The government has asked school principals to ensure “political impartiality” on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, following a “worrying” increase in anti-Semitic incidents.
The education secretary said recent violence has increased attention to the conflict in many schools, which in some cases has led to the expression of anti-Semitic views and harassment of students and d ‘Jewish teachers. He said schools should treat these incidents “with the necessary seriousness.”
The conflict sparked a wave of pro-Palestinian protests in British schools and controversy over the response of staff, with students accused of anti-Semitism and a principal describing the Palestinian flag as a “call to arms”.
Questions have been raised as to why children expressing support for Palestine have been accused of anti-Semitism and, in some cases, subjected to disciplinary action.
Williamson said many young people had a “strong personal interest” in issues related to the conflict and, in some cases, that had led to “political activity” on the part of older students. “Schools should ensure that the political expression of terminal students is carried out with sensitivity, avoiding disruption to other students and staff.
“It is unacceptable to allow certain students to create an atmosphere of intimidation or fear for other students and teachers.
In a message sent as many schools in England went their separate ways for a semester, Williamson reminded principals of their “legal obligations with regard to political impartiality”.
“School leaders and staff have a responsibility to ensure that they act appropriately, especially in the political views they express. “
Students should be offered a “balanced presentation of opposing views” when political issues are raised, he said. “Schools should not present materials in a politically biased or one-sided manner and should always avoid working with organizations that promote anti-Semitic or discriminatory views. “
They should not work with or use documents from organizations that publicly reject Israel’s right to exist, he added.