Greek basketball fans carry Palestinian, Hezbollah flags in match against Israeli team

Bethlehem/PNN

Greek basketball fans have waved flags of Palestine and the Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah during a match against an Israeli team and burned Israel’s flag.

The event took place during the Gameday 9 match of the European Basketball Champions League (BCL) hosted by the Greek Athletic Union of Constantinople (AEK) against the Israeli Hapoel Jerusalem team in the Greek capital Athens on Wednesday.

Images of the event were widely shared on social media.

According to Israel’s Ynet news website, Greek basketball fans also carried images of jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti while facing a group of about 400 Israeli basketball fans.

“We were surrounded by hundreds of police officers, we could see the fans of the other team tearing Hapoel flags before the game but there was no physical confrontation,” Ynet quoted a Hapoel Jerusalem fan as saying.

The event was not the first instance where fans of the AEK, which is a popular Greek multi-sport club, have expressed support for Palestine and resistance against Israel.

Last year, AEK football fans called for the release of Ahed Tamimi, a Palestinian teenage girl who was at the time serving an eight-month sentence in Israel after gaining international fame for facing off with Israeli soldiers.

Earlier this year, Hebrew-language daily newspaper Israel Hayom reported that AEK had refused to raise the Israeli flag during a handball competition against an Israeli team in Athens.

The Greek handball team’s fans were reported to have celebrated and danced carrying Palestinian and Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) flags following the handball match.

Following Wednesday’s basketball match in Athens, the BCL announced that it would launch disciplinary proceedings against the AEK for the anti-Israeli actions of its fans, according to Ynet.

The development comes as European sports authorities are known for a strict policy of cracking down on any expression of sympathy with the Palestinian cause.

The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) has on numerous occasions imposed harsh fines on its member clubs, such as the Irish Dundalk and the Scottish Celtic and Johnstone football clubs, for fans carrying Palestinian flags during games.

UEFA has ruled against Palestinian flags during matches as a display of a “provocative” and “political” symbol.

Observers have, however, questioned why similar supportive displays of Israeli flags, common among fans of teams such as the Dutch Ajax football club, are tolerated by UEFA.

Pro-Israel bias against expressions of support for the Palestinian cause has also been reported among other sports federations.

In October, the International Judo Federation (IJF) banned Iranian athletes from competing in international competitions for their refusal to compete with Israeli opponents.