Regulator contacts students' unions over Israel boycott stance

A number of students' unions have passed motions in support of the boycott, divestment, sanctions movement, but the Charity Commission has not confirmed which ones it has written to

Charity Commission
Charity Commission

The Charity Commission has contacted a number of students’ unions after they endorsed a boycott of Israel for its stance on Palestine.

Several students' unions have passed motions supporting the boycott, divestment, sanctions movement, which opposes Israeli policies that they claim mistreat Palestinians.

But a spokeswoman for the Charity Commission said the regulator had written to a number of students’ unions that had voted to support the BDS movement to ensure that such campaigning complied with commission guidance.

It declined to name the charities or confirm how many it had written to, but the spokeswoman said the regulator wanted to ensure that trustees of the charities were aware of and were fulfilling their legal duties and responsibilities.

According to the BBC, universities that have passed motions in support of the BDS movement include Belfast, Brunel, Essex, Exeter, Goldsmiths, King’s College London, Kingston, Lancashire, Liverpool, Manchester, the School of Oriental and African Studies, Strathclyde, Sussex, Swansea, the University of the Arts London and University College London.

Charities that are campaigning must do so in the context of supporting the delivery of their charitable purposes, and trustees considering a motion to support the BDS movement must be able to explain how it furthers the charity’s purposes.

This includes ensuring that the policy is not discriminatory to any students of a particular faith or race.

The spokeswoman said the regulator did not have any statutory inquiries open into any students’ union charities.

David Holdsworth, chief operating officer at the Charity Commission, said: "The trustees of a students’ union charity considering whether or not to endorse a motion relating to the BDS movement must be clear what this means in practice, and must be able to explain how doing so furthers the charity's purposes and therefore is consistent with their legal duties."

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