Football Crowds Hating Israel Has Grown

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Last night an Israeli football team, Hapoel Be’er Sheva, played the away leg of a UEFA cup tie with Scottish team Celtic. Inside the stadium whole sections of the crowd were waving Palestinian flags in direct contravention of the UEFA rules prohibiting political displays inside stadiums. The club may well get fined.

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Before the game there was trouble in the streets of Glasgow with some Celtic fans trying to start fights with the Israeli supporters. The Israelis were helped by fans from the rival Glasgow team of Rangers. In broad terms Celtic supporters are largely Catholic and identify with Ireland while Rangers are Protestant and identify with Norther Ireland.

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But I wanted to add something personal. In 2005 I traveled to Ireland to watch Israel play Ireland in a World Cup qualifying match. I remember seeing no significant Palestinian protests outside the match. Inside the ground one person pulled out a flag in a stand across from the Israel supporters. That person was arrested and removed by Irish police (Garda) within a couple of minutes.

A couple of years later I went to another match, this time Israel vs England at Wembley 2007. I remember half a dozen protesters outside the game and that was all. Nothing inside the ground.

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