U.K. to Probe JNF's Anti-discrimination Law Compliance After Complaints by BDS Activists

British Charity Commission decided not to revoke Jewish National Fund U.K.'s charity status after Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign accused it of role in ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, but has referred case for further investigation.

Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson
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Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson

British authorities have announced that they intend to investigate whether Jewish National Fund activities infringe upon the principle of equality following Palestinian complaints regarding the organization's activities.

The JNF in general and JNF U.K. in particular have found themselves at the center of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel. One of the campaign's goals is to remove British authorities' recognition of JNF U.K.'s status as a charity organization. In the past year, 88 British members of Parliament, out of a total of 650, signed a letter calling for the revocation of the organization's charity status. According to the campaign's organizers, the JNF is a racist organization that took Arab land and took part in the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.

Two months ago, activists unleashed a letter offensive on the Charity Commission, a British government body that supervises charity organizations and checks that they meet the demands of the law. Two years ago, for example, the body investigated Interpal, a Palestinian charity that was banned in Israel on the allegation that it funneled money to Hamas. In the end, the British authorities decided not to revoke the organization's charity status, but instructed it to cease part of its activities.

In recent months, the Charity Commission discussed the request to revoke the JNF's status, but decided not to do so. The commission examined the allegations and decided that the organization's goals were charity-related and that there was no reason to revoke its status.

Nevertheless, the commission stated in its decision, "The only caveat in reaching this conclusion is whether the objects of [the JNF] are compatible with the requirements of the Equalities Act 2010." They added that the commission did believe that "the Application submitted raises matters of potential regulatory interest for the Commission." The matter was consequently referred to the Charity Commission's headquarters in London to examine whether the JNF was indeed in compliance with the law, with a decision pending.

The United Kingdom's Equalities Act 2010 states that it is forbidden for organizations to discriminate against any person based on certain characteristics, such as age, disability, gender, marriage or civil partnership, pregnancy or maternity, race, faith or sex change.

The JNF was not available for immediate reaction.

A bulldozer at a JNF ceremony for a development project for the Bedouin town of Hura in January 2013.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz

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