How does the JNF UK get away with it?

The Fundraising Regulator has rejected a set of complaints that was lodged against the JNF UK with the support of 63 Jewish signatories.  The complainants had argued that the JNF UK’s activities were incompatible with their professed  “charitable purposes” in at least three respects: 1. JNF UK is complicit in the primary goal of the Israeli parent organization, JNF/KKL, to place Palestinian land under exclusive Jewish ownership. 2.  JNF UK’s fundraising is grossly misleading in claiming to be ‘greening the desert’ and ‘helping the poorest communities’. 3. The disclaiming by the JNF UK of its support for projects with military content is belied by the publicity material of the military training programmes it funds.

None of these arguments prevailed with the Regulator despite the copious documentation presented to her.  To give an idea of the quality of the Regulator’s appraisal of the evidence, two illustrations suffice:  despite extensive JNF publicity material vaunting  jointly run projects by KKL-JNF(Israel) and the JNF UK and despite the fact that a 2008 agreement between the two has locked them into legally binding collaboration, the Regulator concludes: “We have no reason to doubt, from the information we have seen, that the charity [JNF UK] is independent of JNF/KKL”.  It thereby underwrites the long-practised subterfuge of the JNF UK, to distance itself from JNF-KKL land grabs, such as those in East Jerusalem and elsewhere in the West Bank, which infringe international law and are, therefore, contrary to the professed policy of the British government and the international community.    

On the evidence presented to the Regulator that the JNF UK supports Israeli military activities, which, the JNF UK by its protestations implicitly accepted would not be a ”charitable purpose,” the Regulator’s conclusion is still more farcical. Of the numerous pre-army military academies which the JNF UK supports, the Regulator refers to only one,  Derech Eretz. But after narrowing it down to this single example, the Regulator has still to address Derech Eretz’s claim that “Graduates of the programme are motivated and well equipped with skills and experiences that will allow them to excel in the military.”  Although this statement leaves little for doubt, the Regulator endorses the JNF UK’s assertion that the training programme has “no military content”.  It even adopts the JNF UK’s ludicrous explanation, arguing that there is “no evidence that the programme’s purpose was to support the military rather than to support individuals entering military service before and after they left”. 

The Fundraising Regulator set up by the government in 2016 and funded by a levy on large charities, is charged with policing the publicity and administration of charities. It works in tandem with the Charity Commission but it is the latter, which has the power to approve and rescind charitable status, that is most revealing of the workings of the regulatory system that oversees the charity sector.  Its rationale is straightforward: organizations aligned with British government objectives are permitted to pursue with impunity virtually any “charitable purpose” irrespective of whether it violates international law and, in some instances, domestic laws, such as the 2010 Equalities Act. Nowhere is this more evident than in relation to Israel-promoting charities.  The JNF UK is one among many pro-Israel groups that operate as registered charities.  Among the others are:  UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI), set up to gag criticism of Israel; the British Friends of Bar Ilan University (a university based in an illegal colony in the West Bank); Friends of Nefesh B’Nefesh (which supports the settler movement); the IDF Widows and Orphans Organization; the UK Friends of the Association for the Wellbeing of Israeli Soldiers; the Campaign Against Antisemitism and the Community Service Trust.  The Jewish Charity Guide 2020, lists 56 pro-Israel registered charities and this does not include all of them.  

For such “charities,” the regulatory agencies ensure impunity by shielding them from public scrutiny, while meting out a very different treatment to those that contest the British government’s agenda, and particularly if they are linked to Muslim communities.

Full details of the complaint to the Fundraising Regulator and the riposte to it (“Permission to be Racist”) can be seen here