Leanne Mohamad, a 15-year-old student at Wanstead High School in London, won a regional final of the Jack Petchey Speak Out Challenge with her speech ‘Birds not Bombs’, in which she describes the historical and contemporary reality for Palestinians under Israeli settler colonialism.
The Jack Petchey-sponsored competition is run by Speakers Trust, and bills itself as the world’s biggest youth speaking event.
Responding to complaints by anti-Palestinian blogger Edgar Davidson, Speakers Trust CEO Julie Holness said that they took his “concerns very seriously”, and confirmed that Mohamad would not be sent through to the next stage of the contest, and “will not be speaking at the Grand Final.”
The decision to expel Mohamad, made by a Speakers Trust and Jack Petchey Foundation judging panel, was based on her breaching two rules: that “the speech must have a positive and uplifting message”, and that “a speaker should never inflame or offend the audience or insult others.”
Holness offered to forward Davidson’s email to Mohamad’s school, and said the blogger was “welcome to use [my home office number] at any time.”
Responding to the news, Mohamad tweeted: “Why is it called a “Speak Out Challenge” when I am then silenced?” While Speakers Trust has removed the speech from their website and YouTube Channel, it has been re-uploaded here.
Davidson last year praised English Defence League-founder Tommy Robinson as “simply a British patriot.” His blog’s ‘Key Readings’ includes an article that states “Palestinians are a fake creation.”