The Independent has published a series of articles since April 3rd on revelations regarding the harm done to the students attending dozens of illegal ultra-Orthodox Jewish schools operating in London.
Among the guests interviewed about the issue of illegal Jewish schools on Tom Swarbrick’s show on LBC Radio, on the day the first Indy story was published, was Keith Porteous Wood, the Executive Director of the National Secular Society.
Here’s an audio of Wood’s response to Swarbrick’s question concerning why the government doesn’t do more to address the problem of illegal Jewish schools.
Here’s the text of Wood’s response:
“I’m afraid there is a very very strong Jewish Lobby which actually undermines .. of which the government appear to be frightened … and allows the rule of law to be undermined ..whether we are talking about education or indeed as is another open secret effectively in places like Stamford Hill planning rules just don’t apply … if the Jewish community wants to build .. massively overbuild … and extend their houses .. then they just get away with it … it’s another open secret … It’s less of a surprise that local authorities are feeling intimidated, as they think they do, and I think there’s an awful lot of Jewish Councillors elected who are going to be very happy to look in the other direction…and when it’s the central government…just thinking well actually we won’t do anything about it.”
Further, following the program, Wood apologised in an email to Arkush and Jonathan Hoffman (who also spoke on Swarbrick’s show) for using the “Jewish Lobby” term in such a pejorative manner, pledged to avoid such language in the future, acknowledged that the Board of Deputies does not condone illegal schools and apologised for any offence.
However, it’s nonetheless quite troubling that Wood’s first instinct in addressing the issue was to smear the Jewish community by employing antisemitic tropes about the injurious impact of “powerful” Jewish communities on democratic societies – a narrative suggesting that governments are in fact too “frightened” to resist such lobbies.
It’s also more than a tad ironic that the head of an organization putatively devoted to the primacy of secular, rational, and fact-based discourse would embrace the political and moral equivalent of an ancient religious superstition.