As schools reopen, CAGE issues legal challenge against ban on pupils discussing Israel’s ‘right to exist’

September 3, 2021
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London - CAGE has this week issued judicial review proceedings in the High Court challenging the Education Secretary’s letter of 28 May prohibiting schools from engaging with organisations that reject Israel’s right to exist. [1] [2] The legal challenge has been supported by expert opinions provided by eminent international law jurist Professor John Dugard and Professor Avi Shlaim, emeritus fellow at Oxford University. [3]  A number of Palestinian civil society organisations including the Palestinian Return Centre, the Palestinian Forum in Britain, the British Palestinian Policy Council and Al Haq, have also provided evidence in support of the judicial review. CAGE believes that no such right exists in international law that prohibits people and groups from questioning a state’s legitimacy.   Furthermore,  the notion of Israel’s “right to exist” is a partisan political view that the Education Secretary is prohibited from promoting in any way under the 1996 Education Act. .  International law jurist Professor John Dugard said:  “Israel claims that it has the right to exist because the legality of its creation was contested and is still a matter for debate. In order to assert its legitimacy as a State and the legality of its creation it asserts its “right to exist”. This assertion is not made in the exercise of any right recognized 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. “To exclude this subject from debate would be a serious violation of academic freedom and freedom of expression”

Professor Avi Shlaim, emeritus fellow at Oxford University said:

”Israel's ‘right to exist’ is not a legal right but an ideological and emotionally loaded catch phrase that served to divert attention from mounting international opposition to its illegal occupation.” 

Muhammad Rabbani, Managing Director of CAGE said:

“For too long, the political phrase ‘Israel’ right to exist’ has been used as a weapon to silence any debate about the legitimacy of its creation, the right of return of Palestinian refugees displaced by its creation and the apartheid nature of the Israeli state.”  “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.”

Fahad Ansari, solicitor and director of Riverway Law, who is instructed in this challenge said:

“The evidence filed in support of the challenge clearly demonstrates that the Education Secretary breached the Education Act 1996 by imposing his own partisan political view on school pupils.”  “While he is entitled to hold the view that Israel has a right to exist, he cannot legally deny discussion about the legality of its creation and its current legitimacy. Schools should be safe spaces for healthy debate, not institutions of political indoctrination.” [ENDS]       Copies of the grounds for judicial review and expert reports can be provided to press upon request: \press@cage.ngo  [1] See letter sent by Education Minister Gavin Williamson to schools here:   [2] The Education Secretary has 21 days to confirm whether he intends to contest the claim or not and if so, to provide his summary grounds of defence. If he contests the claim, then if the High Court decides the case is arguable, it will grant permission for the case to proceed to a full hearing. [3] Professor Dugard is an eminent expert in both international law and the subject of Israel/Palestine. Aside from holding various prestigious academic positions and authoring relevant publications, Professor Dugard was a member of the United Nations International Law Commission from 1997 to 2011; a Judge ad hoc of the International Court of Justice from 2000 to 2018; the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories from 2001 to 2008; and the chair of two International Commissions of Inquiry into violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in occupied Palestine, in 2001 and 2009. Professor Shlaim is an Emeritus Fellow of St Antony's College and a former Professor of International Relations at the University of Oxford. He was elected Fellow of the British Academy in 2006. His main research interest is the Arab-Israeli conflict and he is a frequent contributor to newspapers and commentator on radio and television on Middle Eastern affairs. [4] See reports by CAGE and Mend highlighting over 200 cases of such heavy handed responses from schools:   and       Photo by Luke White on Unsplash

