The Charity Commission has been asked to explain why a British charity is being allowed to help funnel donations to the Israeli military in apparent breach of UK charity laws and guidelines.
The Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) has asked the watchdog whether it knew about the activities of UK Toremet Ltd, a UK-registered charity which serves as a portal for people to donate cash to recipient agencies in the UK, USA and Israel.
An IHRC investigation has found that some of these agencies are directly supporting the Israeli Defence Force in contravention of the Commission’s rules which require donees to be fulfilling a charitable purpose.
These fall within 13 broad categories such as advancing education, preventing poverty and promoting human rights. They include promoting the efficiency of UK armed forces but do not permit providing material support to foreign armies.
The IHRC has identified many instances where UK Toremet has passed on charitable donations to organisations that are directly helping Israeli soldiers. One of them, Yashar LaChayal, claims to be dedicated to serving Israeli soldiers on the front lines and is reported by a British synagogue as being in the business of supplying them with equipment.
Karemy Chesed is another organisation supported by UK Toremet. UK Toremet’s site lists various activities for this charity but does not mention that it provides aid for the IDF . This includes the provision of care packages to combat soldiers. Its site describes at length the support it provided combat troops during Operation Protective Edge (invasion of Gaza) in 2014.
UK Toremet’s site also promotes Standing Together, an organisation claiming to provide food and care packages for soldiers in the IDF. However, its website calls for funds for military equipment such as thermal gloves and clothing that will enable soldiers to be “trigger-ready.”
Since UK Toremet qualifies for Gift Aid, UK taxpayers donating to the charity qualify for tax relief, meaning the government will “top up” their donations by 25%. So the value of a donation of £1,000 will be worth £1,250. This means that UK taxpayer funds could be being used to support a military force which has been accused of countless atrocities and war crimes.
“The foregoing highlights the need for the Charity Commission to issue clear guidelines that any support of military personnel or any type of support that may directly or indirectly support military actions, cannot be charitable,” says the report containing the findings of the investigation.
IHRC has asked the Charity Commission to clarify whether it is aware of the non-charitable purposes activities of Uk Toremet and if not what action it proposes to take in the light of IHRC’s findings.
IHRC chair Massoud Shadjareh said: “These are extremely disturbing findings with equally worrying implications for British taxpayers. We expect the Charity Commission will carry out the necessary enquiries and look forward to hearing its response in due course.”
The Charity Commission has acknowledged that concerns have been raised about UK Toremet. They say they have visited the charity to review its “operational activity.” They say that while their engagement is ongoing, they cannot comment further.
Last year an analysis by the Guardian revealed that more than a quarter of the statutory investigations that have been launched by the Charity Commission since April 2012 and remain open have targeted Muslim organisations.
Responses to freedom of information requests showed that more than 20 of the 76 live investigations focussed on Muslim charities associated with running mosques, providing humanitarian relief and, in a number of high-profile cases, aid efforts in Syria.
Full statutory inquiries – the commission’s most serious kind of formal investigation – had begun into five British charities operating in Syria, including al-Fatiha Global, which the beheaded hostage Alan Henning was working with when he was kidnapped.
Adam Belaon, research director for the thinktank Claystone, which focuses on Muslim issues, said: “[The commission] has labelled 55 charities with the issue code ‘extremism and radicalisation’ without their knowledge, in the period 5 December 2012 to 8 May 2014. These charities were/are being monitored as a potential concern for matters relating to extremism and radicalisation.
“There are no written criteria for applying or removing this label and thus it lends itself to non-evidence based targeting of particular groups. We don’t know the criteria used to apply these extremist tags by the commission. It’s all very subjective for a quasi-judicial body.”
Claystone said it had particular concerns over comments made by the commission chair, Sir William Shawcross, who in his first interview in the post said Islamic extremism was a “deadly” problem for charities.
In the past Shawcross has been a critic of Islam. In 2012, as a director at the conservative Henry Jackson Society, he claimed: “Europe and Islam is one of the greatest, most terrifying problems of our future. I think all European countries have vastly, very quickly growing Islamic populations.”
Charities giving aid to Syria have come under scrutiny
Belaon said four Muslim charities had contacted Claystone with concerns over Shawcross’s past. “We are worried about some of the messaging by the new chairman and so are many others in the community.”