Shaun Lawson tells it how it is

JVL Introduction

In an angry, heartfelt statement, Shaun Lawson tweets about the catastrophic situation in covid-19 Britain today after ten years suffering continually under a government which has punished the poor, the disabled, the sick, the weak.

He  is Jewish. He says his faith teaches specifically never to walk on the other side. Never to ignore the plight of the vulnerable. To help and champion them. To try and give them a voice.

And he asks: what has the Board of Deputies of British Jews been doing? What has the Chief Rabbi been doing? Or the Jewish Chronicle?

Lawson can barely contain his contempt at their collusion with those who prefered a Tory government to the progressive Labour one that was on offer.

This article was originally published by Twitter on Fri 1 May 2020. Read the original here.

A twitter thread

Sorry, I’m not deleting the tweet. I stand by it. And I’m going to explain precisely why.

For the last 10 years, Britain has suffered continually under a government which has punished the poor, the disabled, the sick, the weak. And laid waste to the state and to public services.

As a result of this – for which it was condemned, twice, by the United Nations – hundreds of thousands of people died. Many more than the “130,000” so often quoted – by a study which didn’t actually look at the specific impact of austerity at all.

It didn’t count the numbers who’d died because of sanctions. It didn’t count the numbers who’d died having been found ‘fit to work’. It didn’t count the number of disabled people who’d died having had their benefits removed.

The actual number? Probably over 300,000.

I’m Jewish. I know what my faith teaches me and is supposed to teach all my fellow Jews. Specifically: never to walk on the other side. Never to ignore the plight of the vulnerable. To help and champion them. To try and give them a voice.

The circumstances in which so many people have died in Britain are unimaginable. In consequence, horrendously few have even tried to imagine them. Out of sight, out of mind; I’m alright, Jack.

Meanwhile, how have those who’ve highlighted their plight been treated?

They’ve been called ‘trots’, or ‘Stalinists’, or part of a ‘cult’. And in something which has been beyond sick, beyond contemptible, they’ve also been called ‘antisemites’, and part of an ‘institutionally racist party’: despite antisemitism making up less than 0.1% of its members

Jews who’ve spoken out against this nonsense have also been targeted. There’s plenty of us. The level of abuse which, for example, Michael Rosen – one of the most gentle people on the planet – experienced on here defiled those doing it. And exposed them utterly.

Among those speaking out against the horrors of austerity was the Archbishop of Canterbury. Who was promptly told to mind his own business by those who couldn’t give a toss about the immense suffering of so many – despite Britain being a so-called ‘Christian’ country.

Yet among those not speaking out? Despite what Judaism teaches all of us and despite British Jews also suffering appallingly under austerity? The Board of Deputies, the Chief Rabbi and the Jewish Chronicle.

The latter has continually disgraced itself and been exposed as such by the Independent Press Standards Organisation – with whose investigations, it refused to co-operate. Its lies were repeatedly cheerled on here by people who should be ashamed… but who never will be.

The Chief Rabbi intervened in an election campaign to demand the public oppose… the Labour Party, the very party which wanted to stop all this suffering, including of his and my fellow Jews. And in Britain, ‘stop Labour’ means vote Tory.

‘Vote Tory’ – despite everything they’d already done. ‘Vote Tory’ – despite hundreds of thousands of deaths even at that point. ‘Vote Tory’ – despite a leader who had personally profited from racism and antisemitism at The Spectator, and had been racist again and again and again.

‘Vote Tory’, despite 5000 Britain First members joining the party. ‘Vote Tory’, despite two thirds of Tory members holding Islamophobic attitudes. ‘Vote Tory’, despite Jacob Rees-Mogg referring to two Jewish MPs as ‘illuminati’ and employing a disgusting trope about George Soros.

The Conservative Party hasn’t merely waged war on the vulnerable for a decade. It is racist to its very core. What did the Chief Rabbi care about any of this? Nothing. Which shouldn’t be a surprise, given he never even spoke out about Donald Trump either.

No no. The REAL enemy was a lifelong opponent of all forms of racism who tried to help Yemeni Jews when the rest of Parliament ignored them; who conducted a comprehensive investigation into antisemitism in a manner no other UK party ever has.

The REAL enemy here was a mild mannered man who grew marrows, made his own jam and looked a bit like a garden gnome. A man described by John Bercow as “not having an antisemitic bone in his body”. A man who wanted to help others. And we just cannot have that.

Britain is a country of many different faiths – Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs – and none. ALL our faiths teach us to protect the vulnerable and love thy neighbour… but you could’ve fooled me given what actually goes on in Britain each and every day.

It is up to religious leaders, like all leaders, to stand up, be counted and give a voice to those who have none. The Chief Rabbi and the Board of Deputies of British Jews haven’t just failed in that. They’ve actively sought to help those wreaking such destruction.

The Chief Rabbi, in fact, actively went against his rabbinic duties by trying to sow panic and hysteria. His job is to calm the Jewish community, provide wisdom, solace, comfort… but again, you could’ve fooled me.

And the Board?

The Board are now seeking to blacklist anyone it disagrees with. As long as, that is, they’re on the left. If it was even remotely consistent, it would’ve angrily denounced Johnson becoming PM and called for Jacob Rees-Mogg to be thrown out of Parliament.

The Board would’ve stood up for all those Jews killed by austerity – killed by ‘social murder’, as Engels once put it. And it would also be standing up for all those Jews killed by government negligence now.

But no no: Zoom conversations are its priority instead.

The Board, if it was remotely interested in combating antisemitism, would’ve been utterly appalled by the abuse which left wing Jews receive online all the time. But we’re the wrong kind of Jews. Let’s pretend we don’t exist; and let’s silence us if we protest. About anything.

