Hundreds gathered in London this weekend to celebrate Palestinian history, art and culture at Palestine Expo, Europe's largest Palestine event organised by British NGO Friends of Al-Aqsa (FOA).
Despite attempts by pro-Israel group UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI) to shut down the event, there was a tremendous turnout as supporters attended the various exhibitions and talks across the two days, buying books, clothes, perfumes, spices and more.
In the middle of the Olympia London venue, a series of interactive exhibits raised awareness about key Palestinian issues including child prisoners, Palestinians' difficulty accessing education and the water disparity between Israel and Palestine.
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign held an interactive bowling installation in which people used a BDS bowling ball to "knock down apartheid", symbolised by pins with the logos of different companies complicit with Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories.
A walkthrough model of a checkpoint also shed light on mistreatment of Palestinians, with infographics explaining how many babies survive being born at checkpoints and how early Palestinians have to get to a checkpoint to make it to work on time.
Read: 5,600 Palestinians in Hebron must cross Israel checkpoint to reach their home
A display of Al-Shifa Hospital in the besieged Gaza Strip raised awareness about the current healthcare crisis due to shortages in medical equipment and electricity. Basic services are dependent on unreliable emergency electricity generators and travel permits to attend treatment facilities are continuously delayed for months by Israeli authorities.
Meanwhile, a smaller version of the Separation Wall – which cuts deep into the occupied West Bank and encircles Jerusalem – stood between two halves of a family dining table, representing how it divides Palestinian families and isolates citizens from their livelihoods. Next to the wall, three maps illustrated the loss of Palestinian land to illegal Israeli settlements, with the green portions of the map representing Palestinian land decreasing from before 1948, to 1967 and eventually 2019.
Read: Advancements along ring of Israel settlements around Jerusalem's Old City
Children enjoyed themselves at Palestine Expo, dressing up in traditional Palestinian clothing and taking photos in front of a Palestinian landscape, walking the streets of Jerusalem through a virtual reality experience and joining in with the Dabke – a traditional Palestinian folk dance.
Upstairs, specialist speakers discussed a wide range of Palestinian issues, from the colonial history of Palestine, to Jerusalem and the mental health trauma suffered by Palestinians under occupation. Today, Haaretz journalist Gideon Levy joined former director general of Al Jazeera, Wadah Khanfer, and South African MP and the grandson of Nelson Mandela, Nkosi Zwelivelile, to discuss the possibility of a one-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict in a panel entitled "One State: The Future".
Addressing a full auditorium, Levy used the analogy of a train having left the station to describe the current debate surrounding the one-state and two-state solutions: "If a train has left the station, you need to change your plan. The two-state solution has left the station." He explored the alternative of a single "state of all its citizens" with equal rights for both Palestinians and Israelis, believing it presents "the only solution" to some of the more entrenched elements of the occupation.
Meanwhile, MEMO held our own talks, with our very own Palestinian food blogger Maha Salah introducing staple Palestinian ingredients, such as sumac and za'atar, their health benefits and how to incorporate them into everyday dishes. Joudie Kalla, the best-selling Palestinian chef and author of "Baladi: Palestine – a celebration of food from land and sea", was also at MEMO's stall signing copies of her latest cookbook, drawing crowds of supporters and well-wishers.
Mandela's grandson at Palestine Expo: 'We have a moral duty to support the BDS'