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Gavin Williamson to be taken to court over ‘unlawful’ guidance sent to school leaders on Palestine

EDUCATION Secretary Gavin Williamson is being taken to court over “unlawful” guidance he sent to school leaders on Palestine. 

The letter was sent amid Israel’s latest onslaught on Gaza in May, which prompted Palestine solidarity protests in many schools.

The legal action, brought by advocacy group Cage today, centres on Mr Williamson’s order to head teachers not to use materials from groups which reject “Israel’s right to exist.” 

Cage argues that Mr Williamson cannot legally deny students discussion on this topic and has accused him of breaching education laws by imposing his own partisan political views on schoolchildren. 

Cage’s managing director Muhammad Rabbani claims that the phrase has been weaponised to “silence any debate about the legitimacy of [Israel’s] creation, the right of return of Palestinian refugees displaced by its creation and the apartheid nature of the Israeli state.” 

The process of the creation of Israel in 1948 entailed the mass expulsion of more than 700,000 Palestinians from their homes and the destruction of about 530 villages and cities. 

“Our children should not be prevented by the Education Secretary from having access to organisations and material that provide a balanced view of these issues,” Mr Rabbani said. 

International law jurist Professor John Dugard, who has provided expert opinion for the action, said that Israel’s assertion over its “right to exist” is not recognised by international law. 

“It is simply a political appeal designed to justify the morality and legality of Israel’s creation and existence as a state,” he said. 

“To exclude this subject from debate would be a serious violation of academic freedom and freedom of expression.”

Award-winning Palestinian human rights group Al Haq has also provided evidence in support of the action. 

Cage announced its intention to launch legal action challenging the guidance last month, branding it discriminatory and an infringement of students’ right to freedom of expression after dozens of pupils were disciplined for expressing solidarity with Palestine. 

The Department for Education previously stated that Mr Williamson wrote to “remind them of their responsibility to deal with anti-semitic incidents with due seriousness, following a reported increase during the most recent Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

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