An East London school has been accused of making an “ISIS recruitment video” after it awarded first prize in a public speaking competition to a girl who used her speech on the Jewish / Palestinian conflict to repeat the blood libel against Jews and promote other anti-Semitic tropes.
15-year-old Leanne Mohamad of Wanstead High School won the Redbridge regional final of this year’s Petchey Speak Out Challenge! with her speech “Birds not Bombs,” in which she asserted, among other claims, that “since 1948 more than 30,000 innocent Palestinian children have been killed.”
She rounded off the speech by waving a Palestinian flag and crying “free Palestine!”
But Brian Thomas of the ‘Israellycool’ blog has described her accusation as “a modern blood libel” – the lie that Jewish people kill children to use their blood in religious ceremonies.
“Israel is meticulous in minimising civilian casualties,” he said. “It is Hamas that threatens children’s lives by siting its weapons depots near their homes and using them as human shields.
“After the last defensive operation in Gaza, even Amnesty International admitted that Hamas’s attempts to kill Israeli civilians directly resulted in the death of children in Gaza when their rockets fell short.
“The figure of 30,000 is a massive exaggeration. It is a pure lie. It also misses enormous context: When Palestinian children die under IDF fire it was NEVER the intention. When Jewish children are murdered at the hands of Palestinian terrorists it was the intention.”
In a separate video made in response to Ms Mohamad’s speech, Mr Thomas added: “Here’s the little link to ISIS. Everyone knows that we’ve tried to solve this conflict in many different ways. We’ve tried giving up land for peace; that doesn’t work.
“The reason it doesn’t work is because fundamentally, every time we’ve offered the Palestinians – the Arabs who now call themselves Palestinians – every time we’ve offered them a state they’ve turned it down.
“They don’t want a state, they want to destroy us. They do not want a Jewish state.
“This is jihad.”
Ms Mohamad’s speech has now been removed from the Speak Out website, and on Monday the Speakers Trust, who run the competition on behalf of the Petchey Foundation, confirmed that she will not be going through to the final of the competition.
A statement from the charity appeared to claim that her failure to participate in the final had nothing to do with the content of her speech and may even have been for her own protection, saying:
“Leanne Mohamad is the Redbridge Regional Final winner and there has never been any suggestion that she should be disqualified.
“We are, however, a small charity without the capacity to moderate comments 24 hours a day and it was considered essential to protect Leanne by temporarily suspending the regional video over the bank holiday, until we were able to consult with her school and family.
“Of 37 talented regional Champions only fifteen can be voted through to the Grand Final. This selection process took place on Saturday 21st May based on standard judging criteria and without any external influence or input.”
However, the Jewish Chronicle has reported comments from Julie Holness, CEO of the Speakers Trust, which appear to contradict this statement.
She said that Ms Mohamad had breached “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 [and] 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.”
She added: “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.”