UK school textbooks on Middle East conflict altered to favour Israel

Publisher says it is now pausing further distribution of the books which it had amended after a complaint from UK Lawyers for Israel

Palestinian protesters throw rocks at IDF soldiers during the first round of the 1988 intifada

Middle East Eye reports:

The international publisher Pearson has paused further distribution of two textbooks used by UK high schools after a group of academics said in a report that they distorted the historical record and failed to offer pupils a balanced view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The report found that alterations had been made to text, timelines, maps and photographs, as well as to sample student essays and questions.  It concluded that “school children should not be supplied with propaganda under the guise of education” and called for their immediate withdrawal.

The textbook alterations were made last year after an intervention by the Board of Deputies of British Jews working together with UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI).  The books, titled Conflict in the Middle East and The Middle East: Conflict, Crisis and Change, both by author Hilary Brash, are read by thousands of GCSE and International GCSE students annually.

Pearson did not reply to requests from Middle East Eye as to whether Brash had agreed to the changes.

GCSEs are the academic qualifications studied for by UK secondary school students to the age of 16.

The eight-page report, by Professors John Chalcraft and James Dickins, Middle East specialists in History and Politics, and in Arabic, respectively, and members of the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP), found hundreds of changes to the textbooks – averaging three changes per page.

‘Independent review’
The executive of the National Education Union (NEU), the UK’s main teaching union, has expressed its concern about the findings outlined in the report, as well as the editorial process which led to the changes.  The NEU has said it will be contacting the publishers for clarification.

The report noted that despite the scale of the changes the books carry no notice that they have been revised.

In a statement sent to MEE, Pearson said: “Our core editorial principle is to support the teaching of this important period in Middle East history in a fair, neutral and balanced way.  “We welcome feedback but we have robust processes in place to review any feedback – this is particularly important for such a sensitive period of time in history.

“We commissioned an independent review of these books last year and the changes made were based on the outcome of that review.  We stand by our texts but had already taken the decision to pause further distribution while we discuss further with stakeholders.”

Facts removed
The report highlights multiple examples of changes to the original text. In one example the original version says that “international law states that a country cannot annex or indefinitely occupy territory gained by force”.  This is the overwhelming international legal consensus.

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