Britain’s Jewish community smeared by National Secular Society director on LBC

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.”

First, it should be noted that Jonathan Arkush, President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, has condemned such illegal schools.

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.

46 replies »

  1. I saw Arkush interviewed on this subject; his comments were clear and sensible in condemning illegal schools.

    Nevertheless there remains the fact that readily identifiable illegal schools receive little or no attention from education authorities or from the Charity Commission (many of them claim favourable tax treatment as charities). It is interesting to contrast this situation with the recent energetic pursuit by government agencies in the UK of predominantly muslim schools thought to be adopting an overly-conservative approach to religion.

    Logic would suggest either that there is an effective lobby in operation or that the authorities fear accusations of antisemitism should they seek to close the illegal schools.

    • I don’t think your track record here leaves much room to go over what does or doesn’t contain logic, you worthless troll.

    • It never would occur to an antisemite that Jewish schools might just not be a priority for the education authorities. Yes, sencar, it is certainly interesting to contrast it with the attention given illegal schools of a much, much larger minority some of whose members have launched terrorist attacks within the country for reasons having to do with extremist religious teachings. Jumping to the conclusion that some Jewish schools operating outside the law can only mean a powerful lobby is behind it is not logic at all, just classic antisemitism. Let me assure that no one is surprised that it’s coming from you.

  2. Interesting that nobody has told the Charity Commission of the existence of this mythical and (allegedly) mighty lobby.
    In the month of March 2016 alone there were two Inquiry Reports;
    03/03/16 Jewish Seminary for Girls
    16/03/16 Mesifta Talmudic College.

    Two Inquiry Reports in the same month.
    Logic would suggest that the Charity Commission are not afraid of accusations of anti-Semitism in investigating Jewish educational establishments.

    Of course the facts will not stop those whose agenda is to spread scare stories of the existence of the mythical Jewish lobby.

      • Bellend the facts and logic are there for all to see.
        Of course I don’t expect you and your fellow members of the Axis of Arseholes to be able to see, or recognise, facts or logic.

        As you ‘despise’ Israel why are you posting on a site that is promoting fair and accurate coverage of Israel?

        On your own site ‘BedWettersRuS’ you wrote the following,
        ” I despise the State of Israel. I think it is a crappy little racist basket case of a country.”

        The feeling is mutual Bellend, I despise you and know you are a racist, a shit-stain and fruitcake.

    • Here’s a link to the Channel 4 programme, ‘Inside Britain’s Israel Lobby’. Says it all…

      Incidentally, Gerald, I’d be grateful for a link to the Charity Commission reports you mention. Couldn’t find them on the website. Even if I’m wrong about the CC the central point about education authorities’ turning a blind eye to illegal Jewish schools still stands.

      • Channel 4 link doesn’t work here but it does if you go direct to Youtube and search for the programme title.

      • I had no problem finding them on the Charity Commission’s website.
        As they do not fit in with your pre-set agenda perhaps your eyesight is faulty when it comes to the inconvenient truth.

      • Undercover Mosque- Dispatches (Essential Viewing!)

        absolute must see documentary: hidden camera records at the 4 largest mosques in London, UK.
        “You cannot accept the rule of the kaffir…[w]e have to rule ourselves and we have to rule the others.”
        “Allah has created the woman, even if she gets a PhD, deficient. Her intellect is incomplete, deficient.”
        “The hero of Islam is the one who separated his head from his shoulders.”
        “You are in a situation in which you have to live like a state within a state, until you take over.
        “By the age of ten, it becomes an obligation on us to force her to wear hijab, and if she doesn’t wear hijab, we hit her.”
        “throw [the homosexual] off the mountain.”

    • @Gerald –

      RE: “Interesting that nobody has told the Charity Commission of the existence of this mythical and (allegedly) mighty lobby.”

      To take issue with the supposed “mightiness” of the Jewish lobby is fair enough. But to dismiss its EXISTENCE is to fly in the face of explicit self-descriptions and mission statements published by “representative” Jewish organisations.

      In the UK, for example, the Board of Deputies of British Jews lists among its “What we do” items (see ): “Lobby politicians, policy makers and opinion formers directly and indirectly”. And this is reinforced under “Safeguarding Jewish Life” (@ } with: “On occasion, direct or indirect challenges to our Jewish way of life emerge. The Board is ready to respond, by lobbying and representing the community’s concerns at the very highest level in government, in the European Union or in the United Nations.”

