UK Education Pack About Palestinian Children Sparks Controversy


Jewish people worldwide, along with their allies, have raised concerns that an educational program on the hardships of Palestinian children is biased, one-sided, and partisan.

The National Union of Teachers and Edukid, an educational charity, developed a five-part program called "Beyond the Wall." The resource pack about Palestinian children, entitled "My Name is Saleh," was released in April along with a video.

According to the union, it was designed to "illustrate the daily struggles experienced by Palestinian children as they try to gain an education" and who are "living under military occupation." Schools that join the program will receive the educational materials and be linked to schools in Palestine with additional options for students to visit.

The union's General-Secretary, Christine Blower, said that the resource pack provides a positive experience for students because:

… relationships can be built, and as a result understanding can grow and stereotypes will be challenged and cultures celebrated and commonalities found.

The union has previously asked for a boycott of products from Israel, which some see as more evidence of bias. Edukid, on the other hand, has attempted to remain neutral, writes Jerry Lewis of the Jerusalem Post.

A teachers' union spokesperson defended the organization's approach to sensitive topics:

We work in partnership with many organizations, including the Holocaust Education Trust, to produce materials for schools. We have a very strong record on producing well-regarded materials dealing with difficult issues, including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, teaching around issues in the Middle East and recently on the Prevent [anti-extremism] agenda.

Critics note that despite the stated mission of showing the hardships of students in war-torn areas, they do not profile any Israeli children who also deal with violence as they try to get an education. Chief Executive of Edukid, Chris Turner, said that they contacted two Israeli organizations but were not available to actually profile any Israeli children because:

… both declined to work with us when they found out we were also profiling Palestinian children… We're trying to be as neutral as possible, and don't want to take sides. We're trying to break down stereotypes.

Sam Westrop, the Director of counter-extremism think-tank Stand for Peace, agreed with Jewish leaders that this was propaganda that served extremists, according to Camilla Tuner of the Telegraph.

Tom Wilson of the Henry Jackson Society said that providing a one-sided account does a disservice to children:

It is a particularly shameless example of political activism masquerading as a legitimate form of education. When dealing with a subject as complex as the Israeli Palestinian conflict, it is so important to avoid giving young people a distorted or one-sided account.

Jewish teachers and other allies complained to the Board of Deputies of British Jews, who then contacted the government. The UK Charities Commision will be contacting Edukid to determine if there was a breach of regulations, writes Ari Yashar of the Israel National News.

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