Palestinian festival can go ahead, says government

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid had voiced concerns over the organisers' support for terror group Hamas


A major Palestine cultural  festival in central London will now go ahead – despite a threat by the government to cancel the event due to support by its organisers for terror group Hamas.

Friends of Al-Aqsa, who are organising Palestine Expo received a letter from Sajid Javid, the Communities Secretary earlier this month suggesting the two-day event could be cancelled.

But on Tuesday a statement from Mr Javid’s office confirmed the festival on July 8- 9 would now be allowed to take place following “checks” carried out by the government and the venue, the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in Westminster.

A spokesman for Mr Javid said: “We have worked with the QEII Centre to carry out checks following concerns raised about the Palestine Expo 2017. Following these checks, we have agreed the event can take place as planned.”

The FOA has advertised the event – billed as featuring political conversation, comedy acts, workshops and food - as "the biggest in Europe".

But in his letter on June 14, Mr Javid said he was considering calling it off, citing, "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”.

Ismail Patel, founder of Friends of Al-Aqsa, has expressed support for Hamas in the past, calling the group "no terrorist organisation."

In a letter replying to the Secretary of State, Mr Patel said the government was unlawfully interfering in the event.

Mr Patel said ministers had "failed to provide any satisfactory reason as to why they have chosen to cancel an event which seeks to celebrate Palestinian culture and heritage."

Mr Javid had said the decision over whether Palestine Expo could take place was delayed because of the Grenfell Tower fire.

The FOA had begun a crowd-funding campaign to raise money for a possible legal challenge if the festival is cancelled.

Speakers booked for Palestinian Expo include journalist John Pilger, anti-Zionist academic Illan Pappe and BDS activist Ben White.

Organisers claim to have sold around 2,000 tickets at £20 each, and expect a total of 10,000 people to attend.





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