UK team probes anti-Israel event

Checks whether meetings on "occupation of Palestine" breach charity status.

anti-wall 88 (photo credit: )
anti-wall 88
(photo credit: )
The Charity Commission for England and Wales is looking at whether an anti-Israel event to be hosted on Sunday by War on Want, a registered British charity, constitutes a breach of their charity status. The event, being held at the Amnesty Human Rights Action Center in central London, is entitled: "Profiting from the Occupation: A People's Tribunal to expose the Corporations behind the Israeli Occupation of Palestine" was scheduled, according to advertising for the meeting, to mark "the second anniversary of the International Court of Justice ruling on the illegality of Israel's wall." The Charity Commission has said that the flyer for the event did appear to be political and has promised to look into the matter further. Advertising material for the daylong event invites people to "discover how transnational corporations are profiting from the illegal occupation of Palestine" and to "find ways of making corporations accountable for their actions." Participants can also "learn about activism around the world and get inspiration from comedians and filmmakers." The charity, which has been warned in the past by the commission about political campaigning and their status as a charity, lists companies including Daewoo, Volvo and Caterpillar, whose "bulldozers are used to destroy thousands of Palestinian homes." War on Want also focuses on British train operator Connex, which is allegedly "involved in building a 400 million tram system connecting illegal Jewish settlements within Jerusalem" and supermarkets that "stock wine produced on stolen Palestinian land and label it 'made in Israel.'" War on Want has campaigned to suspend the Association Agreement, a trade pact between Israel and the EU, and called for sanctions against Israel for alleged "human rights abuses." They have also been active in working for divestment, supporting the Church of England's efforts to divest in companies whose products are used in Israel. More recently, the charity started a petition challenging the Church of England's Ethical Investment Advisory Group, which in March rejected the Church's decision to divest in Israel. War on Want sent the petition to the Church's commissioners. Scheduled to speak at the conference are: Mustafa Barghouti, a Palestinian legislator and former presidential candidate; Jeff Halper, cofounder of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions; Elizabeth Corrie, cousin of Rachel Corrie, the American International Solidarity Movement member killed in Gaza in 2003; Jeremy Hardy, a British comedian who made a film documentary in 2003 about ISM entitled: Jeremy Hardy versus the Israeli Army. Additional speakers confirmed this week are Reverend Stephen Sizer, vicar of Virginia Water in Surrey, and Danny Machover, an Israeli human rights lawyer. Sizer is a pro-Palestinian campaigner and advocate of divestment. His publications include titles such as Zionism and the Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine and Morally Responsible Investment in Palestine: The Case against Caterpillar. Machover, a partner at London law firm Hickman and Rose, set up Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights and has been involved with efforts to try IDF officers on war crimes charges. He is currently campaigning to forbid "suspected Israeli war criminals, in particular settlers, access to any EU member states." The new film Visit Palestine will be screened, about an Irish activist working in Jenin during the combat in 2002. The documentary, directed by Katie Barlow, allegedly provides "objective insight into the conditions the Palestinian communities are living." In his review of the film, British director Ken Loach said, "Katie Barlow's film is both a devastating account of daily life for Palestinians and a fine portrait of a brave and selfless Irish woman who lives with them. No one talks politics, yet it is a deeply political film. You are left with a burning anger on behalf of those who bear the occupation of their land and appalling military oppression with such fortitude. Israel, the US and their apologists stand indicted and, on this evidence, convicted." Nick Dearden, senior campaigns officer for War on Want, said, "The event is to raise awareness and put in the dock the companies that preach corporate responsibility, yet they profit from human rights abuses and war crimes being perpetrated by Israel." The event is supported by Alternative Information Center in Jerusalem, the Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, the Jewish Socialist Group and Jews for Justice for Palestinians.