Charity tribunal rejects appeal against regulator's refusal to remove pro-Israel charities

The campaign group Stop the JNF had argued that the Jewish National Fund Charitable Trust and two affiliated organisations were 'sham charities, involved in violations of human rights and international law'

Stop the JNF
Stop the JNF

The charity tribunal has struck out an appeal by the campaign group Stop the JNF against the Charity Commission’s decision not to remove the Jewish National Fund Charitable Trust and two affiliated charities from its register.

In a decision published last week, principal judge Alison McKenna ruled that the appeal could not be heard because the individual members of the campaign group that brought the appeal were not affected by the commission’s decision.

In March 2013, the commission received an application from Stop the JNF to remove from its register the JNFCT, which raises funds for causes in Israel, the Jewish National Fund Educational Trust, which educates people about Israel and Judaism, and KKL Charity Accounts, which drafts wills and helps people to donate to charity.

The JNFCT’s income for the year 2012 was £17.5m, which included the entire £9.9m income of KKL Charity Accounts. The JNFCT is dormant, according to its listing on the charity register, and has had no income for five years.

The international campaign group said in an application to the commission last year that the trio of charities were racist, sham charities, involved in violations of human rights and international law. The commission rejected both this application and the group's subsequent appeal, saying all three charities were established for exclusively charitable purposes and should not be removed from the register.

John Nicholson, a barrister and member of Stop the JNF, then appealed against these decisions to the tribunal on 11 March, saying that it stood by its original claims. Two further campaign group members were subsequently added as appellants.

However, the tribunal has now decided that there is no jurisdiction for the appeal.

McKenna says in the decision: "I entirely understand and respect the fact that the appellants have a deeply held and continuing objection to the views and activities of the charities, but it does not seem to me that holding a particular viewpoint about a charity can ever serve to create an interest in the Charity Commission’s decision which is greater than that of an ordinary member of the public."

She said that the three appellants had not shown that they had suffered any disadvantage as a result of the decision, that their rights had been infringed, or how the decision affected them more than any other member of the public.

"Accordingly, and for all these reasons, my ruling is that the appellants are not persons who are or may be affected by the Charity Commission’s decision of 31 January 2014. For that reason I must now strike out the appeals for lack of jurisdiction," the decision says.

A spokeswoman for the campaign said: "Stop the JNF Campaign will continue to challenge the charity status, and related financial benefits, awarded to the parastatal organisation JNF UK."

Samuel Hayek, chairman of the JNF Charitable Trust said: "The JNF Charitable Trust welcomes the decision."

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