Scottish Trade Union Congress v. Hapoel in Celtic Park

The Scottish Trade Union Congress attempted to use the Hapoel Tel Aviv – Celtic Europa League match in Glasgow’s Celtic Park to – literally – grandstand against Israel. Counting Cats on STUC Deputy General Secretary Dave Moxham:

“”Mr Moxham said millions around the world would be watching when Hapoel Tel Aviv visited Celtic Park.”

Ah, I see! A brilliant opportunity for STUC to be seen globally as part of the Internationale. Nothing to do with 22 blokes kicking a ball around or the fate of Scottish workers which might I remind you again is the job Moxham is undoubtedly very handsomely remunerated for.”

Trade Union member and football supporter David Coyle writes:

“Hapoel have a fairly interesting history. They began in the 1920s and were associated with Histradut, the Israeli trade union. The word “hapoel” itself is Hebrew for worker, and they were seen as a communist club, and yes, they do play in red shirts.

Fans of Hapoel see themselves as a special kind of fan – political, socially-aware people who rail against corruption in Israeli society. While most of the banners at games proclaim undying loyalty to their team, they like having a go at rivals Beitar Jerusalem, a “fascist, racist” club in the eyes of Hapoel fans.

Do the STUC think Celtic fans are stupid? “C’mon Bhoys, show some solidarity with the oppressed Palestinians… youse are always greeting about oppression, they’re your kind of people… here’s a flag, and it’s got green and white in it…”

Football can bring people together, and politics can divide football fans, even those who support the same team, but there is nothing worse than politics hijacking other people’s events without being upfront about it.”

(via TULIP)

Celtic Footall Club asked fans to please not brandish Palestinian flags at Hapoel, citing health and safety concerns (crowded stadium, charged atmosphere). I recalled Israel’s Davis Cup match, played in an empty stadium in Malmö because officials wouldn’t stand up to anti-Israel activists. Celtic Football Club handled things better.

In the event, most Celtic fans ignored the STUC and those who didn’t were considered to have disrespected their fellow fans. Dave Moxham of the STUC had insisted that “we attach no blame either to Hapoel Tel Aviv players, nor their fans, for the outrageous actions of their government”. On the contrary, the editor of Scotzine observed significant amounts of blame from an insignificant number of activists:

“… they numbered less than 100 and within their ranks there were one or two who turned on their fellow Celtic fans because they did not show their solidarity.

In fact, I myself witnessed a number of incidents that ranged from the Good, the Bad and the Ugly. A group of Hapoel fans outside the stadium talked to one of those carrying a bucket for donations with a Palestinian flag on it, and it was done with respect from both parties discussing issues etc. However a few hundred metres away outside the Jock Stein stand, one STUC member or activist was pressuring a couple of Celtic fans into donating money. When the fans refused they were bombarded with a verbal volley of what Israeli soldiers have done to Palestinians over the years. The activist was quickly shot down by the argument that the Palestinians have committed atrocities just as bad if not worse. The activist was not amused to say the least, and continued the verbal volley as the fans walked away, with the discussion ending with the activist shouting obscene words at the fans, who were in their late 50s.

I always thought that Celtic was a club who welcomed fans and people of all beliefs, religions, creeds, colour etc. Yet some think that they have a divine right to support the club and that those who are not following them like sheep are not real fans. Football is not the place for a political protest. Shame on the STUC and the minority who attacked fellow fans for not standing up alongside them. Maybe their like get the message now that the majority of Celtic fans care about the football and nothing but the football.”

And on that note it just remains to say that Hapoel got the good hiding Celtic fans hoped for, the mortem is magnanimous, Celtic exit the competition nevertheless and Hapoel go through.

The disorientation of the British trade union movement worsens, we pay our subs, hope the activists have some energy left for casework, and try to muster the stomach for branch meetings.