UEFA punishes football fans for Palestine solidarity

Football under the shadow of Israeli apartheid.

Anne Paq ActiveStills

In an attempt to bring the Euro 2020 competition to Jerusalem, the Israeli Football Association (IFA) has submitted a bid to UEFA – the governing body of European football. The IFA is proposing the Teddy Stadium as the location for the tournament. But this venue is also home to Israel’s ultra-racist Beitar Jerusalem team.

The Red Card Israeli Racism campaign has been pushing for the exclusion of Israel from the bidding process, reminding UEFA of Israel’s unlawful claim on Jerusalem as its “capital” and the recent massive assault on Gaza. UEFA will make a decision on 19 September.

The federation claims it does not mix sport and politics. But if UEFA awards the Jerusalem bid it will be a political decision. Israel is sure to exploit the occasion to promote an image of Jerusalem as if Palestinians do not exist.

Political symbol?

In fact, UEFA does mix sport and politics.

Last week it was reported they had imposed fines on Scottish and Irish football clubs over supporters who waved the Palestinian flag and chanted pro-Palestine slogans during European matches. UEFA apparently considers the flag of Palestine a political symbol because the conflict with Israeli forces in the region was then still ongoing, reported Scotland Now.

A UEFA spokesman told the news website that the clubs had violated UEFA disciplinary regulations which state that the clubs are liable for the inappropriate behavior of their supporters, such as “the use of gestures, words, objects or any other means to transmit any message that is not fit for a sports event, particularly messages that are of a political, ideological, religious or provocative nature.”

Christian Visser, a Dutch attorney specializing in football, criticized UEFA’s punishments on Twitter. Ajax Amsterdam supporters are known for their identification with Israel and regularly wave the Israeli flag during matches.

Visser wrote telling me that he considers the fines for St Johnstone, Celtic and Dundalk as not justified: “It is surprising that UEFA imposes a fine for displaying a flag of a country that is a member of FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation. The argument that Palestine is embroiled in a conflict with Israel is weak. If one follows UEFA’s argumentation, the showing of flags of countries like Russia and Israel should also be fined.”

No penalties should be imposed on the clubs in any of these cases, he added.


Israel occupied the West Bank during the 1967 War, including the remaining eastern sector of Jerusalem. Israel immediately annexed East Jerusalem and dismantled the East Jerusalem Municipality in violation of international law.

The UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly adopted numerous resolutions which declared that Israel is prohibited from changing the status of Jerusalem or from expropriating land and properties.

However, the Israeli parliament (the Knesset) showed its utter disrespect for international law when it declared in a 1980 “basic law” that “Jerusalem, complete and united” was the capital of Israel.

Meanwhile, Israel’s policies of settlement construction, denial of building permits to Palestinians and home demolitions aim to achieve demographic control over Jerusalem, a process also known as Judaization.

Matches postponed

UEFA considers the flag of Palestine as a “political symbol” because of the conflict with Israeli forces.

There is a “conflict” — but more precisely, Israel has occupied the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, for decades. Israel still refuses to respect international law and continues to violate the rights of the Palestinian people.

Israel has a history of ignoring UN resolutions, including those calling for a complete withdrawal from the territory it occupies. It also refuses to end its discriminatory practices against the Palestinians. Instead, Israel has conducted numerous violent assaults on the Palestinians of Gaza, the latest and most deadly of which killed over 2,100 in July and August — the majority civilians.

In July, UEFA decided that no competition matches could be played in Israel until further notice “due to the current security situation.” A match between Israel and Belgium scheduled for 9 September was postponed until 31 March 2015.

Maccabi Tel Aviv’s coach resigned because of the security situation in Israel, reported The Guardian on 26 August.

“You cannot do [sic] as if there is nothing happening,” said Maccabi’s general manager, Jordi Cruyff. “Games are being canceled, the national team has to play abroad, all Israeli teams have had to play outside Israel.” The start of the Israeli national football season was also postponed, due to the assault on Gaza.

The Palestinian people are demanding that Israel be held accountable for the war crimes and crimes against humanity it has committed and continues to commit against the Palestinian people everywhere.

To award Israel’s Euro 2020 Jerusalem bid would be a slap in their face and a clear political decision.




As usual Adri, you are correct. Given the natural gas selling to Jordan it is especially necessary that Israel no longer be encouraged.


I don't understand why UEFA would even consider Israel as a venue for the Euro 2020, since when was Israel in Europe? My geography books tells me Israel is in Asia. I certainly don't want war criminals running this competition. As for UEFA fining Celtic for waving the Palestinian flag, I'd like to know what action was taken against Rangers for waving Israeli flags? As a Scottish football fan, I've seen foreign flags waved at football matches my entire life, this is direct racism, somebody should take UEFA to court about this.


Yes indeed Donna, since when is Israel in Europe is something I've often asked. Unfortunately the vast majority of those "ruling" Israel are Ashkenazis of European descent who have no place in Palestine in the first place. They are imposters and a blot on humanity.


What can we expect when there is this poisonous Crap Bladder in charge. UEFA are a disgrace and should join NATO. Last time I heard Palestine was in the Middle East; soon These criminals in Israel will be part of NATO = what a team.


I guess UEFA is sympathetic to the Israeli State, the unjustified attacks on the people of Gaza and the West Bank. The murder of innocent children and civilians. They are a disgrace.


South America and Europe citizens hate Israel so much. These are where the world's biggest futbol fans are. Although govts like the Dutch and UK are pro-Israel, people in Europe held protests with Gaza from UK to Itally to France to Belgium and many more. UEFA would be doing itself more harm than good if they even dared to pull this stunt. They would get so much backlash and lose popularity, so they shouldnt even consider Israel an option.

Adri Nieuwhof

Adri Nieuwhof's picture

Adri Nieuwhof is a human rights advocate based in the Netherlands and former anti-apartheid activist at the Holland Committee on Southern Africa. Twitter: @steketeh