British schools urged to protect free speech over Palestine

British schools urged to protect free speech over Palestine


IHRC is urging schools across the country to shield pupils expressing their support for Palestine from intimidation and gaslighting by Zionists and their sympathisers.

In a letter to 15,000 schools signed by an inclusive network of civil society groups (including Jewish organisations, faith groups and people of no faiths) and activists, IHRC calls on the schools to resist such pressures in the security of the knowledge that children’s freedom of expression is protected under international and national human rights law.

The letter comes after complaints from parents that their children have been reprimanded at school after making simple comments about Palestine, saying ‘Free Palestine’, wearing a Free Palestine badge or displaying a Palestinian flag. Some teachers have openly warned that such slogans could incite violence, as grounds for their suppression. There have been numerous media and social media reports of such cases across the UK. This suppression responds to pressures from the government and/or pro-Israel organisations.

The pressure on pupils deploys the untrue claim that all Jews are Zionist and support Israel or that anti-Israel comments are ipso facto anti-Semitic.

“Every state should be open to criticism, especially one involved in crimes against humanity. Such crimes are currently under investigation by the International Criminal Court and have been frequently condemned by the UN General Assembly. To deny free speech on such issues delimits civic action against such crimes and for human rights,” states the letter.

It also excoriates the Secretary of State for Education, Right Honourable Gavin Williamson, for sending headteachers a letter that schools should not ‘present materials in a politically biased or one-sided way’. Yet he promotes pro-Israel organisations such as Solutions Not Sides, Community Security Trust (CST) and Forum for Discussion of Israel & Palestine (FODIP). Their bias contradicts the principles of neutral and inclusive education.

The letter also extends the offer of the network’s services in helping provide schools with resources so that they can frame opposition to Israel in a positive anti-racist way and legal advice for those schools or pupils suffering intimidation and suppression.

The full letter can be read at

The signatories are:

Massoud Shadjareh, Chair Islamic Human Rights Commission IHRC
Reverend Stephen Sizer, Founder & Director Peacemaker Trust
David Cannon, Chair Jewish Network For Palestine (JNP)
Mick Napier, Founder Member Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign
Abbas Ali, Chair Inminds Human Rights Group
Samir Al-Haidari, Chairman, Ahlulbayt Islamic Mission
Richard Haley (Chair, Scotland Against Criminalising Communities)

For further comments please call the Press Office (outside UK office hours) on +447958522196 or email (during UK office hours).(ENDS)

IHRC is an NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.
Islamic Human Rights Commission
PO Box 598
United Kingdom
Telephone (+44) 20 8904 4222
Twitter: @ihrc

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