Despite the best efforts of Britain's pro-Israel lobby, the organisers of the biggest-ever Palestine event in Europe have been told by the British government that it is "content to let the event proceed." A spokesperson for the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) advised the chairman of Friends of Al-Aqsa of the decision this morning.
Palestine Expo will be held at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in Westminster on 8 and 9 July. The organisers promise to provide a Palestinian social, cultural and entertainment event of a kind not seen before. Palestinians and their supporters from Jewish, Christian and Muslim faith backgrounds, as well as varied political perspectives, will be taking part.
The venue, which is on parliament's doorstep in Westminster, comes under the remit of an agency within the DCLG. Pro-Israel lobbyists have been trying to have Palestine Expo 2017 cancelled, making what Ismail Patel of the organising group called "false and baseless allegations" against Friends of Al-Aqsa. The Secretary of State at the DCLG, Sajid Javid MP, had made it known to the organisers that he was "minded" to cancel the event, but representations by Friends of Al-Aqsa appear to have persuaded him otherwise.
Describing the government's decision as "very good news indeed" for freedom of speech in Britain, Mr Patel said that this should enable people to book their tickets for the event with more confidence. "Advance ticket sales are already very healthy," he explained, "but the DCLG decision will give them a welcome boost."
Friends of Al-Aqsa's chairman is confident that the British public will not be disappointed by the programme on offer. Speaking to MEMO, he emphasised the intention to foster good community relations and promote democratic means to end the occupation of Palestine. "We invite everyone who wishes to see peace in Palestine and champion freedom of speech to attend Palestine Expo," he added.