Celtic fans urged to wave Palestinian flags

LONDON - Scottish trade unions called on supporters of Celtic to wave Palestinian flags at their Europa League home match on Wednesday against Israel's Hapoel Tel Aviv in "solidarity with suffering Palestinians."

But the Glasgow club, whose fans often wave Irish flags because of their historic ties with Ireland and the Roman Catholic community, urged their supporters to ignore the call.

It is nearly a year since Israel's three-week offensive in the Gaza Strip which killed more than 1,300 Palestinians and 13 Israelis.

"We hope that Celtic fans will join with us in a demonstration of support for a just and lasting peace in Israel/Palestine based on a secure Palestinian homeland living side by side with Israel," Dave Moxham, deputy secretary general of the Scottish Trades Union Congress said in a statement.

Celtic, currently struggling in the Europa League, said it was "extremely concerned" by the call for demonstrations and said its stadium was "no place for a political demonstration".

While Celtic insists it has always been a club which welcomes fans regardless of gender, age, race, religion, politics or ability, most of its supporters come from Glasgow's large Catholic community.

The city's other big club, Rangers, has traditionally drawn its support from Protestants and games between the two sides have often been the scene of sectarian rivalry mirroring the struggles between the communities in Northern Ireland.

European football's governing body UEFA said in a statement: "UEFA is fully aware of the planned demonstration outside the ground before the UEFA Europa League match Celtic FC v Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC and we have been in close contact with both clubs and the local authorities about closely monitoring the situation."