Charity’s anti-Israel stance sanctioned by watchdog

The Charity Commission has supported the right of War on Want to be involved in a pro-Palestinian demonstration last weekend.

War on Want’s campaigning on Israel — including opposition to its security barrier — has previously drawn complaints that it is operating outside its charitable remit.

But the commission stated this week that it is satisfied that the anti-poverty group is working within the rules.

A spokesman for the charity watchdog said: “The concerns that the commission considered related predominantly to War on Want’s support for trade sanctions against Israel.

“Following discussions with the charity, during which it clarified the strategy behind this support, we are satisfied that the trustees understand our guidance on political campaigning and that the charity’s activities are linked to its charitable objects. Accordingly, we will not be looking to take any further action with regard to this point.”

The spokesman added: “By the same token, we are satisfied that the involvement of the charity with a demonstration on 10 May constitutes normal campaigning and political activity for a charity to undertake.”

War on Want was listed as one of the supporters of Saturday’s demonstration organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the British Muslim Initiative and others calling for an end to Israeli occupation and the return of Palestinian refugees.

Guest speaker Dr Mustafa Barghouti, elected Palestinian Legislative Council member, accused Israel of being an apartheid state, according to the PSC website.

Video messages came from, among others, Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas leader who was Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority until last June.

Charity Commission guidelines give wide scope to charities to take part in charity campaigns as long as they are consistent with their charitable objectives.

Apart from combating poverty, War on Want says it also works for human rights and it argues that Palestinian poverty “is a direct result of 40 years of Israeli occupation”.

The charity has also urged supporters to write to their MPs, calling for the European Union to suspend trading preferences for Israel.

    Last updated: 11:42am, May 16 2008