      The Board is just ONE such lobbying group that makes no pretense of being anything other. In the US there are, of course, dozens more. They operate under the umbrella of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations – and it’s this network which is most commonly cited when claims of “power” and “influence” are made … aided in no small part by the membership’s own success-story trumpetings.

      • I think more pertinently the Bored FORBIDS itself any criticism of any Israeli government past or present. ( it does not forbid itself criticism of any British government or Her Majesty’s loyal opposition.) It describes the Israeli ambassador to London as OUR ambassador. It demands that perceived miscreants swear commitment to the two state delusion, while at the same time formally voting against the idea of two states.

        And, according to its erstwhile treasurer, Lawrence Brass, The Bord would be a lot more credible if it quit behaving like an extension of the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

  3. On 19 March 2013 Porteous Wood gave a BBC TV interview in which he castigated the “global influence of the Catholic Church”. The difference this time is that his attack on illegal Jewish schools he justifies on the grounds that it is “an open secret” that the Jewish Community in North London has influence through its contacts and money to not only keep these schools open but also to obtain planning permissions for private dwellings that would otherwise be refused. So whilst Porteous Wood will undoubtedly attack all religions, in the case of the Jews he extends his attack to include age-old Anti-semitic attitudes in order to justify his position. The National Secular Society may appear to be representing perfectly legitimate humanist views – but scratch beneath the surface and what do you find? They too are extremists for whom any argument however libellous will do.

  4. Keith Porteous Wood meant every word uttered and was merely try to mitigate the backlash. We have the exact same personages on this side of the Atlantic. Usually the “misspoke” were taken “out of context” “went off on a tangent” and host of other ridiculous excuses. What irks me the most is the apology that isn’t an apology. “I’m sorry if what I said offended anyone”.

    • That’s exactly the crap I was given when I phoned them: “He was speaking off the cuff … he was caught off-guard … We are sorry if you feel offended …”.
      You can be sure that I told them where to stick their weasely bigotry.

  5. I was shocked when I hard this show live on 3 April. I only picked up the “very, very strong Jewish Lobby” comment. I called in, you can hear me at 1h 50m 47s on this recording:

    Then when LBC posted the whole recording on Friday I was astonished at what Porteous Wood said. Not only does he say there is a “very very strong Jewish Lobby” which is successfully stopping the Department of Education from functioning, he also says that Jews are successfully intimidating local authorities into failing to enforce planning regulations. And most appallingly, he suggest Jewish Councillors ‘look the other way’ when it comes to enforcing planning regulations.

    Let’s be honest – this is straight out of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

    It is possibly the worst ever example of antisemitism by someone in the public domain in the UK.

    Having heard the recording I do not believe that Porteous Wood’s private apology in an email is anywhere near sufficient. I have requested that he makes a public apology and undertakes to attend anti-Semitism awareness training.

    Thus far he has refused.

    • I agree with you Jonathan, and it is largely what I said in my earlier post. The worrying thing is that people like Porteous Wood are becoming bolder in making totally unsubstantiated assertions. They need to be challenged to come up with specific evidence that, for example, would be valid in a court of law. I am fed up with some of these allegations being defended by fellow travellers through some internet link that invariably proves to be either unsubstantiated opinion or plain distortion. If there are councillors and local government officers in Hackney or Haringey who are guilty of interfering with due process then let us have the evidence and their names so that the necessary enquiry can be launched in the public interest.

  6. Porteous Wood once bizzarely tried to claim in a national paper that the previous Chief Rabbi had bullied him at school (Lord Sacks didn’t even know him at school…)

    • “The worst ever example of antisemitism by someone in the public domain in the UK”.

      I do believe ‘Jonathan of Finchley’ may have taken leave of his senses.

