Breadcrumbs

Row over War on Want Israel campaign

By Paul Jump, Third Sector Online, 30 August 2007

Human rights and poverty relief charity War on Want has accused "politically motivated lobbyists" of abusing Charity Commission complaints procedures to prevent the organisation from defending Palestinians' human rights.

Lee Scott, Conservative MP for Ilford North, complained to the regulator about the charity’s online Palestine guide, which describes itself as a “guide for boycott, divestment and sanctions” against Israel.

Scott denied that the motivation for his letter was political. “War on Want is a registered charity,” he told Third Sector. “As such, it shouldn’t involve itself in political matters, and this is a political matter. This is not something that a charity that wants to help people should be doing.”

However, John Hilary, campaigns and policy director at War and Want, dismissed Scott’s concerns as “misguided” and said the MP’s complaint was part of an ongoing strategy by a highly organised pro-Israel lobby to disrupt the charity’s Palestie campaigns by complaining about them to the regulator.

“People know that if they phone the commission, the commission’s role is to investigate complaints,” he said. “The commission knows this is the role of coordinated campaigns. They use the mechanisms of charity regulation to make life difficult for those defending Palestinians’ human rights.”

Hilary said the charity had already received the green light from the commission to advocate boycotts and sanctions as means to alleviate “the root causes of poverty and human rights abuses”.

He also said War on Want had not heard from the commission following complaints made in June of last year about two leaflets the charity produced as part of its Palestine campaign. A spokeswoman of the commission confirmed that those complaints had also surrounded the “inappropriate nature” of political campaigning.

She said: “The commission obtained the trustees’ comments on this matter, and has subsequently been in correspondence with the charity. We are still considering the issues.”

She also confirmed that the commission would look into Scott’s latest complaint and respond to him in due course.

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