Palestinian event in London faces ban over Hamas links
One of the biggest Palestinian events in Europe scheduled to start in less than a fortnight is in doubt after intervention by the British government.
Palestinian Expo, which includes political discussions, concerts, comedy acts, workshops, a food court and other events, is scheduled to run at the QE2 centre in London on the weekend of 8 and 9 July. The organisers are expecting to attract about 10,000 people.
But the Department for Communities and Local Government, which is responsible for the QE2 Centre, wrote to the organisers on 14 June saying the secretary of state, Sajid Javid, was minded to terminate the contract. The letter cited “concerns that your organisation and those connected with it have expressed public support for a proscribed organisation, namely Hamas, and that you have supported events at which Hamas and Hizballah – also proscribed – have been praised”.
The organisers, Friends of Al-Aqsa, wrote to the department complaining about the proposed ban. The department promised a decision by Friday. But on Friday, with just a fortnight to the opening, the department expressed regret that a decision had not yet been made, saying Javid had been busy with other recent events, an apparent reference to the Grenfell Tower disaster.
Ismail Patel, founder of Friends of Al-Aqsa, said 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. He accused the department of acting on hearsay from a pro-Israeli lobby group.
He added: “Despite the threat from DCLG, we will make further efforts to hold Palestine Expo and will seek a judicial review of this unfair and unjust decision.”
Tickets for the event cost £20 each and 1,800 had been sold in the first few days. Since doubt was cast on the event on 14 June, only a further 300 have been sold, the organisers said.