OPINION: Charities must not be sucked into hate

OPINION: Charities must not be sucked into hate

The Executive Director of the Lawfare project and Chief Executive of UK Lawyers for Israel reflect on charities which promote extremism

War on Want activists protesting against Israel
War on Want activists protesting against Israel

Charities that promote extremism, violence and hatred have been in the spotlight. Earlier this month, The Times revealed that a radical Islamist group, the Muslim Research and Development Foundation (MRDF), had been using its frankly unfathomable status as a registered charity to raise funds through Amazon Smile, the scheme that enables Amazon customers to donate 0.5 percent of the cost of their purchase to a selected charity. Yet in this instance, the head of the charity in question promotes female genital mutilation, child marriage and the stoning to death of adulterers. He has been described by the Quilliam Foundation as “one of the most dangerous men in Britain.”

It is a particularly shocking but far from isolated example of how charitable status insulates organisations from being held accountable for promoting extreme views.

But it is a pattern that also applies to organisations that have demonised Israel and played a role in the mainstreaming of the antisemitic anti-Zionism so evident in Labour’s antisemitism crisis.

That’s why our organisations, The Lawfare Project and UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI) have in recent weeks submitted complaints to the Charity Commission regarding two such charities, Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) and War on Want (WoW).

Brooke Goldstein (left) is executive director of the Lawfare project; Jonathan Turner (right) is Chief Executive of UK Lawyers for Israel

Both charities, we allege, promote false and frequently antisemitic narratives
on Israel, misuse charitable funds to spread political propaganda and have links to a terrorist organisation, namely the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

MAP and WoW both work closely with Palestinian non-governmental organisations affiliated to or connected with the PFLP, such as Addameer, whose vice-chair is described on the PFLP website as its leader, and who was indicted in 2015 for calling for the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers, and such as Al-Haq, whose general director has convictions for arranging PFLP training and is prohibited from travelling abroad owing to his involvement in terrorism.

MAP’s founder and honorary patron, Dr Swee Ang, has distributed an openly
antisemitic video by former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard, David Duke, entitled CNN, Goldman Sachs and the Zio Matrix.

It has promoted Seven Jewish Children, a play condemned by the Community Security Trust and described by Howard Jacobson as “wantonly inflammatory”.

Howard Jacobson

Meanwhile, War on Want, as its name suggests, ostensibly addresses global poverty but spends a disproportionate amount of its time and resources promoting hatred of Israel, through its backing of campaigns such as Israeli Apartheid Week on UK campuses.

Both groups peddle disinformation regarding Israel in their promotional materials in what we call “dog-whistle fundraising”.

The issue of left-wing antisemitism that dominated British news this summer didn’t come out of nowhere. There is an infrastructure of hatred against Israel that has fed and nurtured it and groups such as WoW and MAP have used their halo as charities to give it an acceptable face.

It is unacceptable for charities to misuse funds to cosy up to groups with terrorist links, spread hatred and mislead the public and it brings the charity sector into disrepute.

The new chair of the Charity Commission, Baroness Stowell, faces the unenviable task of restoring public confidence in the sector.

She has acknowledged the extent of the challenge, commenting recently that charities “must now steer a new course, if we are to do our duty by the public we serve”.

We agree and believe that new course must at long last hold to account charities that claim to be providing aid, while aiding and abetting terrorist affiliated groups and antisemitic narratives.

  • Brooke Goldstein is executive director of the Lawfare project; Jonathan Turneris Chief Executive of UK Lawyers for Israel
  • The Lawfare Project is a legal think tank and litigation fund that files cases against antisemitic discrimination around the world

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