.
Sometimes being neutral means not wanting to pick a “lesser of two evils”; the St Pauli statement draws the parallel between Hamas and Netanyahu’s murderous government with no difficulty at all, and chooses to side instead with the victims of war.
That’s a level of sophistication and subtlety that is not to be found in The Green Brigade’s tract.
Furthermore, I find that the one genuine moment in the statement which makes me want to laugh. Because when the club has taken a side on this – which is the one to condemn anyone promoting political violence – they’ve been called out for it in the very same statement. Or maybe whoveer wrote the statement doesn’t view the murder of Israeli civilians as an injustice?
The death-toll amongst Palestinians since Saturday’s attacks on Israel is almost 1000.
That adds to the 1000 dead on the Israeli side.
f you care about the Palestinians, do as that statement suggests and if you are able, send a donation to the recommended charity, and leave it at that.
But if you feel compelled to take a flag to that game, in the full knowledge, by the way, that Celtic will cop a fine and an outpouring of scorn, even from people we currently count amongst our friends, do it for the right reasons.
If you’re doing it to support a fan-group which has fallen out with our board, or if you’re going to take it to the game that night just to stick it up Peter Lawwell, as far as I’m concerned, you need someone to sit you down and explain to you that you are weaponizing those 1000 dead Palestinians against the people running Celtic, and because of what?
A shit summer transfer window? Banning tifos? Or some other reason that has damn all to do with Palestine?
Here’s my recommendation instead; don’t.
Take a Celtic flag and support the team on the pitch.
Because after all, isn’t that why most of us go to Parkhead in the first place?
Here’s the brilliant St Pauli fan statement, which says everything that had to be said here.