In what can only be described as the world’s largest event on Palestine, ten thousand people converged on the city of London to participate in the Palestine Expo, which was held at the Queen Elizabeth II center across from Westminster in the very heart of London. Sponsored by the Al-Aqsa Foundation, the event drew criticism from pro-Israeli Zionist groups who tried to pressure the British government to prevent them from using the QEII which is a government run venue. They used the usual excuses claiming that the Al-Aqsa Foundation has connections to terrorism and that some of the speakers expressed support for terrorism and anti-Semitism and that some had even been arrested (yours truly included).
Two weeks prior to the event there was still concern that the British government might interfere and prevent the event from taking place. A list of the terror supporting speakers was published as a warning.
I was told that I was confused:
Then I received one directed to me personally in Hebrew, again claiming that the Al-Aqsa Foundation is a Hamas supporter, and “the event will be called off.”
Well, it did take place. The pressure failed, the event went on to be an astounding success. An incredible lineup of speakers that is to long to list but included Hatem Bazian, Ilan Pappe, John Pilger, Iyad and Emad Burnat, Ghada Karmi, Maryam Barghouti, a women’s delegation from Palestine and Scottish MP (SNP) Tommy Shepheard to name but a few. All spoke in front of enthusiastic audiences in standing-room only halls. There was an entertainment and cultural segment to the even as well. Entertainers included Palestinian rapper and activist Shadia Mansour, Logic, comedian Amer Zahr and a troupe of young dancers and singers from Palestine. There was a good balance of culture, politics and social issues presented throughout the weekend all of which were packed with standing-room taken up completely.
My first talk was titled, “The Origins of Zionism” and I was pleasantly surprised to see what became the norm throughout the event – people pouring into a room packing it to the limit. Regrettably my co-panelist Sai Englert was not well and could not be there. The final panel in which I participated along with Scottish MP Tommy Shepheard was titled, “100 years After the Balfour Declaration, The Role of the British Parliament.” Since we were located across the street from Parliament it seemed like an excellent opportunity to express my thoughts regarding the infamous declaration, made by Lord Arthur Balfour one hundred years ago, and what I believe would be the right approach for the British Parliament to take at this point.
Though the Balfour Declaration provides some lip service acknowledging the existence of other people who live in Palestine, it describes the Palestinians not by their name or identity as the natives and owners of the land but merely as “the non-Jewish community” and states that there should be no prejudice towards them. This is a a Euro-Centric and racist point of view and indeed it is indicative of how the Zionist view and refer to the Palestinians to this day. I put together a list of demands that I suggested should be presented to the British parliament by the many constituents who were present in the room, the first being an unconditional retraction of the Balfour Declaration. These demands take into consideration the following: Palestine has been occupied since 1948. The name Palestine has been all but erased and the country has been renamed, Israel. Since 1948 millions of Palestinians have been victims of ethnic cleansing and genocide (insert Geneva convention on the crime of Genocide), and Palestinians living in Palestine have been subjected to an apartheid regime. All the attempts made by Palestinians to negotiate with the Zionist state have failed and with each attempt, conditions have gotten worse for Palestinians. Considering all the above, the following ten demands need to be made to the British parliament:
- Expel the Israeli ambassador and close the Israeli embassy in London.(This one received an enormous applause).
- Bring home the British ambassador from Tel-Aviv and close the British embassy there.
- Designate the sale of arms to Israel a crime against humanity.
- Adopt the Palestinian call for boycott, (insert BDS demands here) divestment and sanctions against the state of Israel and demand the same from the international community.
- Send British naval forces to force Israel to end the siege on Gaza and ensure regular supplies of clean water, medicine and electricity to the people of Gaza. Provide care for the injured and the sick.
- Call for the unconditional release of all Palestinian prisoners.
- Demand the dismantling of the apartheid Zionist state.
- Call for elections with one person one vote that will include all who reside in between the river Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea.
- Demand the creation of a constitution that will guarantee equal rights and respect for human rights within the new state of free Palestine.
- Call on the ICC to consider prosecuting Israeli political leaders and military commanders for the crime of genocide.
If the British parliament was to adopt these demands it would hasten the freeing of Palestine and Palestinians. It would facilitate ending the Zionist regime, and it would allow the British to atone for the crimes committed against the Palestinian people both directly and by complicity through military and political support for Israel.
At the end of the day, this wonderful tweet from Oxford PCS sums up the feelings of so many who were part of the Palestine Expo. And indeed thanks goes to the countless volunteers and organizers who worked tirelessly and to Friends of Al-Aqsa for fighting to make Palestine front and center.
To book Miko Peled for a lecture please click here