Ceilidh for Palestine

What better way to celebrate international human solidarity than a ceilidh for Palestine?


Diane Langford

Popular Kent band Ceilidh Tree and Hawiyya, a diverse all-woman dance company, are coming to the Westgate Hall in Canterbury on Saturday May 14 to mark Nakba Day, the most significant date in the Palestine solidarity calendar. Last summer, Hawiyya — it means “identity” in Arabic —wowed the public in Hastings with traditional dabke dance performances on the pier.

Hawiyya on Hastings pier

For the past six months we in South East Kent Palestine Solidarity Campaign have been fundraising to hold a ceilidh for Palestine. At last it’s all coming together, the artists have confirmed, the hall is booked: now all we need is for you to buy a ticket and get your dancing shoes on!

At the Westgate Hall, Westgate Hall Road, Canterbury CT1 2BT. Nearest car park: Pound Lane (CT1 2BZ).

Doors open at 7pm for a 7.30 start.

Stalls, food and bar.

Please note: Hawiyya will be performing punctually at 8pm until about 8.30.

Please book using this Eventbrite link: bit.ly/Ceilidh4Palestine.


In Arabic, nakba means “catastrophe” — referring to the ethnic cleansing and military occupation of Palestine when Israel was created, cruelly dispossessing the Palestinians of their homes and land, an ongoing process now in its 74th year. In May 1948 over 750,000 of the expelled indigenous population became refugees, deprived of the right to return to their homes, thousands of villages were destroyed, homes demolished and people murdered or internally displaced across historic Palestine, many living in tents or lean-to shacks within sight of their homes, to which they still held the keys or title deeds. Inside Israel, stranded in “unrecognised villages”, they must pay taxes despite being deprived of basic services such as water and electricity. One and a half million still live in overcrowded makeshift camps in neighbouring countries, deemed stateless due to betrayal by successive British governments, and millions more are exiled throughout a global diaspora while Israel ceaselessly steals more of their land.

Currently we’re shocked by daily news of brutal invasion, bodies in the streets, bombarded tower blocks crashing down to engulf inhabitants, hospitals, homes and schools being bombed, thousands of people fleeing, thousands heroically resisting, trapped civilians being shelled, heroes standing in front of tanks. For Palestinians, this has been their reality for decades, except they do not have weapons capable of effective military resistance, and Britain, the USA and EU, or even Arab nations will not be supplying them any time soon. Their oppression is not accurately documented by western media, so many people remain unaware of the reality. It falls to campaigning organisations to inform the public of Israel’s war crimes and the violent rights violations that Palestinians face daily. Other peoples who become refugees are encouraged or even forced to return to their respective countries, even when it’s not safe. The right of refugees to return home is enshrined in international law but has never been implemented for Palestinians. International law and countless United Nations resolutions are routinely violated and ignored by Israel with impunity.

The Ceilidh for Palestine is an integral part of the South East Kent Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s determination to bring Palestinian voices and culture to Kent. We hope to embed solidarity in our communities as was done during the Anti-Apartheid Movement to liberate Azania (South Africa) from white supremacist settler colonial rule.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have confirmed what Palestinians and their supporters have known for years, that Israel is an apartheid state. Israeli human rights defenders, B’Tselem — the Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights — has declared: Israel’s regime of apartheid and occupation is inextricably bound up in human rights violations. B’Tselem strives to end this regime as that is the only way forward to a future in which human rights, democracy, liberty and equality are ensured to all people, both Palestinian and Israeli, living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.

British Cabinet Minister Nadhim Zahawi was recently quoted as declaring that protesters heard chanting “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” on demonstrations should be arrested. The Johnson government is perpetuating British policy from 1917’s Balfour Declaration to Blair, till now, attempting to sneak in a ban on local government pension funds from exercising the ethical choice to divest from companies complicit in Israel’s illegal military occupation and racist apartheid system.

Recently the Isle of Thanet News reported that Johnson’s government has awarded a grant to a weapons manufacturer based in Sandwich that supplies military equipment advertised as “battle-tested” (meaning, for instance, that it has been used to terrorise unarmed civilians under siege in Gaza) to enhance its lethal trade with Israel and a string of other human rights abusers.

SE Kent Palestine Solidarity Campaign has made it part of our mission to help rid our neighbourhood of Instro Elbit.

A people’s culture is the genesis of their freedom” — Claudia Jones

Hawiyya Dance Company “draws upon traditional and contemporary dance to address inequalities, offer solidarity and amplify anti-colonial struggles such as that of Palestine, through the use of folkloric dabke. This is done through the representation of the strength and resilience, alongside the celebration of culture and ancestral history.”

Dabke is one of the main dance forms in Palestine and, since 1948, “has become the voice of the voiceless and a resounding statement of Palestinian identity, existence and resistance.” The word means “stamping of the feet” and was used to encourage people working the land or performing communal tasks. Cultural appropriation of indigenous culture is rife throughout global settler colonialism: Israel attempts to hijack Palestinian food and dance while suppressing Palestinians’ own expressions of their culture. “We will not allow our culture to be appropriated and defaced by our oppressors,” says Shahd Abusalama, one of the founders of Hawwiya.


Traditionally a ceilidh was a social gathering that didn’t necessarily involve dancing. It was a literary entertainment where stories and tales, poems and ballads were recited, songs sung, conundrums put and proverbs quoted.

Today Irish dance is largely organised for entertainment but there was a long historic period when Irish identity was preserved through folkloric dance in the face of the English attempts to exterminate the Irish and their culture. The cultural revival in Ireland in the 19th century played a role in the national struggle, reviving the Irish language, poetry, theatre and literature.

Palestine Solidarity Campaign is a community of people working together for peace, equality, and justice and against racism, occupation, and colonisation. Together we are the biggest organisation in the UK dedicated to securing Palestinian human rights. We are united in our belief that Israel’s flouting of international law, continued military occupation of Palestine and systematic discrimination against Palestinians is unacceptable — so together we are taking action. SE Kent PSC is one of many branches nationwide supporting the 2005 call from Palestinian civil society for BDS: a global movement campaigning for the international community to Boycott, Divest and Sanction Israel as a peaceful means to pressure Israel into complying with international law and the basic principles of human rights. Inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement, the Palestinian BDS call urges nonviolent pressure on Israel until it complies with international law by meeting three demands: 1) Israel to end their colonisation and occupation of all Palestinian land occupied in June 1967, to dismantle the apartheid wall and to lift the siege of Gaza. 2) Recognising the fundamental rights for Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality. 3) Respecting, protecting and promoting the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes.

Join us! You will have the chance to join in local, national and international action in the fight for justice: • Be part of a movement whose voice is heard in Parliament and in Europe. • Receive information about events in Palestine and in the UK. • Have access to materials and speakers from PSC to organise your own event. • Become part of one of the most vibrant, fastest-growing political campaigns in the country. To be a PSC member you must agree with our aims. See more on https://www.palestinecampaign.org/get-involved/join-renew-membership/.

Contact South East Kent Palestine Solidarity Campaign: palestinecampaignSEKent@gmail.com

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