I am not, as people will know, in favour of Celtic Park being turned into a political theatre. But football itself, as a sport, has taken sides in conflicts before and doubtless will again.
The example of Ukraine, where football is entirely right to condemn Russia, is only the latest example. Going back through the years, there have been plenty of others.
When the world turned up to celebrate the World Cup in South Africa it was about more than celebrating that country’s diversity and the spirit of its politics; it was a sort of unofficial welcome back to that country to the full fraternity of the global game.
It was saying to that nation that it was time to assume a full place again at the table from which it had been banned for years as a result of apartheid. Apartheid was a national policy … did the world really have a right to interfere? Did football have a right to make South Africa a pariah nation?
I say yes to both of those things, just as the world should be condemning Israel for the indiscriminate slaughter of the people of Gaza. I don’t think there’s a living soul who isn’t calling it that now, even those who take Israel’s side 99.5% of the time.
Israel’s actions are rising to meet the definition of a war crime.
If forced starvation kills tens of thousands more Palestinians it surely comes close to meeting the definition of a crime against humanity.
I am not surprised to see the political class in the West do nothing to prevent this, but sport has stood up and stood firm before, and it could very well do it again if it wanted.
UEFA has banned Russia for the invasion of Ukraine and more and more people are asking what Israel has to do to incur a similar ban.
The decision to exclude South Africa from football’s family was a hard one and they were not without high profile supporters … but football took a stand in the interests of justice.
When does it take such a stand here?
And here’s where it should start; with international federations in Europe declaring, one after the other, that the Israeli national team is not wanted on their soil unless it’s an officially scheduled competitive game.
Israel next plays in March; it’s a UEFA Euros Qualifier against Iceland.
Presumably they will want to play a friendly or two before then … and every national association in Europe should refuse to play them either home or away, and publicly state that in advance, and that should remain the position as long as the slaughter in Gaza continues … and beyond that, until Israel commits to a full summit on the issue of the two state solution.
Meaningless, some will say … but I think not. Symbolism matters. A lot.
It would be a seismic shock to their national team and a blow to their national pride.
It would be a stunning repudiation of them as a member of the European football family, and the message would be loud and clear.
Then those same federations should extend the same message to their club teams; no matches on our soil or against our sides unless their teams are compelled to.
But beyond that, they should make it clear that they would consider not even playing those matches, and eventually push UEFA towards making a decision.
UEFA will not currently play games in Israel due to the ongoing conflict, but that has more to do with the safety of fans, people at the clubs and delegates and media than it represents a moral stand … but surely the moral stand is coming?
Surely the great weight of the football world will be brought to bear?
It’s not before time.
The political world might be prepared to let this continue, but football has always charted its own course and so it should here. It is not the responsibility of Celtic, one club, to speak out on this … the European football family as a whole needs to do it with one voice.
Millions around the globe would thank them for it.