The St Pauli Statement Is The One That The Green Brigade Should Have Made.

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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.

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  • Patrick says:

    James you have succinctly captured my feelings on this. I abhor the violence committed against both groups by corrupt political entities and will continue to support relief efforts. The green brigade doesn’t represent me or the majority of Celtic supporters. I am quite frankly tired of their grandiose grandstanding. Celtic would be off without them

  • Mitch says:

    No mention of the fact that Britain has made it illegal to fly the Palestinian flag, James?

    • James Forrest says:

      Yeah I commented on that on Twitter last night; if that abhorrent human being Braverman wants to crack down on hate crimes she should have herself arrested because hatred is all she’s been spewing out of her horrible mouth for months.

    • Arron Jumper says:

      Excellent comment there Mitch. Ah know James, never mind the GB statement and complete disregard for those affected in all sides by this humanitarian disaster. What about the flag ban. Total disgrace that. Oh and my Amazon delivery was late too. Fk me you need to get out more son

  • Joseph Higgins says:

    Brilliant piece To be applauded.

  • Michael Gordon says:

    An outstanding article. Reading it put into words how I feel about the whole, horrible and saddening situation. It is past time for the directors of the club to act and revoke the season ticket privileges of those who occupy the front of the standing section and remove their right to tickets for away games. While acknowledging their fantastic charity work The Green Brigade’s match day actions are an embarrasment to the cub and all decent Celtic fans.

    • Clachnacuddin and the Hoops says:

      One thing they got very right for sure Micheal was the poppy protest banner…

      The sacred Celtic Hoops are ‘not political’ after all (I think) –

      They did indeed shame Lawwell and the loyalist element on his board into dropping that blood riddled emblem from our beautiful shirts…

      A good job done with that I’d say !

      I have no side in the Palestine / Israel conflict as I don’t know enough about it but did learn a bit earlier from this very sight and agree with James that every unarmed civilian life lost is indeed tragic…

      • Jim says:

        I suggest you Google Israeli attacks on Palastinian civilians and children, and I recommend you don’t eat beforehand, and that’s just for the text, the pictures are a new level of horror you wouldn’t think people capable of.

  • Scout@1970 says:

    Hello James.
    Hope you are well, I have to say that was one of the biggest load of garbage I have ever read and I grew up in North Belfast reading Irish history and unfortunately being part of some Irish history, you seem to try and do away with reason for cause , I would ask you to have a look at why Hamas launched such an attack before you judge the rights and wrongs of it ,don’t forget the first two casualties of war Truth and Innocence.
    One of the greatest statements I ever read were .

    It’s not those who can inflict the most pain but those who can edure the most shall win.

    • James Forrest says:

      I couldn’t give a shit why they launched it. The minute they deliberately targeted civilians any moral standpoint they had, any cause they claimed to represent, was gone with the first bullet and summary execution. Their motivation does not interest me. Only their method, and their method was despicable. And if you think the leadership of Hamas did this for anything other than their own political gains, then you really are kidding yourself on.

      One person in the world benefited from this; Benjanin Netanyahu. That man should be in prison and today he’s strutting about on the world stage pretending to be a statesman whilst he threatens the survival of 2.5 million people. That’s what Haams did here, they helped give legitimacy to a piece of shit like that, and that’s possible only when you trawl the depths of depravity as they did in this attack.

      • Kevan McKeown says:

        @ JF. Exactly. Are innocent Israeli lives less important than Palestinian. Well replied there mate.

      • Damian says:

        Apologies. Hadn’t noted your own response.


        I’d also speculate that the inevitable Israeli response is exactly what Hamas was looking for too.

      • Scout@1970 says:

        You say Celtic is / should not be involved in politics, you claim to be a Celtic supporter, but telling other supporters what they should and shouldn’t do smacks of the hypocritical. And your reply to not care about the reason for the Hamas attack smacks talking about something you don’t fully understand.

        • James Forrest says:

          First up, I don’t “claim” to be a Celtic supporter, I AM A CELTIC SUPPORTER.

          I don’t say Celtic should not be involved in politics at all. Celtic does. I think we ARE a political club but we are NOT a political organisation, and there are things Celtic will not do and I agree with their reasons.

          I don’t tell ANY other supporters what they should and shouldn’t do. Celtic does. And I agree with Celtic most of the time.

          As to not fully understanding, in your dreams. I understand plenty.

          Hamas murdered civilians.

          I don’t CARE what justifications or rationalisations they attempt to make for that.

          If you murder civilians indiscriminately you are a loathsome organisation, period, and it doesn’t matter what cause you claim to represent. I understand fine.

          We just have a different moral compass and mine helps me sleep at night. How you manage it I don’t know but not giving a shit probably has a lot to do with it.

      • Martin says:

        A good take James. Netanyahu is absolutely an awful person and for me up there with Putin on the warmonger scale. The horrors of the Hamas attack are only matched by their tactical stupidity. I’m horrified that hundreds if not thousands of lives will be lost because of this misstep. The one thing BN didn’t need was an excuse.

        I feel deeply for the people of this region. Your man or woman in the street just want to go about their business. There’s a very simple solution but it involves both sides letting go of the past for the benefit of the future. Unfortunately neither side has leaders likely to do that.

    • Damian says:

      Like many who read this blog, I’ve disagreed with James on a number of issues over the years, but I more than suspect that he understands the background to the Hamas attacks.

      Do you understand what the attacks themselves actually involved? Who, exactly, was attacked and how? There was a fair bit of Innocence murdered in the Truth of it.

    • Jim says:

      Very well said my friend.

  • Clachnacuddin and the Hoops says:

    Wow ! – Well I’ll be honest and admit that I really didn’t know much about The unfolding situation in The Middle East (I don’t buy papers – I detest them and I no longer watch the news since Covid then The Ukraine scenario – it was too depressing) – but I’ve been well educated by that article today James and Thank You…

    You must be one of the most intellectually informative journalists out there for certain and I love your coverage of things on The Celtic Blog –

    I’m like yourself and pretty much everyone else in that I just want peace for the area although I’m a faraway onlooker and bystander from a safe afar…

    But I hate to see factions of The Celtic support split and fragmented as it plays into Scotland’s evil media’s bloody hands –

    I think you’d be a fine mediator in any upcoming ‘unrest’ between some Celtic supporters and The Celtic Board !

  • Charlie mcmahon says:

    Spot on both sides need to pull back war is good for nothing and only a fool would think it is

  • Roonsa says:

    The St Pauli fan group is brilliant. Well done to all concerned. As for the Green Brigade … wind it in, FFS. Far too self important once again.

  • Jae Walker says:

    Brilliant, measured, informed and empathetic statement by St. Pauli support. Far distant from the p@sh spouted by a couple of bar room ‘politicians’ with a following of pimple faced wanabees whose mummy and daddy purchase their season tickets for them so they can sit in the flanks of the GB and feel important and meaningful. TBH, I can’t stand the GB, a faceless band or cardboard warriors, with limited knowledge of world affairs. The collective bravery, is embarrassing. A bunch of wee f@nnies who’d wet their pants if ever challenged individually about their ‘views’. Worse are the f@kw@ts who lead them. The nobody’s at school, who’ve now found a ‘purpose’. The personality of a flip-flop and all the charisma of David Koresh. Sad f@ks the lot of them.

  • Paul888 says:

    I don’t speak for anyone but myself, but I think and hope that the GB like all genuine people are appalled by the actions of all party’s in this war. Maybe their wording on the banners and subsequent statement could have been better, like CelticF.C could have been. And after reading the FC Pauli one the you shared with us ,I’m sure both would have wished theirs had been more like that, as it nailed it for me. It’s the innocents that suffer in war while the real perpetrators and drivers behind it couldn’t give a damn!!!

    • Scouse bhoy says:

      That is an excellent statement it puts our political leaders to shame especially the labour party who just rhyme off the same old parrot fashion. They are only interested in getting elected for their own benefit.that goes for biden as well. Eye for an eye we all end up many innocents have to die before we hear someone with the guts to ask for a ceasefire ?

  • F Mac says:

    James I’ll stick my neck out and suggest the vast majority if the 59,000 fans who will be at parkhead for the Athletico game wether they sympathise with the Palestinians or not (I do by the way)have no interest in waving their flag, they are there to support their football team and hopefully make more of an impact in Europe……. but that’s just my opinion.

  • Gerryfr62 says:

    The minute Celtic allowed this mob free reign it was always going to be a negative outcome.Most fans I know have no time for them.I support the Palestinians all the way again like most fair minded people do no matter which football team you support.Your article is spot on and the St Paul istatement was different class.

  • Michel McCartney says:

    The GB have lost the place, this horrible conflict has become way too serious, and thousands and thousands of innocent people will suffer. Waving flags or not waving flags means nothing under these circumstances.
    Netanyahu and his ragtag right wing government of fascists and religious fundamentalists treatment of Palestinians has been disgraceful, they have no respect for human life
    Hamas are another group of fundamentalist fanatics who also have no respect for human life. The people who we should feel sorry for are the moderate Israeli’s and Palestinian’s caught between these two groups of extremists.
    For Western Governments to come down on the side of one of these two lots of extremists and to arm one side with powerful weapons is shameful.
    What a tragic situation this has been for around 80 years especially for the Palestinian

  • Michael Gordon says:

    Re my reply it was supposed to be applause not question marks

  • Clara says:

    The GB are ” Huns” in celtic tops they’ve become what they portray to stand against, I for one one don’t want to see these morons back a Celtic Park.
    St Pauli had empathy, humanity and see the terrible sadness and horror yet to come as the region drifts into wide-spread confrontation, America fighting another proxy war this time with Iran not Russia.
    Those murders were barbaric and on the same level as ISIS, indiscriminate murder irrespective of nationality, sex or age. I suppose those Thai workers deserved to be murdered and kidnapped, or were they just collateral damage ( a term much loved by war mongers) GB you’ve become what you hate, a group who are devoid of empathy or humanity, so far up your own pretend rebel arses that you can’t see anything outwith your own twisted views.
    That’s the reason I won’t go back to Celtic Park as long as you are there as you shame the proud name of our Club and what it stands for, you did some great things GB, the food banks, the raising money for Palestine after the fine, that was worthy of respect and you had my respect in spades but this complete lack of empathy for those butchered has done for me. You’ve become as twisted as those you hate.

    • Kevan McKeown says:

      @ Clara. Very well put comment. And ah think (hope) the vast majority of our support share your feelins.

  • Paul Smith says:

    Outstanding piece, well done, good to see someone prepared to speak out.

    As an expat living outside Scotland I regularly turn neutrals into Celtic fans, by explaining our clubs history and inclusive fan base, they generally buy into every part of it but as good as the GB are they do on occasion alienate outsiders who can think they speak for all fans on all subjects, clearly they don’t and this is one such occasion.

  • Kevan McKeown says:

    Very well written article. The one piece that stuck out more than the rest imo, on the GB’s statement, is that they seem tae totally disregard the innocent Israeli victims who are also part of all this. Personally myself, I’m sympathetic tae the Palestinian struggle. Although nothin can condone the murder of innocents on any side. And the St.Pauli statement is head and shoulders above that embarrassin GB rant.

  • Gio says:

    I don’t normally comment, but on this occasion I need to. I work with isrealis and have heard first hand in the last days the horror they are going through. Their lives are turned upside down, everyone knows someone who is murdered or kidnapped. Fathers and sons are suddenly asked to leave work and enlist. Like many of our supporters I empathise and support the plight of the Palestinians, but this does not mean I condone the actions of Hamas which has pushed out by years the prospect of a 2 state solution and guaranteed war and suffering. Normally I dismiss the more extreme self-aggrandizing actions of the GB as ‘daft weans’ who don’t know any better. The banner and the statements have garnered significant press attention in Israel and I am ashamed to be linked with it. No self-respecting fan can carry a Palestinian flag to the game because as you say it is no longer a sign of support for Palestine, but has been commandeered by the GB for their own agenda in the same way the rangers support have subverted the meaning of the poppy. Great article, James. A line has been crossed and we must ensure the decent supporter prevails and protects our good name

  • John S says:

    When ‘I’ becomes ‘We’, who is speaking and to whom ?

  • SSMPM says:

    Well done to St Pauli fan group for this and a great article in support fella. I thought that Netanyahu would jump at the chance to take a Putinist approach in response and I fear far worse is yet to come.

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