Published in the Middle East Monitor on 2 June 2021.
The BBC has removed a series of educational videos about Palestine and the origins of the ongoing Israeli occupation and ethnic cleansing, following pressure from a pro-Israel lobbyist organisation, UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI).
The videos formed part of a 7-part GCSE Bitesize series, and were intended to teach school children the facts about the decades-long Israeli colonisation of Palestine, which has culminated in what leading human rights group have denounced as a system of apartheid imposed by the occupation state on non-Jews.
In March, UKLFI sent a letter of complaint to the BBC arguing that the videos were “unbalanced and partisan”, and accused the broadcaster of “encouraging illegal conduct in schools”.
The BBC claims that it has taken the videos down in order to review the content. “These films form part of Bitesize’s legacy content, which was migrated to the current site several years ago,” the Head of BBC Education, Helen Foulkes, is reported saying. “They are part of a range of content which we have begun to review to ensure that it remains compliant with the most recent BBC Editorial Guidelines.”
Foulkes explained that the series will be suspended from the site whilst an editorial review is carried out and that once the review has been completed, the BBC will decide which content to retire permanently and which to reinstate and / or edit.
Following the decision, Jonathan Turner, Chief Executive of UKLFI, said: “We asked the BBC to investigate this matter and remedy it in an appropriate way to promote a balanced presentation of this controversial subject and we hope that the BBC is now doing so.”
MEMO asked the BBC if it had referred to any historians, experts and academics prior to taking down the material on the request of a notorious pro-Israel lobby. There has been no response from the broadcaster at the time of publishing.
In April, UKLFI sparked outrage after two UK school textbooks on the Middle East “significantly altered” its content following intervention by UKLFI and the Board of Deputies of British Jews (BoD).
The decision was condemned by leading academics on the Middle East who slammed the textbook as “propaganda for Israel.” The publisher responded by taking the decision to pause further distribution.
The decision by the BBC comes as schools across the UK have come under pressure to suppress support for the Palestinian cause. In an unprecedented intervention, last week Education Secretary Gavin Williamson wrote to headteachers to ensure “political impartiality” over the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
Twitter users slammed the Tory MP for trying to supress support for the Palestinian cause especially as it came following the latest Israeli aggression which led to the death of over 253 Palestinians, including 66 children, 39 women and 17 elderly people.
“As hundreds of school children across the country are gaslighted with the claim that schools must be apolitical, remember that UK Lawyers For Israel edited GSCE textbooks used by thousands and almost doubled the amount of times that terrorism was used in reference to Palestinians,” said Palestinian activist Lowkey.
Williamson has also been at the forefront of a campaign to impose a controversial definition of anti-Semitism which conflates criticism of Israel with hatred for Jews.