MEDIA RELEASE Human rights campaigners: Charity Commission failing to follow own guidelines to end abuse of charity status

5 December 2013

Following the National Audit Office report that concluded the Charity Commission is not tackling abuses of charitable status effectively, further evidence is being presented by human rights campaigners that the Charity Commission is not “fit for purpose”.
The Stop the JNF Campaign submitted a document to the Charity Commission in March outlining why Israel charity, the Jewish National Fund (JNF), should be removed from the register of charities after decades of benefiting from charity status.
According to their own guidelines, the Charity Commission, when considering the charitable status of institutions operating abroad, must “first consider whether they would be regarded as charities if their operations are confined to the United Kingdom”.  Campaigners report that the JNF, a parastatal institution in Israel, has a key role in the administration of land, discriminating against Palestinian citizens of Israel in all 93% of public land under their control.
A Stop the JNF spokesperson said “If there were an inch of land in Britain that was not open to Jews, or Christians, to live or work on, there would be a public outcry and rightly so, yet this is the type of systematic discrimination that the JNF charities fund and help to establish in Israeli law.  The Charity Commission is allowing this abuse to take place; the abuse of the basic rights of Palestinians in Israel/Palestine and the abuse of charity law in the UK.”
The JNF  has a strong ally in the Chair of the Charity Commission, William Shawcross, who succeeded Dame Suzi Leather in 2002.  To take on his new appointment Shawcross resigned as director of The Henry Jackson Society, a right wing ‘think-tank’, itself a registered charity and a vocal advocate for war with Iran.  Shawcross was also a former trustee of the Anglo-Israel Association and as a founder member of the Friends of Israel Initiative pledged to stand “in a spirit of solidarity with the State of Israel… inside the institutions of the international community”.  Campaigners raise concerns about the conflict of interest illustrated by Shawcross’s political affiliations and call for a full investigation into the JNF UK and their charities.
The role of the JNF in Israel’s treatment and policy against the Palestinians has been widely reported.  In 2010, the British press covered JNF involvement in Israel’s demolition of Al Araqib village in the Negev.  The controversy around the JNF continued with the resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron as patron in 2011.  Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband have kept their distance, breaking a long-standing tradition whereby all three main party leaders became JNF Patrons on becoming party leader.  Tony Blair remains one of the few remaining JNF patrons while 68 MPs signed a Parliamentary Early Day Motion in 2011 calling for revocation of the JNF’s charitable status.
Last week Palestinians across Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories once again staged demonstrations against the government’s so-called ‘Prawer Plan’ that will forcibly remove up to 70,000 Palestinian citizens of Israel from their lands in the south of Israel and replace them with army bases and Jewish settlements, many funded by JNF UK charities.  The Israeli government has ignored calls from international bodies such as the UN Committee on the Elimination for Racial Discrimination and the European Parliament to withdraw the Plan.
In May the Charity Commission stated that the JNF charities would remain on the register with the caveat that the objects of the JNF charities are compatible with the requirements of the Equalities Act 2010.  Campaigners say that “the Charity Commission response illustrates their inability to deal with evidence that the core purpose of the JNF and its charities goes against the public benefit, particularly when the leadership of the Charity Commission is so committed to ensuring the state of Israel should be supported at all costs”.
For further information:
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1.      The Stop the JNF Campaign is an international campaign aimed at ending the role of the Jewish National Fund (Keren Kayemet LeIsrael) (JNF-KKL) in:
– the on-going displacement of indigenous Palestinians from their land
– the theft of their property
– the funding of historic and present day colonies, and
– the destruction of the natural environment.
The Jewish National Fund was established in 1901 by the World Zionist Organisation and mandated to obtain land for the sole use of persons of ‘Jewish faith, race or ancestry’. It was first registered in the UK, and has retained a fundraising and propaganda function in Britain since the establishment of the Jewish state in 1948. Through its landholdings and its influence on the Israel Land Authority, the JNF controls 93% of the land in Israel on which it practices its ethnic exclusion policies.
The JNF continues to serve as a global fundraiser for Israeli ethnic cleansing, occupation and apartheid. Despite its role in a State institution of Israel (the Israel Land Authority) and in institutionalized racism and apartheid, the JNF and its affiliate organisations enjoy charitable status in over 50 countries.
2.      Stop the JNF application to the Charity Commission to remove JNF UK charities from the register available download here:
3.      In its annual report of 1993, the Charity Commission set out its understanding of the relevant law as
regards the charitable status of institutions operating abroad:
“One should first consider whether they would be regarded as charities if their operations are
confined to the United Kingdom. If they would, then they should be presumed also to be
charitable even though operating abroad unless it would be contrary to public policy to
recognise them.”
In 2002, the High Court held that “the Commission is clearly right about this”.  (Jacob J in Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem v Sonsino [2002] EWHC 1304)
4.      William Shawcross
The Henry Jackson Society:
Friends of Israel Initiative Founder Members:
Friends of Israel Initiative Statement:
5.      David Cameron resigns as Patron of JNF UK
6.      Early Day Motion: 68 MPs signed a motion stating “there is just cause to consider revocation of the JNF’s charitable status in the UK”
7.      Demolition and Eviction of Bedouin Citizens of Israel in the Naqab (Negev) – The Prawer Plan
EMHRN Statement: Time for EU action on Prawer Bill, 2 July 2013
UN CERD Calls on Israel to Withdraw the Prawer Plan Law, 15 March 2012
European Parliament Passes Resolution Calling on Israel to Stop the Prawer Plan
8. Charity Commission letter to Stop the JNF: