The evidence from the report by Professors Chalcraft and Dickens, that the publisher Pearson has changed the contents of two school textbooks following concerted pressure from the Board of Deputies (BoD) and UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI), is of deep concern.
The Chalcraft and Dickens report finds that, taken as a whole, the alterations change the substance of the textbooks, providing an inaccurate account of the history and present situation in Palestine and Israel. Those charged with providing educational materials for children have a duty to ensure they produce materials that allow pupils to think critically and to understand the world better. They should not be influenced by political lobbying engineered to produce an unbalanced picture, no matter who conducts it. At a minimum, when revising texts, they should be transparent about the process, and ensure that amendments are checked by professional scholars to ensure that there is no bias in materials.
The fact the BOD partnered with UKLFI in applying pressure on Pearson to make these changes raises additional concerns. UKLFI is a discredited pro-Israel lobbying organisation, which refuses to accept the illegality of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem under international law, a position that places it not only in defiance of established law but outside the wide consensus of global political opinion. UKLFI has also obtained notoriety by providing platforms in the UK for extremist views. In 2019, they invited to the UK a representative of Regavim, an extremist group which advocates for the violation of international law by promoting Israeli settlement of the whole of the West Bank. Regavim denies that there is any Israeli occupation and is active in petitioning the Israeli courts for the demolition of Palestinian properties. It has written about the “dangers of Arab settlement and its spreading tentacles throughout Israel.” It has also actively petitioned the Israeli government to demolish the Palestinian village of Khan Al Ahmar, a proposal condemned by human rights organisations and governmental bodies across the world including the UK government.
UKLFI devotes most of its energy to lobbying public bodies to suppress activism for Palestinian rights. It particularly targets organisations promoting peaceful, Palestinian-led Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, lodging complaints with regulatory bodies and sending letters threatening legal action. Its targets have included academics, students’ unions, architects and local councils.
It is beyond comprehension that Pearson would regard such an organisation as fit to offer it advice on accuracy in relation to the facts of the history of Israel and Palestine.
PSC welcomes the motion passed by NEU’s Executive that commits it to raise the report with both Pearson and the Department for Education, to establish how these inaccurate changes came to be made, and to alert secondary school teaching staff of the concerns about the revised texts. PSC will be writing to the Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson, and Shadow Secretary of State Kate Green, to raise these deep concerns ourselves.