The leader of one of Great Britain’s most powerful “secularist” advocacy organizations elicited condemnation for saying that the “Jewish lobby” allows the Orthodox community to “undermine … the rule of law.” Spokesmen for the Jewish community and British media were quick to speak out against his use of what they labeled a “classical anti-Semitic trope.”
Keith Porteous Wood, executive director of the National Secular Society, made his statements on public radio during an interview regarding government investigations against Orthodox schools, largely seen by the Jewish community as a the product of a smear campaign by his and other similar organizations.
In response, Rabbi Avrohom Pinter, principal of Yesodei HaTorah Schools and a spokesman for the U.K.’s Orthodox community, called on Mr. Wood to resign his position.
“The National Secular Society has now moved from promoting a secular lifestyle to blatant anti-Semitism. With Mr. Porteous Wood as 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.”
Rabbi Pinter told Hamodia that despite NSS’s public goal of “challenging religious privilege” across the board, they routinely give the Orthodox community “more attention than anyone else.”
“They have a well-oiled PR machine and spend thousands of pounds to push their agenda. Unfortunately, whenever there is an issue with our schools, the media runs to them for comment and they are always ready to testify against our position in the courts,” he said.
In response to a question in an interview regarding widely publicized litigation against one of London’s yeshivos, Wood responded, “It’s far worse than what you’re reporting. There is a very, very strong Jewish lobby … of which the government appear to be frightened … and allows the rule of law to be undermined … and no doubt there are an awful lot of Jewish councilors elected who are going to be very happy to look in the other direction, but when it gets to central government, just thinking, ‘Well actually we won’t do anything about it’ — then it is a national disgrace.”
U.K. Media Watch commented that it is “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.”
Amid backlash, Wood communicated through a spokesman that he regretted use of the term “Jewish lobby” and said he would avoid such language in the future, but offered no public apology.
Rabbi Pinter said that NSS and other “anti-religious” elements have been exploiting fear over violent extremism to target an array of faith institutions, particularly those of the Jewish community.
“They are taking advantage of people’s fears to push their agenda and purposely confusing social conservativism with extremism and violence,” he said. “The frum community has been here for over 70 years and we have proven that we are law-abiding and peace-loving people.”