Family & Education

Exam board will revise Israel textbook but rejects claims of bias

Board of Deputies and Zionist Federation had urged rewrite of textbook used for history course


An exam board has promised to change a textbook after Jewish organisations accused it of being slanted against Israel, though it rejected claims of overall bias.

Pearson, which runs the Edexcel board, has temporarily withdrawn books used for the Middle East unit in its GSCE and international GSCE history course.

The Board of Deputies had called for a “substantial rewrite” of the book on the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, Conflict, Crisis and Change: the Middle East, 1917-2012 by Hilary Brash, which was published by Pearson to accompany the iGCSE.

A similar book by the same author is used for the GCSE course, which covers the narrower period of 1945 to 1995.

Concern was first raised by the Zionist Federation, which along with UK Lawyers for Israel, commissioned a report into the first chapter of the iGCSE text by investigative blogger David Collier.

In a damning analysis, Mr Collier described it as “poisonous… hard-core anti-Zionist revisionist material.”

Writing to Pearson, the Board complained of “inaccurate content, selectivity around historical events… imbalanced imagery and problematic terminology”.

It said the book downplayed terrorist groups such as Hamas which killed Israelis and omitted the exodus of Jews from Arab lands.

Pearson said this week an independent review of the two books by an educational charity had found “no overall evidence of anti-Israel bias”.

But the review “identified some areas where the balance of sources could be improved and we are updating the texts and offering existing customers the option of replacing them for free”.

Pearson noted it was “the only awarding body that tackles this subject matter at both GCSE and international GCSE level. We do it as we think it is an important topic, even though it is likely to provoke emotive responses.”

The exam board said the charity involved in the review wished to remain anonymous as it did not wish to be drawn into the debate.

Paul Charney, ZF chairman, said: “Every child who has been exposed to this book has been exposed to hard-core anti-Zionist revisionist material, manipulatively delivered through the use of images, misleading maps and distorted statistics and facts and should never have been released to schools in the first place.

“However, Pearson Education have been very responsive and we are satisfied that they have now undertaken their independent review which they committed to and are pleased to hear that they will be revising the content which we hope will be more balanced and inclusive of relevant historical facts.”

The exam board hopes to be in a position to print the revised texts in a matter of weeks.

Last year, 2,341 students took the unit on the conflict for GCSE and 1,509 for iGCSE.

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