Green Brigade v Celtic: Seeing all sides in schism over war in Middle East

Celtic’s Champions League match against Atletico Madrid was considered as notable off the pitch as it was on it.

It is possible to see both sides of both sides over the display of Palestinian flags by supporters across Celtic Park last night, with some outside observers appearing to let the actions overshadow the exhilarating 2-2 draw Brendan Rodgers’ team played out with Atletico Madrid in the Champions League.

Celtic’s boardroom hierarchy – right-leaning, corporate in their outlook and essentially establishment in their kinship to a UEFA that takes a dim view of political gestures – could only renounce any show of sympathies over the horrific events unfolding in the Middle East. Yet, it is possible also to see in another light their pleas for the Green Brigade – Celtic’s ultras situated in the north curve of the stadium who created a Palestinian flag through sporting appropriately-coloured bibs– not to fly Palestinian flags … and take with them a willing support at large. Consider their duty of care to the club’s Israeli winger Liel Abada, and also their understandable desire to avoid sanctions from European football’s governing body. There has been a collective failure on the left, where the Green Brigade firmly position themselves, to summon any empathy for those from Abada’s homeland over the massacre by Hamas of 1,400 people in the area. A failure to acknowledge the sheer inhumanity by these anti-Semites, who poison the Palestinian cause and their own people to serve their own aims – and those of their sponsors Iran.

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By the same token, it is possible to see legitimacy in the Green Brigade, and an on-side Celtic support, calling out of the crime against humanity represented by the Israeli government’s carpet-bombing of Gaza in response. A Gaza that is one of the most densely populated, and deprived, areas of the world. A military operation carried out under the guise of destroying Hamas, a collective punishment of a civilian population who for decades have been denied basic human rights. And in a fashion so unimaginable that the violation of all apparent rules of armed engagement in an area to more than a 2.3 million people has already cost almost 6,000 lives – more than 2,000 of them children. Yet it is largely accepted by pro-Israeli government western powers.

Celtic fans hold up Palestine flags during their club's 2-2 draw with Atletico Madrid in the  Champions League. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)Celtic fans hold up Palestine flags during their club's 2-2 draw with Atletico Madrid in the  Champions League. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)
Celtic fans hold up Palestine flags during their club's 2-2 draw with Atletico Madrid in the Champions League. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)

Celtic, as a club, can lament the Green Brigade plunging them into the spotlight for matters so removed from the sporting context. Some, though, will regret them now only finding voice over their ultras, when staying silent in recent times as these plastic politicos with an addiction to making themselves the story have sullied Celtic’s name with sectarianism – notably with Orange bastard chants – and glorying in the deaths of Rangers figures. As a broken clock is right twice a day, so too the Green Brigade should not be emboldened to see themselves as some sort of moral authority because their fellow supporters find favour with their Palestinian stance.

The Green Brigade’s self-absorption, and fairytale version of Celtic’s history – a club whose true through-line is well-heeled businessmen in the boardroom rather than any drive for charity or forwarding some united Ireland agenda – masks a neddish, toxic masculinity which they, or their hangers-on, provide a platform for. Theirs is an entryism fan-backing, a hijack of a fanbase’s focus that should not be indulged. Even if, while their worldview is warped, so it is also warped that their repudiation of certain war crimes in Gaza can be presented as an extremist position.



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