<span style="font-weight: 400;">London - CAGE has this week issued judicial review proceedings in the High Court challenging the Education Secretary’s letter of 28 May prohibiting schools from engaging with organisations that reject Israel’s right to exist. [1] [2]</span> <span style="font-weight: 400;">The legal challenge has been supported by expert opinions provided by eminent international law jurist Professor John Dugard and Professor Avi Shlaim, emeritus fellow at Oxford University. [3] </span> <span style="font-weight: 400;">A number of Palestinian civil society organisations including the Palestinian Return Centre, the Palestinian Forum in Britain, the British Palestinian Policy Council and Al Haq, have also provided evidence in support of the judicial review.</span> <span style="font-weight: 400;">CAGE believes that no such right exists in international law that prohibits people and groups from questioning a state’s legitimacy.  </span> <span style="font-weight: 400;">Furthermore,  the notion of Israel’s “right to exist” is a partisan political view that the Education Secretary is prohibited from promoting in any way under the 1996 Education Act. . </span> <b>International law jurist Professor John Dugard said: </b> <span style="font-weight: 400;">“Israel claims that it has the right to exist because the legality of its creation was contested and is still a matter for debate. In order to assert its legitimacy as a State and the legality of its creation it asserts its “right to exist”. This assertion is not made in the exercise of any right recognized 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.</span> <span style="font-weight: 400;">“To exclude this subject from debate would be a serious violation of academic freedom and freedom of expression”</span> <h3>Professor Avi Shlaim, emeritus fellow at Oxford University said:</h3> <span style="font-weight: 400;">”Israel's ‘right to exist’ is not a legal right but an ideological and emotionally loaded catch phrase that served to divert attention from mounting international opposition to its illegal occupation.” </span> <h3>Muhammad Rabbani, Managing Director of CAGE said:</h3> <span style="font-weight: 400;">“For too long, the political phrase ‘Israel’ right to exist’ has been used as a weapon to silence any debate about the legitimacy of its creation, the right of return of Palestinian refugees displaced by its creation and the apartheid nature of the Israeli state.” </span> <span style="font-weight: 400;">“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.”</span> <h3>Fahad Ansari, solicitor and director of Riverway Law, who is instructed in this challenge said:</h3> <span style="font-weight: 400;">“The evidence filed in support of the challenge clearly demonstrates that the Education Secretary breached the Education Act 1996 by imposing his own partisan political view on school pupils.” </span> <span style="font-weight: 400;">“While he is entitled to hold the view that Israel has a right to exist, he cannot legally deny discussion about the legality of its creation and its current legitimacy. Schools should be safe spaces for healthy debate, not institutions of political indoctrination.”</span> <span style="font-weight: 400;">[ENDS]</span> &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; <i><span style="font-weight: 400;">Copies of the grounds for judicial review and expert reports can be provided to press upon request: press@cage.ngo </span></i> <span style="font-weight: 400;">[1] See letter sent by Education Minister Gavin Williamson to schools here: https://twitter.com/GavinWilliamson/status/1398374786871537664 </span> <span style="font-weight: 400;">[2] The Education Secretary has 21 days to confirm whether he intends to contest the claim or not and if so, to provide his summary grounds of defence. If he contests the claim, then if the High Court decides the case is arguable, it will grant permission for the case to proceed to a full hearing.</span> <span style="font-weight: 400;">[3] Professor Dugard is an eminent expert in both international law and the subject of Israel/Palestine. Aside from holding various prestigious academic positions and authoring relevant publications, Professor Dugard was a member of the United Nations International Law Commission from 1997 to 2011; a Judge ad hoc of the International Court of Justice from 2000 to 2018; the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories from 2001 to 2008; and the chair of two International Commissions of Inquiry into violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in occupied Palestine, in 2001 and 2009.</span> <span style="font-weight: 400;">Professor Shlaim is an Emeritus Fellow of St Antony's College and a former Professor of International Relations at the University of Oxford. He was elected Fellow of the British Academy in 2006. His main research interest is the Arab-Israeli conflict and he is a frequent contributor to newspapers and commentator on radio and television on Middle Eastern affairs.</span> <span style="font-weight: 400;">[4] See reports by CAGE and Mend highlighting over 200 cases of such heavy handed responses from schools: https://www.cage.ngo/repression-of-palestine-solidarity-in-schools-report  and https://www.mend.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/MEND-Report-Palestinian-activism-in-schools.pdf </span> &nbsp; &nbsp; <em>Photo by <a href="https://unsplash.com/@dynamite_luke?utm_source=unsplash&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_content=creditCopyText">Luke White</a> on <a href="https://unsplash.com/s/photos/palestine-protest?utm_source=unsplash&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_content=creditCopyText">Unsplash</a> </em>

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As schools reopen, CAGE issues legal challenge against ban on pupils discussing Israel’s ‘right to exist’
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As schools reopen, CAGE issues legal challenge against ban on pupils discussing Israel’s ‘right to exist’
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