Despite efforts by pro-Israeli groups to cancel the event, the 2017 Palestine Expo kicked off as planned on Saturday, in London’s Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in Westminster.
— PSC (@PSCupdates) July 8, 2017
Organised by Friends of Al-Aqsa, a UK-based NGO, working to defend the human rights in Palestine, thousands of people attended the two-day event.
— Leanne M. (@LeanneMohamad) July 9, 2017
The event is a curtain-raiser on the life, culture, arts and crafts inherent to Palestine.
Special interactive zones, food stalls, augmented reality tours, theatres, traditional dabke dance workshops were set up throughout the five storeys of the conference centre.
— Sarah Wilkinson (@swilkinsonbc) July 9, 2017
The workshop allowed visitors to take part in discussions, and to also try out some traditional Palestinian dishes.
For those who wanted to try their hand at Palestinian cooking, special live kitchens were set up to get hands-on experience, from the author of Palestine on a Plate, Joudie Kalla.
Noted academicians and journalists such as Illan Pappe, professor for Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter, and professor of Islamic studies at the University of Oxford, Tariq Ramadan, writer Ben White and Miko Peled amongst others graced the event.
— Miko Peled, (@mikopeled) July 9, 2017
David Miller, a professor of sociology at the University of Bath, told Middle East Eye, the event has been a visible show of public support for the Palestinian cause.
"The significance of this conference is that it brings the issue of Palestine on to the agenda," he said.
Miller, whose talk reflected the role of UK-funded charities supporting Zionist organisations in the establishment of illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, said "People see that there are thousands and thousands of people who are interested in Palestine and human rights."
Leanne Mohammed, a 16-year-old British-Palestinian and a human rights activist spoke about the use of arts and creativity as tools of campaigning.
<a class="cke_combo_button" hidefocus="true" title="Font Name" tabindex="-1" "="" role="button" aria-labelledby="cke_11_label" aria-haspopup="true">Font
— Leanne M. (@LeanneMohamad) July 8, 2017
Special photo booths with a backdrop of Palestine along with props and Palestinian outfits were made available for those who wanted to capture the memories of this event.
Attempt to defame
On June 14, the Department for Communities and Local Government, which is responsible for the venue where the event took place, wrote to organisers expressing their concerns about the organisations' public support for Hamas, threatening to cancel the event.
However, the organisers of the event described it as a smear campaign against some of its speakers.
Ismail Patel, the founder of Friends of Al-Aqsa, told the Guardian, the department was unlawfully interfering in the event.
“They have failed to provide any satisfactory reason as to why they have chosen to cancel an event which seeks to celebrate Palestinian culture and heritage,” he said, accusing the department of acting on hearsay from a pro-Israeli lobby group.
Threatening legal action, the event was eventually allowed to proceed on a stipulated day and time.