      • Whilst I wouldn’t necessarily go as far as Jonathan of Finchley, I do think that the allegations made by Porteous Wood are extremely serious. With specific regard to the London Borough of Hackney Porteous Wood is claiming that it is an “open secret” (a contradiction in terms in any event) that a rich and powerful Jewish lobby is calling the shots particularly in relation to planning applications. This is an attack on the integrity of Mayor Jules Pipe CBE and the Chief Executive Tim Shields. It suggests that three Jewish councillors in the Stamford Hill Ward in some way have corrupted the due process in Hackney. There are a total of 4 Conservative councillors in Hackney of which 3 represent Stamford Hill Ward. There are 52 other councillors of which 49 are Labour, and Mr Wood seems to be saying that maybe these three councillors have corrupted the whole council. This is a very serious charge indeed, and any evidence Mr Wood has to this effect needs to be presented pending a legal process.

        If Mr Wood has no such evidence then Jonathan of Finchley most certainly has not taken leave of his senses. Furthermore Mr Keith Porteous Wood would then owe the whole Jewish community a sincere and public apology.

  7. And the original Independent story is wrong in several respects. And guess what, all the errors have the result of denigrating Jews.

    It claims that no unregulated Jewish school has been closed. Wrong:

    it claims “physical violence and sexual abuse of children is alleged to have taken place inside the schools”

    Wrong. There is one person who suggests he was beaten. No-one has claimed they were ‘sexually abused’.

    It claims “Daughters are not expected to undergo the same education because it is not seen as theologically important for women to have a deep understanding of religious texts when their primary role is looking after their families and the home, and so girls largely remain in legal, state schools.”

    In other words, it alleges sexism.

    Wrong. Anyone who has the slightest knowledge about Jewish schools knows that there are some excellent Charedi schools for girls.

    Shame on the Independent. And shame on the National Secular Society.

  8. Reading this for a second third and fourth time it brings to mind some salient points worth noting. Although we all feel anger (I hope) Wood is illustrative of the Anti-Semite who allowed his lips and vocal chords to reflexively function prior to his brain giving the right commands and sequences. Once it got going it took on a life of its own the Core Beliefs of Wood. Parse his apology. This is not a sincere apology of some full of remorse that they said something out of line regret it because it harmed people. It’s an off handed joke at us, Jews where ever we are from. It’s not wort spit and no one should ever accept it as sincere giving him a modicum of legitimacy. When this urchi spewing Anti-Semite claims the “barbaric”Israelis made him forget himself and cross-over against Jews supporting them you will know it isn’t so Jew Hatred came first and Israel is only cover to mask it. George Galloway who says he fully supports HAMAS, well the their Charter declares not only will they wipe the map but they will kill every Jew they find in the World. This comes from the Quran and is Jihad. I’m sure affable George knows this but how he denies being an Anti-Semite. These people need to be confronted at every opportunity to show the monster they are under the skin

  9. Rabbi Pinter has a very strong and appropriate statement here:

    “The National Secular Society’s comments about the strength of the Jewish Lobby has transformed everyman’s right to free speech and civil debate about religion in society, into antisemitism. They can no longer claim any form of legitimacy in the political sphere when we know their opinions are based on prejudice and hate. We have long wondered what fascinated the NSS about Jewish schools. We now know that their bias is against Jews and not schools. I trust that Government ministers and the media will take this on board when analysing NSS campaigns in future.”

  10. Resign over your antisemitism Mr Porteous Wood, says Rabbi Avrohom Pinter

    13th April 2016 – Following remarks by The National Secular Society’s Executive Director on LBC Radio last week about government’s attempts to close Jewish faith schools, Rabbi Avrohom Pinter has called on Mr Porteous Wood to resign his position.

    Mr Porteous Wood claimed the classic anti-Semitic trope that ‘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.’

    Rabbi Avrohom Pinter said: “The National Secular Society has now moved from promoting a secular lifestyle to blatant antisemitism. With Mr Porteous Wood at its CEO the NSS can no longer claim any form of legitimacy in the political sphere when we know their opinions are based on prejudice and hate. We have long wondered what fascinated the NSS about Jewish schools. We now know that their bias is against Jews and not schools. I trust that Government ministers and the media will take this on board when analysing NSS campaigns in future.”

    Rabbi Pinter added: “There are some very decent people associated with the NSS and although we don’t see eye to eye on many matters, I am sure that a number of the NSS’s Honorary Associates will wish to cease their association with an organisation run by an individual who is actively promoting classic anti-Semitic myths and stereotypes. I will be writing all the NSS’s Honorary Associates later today.”