Palestine group told: return Lotto cash

By Marcus Dysch, April 23, 2009

A Palestinian organisation has been ordered to return part of a National Lottery grant after an investigation found the money had been used to promote an unauthorised project.

Palestine Lives was handed £7,434 to run a one-day cultural festival at Manchester’s Albert Square in June last year.

But the group later used the grant to promote two film weekends, claiming they were “funded by the National Lottery”.

The grant came from the Lottery’s Awards for All scheme, which provides money for specific projects or communal activities. Voluntary groups, parish councils and schools in England can apply to receive between £300 and £10,000.

Palestine Lives missed last Friday’s deadline to return £500. An Awards for All spokesman said it was in “ongoing correspondence to recover the funds” and could take legal action.

The June event featured artists, poets and musicians celebrating that “Palestine and its culture still exists despite the 60 years of the Nakba”. (Nakba is the Arabic for catastrophe and is used to refer to Israel’s independence in 1948). Speakers included Baroness Tonge and members of Manchester Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

But the Festival of Palestinian Film and Culture, which ran at a centre in Trafford, Manchester, in November and December, was organised in association with the Workers Film Association.

The Awards for All spokesman confirmed its rules had been broken by the use of the money for the film festival.

But he rejected suggestions that June’s cultural festival had constituted a political event and should not have been awarded the grant.

“Our team visited the group and are satisfied that the award was used for cultural activities,” he said.

Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of Deputies, said: “While the activities and status of the group ‘Palestine Lives’ are not entirely clear, public funds should of course go to legitimate and deserving causes that genuinely offer something positive from which the public can benefit.

“Naturally, if they do not fit those criteria, the funds should go elsewhere, and funders must be alive to the possibility of funds being misapplied before grants are made.”

Last updated: 4:02pm, April 30 2009