Charity plans ‘Apartheid Israel’ forum

War on Want has been accused of inciting hatred by planning an event presenting Israel as an apartheid state.

Pro-Israel groups have attacked the anti-poverty charity’s “Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide” evening taking place in Tower Hamlets, east London, on July 9. It is to feature a question-and-answer session with Ben White, a freelance writer and author of a book of the same title.

In a joint statement on behalf of the Fair Play Campaign, countering boycotts of Israel, Board of Deputies’ chief executive Jon Benjamin and his Jewish Leadership Council counterpart Jeremy Newmark said: “Despite passing themselves off as a mainstream aid charity, War on Want runs virulently anti-Israel campaigns.

“It supports and funds a boycott of Israel, promotes this idea to libel Israel as ‘apartheid’ and complains about ‘Zionist pressure’ if anyone objects.

“Other NGOs should ask themselves whether this inflammatory and offensive campaigning actually contributes in any way to helping ordinary Palestinians, or to fostering reconciliation.”

Professor Gerald Steinberg, executive director of Jerusalem-based group NGO Monitor claimed “War on Want has long since departed from its charitable agenda, and has turned into one of the leading sources of anti-Israel demonisation in the UK.

“This campaign exploiting and demeaning the horrors of apartheid erases the context of Palestinian mass terrorism, goes far beyond legitimate criticism, and is a form of hate speech and incitement.”

A Charity Commission spokeswoman said it had not received complaints about the War on Want event, but would “look at the information on the charity’s website”.

War on Want’s senior campaigns officer Yasmin Khan defended the meeting. “Israel’s occupation has caused massive human rights abuses and poverty for Palestinians,” she said.

“This event will address the deteriorating situation on the ground and look at ways forward towards resolving these problems.”

In May last year, the Charity Commission supported War on Want’s right to take part in a pro-Palestinian demonstration, saying it was satisfied that the group was working within the rules.

War on Want also supported a demonstration calling for an end to Israeli occupation and the return of Palestinian refugees.

It unveiled plans in August 2007 for a worldwide anti-Israel boycott in a document described at the time by Mr Newmark as a “handbook of hate”.
Writing in 2002, Mr White said he understood why people were antisemitic and accused the Israeli government of ethnic cleansing.
He was due to speak in Westminster on Wednesday at an event hosted by Labour MP Brian Iddon and supported by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

    Last updated: 2:19pm, June 18 2009