LONDON: An ensemble of London-based creative collectives hosted an event on Sunday to raise awareness and mobilize action on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and Palestine.
“Arts Action Palestine,” which quickly sold out its 600-seat venue, invited a large number of London grassroots organizations in the creative space to host workshops and activities. Its aim was to bring in a wide demographic and reach new audiences.
The program featured a lecture by Hazem Jamjoum from the Palestinian Policy Network, a panel discussion with Jews for Justice, soundscapes, and an eclectic mix of cultural expressions, including soundscapes, live music and spoken word by Palestinian artists.
A selection of borrowed books and archival resources was on display for visitors to browse at the library corner, while six-hour showcases of short films by Palestinian filmmakers were screened throughout the day-long event.
“A hard realization for me over the last few weeks was seeing how many of my friends weren’t speaking up for Palestine,” Dania Arafeh, a key organizer of the event and founder of fashion online market 3eib, told Arab News.
“Because of the misinformation being spread by the media and the Zionist rhetoric that governments are using, it becomes difficult for people to call it out for what it is: ethnic cleansing.” the 29-year-old said.
“For them, it’s this complex thing that they don’t know enough about. So our aim for today is to target those people,”
The event placed a particular focus on including action-focused workshops, such as making posters and signing petitions. Human rights lawyers also volunteered to help attendees write personalized, legally backed emails to their MPs.
Azl Collective, one of the event’s organizers, hosted a workshop for writing the names of Gazans who were killed by Israel’s attacks on the besieged enclave.
“We came up with the idea of writing the martyrs’ names as a powerful way of remembering them as individuals and human beings, not just a number on a screen,” Shiza Naveed, co-founder of Azl, told Arab News.
“This is just about making sure people aren’t desensitized and aren’t doubting these official numbers. Overall, it’s been really heartwarming to see the turnout,” the 24-year-old said.
More than 10,300 Palestinians have been killed by Israel’s attacks on Gaza in the past 32 days, including more than 4,100 children, according to the Gazan Health Ministry.
The Israeli siege of the territory has denied its 2.2 million residents access to basic items such as food, water, fuel and electricity.
London has been home to one of Europe’s largest pro-Palestine demonstrations in recent weeks, with an estimated total of 1 million people protesting on the capital’s streets.
“I think all of us being here at this moment is opening our eyes to other causes,” Azl Co-Founder Heide Sarah Affi told Arab News.
“Those of us who believe in a free Palestine, we’ve already been seeing the interconnectedness behind colonialism, oppressive world powers, and Western imperial interests affecting all of us,” the 28-year-old said.
Lama, a university student from Saudi Arabia, said that she found the program educational, particularly Jamjoum’s detailed history lesson.
“What really stood out to me was the diversity of the crowd. It was filled with people of all ages and ethnicities who were there to willingly educate themselves on the issue, and that itself made me really happy,” she said.
“I grew up learning about the Palestinian issue at school and at home. Moreover, I was raised around many Palestinian friends who had to leave their country, so I’ve always been aware and passionate when it came to this subject,” she said.
Another attendee, Sidiq, said: “It felt great to be a part of something that is actually doing something to help because sitting on our phones fighting for peace from our fingertips doesn’t always feel like you’re doing much, but being here as part of a community that is there for one cause is very empowering.”
While the tickets to Arts Action Palestine were free, optional donations went toward Medical Aid for Palestinians and Palestine Solidarity Campaign UK.