A LEADING communal executive has voiced fears that British charities are being swept along by a tide of anti-Israel sentiment.
Board of Deputies director-general Jon Benjamin said this week that, while it was legitimate to raise funds for impoverished Palestinians, there was a growing tendency among charitable organisations to target Israel “for special condemnation.”
Concerns were sparked by a War on Want campaign calling for sanctions against Israel and urging action against Caterpillar, the American-based corporation which sells bulldozers to Israel.
“War on Want certainly has a politicised stance on Israel,” Mr Ben-jamin argued.
A report produced on Caterpillar by the charity was sent to an influential Church of England committee, which met on Monday to discuss whether to recommend that the Church sell its nearly £200,000-worth of shares in the firm.
But the chairman of the Church’s Ethical Investment Advisory Group, the Venerable Ian Russell, would not disclose its findings. “The people who have made representations to us have a right to know before they read it in their newspapers,” he told the JC.
In a message to the government, War on Want accused Britain of shying away from imposing economic pressure on Israel, “trusting instead in a policy of close engagement to exert influence.”
The War on Want view was that the government should press for the suspension of the EU-Israel Asso-ciation Agreement, under which Is-raeli goods have preferential access to European markets. By its “violation of Palestinian human rights,” Israel was in breach of the accord.
War on Want chief executive Lou-ise Richards maintained that failing to introduce sanctions against Israel would be seen “as a betrayal of the Palestinian people.”
In its report on Caterpillar, the charity claimed that the company’s “armed bulldozers have been responsible for the destruction of thousands of Palestinian homes, schools, wells and olive groves.” Its machines had also been used to construct Israel’s “separation wall.”
Caterpillar’s stance is that it cannot police the use of its equipment worldwide and that “comments on political conflict” in the Middle East are “best left” to governments.
War on Want is involved in a “Free Palestine” demonstration in London on Saturday, together with organisations including the National Union of Teachers, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Jews for Justice for the Palestinians.