Outcry over 'one-sided' Palestinian meeting

Hackney Council has promised to tighten bookings procedures after a complaint about a pro-Palestinian event held in one of its libraries on Tuesday night.

Martin Sugarman, chair of the Hackney Anglo-Israel Twinning Association, had called for the cancellation of the "one-sided" meeting at Dalston library, addressed by a group of visiting Palestinian women. One of the organisers was the Camden Abu Dis Friendship Association, a charity campaiging on behalf of a Palestinian town outside East Jerusalem divided by Israel's security barrier. The other was a group called Beit Sourik - Hackney Friendship. Beit Sourik is a West Bank village.

A Hackney spokesman explained that the council "doesn't take bookings from political parties or organisations. On this occasion, a private booking was taken, but the nature of the organisation wasn't clear. We have tightened up our procedures to ensure that this doesn't happen again."

The Palestinian women also spoke at the local Stoke Newington School and sixth-form college BSix.

In an email to Councillor Linda Kelly, who had queried the meeting, Hackney's head of library services Edward Rogers suggested that the manager who made the library booking might have linked it with "the genuine twinning that does exist between Hackney and Haifa".

Councillor Kelly was also due at BSix yesterday to discuss her concerns about the Palestinian visit, which the college said had been arranged by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

"If you are listening to one side of the story, you have got to listen to the other side," she said.

BSix head of external relations Rebekah Harris said: "As an educational establishment, we try to open our students' eyes to various political issues both in this country and on an international scale. We are careful that both sides of any issue are explored.

"We also hosted a visit from an Israeli group earlier this year. One of our students has recently won an international understanding award, part of which was due to her support of this and other visits."

    Last updated: 7:28pm, March 22 2012