Sunday 5 November 2023

Celtic fans need to stick to football


What has Celtic Football Club to do with Palestine? There is no obvious connection. What has Sinn Féin to do with the Arab-Israeli conflict? On the surface nothing. Why did the IRA ally itself with the PLO, viewing the two armed struggles as the same? Again, it is hard to see any similarity, yet Palestinian nationalism and Irish nationalism were closely connected.

Why is the Irish state less supportive of Israel than any other western government and the one most likely to be sympathetic to the Palestinians. It’s hard to think of anywhere that would be less interested in the Middle East. Ireland until recently had few Muslims and few Jewish people. The Middle East conflict would appear to concern Ireland no more than the Faroe Islands.

People have different views on international affairs. Not every Muslim, nor indeed every Arab wants the destruction of Israel. Some people on the far left can see that their values differ from those of Hamas. Lots of Celtic fans are just interested in the football and support the club because their friends or family did. But it is reasonable to suggest that the people most likely to support a free Palestine are Muslims, the far left, Celtic fans and people whose family are from Ireland.

The Irish sympathy with Palestinians is because many see similarities between the history of Ireland and the history of Palestine. “The Irish were occupied for a thousand years, were the victims of British colonisation and British rule and were oppressed by the British state. In the same way the Palestinians had their land stolen by Israel which still occupies it. Palestine too was the victim of Jewish colonisation and Palestinians continue to be oppressed by the Jewish state. Just as the IRA freed Ireland from British oppression from the Shannon River to the Irish Sea, so Hamas will free Palestine from the river Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea.”

I don’t know what it is like to be educated in Ireland, but history teaching appears to be quite unlike teaching anywhere else in Europe. It is closer to propaganda where the wicked British are blamed for everything. No one else reads European history in this way. The French blame the Germans less despite being invaded three times since 1870, than the Irish blame the British.

Britain and Ireland in Roman times spoke two forms of Celtic. Ireland spoke the Goldeic branch Britain spoke the Brittonic branch. In the course of the next thousand years Britain moved from being largely Celtic speaking to being largely Anglo-Saxon (Old English) speaking. Celtic was gradually pushed towards Wales and the northwest of Scotland. After the Norman Conquest we ceased to speak Old English and gradually modern English evolved.

But it would be ludicrous to suggest that the Celtic Britons were occupied first by the wicked colonising Anglo Saxons and that we are still under the Norman Yoke that forced us to speak English.

But the history of Ireland is not essentially different from that of Britain. A Celtic speaking country in Roman times gradually was settled by Vikings, Angles, Saxons and then Normans and in the course of the next thousand years became primarily an English-speaking country for that reason.

Ireland was no more occupied than Britain was. Norman kings and their descendants ruled Britain and ruled Ireland too. British people had no more choice of who their king was than Irish people did.

British and Irish people have each settled in the other’s island. The Irish Scoti supplanted the Picts later waves of migration in the 19th and early 20th century meant that cities like Dundee, Glasgow, Edinburgh, London and Liverpool had large Irish populations.

If you look at the names of famous Irish people many have British names. Gerry Adams, Michael Collins, Oscar Wilde and others would not be in Ireland at all if a British ancestor had not moved there and no doubt oppressed people called O'Connor.

Ireland wasn’t occupied it was part of the UK. The fact that it later decided to split no more means that it was occupied than that Belgium was occupied by the Netherlands before they split or that Slovakia was occupied by the Czech Republic. No one in Europe speaks this way because it is ahistorical. Rulers and boundaries have changed repeatedly in history. Poles don’t say that Gdansk was occupied by the Germans. Danes don’t say that Schleswig Holstein is under occupation because it used to be part of Denmark. Anyone who tried to speak like this would be laughed at.

But just as the narrative about Ireland leads Celtic fans, Sinn Féin and the Irish state ludicrously to blame Britain for everything, it also leads them to blame the Jews for everything.

There are two main centres of Jewish population in the world today, Israel and the United States. Both are the result of migration. But it was no more unjust for Jews to go to the United States which used to belong to Native Americans than it was for them to go to the Middle East. There are any number of modern states which exist because of migration. In Biblical times there were no Hungarians in Hungary, no Turks in Turkey and no Arabs in Palestine. Japan settled its northern island Hokkaido in the 19th century. The USA conquered much of its territory from Mexico. Russia spread from Muscovy to Vladivostok, but no one says it occupies Siberia.

Modern Israel exists because of Zionism, the desire of Jews to have their own country in the land that they were driven away from in antiquity. You cannot therefore say that you are antizionist but not anti-Israel. Without Zionism there would be no Israel. If you want Israel to cease to exist because you oppose Zionism, then you want one of the two largest centres of Judaism to cease to exist. That puts you next to Wannsee.

But Israel doesn’t exist just because of Zionism. If the Israelis had been defeated in 1948 there would be no Israel. Those Jews who survived would have been scattered just as they had at the fall of the Temple.

Israel exists in its present borders because the Arab world tried continually to eradicate it by means of war. But the borders of every European state also exist by means of war. Germany conquered Alsace Loraine in 1871. France won it back after the First World War. The USA has the borders it has because of wars with Britain, Mexico and the Native Americans who lived there first.

There is nothing unique about Israel. Jews migrated to Palestine and won wars. Palestinians were displaced. But those same Palestinians also migrated there. The original Philistines from which the word Palestine derives were neither Muslims, nor did they speak Arabic.

The attitude to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is uniquely prejudiced and never more so than when Sinn Féin, Celtic fans and Irish people in general view it ludicrously through the lens of the wicked British versus the noble Irish.

Israel’s right to exist is because it is sovereign nation state. It exists because of migration, but so does Celtic Football club. So does Ireland. So does everywhere.

Israel has the right to defend itself when attacked, just like every other nation state. It has the right within international law to defeat its enemy.

The history of Israel is not unique. It is commonplace. It’s not much different from the history of the USA. The main difference is that Muslims for religious reasons won’t accept the loss of territory that used to be Muslim. This is why everyone marches about Palestine, no one marches about Yemen.

But Israel and Israelis are treated uniquely. Celtic fans who don’t care one little bit about other conflicts care uniquely about a conflict involving Jews. Muslims who have benefitted from migration to live in Britain oppose Jews moving to one tiny corner of the Middle East. They didn’t care at all if one group of Muslims bombed or displaced another in Syria. Sinn Féin calls for a cease fire because civilians are dying yet supported the IRA’s campaign against civilians and didn’t call for a ceasefire until 1994. Irish bombing civilians good, but Israel bad. To think these people might form the next government of Ireland.

Ireland needs to grow up. You have been independent for over one hundred years, stop blaming Brits and Jews for everything. Stop supporting terrorists. Start behaving like a normal western democracy rather than an extension of the Gaza Strip.

Celtic fans need to stick to football.

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