UK school history books withdrawn over accusations of pro-Israel bias

UK school history books withdrawn over accusations of pro-Israel bias
Withdrawal follows analysis by British Committee for the Universities of Palestine. (File/Shutterstock)
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Updated 08 June 2021

UK school history books withdrawn over accusations of pro-Israel bias

UK school history books withdrawn over accusations of pro-Israel bias
  • Withdrawal follows analysis by British Committee for the Universities of Palestine
  • Publisher had revised textbooks following consultations with pro-Israel groups

LONDON: British school history books have been withdrawn following accusations of pro-Israel bias.

This is the second time that the textbooks, published by education company Pearson, have been removed. 

On the first occasion, in 2019, they were withdrawn after pro-Israel groups claimed the books favored Palestine.

Pearson made changes to the textbooks after suggestions by the Board of Deputies of British Jews and UK Lawyers for Israel.

The controversy surrounds the textbooks “Conflict in the Middle East c1945-1995,” published in 2016, and “The Middle East: Conflict, Crisis and Change 1917-2012,” published in 2017. 

In 2019, the Zionist Federation called for their retraction and Pearson commissioned Parallel Histories, an organization that helps students understand conflicts from various viewpoints, to examine their quality and accuracy. 

Michael Davies, a former history teacher and founder of Parallel Histories, said its report found “no overall bias.”

But the Board of Deputies of British Jews and UK Lawyers for Israel continued to object to the textbooks, claiming that they were “seriously biased against Israel.” Pearson removed the textbooks while consulting with pro-Israel groups over the changes. 

In one case, UK Lawyers for Israel opposed the description of the Deir Yassin massacre in 1948 as “one of the worst atrocities of the war.”

It was also disappointed by the omission of what it claimed was a “massive improvement” in the living standards of Palestinians in the occupied territories under Israeli rule.

Following consultations, the revised textbooks were reintroduced in 2020, but they have been retracted once again following complaints from the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (Bricup).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.

“The revisions have consistently underplayed and explained Jewish and Israeli violence, while amplifying and leaving unexplained Arab and Palestinian violence,” the report said.

“They have extended or left intact accounts of Jewish and Israeli suffering, while downplaying and editing accounts of Arab and Palestinian suffering.”

Chalcraft said this period of history must be studied at British schools, adding: “It’s so clearly linked to the present and it’s vital to educate people through balanced material.”

Chalcraft and Dickins said they went to great lengths to be objective when comparing the two editions, with the former adding: “I’m a credible researcher and educator on the issue of Israel and Palestine, and well qualified to comment on their history.”

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. 

“This definition is a nonsense in regards to the overwhelming majority of Jewish settlers who were not expelled in 1948,” he added.

“In the original book there’s a photo of children wading through sewage in Gaza, and in the new version it just says ‘children in Gaza’.”

Pearson said it is reviewing the textbooks once again. “We will gather a wider range of views, and we will take action if there is more work to do to get that balance right,” a spokesperson said.


After charming leaders, Queen Elizabeth sits back for parade

After charming leaders, Queen Elizabeth sits back for parade
Updated 30 min 43 sec ago

After charming leaders, Queen Elizabeth sits back for parade

After charming leaders, Queen Elizabeth sits back for parade
  • On Friday, she was the star turn at a reception with the G-7 leaders and their spouses at the Eden Project
  • She drew laughter from her guests as she chided them during a group photo session: “Are you supposed to be looking as if you’re enjoying yourself?”

LONDON: Fresh from charming leaders at the Group of Seven summit, Queen Elizabeth II was back at her residence at Windsor Castle on Saturday to view a military parade to mark her official birthday.
The 95-year-old monarch sat on a dais to watch the ceremony that despite ongoing social distancing restrictions did not disappoint on the pomp and pageantry front. If she was tired after meeting G-7 leaders, including US President Joe Biden, on Friday evening, it didn’t show.
The ceremony is a gift from the Household Division of army regiments, which has a close affinity with the monarch. It featured soldiers who have played an integral role in the COVID-19 response, as well as those who have been serving on military operations. She was seen beaming from ear to ear as the nine planes of the Royal Air Force’s Red Arrows flew past in formation and let loose their red, white and blue smoke.
The traditional Trooping the Color ceremony is normally staged in London and features hundreds of servicemen and women and thousands of spectators. However, for the second year running, that was not possible and it was a slimmed-down affair in the grounds of Windsor Castle, which is around 27 miles (44 kilometers) west of the capital.


