Israel watching for Palestinian flags at Celtic-Beersheba meet
AFP/Times of Israel, Aug 23 2016
Flags will not be allowed at Tuesday’s decisive Champions League play-off in Israel between Celtic and Hapoel Beersheba, according to Israeli police, after fans of the Scottish soccer club waved hundreds of Palestinian flags during the first leg in Glasgow last week. Any flags seen at Tuesday’s second leg game in the southern city of Beersheba would be “confiscated immediately,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said on Monday. “Police units will respond in order to ensure that the game will be a professional game and not a political one,” he added. He did not specifically mention Palestinian flags, but dozens of Celtic fans waved them during last week’s first leg play-off in Glasgow against Hapoel Beersheba. During the game, organizers of the group Palestine Alliance handed out flyers about the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, which Palestinians call the Nakba, or “catastrophe.” The club now faces disciplinary proceedings by European football’s governing body UEFA. UEFA said the flag display constituted an “illicit banner,” under a rule which bans “messages that are of a political, ideological, religious, offensive or provocative nature.” The Israeli side trails 5-2 from the first leg, with the winners qualifying for the group stages of Europe’s top club tournament. About 250 Celtic fans are expected to attend, Rosenfeld said, along with “several thousand” Beersheba supporters. “There’ll be private security guards and Israeli police special patrol units who’ll carry out security measures both before and after the game,” he said. Celtic was fined two years ago after a Palestinian flag was displayed at a Champions League qualifier against KR Reykjavik of Iceland. The Scottish champions have been punished eight times in five seasons by the European governing body for supporter misconduct.