A schoolgirl who won a regional final of the Jack Petchey Speak Out Challenge with an anti-Israel speech has not been sent through to the grand final of the public speaking competition.
Leanne Mohamad of Wanstead High School won the Redbridge regional final earlier this month with a speech entitled ‘Birds not Bombs’.
During the speech Ms Mohamad stated that “from 1948 until this very day more than 30,000 defenceless Palestinian children have been killed”. She used the phrase “Palestine: one voice, one country and one dream” and closed the speech with the call to “free Palestine” whilst waving a Palestinian flag.
But the Speakers Trust, the charity that trains the students to take part in the Speak Out Challenge, the Jack Petchey Foundation and Wanstead High School, the judging panel decided “unanimously” against sending Leanne Mohamad through to the final rounds of the competition.
It is not clear on what grounds the decision was taken but not all 37 regional winners are put through to the final of the competition. However, in response to a later complaint by blogger Edgar Davidson, Julie Holness, CEO of the Speakers Trust did point out “two fundamental rules that are made explicit during the training”.
She told him in an email: “The speech must have a positive and uplifting message - in fact this is one of the core terms of the agreement with the Jack Petchey Foundation [and] a speaker should never inflame or offend the audience or insult others and this, by definition, means that propaganda is ruled out absolutely from the outset.
“Last Saturday a Speakers Trust and Jack Petchey Foundation judging panel decided unanimously against sending Leanne Mohamad through to the next stage and she will not be speaking at the Grand Final. These were precisely our concerns.”
The Jack Petchey Foundation was established by businessman and philanthropist Jack Petchey. He has donated more than £65 million to schools, clubs and projects and is a JLGB patron. The Speak Out Challenge is the world’s biggest youth speaking event.
This story has been updated to amend the chronology of events