The Board of Deputies does not and has never represented all British Jews. The actual figure is about 30%. Nor is it at all interested in representing all British Jews – it just arrogantly acts like it does, while doing nothing to help or support anyone it disagrees with.

In response to my tweet earlier, someone highlighted Haredi Jews. How could I blame the government for that?

D’uh. That’s one of very many reasons why we needed to lock down much earlier and be absolutely clear on our messaging – with religious congregations not allowed.

Instead, the messaging has been weak and confusing. ‘Herd immunity’ was pursued for disgracefully long. PPE was not procured; doctors and nurses were sent to die; and every day, thousands and thousands have continued to fly in from Coronavirus hotspots, and sent on their way.

That the government now presides over one of the highest death tolls on the planet – still rising fast and a huge understatement – while lying about PPE, lying about test numbers and congratulating itself on its ‘success’ – is no surprise at all. It has form. Lots of it.

Form which the organisations meant to lead and represent British Jews simply couldn’t have cared less about. Voting Tory last Christmas was like turkeys voting for Christmas. The Board, the Chief Rabbi and the Jewish Chronicle actively encouraged it. All of it.

And it smeared all those frantically trying to prevent it.

No Deal Brexit’s just around the corner too, lest we forget. More suffering. More death. More complete silence from those who do not act according to what the Torah teaches us in any way whatsoever.

Things are now so bad – so mindbogglingly, hideously bad – that quite extraordinary numbers of people:

1. Are clearly unable to perform the most basic task of realising that their vote has consequences. The worst possible ones. People who’ve spent the last decade in total denial

2. Refer to Jewish people like me – who lost my extended family in the camps to Hitler – as ‘anti-Semites’. Unbelievable. But it’s a constant on here. From people who demonstrate over and over again that they lost any moral compass a long, long time ago.

I’ll keep this last bit very simple. If you refer to me as an ‘anti-Semite’ for challenging the disgraceful, shameful inadequacy of those supposed to represent my fellow British Jews, YOU ARE BEING ANTISEMITIC.

If you think a British Jew challenging British Jewish organisations for their disgusting, monstrous abdication of responsibility for taking care of their fellow British Jews over the last decade is ‘grotesque’, I suggest you learn what life is supposed to be like in a democracy.

And if you think that a racist party and racist government is the one all those with a ‘moral compass’ should support, while denouncing and trying to destroy those who don’t think the poor, disabled or sick should be left to rot in a so-called civilised society, here’s my advice.

Go and consult a copy of the Torah for what it teaches ALL of us Jews. Urgently.

In the case of the worst culprits on here, I’ve never come across such a bunch of disgusting hypocrites in my life.

Comments (6)

  • Mike Nelson says:

    As a Christian I wholeheartedly agreed and support what you said in this article and that people of faith should help and support the most vulnerable in our society . Like it or not I am my brothers keeper and fear for what the BoD and other jewish organisations are doing for community relationships going forward. I hope and pray that there will not be but fear that there will be a backlash if these organisations behaviour continues.

  • RH says:

    Not to rehearse once again our communal anger at what Shaun so eloquently expresses – a couple of comments. I’m afraid they don’t ameliorate the pain.

    “Among those speaking out against the horrors of austerity was the Archbishop of Canterbury.”

    The present Archbishop also gave unqualified support to the BoD, defamation of Corbyn and the Labour Party – albeit in the usual generalised language.

    Worse (because in my view coming from a man with an impressive intelligence), the previous Archbishop, Rowan Williams, also rendered uncritical support to the narrative in a New Statesman article.

    Such is the embedding of these tropes.

    Secondly :

    ” …That’s one of very many reasons why we needed to lock down much earlier … etc.”

    I’m afraid Shaun here gives the government too much credibility by – ironically – accepting its ‘Panic!’ narrative about the current epidemic which, although severe, isn’t disproportionately unprecedented. Following on from that, he nostrums about what makes a difference to the range of outcomes between countries similarly aren’t supported by current data.

    Here isn’t the place for examining the detail – but suffice to say that once again, we have a one-sided media narrative that fails to reflect the wider, uncertain picture – and (importantly) which *does* support unprecedented measures of social control.

    This isn’t to let government off the hook – but the hook is a different, longer term one.

    The continuity is in the control of narrative.

  • Benny Ross says:

    Shaun, thank you for giving a voice to those of us whom the BoD want to silence. I’m outraged every time I recall the Chief Rabbi’s Rosh Hashanah Message dated September 2019 /Tishrei 5780: “Over the High Holy Day period … we will admit to the sins of sneering, impertinence and obduracy; of disrespect, hard-heartedness and insincerity; of deception, tale-bearing and baseless hatred. … In these times, when decency is no longer the norm and humility is mistaken for weakness, Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur inspire us” [to improve our behaviour].
    Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, you never spoke a truer word than when you admitted to those sins. Did you seek out Jeremy Corbyn to apologise for your insincerity, deception, tale-bearing and baseless hatred? You know the Jewish teaching that Yom Kippur atones for sins between one person and another only when you have apologised and achieved reconciliation with the person you wronged.
    It’s high time for some of our “leaders” to learn from Shaun Lawson and put Jewish ethics into practice.

  • Mary Davies says:

    A brilliant article, spoken from the heart. I am so sorry about the devastating loss of his extended family.

  • JanP says:

    Thank you for spelling it out clearly Shaun Lawson. Atheists, of which I’m one, also have well thought out basic human principles so there is more in common between us all.

  • Roshan Pedder says:

    Thank you JanP. As a fellow atheist I totally agree.
    Thank you Shaun Lawson for your impassioned narrative against the hideous behaviour of all those who conspired to wreck the possibility of a Labour victory and chose to smear a decent, honourable man.

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