The 'PalExpo' came back to London for 2019. A large, two day 'celebration' of Palestinian culture, history and arts. It is extremely clever marketing. In theory there is nothing wrong with Palestinians holding an exhibition of culture, but the show was built for a far more sinister purpose than teaching dabke. There are two parts to the PalExpo and whilst the main exhibition hall had a range of activities from vase painting to date picking, a chain of political talks delivered the lies and the constant drumbeat of delegitimisation. Even the children's games they had spread out pushed little but decontextualised propaganda. For example a 'bowling alley', where the skittles represent the wall, and they carried logos of companies that people are meant to boycott. A real game for kids.
And this is not to mention the exhibits on the settlements, checkpoints and so on. They even had a UN tent from 1949. It is an exercise in how to use cotton candy as a means of delivering poison.
The deception works well. Many of those I spoke to outside could not understand what there was to protest. It is just a 'cultural exhibition', they said. And asked 'why are you protesting against it'? Did they not see who was speaking inside and what they were telling the audience? The reality is that many of these people do not realise how lost they are to the propaganda. When they hear the Palestinian narrative, when they look at the maps and listen to their 'history', they have so completely lost themselves inside it all, they see all opposition as nothing more than those 'few' in power trying to shut down the 'truth'. It is all about the dead children and the hateful army that deliberately kills them. There is nothing beyond that.
Inside the PalExpo
This was not my first PalExpo. In 2017, they unceremoniously threw me, my wife and my son out following complaints about my presence from some attendees. We were mid-meal when we were told to leave. It is perhaps worth mentioning that since then, two of those involved have been expelled from the Labour party. In 2017 it was at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference centre. This year, the PalExpo was in Olympia London. The main organisers, Friends of Al Aqsa, had only taken part of Olympia for PalExpo and even then, the venue was far too large for the crowd. I am sure they will spin the numbers, but they were certainly well down on 2017. On Saturday they claimed it was over 10,000 which is absolute poppycock:
Apart from inside the main auditorium during the more important sessions, the place seemed sparsely populated. Many of the exhibits had no queue at all.
The cotton candy was for the families, almost exclusively Muslim, who had come to experience a 'day out' with their children. But the more serious stuff was taking place in one of the four rooms they were using for the talks. Inside these, the demographic was different, it was far more mixed with a majority of 'white' Corbynista types taking up the seats. It was almost as if two separate events were taking place. And whilst the anti-Israel media outlets are distributing images of the central hall during the final event because it was full, the truth is that the sparse numbers were visible almost everywhere:
The PalExpo 'festival of hate' speakers
The PalEexpo brought in the heavyweights to sell the propaganda to the crowd, and it is here the strength of the anti-Israel crowd can be felt. In the original program were a host of academics, including Professors such as Ilan Pappe, Joseph Massad and Hatem Bazian. Professor Salman Sayyid is another one with tunnel vision, co-authoring problematic definitions of 'Islamophobia' whilst actively participating in events that belittle antisemitism. The audience also heard from Professor Rebecca Gould who in the past has set out to overplay the size/relevance of the non-Zionist Jewish community and fight against the IHRA definition of antisemitism.
Given the current state of the Labour party, it is no surprise it was well-represented. With Faiza Shaheen, the Parliamentary candidate for Chingford and Woodford Green, Huda Elmi from Labour's NEC, who recently helped reinstate Chris Williamson. Colin Monehen who spoke at the last conference, Julie Ward, the Labour MEP for North-West England, Andy Slaughter MP for Hammersmith, Steven Saxby candidate for City of London, Leah Levane from the Yevsektsiya group JVL and Rachel Obrien Chair of London Young Labour.
Then there are the unions. Shelly Asquith, political advisor at Unite, who has worn a 'victory to the Intifada' T-shirt. Zita Holbourne from the PCS Union NEC. Simon Dubbins Director of International and Research from Unite. Louise Regan who was President of the NEU and Latifa Abouchakra, International Officer at the NEU and who seems to be comfortable comparing Gaza to the Holocaust and sharing posts from rabid antisemite Sandra Watfa.
And the students unions. Fope Olaleye, Black Students officer. Amina Easat Daas, who perhaps thinks there is no hypocrisy in fighting Islamophobia at Leeds University, whilst appearing at events that ridicule antisemitism. And of course Zamzam Ibahim, current President of the National Union of Students.
There were also a whole string of other propagandists and activists. Mandela's grandson, Chief' Zwelivelile Mandela was there too. And the host? Ismael Patel is chair of Friends of Al Aqsa. I have heard him give a talk at a university where he explained how Jews should be subordinate to Muslims on holy sites. The positions some of these people hold is frightening. They are spreading a narrative of hate and lies throughout the system.
Interesting to note there were some last minute changes and some backed out. Perhaps the upcoming BBC Panorama program on Labour's antisemitism already has them running for the lifeboats.
Storytelling, antisemitism denial and the wonders of Narnia at PalExpo
The talks covered both days, all four rooms and every topic relevant to spreading hate, a false narrative and a denial of antisemitism. There were forty-two talks in total. I broke them down into five basic categories:
- BDS, activism let us all stop Israel – 12 topics
- Israel is the most evil nation on earth – 12 topics
- Why dismantling Israel is the answer – 3 topics
- Antisemitism is fictitious nonsense / everyone wants to silence Palestinians – 9 topics
- Islamic / religious / community messaging – 6 topics
In just one speech, these are the messages that one attendee heard:
As Luke Akehurst wrote on the PalExpo, 'in this dark twilight world, everything is Israel's fault'. But it is more than that. Theirs is Narnia, a make-believe world where an entire parallel 'Paliverse' exists. In the Paliverse no one questions, and no alternative voices are allowed. The discussions in anti-Israel events has long since parted from any resemblance to truth or reality.
There is no need to rehash all of their key arguments. This blog has been to enough events and deconstructed these arguments far too many times to need to go over 42 separate topics in this blog. What is true is that the combined message is a simple one: Israel is the world's greatest evil, Jewish power, especially through a misuse of antisemitism, is denying the possibility of dealing with this at the international level, therefore only a united civil response can do anything about it. Ignore the 'Hasbara' and help us to destroy the demon state and rid it of the invaders. This is what the attendees were told. Whether they are aware of it or not.
[Editor's note: This is an excerpt. To read the rest of the report, please click here.]