It won’t have escaped your notice – there’s a General Election on 12 December. It’s a chance to help shape the future of the country. To reflect on some basic and important questions. What kind of society do I want to live in? What do I want for my family, my friends, my community? How should my vote reflect my values?
Candidates competing to become your MP will be asking you for your vote. But to make a meaningful choice you too need to ask them questions.
Jews are taught to ‘pursue justice’. How should we apply that teaching in the short time before the election? Human rights are the cornerstone of a just society, the expression of our communal commitment to fairness, equality and compassion. This is our chance to renew and strengthen that commitment.
So let’s start with the election campaign itself …
Hatred and intolerance are on the rise. Fingers are pointed and scapegoats are blamed. It’s time to dial down the rhetoric of hate and recrimination.
If someone is asking for your vote, ask them:
“As a candidate in this election, will you …
- Use respectful language in your campaign?
- Stand for a society that is open and diverse?
- Challenge those who use stereotypes and prejudice?”
We believe that a campaign that is measured and respectful can lead to:
A fresh start for human rights …
So, ask your candidates:
“If elected, will you work to …
- Safeguard existing equality and human rights laws?
- Provide better support for survivors of modern day slavery?
- Address hate crime and discrimination suffered by minority groups?
- Ensure people cannot be held in immigration detention for more than 28 days?
You can read our full election briefing – including how to find out who your local candidates are and how to contact them – on our website.
We’ve also scrutinised the party manifestos and analysed what they mean for the future, so that you can make your vote count for human rights.
“There was a shocked silence in the crowded House of Commons Committee Room when Martin Gallagher spoke of the derogatory language he had experienced as a member of the Gypsy community. To the Jewish members of the audience, such rhetoric was all too familiar.”
Our call for candidates to be measured and respectful in their canvassing follows the launch of our ‘Cut It Out’ campaign – targeting politicians who use hateful language. Read more about this timely initiative and the event where we launched the campaign.
There can be no more hateful speech than Holocaust denial. But it is a regular feature of the online onslaught of fake news and conspiracy theories that besieges us. How can we navigate such treacherous waters? Perhaps Marlon Solomon’s one-man show Conspiracy Theory: A Lizard’s Tale can help.
David Baddiel found it “Funny, moving and at some points deeply disturbing” and Al Murray “Compelling, shocking, essential”.
Come and find out for yourself – at JW3 on Monday 16 December at 7.30pm
But it isn’t just fake news that can be shocking. So can the truth. Amidst the cacophony of lies and trivia, the reality of what’s happening now to vulnerable minorities is almost beyond belief.
China’s persecution – in purpose-built ‘re-educational’ internment camps – of more than a million Uyghur Muslims is breath-taking in its inhumanity. Inmates are not allowed to pray, are prevented from growing beards, and are made to eat pork, particularly on Fridays when their customs dictate they should be praying.
As Jews, we have a duty to speak out – René Cassin highlighted this urgent issue at a public meeting in May, and in October made detailed recommendations to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee. We will be pressing the incoming government to confront the Chinese authorities as a matter of urgency
Here in the UK, the true scale of modern slavery – and its cost in human misery – is also shocking. Home Office estimates put the number of slavery victims at 136,000. The growing army of homeless people is particularly vulnerable to exploitation – that’s why René Cassin has recently run two ‘Homelessness and Modern Slavery’ workshops. These help Jewish volunteers working in soup kitchens, homeless shelters and asylum drop-in centres spot the tell-tale signs of modern slavery, and equip them with the tools to respond effectively.
Jewish values underpin and inform our day-to-day work. In September, Professor Francesca Klug gave a masterclass in the Jewish roots of human rights, highlighting the work, among others, of our namesake Monsieur René Cassin, author of the seminal Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Reflecting on the recent rise of populist nationalism, she concluded:
“I can remember no other period when we’ve been in greater danger of losing the insights and wisdom of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”
Those insights and that wisdom are what we our educational programmes aim to instil in the human rights defenders of the future. This week has seen the conclusion of our year-long René Cassin Fellowship Programme – as one of our graduating Fellows said, “it’s about the ability to take action and affect change”
“Don’t forget the photos” – an exhibition showing the Nazi persecution of Sinti and Roma families as documented in the photographs of nine affected families.
Sunday 19 to Sunday 26 January 2020
Muswell Hill Synagogue, 31 Tetherdown, London N10 1ND in partneship with René Cassin
For more information, contact: [email protected]
We rely on the generosity of our supporters for the funds to continue our vital work. Help René Cassin apply the lessons of the past to the issues of today, to make a better world for tomorrow. When making or changing your will, why not add a donation to René Cassin to ensure your values live on – see our legacy leaflet for more information.
You can also make a one-off or regular donation to René Cassin via our website at www.renecassin.org/donate/
PS If you have any comments or questions about any aspect of René Cassin’s work, I would love to hear from you – please email me via [email protected]