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UK Government warns schools to ensure balanced presentation of opposing views on Israel and Palestine

SHAFAQNA- The UK government has warned schools to ensure a balanced presentation of opposing views on Israel and Palestine.

British school history books have been withdrawn following accusations of pro-Israel bias. It is the second time that the history books, published by Pearson, the education company that owns the Edexcel exam board, have been taken off the shelves. The first time – in October 2019 – was because Jewish organisations claimed the books favoured Palestine. Pearson undertook to make revisions suggested by the Board of Deputies of British Jews and UK Lawyers for Israel, but the revised editions caused a storm of protests and complaints, this time from the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (Bricup).

The committee worked with Prof. John Chalcraft, who teaches Middle East History and Politics at the London School of Economics, and Prof. James Dickins from the Arabic Faculty at the University of Leeds, to compare the latest editions of the textbooks with the copies they replaced. Chalcraft and Dickins produced a report listing almost 300 revisions to the textbooks, finding that the vast majority of the edits favor the pro-Israel perspective.

Chalcraft said while the original version “reasonably describes Jewish settlers as those who live in new settlements built on the West Bank and Gaza,” the updated text defines them as Jews returned to villages from which they were expelled in 1948, according to Arab News.

The retention of the study option is seen as vital by historians who worry that only a tiny number of schools now teach about Israel and Palestine. Just 1,100 students in 27 schools, of which 26 are in England, have chosen it for this year, out of 148,678 taking history GCSE with the board and an age cohort of 600,000.

The loss of the textbooks increases the risk that the Middle East will disappear from the curriculum, says Michael Davies, a former history teacher and Founder of Parallel Histories, an organisation that provides material for students to understand conflicts from different sides. “Teachers don’t want to teach it and not because it’s not interesting, but because they are scared about being accused of bias, The Guardian reported.

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