A British-Palestinian schoolgirl has been expelled from a national speaking challenge after UK-based supporters of Israel claimed her presentation was “anti-Semitic”.
Leanne Mohamad, 15, who was born in the Al-Burj Al-Shamali refugee camp in Lebanon, gave a speech on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, alleging “discrimination” of Palestinians and citing the death of her one-year old cousin from lack of medical treatment.
A video of her speech has been viewed more than 12,500 times on YouTube, but despite the Wanstead High School student winning the regional round, judges from Speakers Trust and Jack Petchey Foundation halted her progress.
The panel said Mohamad’s speech had breached two rules, these being that “the speech must have a positive and uplifting message” and that “a speaker should never inflame or offend the audience or insult others”.
Mohamad, whose video was subsequently removed from the Speakers Trust website and YouTube channel, tweeted: “Why is it called a ‘speak out challenge’ when I am then silenced?”
Why is it called a "Speak Out Challenge" when I am then silenced?
— Leanne M. (@LeanneMohamad) May 29, 2016
Pro-Israel group StandWithUs said it was “deeply concerned” with the girl’s speech, saying it “contained racist overtones, libels, exaggerations and lies”.
The organisation’s UK director Stephen Spencer Ryde said: “That a clearly anti-Semitic speech escaped such censure shows an apparent failure of the censuring process.” He added: “Wanstead High School will no doubt want to carry out its own investigation into possible radicalisation of students.”
Reaction comes after Mohamad spoke about Israeli military operations in Palestinian territories, in her speech ‘Birds not Bombs,’ recalled the “daily” threat of bombing. In the five-minute presentation, she asked: “How would you feel if, for 68 years, they bombarded your land, took away your human rights and killed your families and children?”