Middle East

Speakers Trust reinstate Palestine video and respond to Jewish Chronicle’s misrepresentation

Leanne Mohamad, a 15-year-old Muslim student at Wanstead High School in London, won a regional final of the Jack Petchey ‘Speak Out’ Challenge with her speech entitled ‘Birds not Bombs’, in which she describes how Palestinians suffer at the hands of the Zionist regime, Israel.

She also spoke of how her baby cousin in Gaza died due to basic medical aid – a result of Israel’s blockade.

It originally appeared that organisers Speakers Trust voted “unanimously” to ban her from going through to the final of the competition.

The Jewish Chronicle reported that Julie Holness, CEO of the Speakers Trust, alleged that Ms Mohamad had breached “two fundamental rules that are made explicit during the training”.

She said: “There are 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.

You can watch her speech below:



Since this has happened Ms Mohamad has received online abuse from Israel’s supporters and had to involve the Police to investigate further.

Following a campaign from MPACUK and other activists who demanded answers about what happened and why Ms Mohamad had been treated in such a disrespectful manner, Speakers Trust have reinstated the video of Leanne Mohamad’s speech and given MPACUK a statement about the actual events that have taken place.

It seems that the Jewish Chronicle has misrepresented the whole saga (their version of events can be read here).

Speakers Trust CEO, Julie Holness, sent the following statement to MPACUK:

“All concerns communicated to us are taken very seriously but the private message sent by the CEO, and made public without her consent, was inaccurately represented. 

Edgar Davison wrote under a different identity as an accomplished “Professor ……” and the intentions in writing back were twofold: to defend the accusation that the excellent Jack Petchey Foundation promotes propaganda by explaining some of the ground rules that are conveyed in training (these are not official competition rules that can be breached); and to let him know that Leanne had not been selected for the Grand Final so that any comments to her would immediately stop.
We facilitate training and assess videos as potential winning speeches; we do not make political judgements on the content. The comment of propaganda was not directed at Leanne’s speech or at the topic, which has been covered freely before.

The semi final judging was held on 21st May, seven days before the published email complaint was received and the online trolling began. Of the many criteria voted upon, the most important in this case was the length of the speech, which exceeded the maximum time of 3 minutes and incurred penalty points. Doubts about whether the speech would connect to such a large and diverse audience were secondary.

These are young and inexperienced speakers still learning the basic rules of public speaking and no participant ever has been disqualified. Speakers Trust believes in the right to free speech and Leanne Mohamad remains the Redbridge Regional Final Champion for 2016.”

Well done to everyone that contacted Speakers Trust to reinstate the video and demand answers!

Thanks to your pressure we were able to get more answers and make sure Leanne Mohamad’s video was seen and heard.

It seems that once again the Jewish Chronicle and their cronies have gone out of their way to harass and misrepresent those that speak about Palestine or offer a platform to anyone that speaks about Palestine – even if it is a 15 year old child.

MPACUK are still in contact with Speakers Trust about this whole issue – they have been keen to emphasise that it was never their wish to silence any student and that they will continue to offer a platform for students to speak their mind. They also wanted to make it clear that there has been a deliberate attempt by some to paint the finalist selection as being influenced by pro-Israel campaigning but they categorically deny this (as seen in the statement above).

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