Dubbed a mini Trooping the Color, it featured soldiers in ceremonial scarlet coats and bearskin hats. The servicemen and women on parade numbered almost 275, with 70 horses, compared with the 85 soldiers who took part in the ceremony last summer. A small handful of seated guests lined part of the quadrangle — a change from last year when only the military were present.
The ceremony originated from traditional preparations for battle. The colors — or flags — were “trooped,” or carried down the lines of soldiers, so they could be seen and recognized in battle.
Lt. Col. Guy Stone, who planned the queen’s official birthday celebrations in Windsor Castle’s quadrangle, said he wanted to create a “memorable and uplifting day” for the monarch.
The ceremony took place a couple of months after the death of her 99-year-old husband Prince Philip, whose funeral also took place at Windsor Castle.
Though she has been mourning the loss of her husband of 73 years, the queen has carried on performing her duties, including delivering a government-scripted speech to mark the new session of parliament.
On Friday, she was the star turn at a reception with the G-7 leaders and their spouses at the Eden Project, a futuristic botanical garden housed inside domes that features the world’s largest indoor rainforest.
She drew laughter from her guests as she chided them during a group photo session: “Are you supposed to be looking as if you’re enjoying yourself?”
Though the queen’s actual birthday is on April 26, she celebrates another one in June when the British weather — it is hoped — is more conducive to outdoor celebrations. It’s a royal tradition that goes back to 1748 and the reign of King George II, whose actual birthday was in November.
One of the major parts of the queen’s official birthday is her award of honors to those deemed to have made a positive contribution to society.
This year’s honors list has celebrated those at the forefront of the UK’s rapid rollout of coronavirus vaccines over the past few months, which has been credited with turning around the country’s pandemic response.
Sarah Gilbert, the professor of vaccinology at the University of Oxford who was instrumental in the development of the vaccine being manufactured by pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, and Kate Bingham, the former head of the UK Vaccines Taskforce credited for the country’s successful procurement program, have both been recognized with damehoods.
Though the UK has seen Europe’s highest virus-related death toll, with nearly 128,000 people having lost their lives, its vaccination program has been deemed one of the world’s speediest and most coherent rollouts.


At least 12 injured in shooting in downtown Austin, Texas

At least 12 injured in shooting in downtown Austin, Texas
Updated 12 June 2021

At least 12 injured in shooting in downtown Austin, Texas

At least 12 injured in shooting in downtown Austin, Texas

AUSTIN, TEXAS: Officials in Texas say at least nine people have been injured following a shooting Saturday morning in downtown Austin.
Police said in a tweet that multiple victims had injuries. The Austin-Travis County EMS said in a series of tweets that at least 12 patients had received treatment or been transported to local hospitals.
It was unknown how many of the injuries may have been gunshot wounds.
It was unclear what sparked the shooting. Police have not announced any suspects or arrests.


Francer’s Macron offers UK’s Johnson: ‘Le reset’ if he keeps his Brexit word

Francer’s Macron offers UK’s Johnson: ‘Le reset’ if he keeps his Brexit word
Updated 12 June 2021

Francer’s Macron offers UK’s Johnson: ‘Le reset’ if he keeps his Brexit word

Francer’s Macron offers UK’s Johnson: ‘Le reset’ if he keeps his Brexit word
  • Since Britain completed its exit from the EU late last year, relations with the bloc and particularly France have soured

CARBIS BAY, England: French President Emmanuel Macron offered on Saturday to reset relations with Britain as long as Prime Minister Boris Johnson stood by the Brexit divorce deal he signed with the European Union.
Since Britain completed its exit from the EU late last year, relations with the bloc and particularly France have soured, with Macron becoming the most vocal critic of London’s refusal to honor the terms of part of its Brexit deal.
At a meeting at the Group of Seven world’s most advanced economies in southwestern England, Macron told Johnson the two countries had common interests, but that ties could only improve if Johnson kept his word on Brexit.
“The president told Boris Johnson there needed to be a reset of the Franco-British relationship,” the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.
“This can happen provided that he keeps his word with the Europeans,” the source said, adding that Macron spoke in English to Johnson.
Johnson will meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel later on Saturday, where she could also raise the row over part of the EU divorce deal, called the Northern Ireland protocol.
The British leader, who is hosting the G7 meeting, wants the summit to focus on global issues, but has stood his ground on trade with Northern Ireland, calling on the EU to be more flexible in its approach to easing trade to the province from Britain.


Russia’s Vladimir Putin hopes US counterpart Joe Biden less impulsive than Donald Trump

Russia’s Vladimir Putin hopes US counterpart Joe Biden less impulsive than Donald Trump
Updated 12 June 2021

Russia’s Vladimir Putin hopes US counterpart Joe Biden less impulsive than Donald Trump

Russia’s Vladimir Putin hopes US counterpart Joe Biden less impulsive than Donald Trump
  • Russian leader describes Biden as a ‘career man’ who has spent his life in politics
  • Biden has said he is under no illusions about Putin and has described him as ‘a killer’

