15-year-old Leanne Mohamad has won international praise for her impassioned speech on Palestine as part of the national ‘Speak Out’ competition. However, things took a downward turn when the Jewish Chronicle published an article falsely claiming that she was disqualified from the final. Leanne has faced unacceptable online harassment and vilification as a result.
The JC ARTICLE published on 29 May stated that Leanne was “unanimously” taken out of the competition after her “anti-Israel” speech, further stating that the speech was “anti-Israel.” Thus, according to the JC, anyone who speaks out against Israel’s violations of international and human rights law is automatically deemed anti-Israeli. The decision to ‘disqualify ‘ Leanne supposedly followed complaints by blogger Edgar Davidson to the Speakers Trust. Davidson is the same man who labels racist, violent campaigners from the EDL as ‘Patriots’ and undermines the right of the Palestinians to exist as a people. However, this is not mentioned in the article.
Julie Holness, CEO of the Speakers Trust has been directly quoted in the article saying that Leanne breached two fundamental rules of the competition. These included providing a positive and uplifting message, as well as never to inflame or offend the audience, specifically referring to propaganda being ruled out.
However, in a statement issues by Speakers Trust on 31 May they said, “In terms of progression in the competition – all 37 talented Regional Final champions were entered into the semi-final on Saturday 21st May. Only 15 of these can reach the Grand Final stage. A panel of judges selected the top 15 speeches without any external influence or input and prior to any of the issues that emerged this weekend.” Speakers Trust emphasised that the decision was made without any external influence and prior to the complaint from Davidson, but the JC claims otherwise.
Friends of Al-Aqsa spoke to a representative from the Speakers Trust earlier this afternoon asking them for clarification on the issue. Speakers Trust confirmed that they never gave a statement to the JC. However, they did not comment on the selective quotes that were used by their CEO and the conversation with Davidson. FoA feels that Speakers Trust must be clearer about their position. Failure to do so will stir up more ambiguity about the matter.
Furthermore, the JC must issue an apology for its false reporting and use of inflammatory language in calling Leanne’s winning speech “anti-Israel.” The speech was empowering, moving and instilled a sense of urgency to this pressing issue many Palestinian children face.