[Please read follow-up post here]
UPDATE, 1 June: Following the outcry over the weekend, the page and video have been restored.
Speakers Trust have released a statement in which they claim they “temporarily suspended” the video of Leanne’s speech to protect her from abuse. This does not change the fact that they have appeased the abusive Edgar Davidson, reassuring him they had decided not to send Leanne through to the grand final of the public speaking competition, on the grounds she violated the fundamental rule to never “inflame or offend the audience or insult others.” (see the CEO’s letter to Davidson below that contradicts their statement)
If you visit Jack Petchey’s “Speak Out” Challenge website, you will find no trace of the British-Palestinian competition winner.
The competition organisers, registered charity Speakers Trust have
- taken down the video of her speech on the Nakba,
- deleted the page announcing the awarding to her of first place in the Redbridge regional finals,
- removed the image of the proud 15 year old holding her trophy.
Watch her speech here.
Israel has sought to erase the history of Palestinians in their homeland, deny the evidence and commemoration of the 1947-9 Nakba that led to the expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians and the destruction of hundreds of villages.
Below is the defamatory letter that virulent anti-Palestinian racist and Nakba-denier, Edgar Davidson sent to Speakers Trust, in response to which he received a very courteous reply reassuring him that “We take your concerns very seriously,” and confirming the charity had decided to censor Leanne’s speech:
Dear Ms Griffiths,
I have been a long term supporter of the Jack Petchey Foundation [personal details were added here]. What I was not aware of was that the Charity was now in the business of supporting vicious blood libels against the State of Israel.
Specifically, I have watched the speech by Leanne Mohamad of Wanstead High School that won the 2015-16 Jack Petchey “Speak Out” Challenge Redbridge Regional Final. This speech consists of three minutes of solid lies and blood libels claiming that every day since 1948 (when the State of Israel was established) the ‘defenceless’ Palestinians have been slaughtered, with 30,000 children murdered.
For the record there are no verified instances of Palestinian children being ‘murdered’ by Israel, although many dozens have died as a result of Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups launching unprovoked rocket attacks against Israeli civilians (often from schools and hospitals) and then using their own children as human shields when Israel has responded. In fact, Amnesty International (an organisation that has traditionally been hostile to Israel) reported just this week that most of the child casualties of the 2014 conflict (that was started by Hamas) were actually killed by Hamas rockets falling short of their ‘target’. In contrast, there have been several hundred Israel children murdered by Palestinian terrorists who all operate as part of ‘official’ groups (Hamas, Fatah, and Islamic Jihad) and each such murder is a cause of rejoicing in the Palestinian territories. A catalogues of the most recent murders can be found here. Three especially brutal examples you should read up about are:the Ma’alot School massacre; the Haifa school bus massacre; and the Fogel family massacre.
As for the lie that Palestinian children cannot sleep because they are ‘bombed every night’, perhaps Ms Mohamad is actually thinking of the Jewish children of Sderot who really were bombed almost every day between 2005 and 2014 by the Palestinians of Gaza.
You must surely be aware that supporting hateful and vicious political propaganda puts the Jack Petchey Foundation in breach of its Charity Commission obligations as made clear in the Commission’s document here.
Before I make a formal complaint to the Charities Commission I would like to know what the Charity is going to do about it and, in particular, whether and when it plans to at least put the record straight for the children of Wanstead High School, in terms of ensuring they hear the truth about what is happening in ‘Palestine’.
Response from Julie Holness, CEO
Thank you very much for your email, which my colleague Rebecca Griffiths has this morning forwarded to me. We take your concerns very seriously.
Every year thousands of young people are trained in the art of public speaking. They are encouraged to speak out on something they feel passionately about and of course they bring with them their history and culture and beliefs.
There are, however, two fundamental rules that are made explicit during the training:
– the speech must have a positive and uplifting message – in fact this is one of the core terms of the agreement with the Jack Petchey Foundation.
– a speaker should never inflame or offend the audience or insult others and this, by definition, means that propaganda is ruled out absolutely from the outset.
It is, however, the school that votes through its most talented speaker in an Assembly final and an independent panel of judges from the local community who select their regional winner. Speeches at this level will have been further developed and even rewritten, with the training guidelines but without our input on content. Judges do not mark a speaker down because they disagree with a point of view but they are clearly briefed on the those guidelines. Unfortunately, with over 18,000 young people trained annually, a speech that does not observe these ground rules may very rarely get through on passion and delivery.
Last Saturday a Speakers Trust and Jack Petchey Foundation judging panel decided unanimously against sending Leanne Mohamad through to the next stage and she will not be speaking at the Grand Final. These were precisely our concerns.
As a Speakers Trust trainer I was responsible for managing the schools in Redbridge and I have a close affinity with the region. Please let me know if you would like me to forward your email to Wanstead High School so that your comments and reservations may be heard.
If you wish to discuss this further you have my home office number below, which you are welcome to use at any time.
Chief Executive Officer
Getting the Public Speaking