REVIEW| LARGEST PALESTINE EXPO IN EUROPE A HUGE SUCCESS

PEXPThe Palestine Expo this week­end in Lon­don went ahead as a huge suc­cess des­pite push­back from ‘UK law­yers for Israel’ who tried to get it shut­down cit­ing its sup­port for BDS. Organ­ised by non-profit NGO Friends of Al-Aqsa, inter­na­tion­ally renowned speak­ers were gathered from across the world togeth­er with artists, busi­ness own­ers and peace act­iv­ists’ organ­isa­tions over sev­er­al floors and con­fer­ence rooms in Olympia to speak about the injustices in Palestine. The aim to keep the occu­pa­tion on the glob­al agenda and raise aware­ness of the viol­a­tions of inter­na­tion­al laws and human rights abuses in Palestine to influ­ence change for a bet­ter future.

The event saw sev­er­al dis­cus­sion pan­els tak­ing place on top­ics ran­ging from the import­ance of the cul­tur­al boy­cott, to under­stand­ing the apartheid and the role of Don­ald Trump in accel­er­at­ing the occu­pa­tion. Many of the speak­ers dis­sid­ents of Israel bravely spoke about their sup­port for the equal rights of Palestine. Among the many dis­cus­sions the fal­lacy of Don­ald Trump’s, ‘Deal of the Cen­tury’, the dis­cus­sion pan­el includ­ing Gideon Levy a prom­in­ent Israeli act­iv­ist. He noted that strug­gling for justice is becom­ing crim­in­al­ized. Renowned writer Pro­fess­or Ilan Pap­pe was also on the dis­cus­sion pan­els point­ing out that the main news­pa­pers do not men­tion what goes on in Gaza Strip. “It is our duty every week in this city to make sure that people know, because if you rely on the media or the politi­cians in this coun­try to tell the people what goes on in Gaza, we should under­stand they are silent either because they are tim­id or because they have been bought or because they are ignor­ant about the tragedy that occurs there. Nel­son Mandela’s grand­son Chief Zwe­live­lile Man­dela from the South Afric­an Par­lia­ment joined vari­ous pan­el dis­cus­sions to dis­cuss par­al­lels with the South Afric­an apartheid and con­tin­ue the work of his grand­father in cam­paign­ing for the end of racial segreg­a­tion in Palestine. Chief Man­dela spoke about South Afric­ans unable to ima­gine freedom in their life­times, but it did hap­pen and Palestini­ans must also believe it will hap­pen for them. He said, “Today South Africa is free, tomor­row Palestine will be free”. Yousef Jab­areen a Palestini­an mem­ber of the Israeli Knes­set was also in attend­ance and has been asked to step down by far right wing Israeli act­iv­ists as a res­ult. He opened his speech with, “As I sat in this aud­it­or­i­um, I see peace act­iv­ists not ter­ror­ists”. He reminded us this is not a Palestini­an / Arab struggle but an inter­na­tion­al one. One of the most mov­ing talks for me per­son­ally was from Majd Mashar­awi the CEO of Green­Cake a start up based in Gaza cre­at­ing bricks from recycled loc­al mater­i­al to help Gazans rebuild their homes. An inspir­ing busi­ness woman des­pite liv­ing under siege and hav­ing her home des­troyed sev­er­al times she spoke about her determ­in­a­tion to con­tin­ue her work. Majd spoke about her dif­fi­culties get­ting out of Gaza and being able to travel freely. She has now gone on to develop her com­pany Sun­Box as a non-profit to cre­ate great­er access to elec­tri­city for Gazans.

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Palestini­an cul­ture and her­it­age was cel­eb­rated with Palestini­an goods on sale, olive oil, soaps, eth­ic­ally sourced dates and cloth­ing. The queue for Falafels ran around the corner and there were a few Palestini­an inde­pend­ent skin care com­pan­ies show­cas­ing their products. There were also Twenty inter­act­ive install­a­tions to show mem­bers of the pub­lic what daily life is like for Palestini­ans under occu­pa­tion and offer a vir­tu­al walk through Jer­u­s­alem. There were many activ­it­ies for chil­dren and cre­at­ive corners where you could watch Palestini­an poets, comedi­ans and musi­cians. A fam­ily friendly event with some­thing for every­one. There was a make­shift check­point and apartheid wall as well as a mod­el of Al Shi­fa hos­pit­al in Gaza and Masjid Al Aqsa. Remind­ing me of my time in Jer­u­s­alem.

Stalls from Stop the War, Palestini­an Solid­ar­ity Cam­paign and Inter­pal some of the organ­isa­tions cam­paign­ing for equal rights.

As one of the Largest and most import­ant con­fer­ences in Europe to sup­port Palestini­an rights, I hope it will return next year, even big­ger and stronger.

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About Khadija Jones