WASHINGTON: Russian President Vladimir Putin voiced hope Friday that US President Joe Biden will be less impulsive than his predecessor Donald Trump, ahead of his first summit with the new US leader.
In an interview with NBC News, Putin described Biden as a “career man” who has spent his life in politics.
Though he described relations with the United States as having “deteriorated to its lowest point in recent years,” Putin said he expects he can work with Biden.
“It is my great hope that, yes, there are some advantages, some disadvantages, but there will not be any impulse-based movements on behalf of the sitting US president,” he said, according to a translation by NBC News.
“I believe that former US president Trump is an extraordinary individual, talented individual... He is a colorful individual. You may like him or not. But he didn’t come from the US establishment,” Putin was quoted as saying.
Biden plans to raise a range of US complaints, including over purported Russian election interference and hacking, in the summit with Putin on Wednesday in Geneva at the end of the new president’s first foreign trip.
Putin has openly admitted that in the 2016 vote he supported Trump, who had voiced admiration for the Russian leader. At their first summit, Trump infamously appeared to accept Putin’s denials of election interference.
Biden has said he is under no illusions about Putin and has described him as “a killer” in light of a series of high-profile deaths including of Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov.
Asked directly if he is “a killer,” Putin chuckled but did not give a yes or no answer.
“Over my tenure, I’ve gotten used to attacks from all kinds of angles and from all kinds of areas under all kinds of pretext and reasons and of different caliber and fierceness, and none of it surprises me,” he said, adding that the term “killer” was a “macho” term common in Hollywood.
Such discourse “is part of US political culture where it’s considered normal. By the way, not here, it is not considered normal here,” he said.
Putin also dismissed as “fake news” a report in the Washington Post that Russia is planning to supply Iran with an advanced satellite system that would allow it to track potential military targets.
“At the very least, I don’t know anything about this kind of thing,” the Russian leader said, speaking from the Kremlin. “It’s just nonsense garbage.”
According to interviewer Keir Simmons, Putin also denied any knowledge of cyberattacks on the United States, and called on Biden to strike a deal with Russia on cyberspace.


China, US diplomats clash over human rights, COVID-19 pandemic origin

China, US diplomats clash over human rights, COVID-19 pandemic origin
Updated 12 June 2021

China, US diplomats clash over human rights, COVID-19 pandemic origin

China, US diplomats clash over human rights, COVID-19 pandemic origin
  • Calls for a more thorough investigation into the origin of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 are particularly sensitive for China

BEIJING: Top US and Chinese diplomats appear to have had another sharply worded exchange, with Beijing saying it told the US to cease interfering in its internal affairs and accusing Washington of politicizing the search for the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Senior Chinese foreign policy adviser Yang Jiechi and Secretary of State Antony Blinken held a phone call Friday that revealed wide divisions in a number of contentious areas, including the curtailing of freedoms in Hong Kong and the mass detention of Muslims in the northwestern Xinjiang region.
Calls for a more thorough investigation into the origin of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 are particularly sensitive for China because of suggestions that it might have Blinked escaped from a laboratory in the central city of Wuhan, where cases were first discovered.
Yang said China was “gravely concerned” over what he called “absurd” stories that the virus escaped from the Wuhan lab.
China “firmly opposes any despicable acts that use the epidemic as an excuse to slander China and to shift blames,” Yang was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua News Agency.
“Some people in the United States have fabricated and peddled absurd stories claiming Wuhan lab leak, which China is gravely concerned about,” Yang said. “China urges the United States to respect facts and science, refrain from politicizing COVID-19 origin tracing and concentrate on international anti-pandemic cooperation.”
The State Department said Blinken “stressed the importance of cooperation and transparency regarding the origin of the virus, including the need for (World Health Organization) Phase 2 expert-led studies in China.”
The US and others have accused China of failing to provide the raw data and access to sites that would allow a more thorough investigation into where the virus sprung from and how it initially spread.
Equally contentious were the issues of Hong Kong, Xinjiang, Taiwan and accusations that China has arbitrarily detained two Canadian citizens in retaliation for Canada’s arrest of an executive of Chinese communications technology giant Huawei, who is wanted by US law enforcement.
The US has “fabricated various lies about Xinjiang in an attempt to sabotage the stability and unity in Xinjiang, which confuse right and wrong and are extremely absurd. China is firmly opposed to such actions,” Yang said.
“Hong Kong affairs are purely China’s internal affairs,” and those found in violation of a sweeping national security law imposed on the former British colony “must be punished,” Yang said.
Blinken, on the other hand, underscored US concern over the deterioration of democratic norms in Hong Kong and the ongoing “genocide and crimes against humanity against predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang,” the State Department said.
He also urged Beijing to ease pressure against Taiwan, the self-governing island democracy China claims as its own territory, to be annexed by force if necessary.
According to Xinhua, Yang said Taiwan involves China’s “core interests” and that Beijing “firmly defends its national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
The tone of the phone call seemed to echo contentious talks in March in Alaska, when the sides traded sharp and unusually public barbs over vastly different views of each other and the world in their first face-to-face meeting since President Joe Biden took office.
At that meeting, the US accused the Chinese delegation of “grandstanding,” while Beijing fired back, saying there was a “strong smell of gunpowder and drama” that was entirely the fault of the Americans.
Relations between them have deteriorated to their lowest level in decades, with the Biden administration showing no signs of deviating from the established US hard-line against China over trade, technology, human rights and China’s claim to the South China Sea.
Beijing, meanwhile, has fought back doggedly against what it sees as attempts to smear its reputation and restrain its development.
On Thursday, its ceremonial legislature passed a law to retaliate against sanctions imposed on Chinese politicians and organizations, threatening to deny entry to and freeze the Chinese assets of anyone who formulates or implements such measures, potentially placing new pressure on foreign companies operating in the country.