Pro-Palestine campaigners have called on The Charity Commission to launch an urgent investigation into the activities of the Community Service Trust (CST) after it accused anti-Israel demonstrators of extremism and intimidation at a recent protest rally.
In a letter organised by the Islamic Human Rights Commission, the pro-Palestinians said the CST attempted to turn what was a peaceful anti-Israel protest against the presence of Israeli ambassador to the UK, Tzipi Hotovely, at a university event in London last month into a panic about antisemitism.
The CST is a registered charity with a remit to “provide safety, security and advice to the Jewish community in the UK.” But its critics say it routinely engages in political activities (which is against Charity Commission rules) designed to protect Israel from criticism and censure.
On November 9 the London School of Economics Debating Society hosted the right-wing Israeli ambassador Tzipi Hotovely. Outside the event a peaceful protest attracted scores of students and others from all backgrounds, with many expressing their opposition to racist Israeli policies that have seen Palestinians dispossessed and oppressed for over 70 years.
The CST has since made allegations about supposed antisemitism amongst the protestors and about the threat these types of protests pose to Jewish students.
Writing in the Jewish Chronicle, Marc Goldberg, the Head of Investigations at the Community Security Trust (CST), said: “But to truly understand the gravity of what took place, turn to the footage of the protesters. Standing in the centre of the mob was Massoud Shadjareh, the head of the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC). In an interview last night with Iranian state propaganda channel Press TV, he called Mrs Hotovely a ‘hate preacher.’
“In the past, Mr Shadjareh has said he was ‘inspired’ by Iranian General Qasam Soleimani, the former head of the regime’s brutal Quds Force. And one of the directors of the IHRC, Saied Reza Ameli, even held an official position with the Iranian government…
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“At the demonstration outside LSE last night, flags for the Iran-backed, Iraqi Shia paramilitary group Kata’ib Hezbollah — whose leader was killed alongside Mr Soleimani by an American missile last year — were waved behind Mr Shadjareh while he spoke…
“In the end, neither Mr Shadjareh nor any of the other demonstrators succeeded in disrupting the event itself. The ambassador delivered her speech to a room of interested students and despite the unrest that followed, no one was hurt. However, we have a right to expect more than this.
“That figures with such questionable connections were allowed to take centre stage at the demonstration, without a single one of the students objecting, is shocking and something that the CST has been fighting for some time. We are currently liaising with the police on this matter.”
Here is the letter in full:
Dear Sir or Madam,
I am writing to draw your attention to the Community Security Trust, a charity that ostensibly exists to “provide safety, security, and advice to the Jewish community in the UK”, but which routinely seems to be engaging in political activities that are at odds with this purpose.
From its recent activities, far from its declared purpose, it is clear that the CST’s raison d’etre is actually to protect the state of Israel from criticism and censure.
This is evidenced from the fact that the organisation frequently attacks and challenges those who organise or take part in campaigning for the rights of the Palestinians, invariably using the tactics of character assassination, false accusations, Islamophobia and racism.
The most recent example of this was the reaction to a student demonstration against the presence of the Israeli ambassador to the UK, Tzipi Hotovely, at a debate hosted by the London School of Economics Debating Society on Tuesday 9 November 2021.
This was by all accounts a peaceful protest that attracted scores of students and others from all backgrounds, with many wishing to express their opposition to racist Israeli policies that have seen Palestinians dispossessed and oppressed for over 70 years. The event passed off peacefully and no arrests were made.
However, since the event, the CST has made unsubstantiated allegations in the media about supposed anti-Semitism amongst the protestors and about the threat these types of protests pose to Jewish students, deliberately conflating anti-Israel activity with anti-Semitism. The CST has increasingly relied on this false equivalence to demonise anti-Israel campaigners, attempting to damage their credibility using the charge of racism.
In reality, it is anti-Semitic to presume that all Jews agree with the actions of the state of Israel vis a vis the Palestinians because that relies on a stereotype or assumption that all members of one ethno-religious group share the same political values. This is clearly not the case.
In another glaring example of racism, in order to pursue its de facto objective of shielding Israel from criticism, the CST also uses Islamophobic tropes about terrorism and extremism to demonise Muslim campaigners, routinely calling them apologists and supporters of terrorism and hatred.
The protest outside LSE on 9 November was a prime example of how the CST goes about its work. In the immediate aftermath, its head of investigations Marc Goldberg published an article in the Jewish Chronicle, brazenly misrepresenting the event as violent and linking participants in the protest with terrorism.
Whilst the Charity Commission has been at pains to remind Muslim charities to steer clear of taking positions on the Palestine issue, the CST has been given a free pass to support Israel, using underhand methods.
We urge you to launch an immediate investigation into the CST which we believe has breached your code on engaging in political activity, spreading racial hatred, and the need for remaining impartial. Failure to do so will call into question the integrity of the Charity Commission and will bring the regulator into disrepute.
We should be grateful if you would advise us about the outcome of your investigation as soon as possible.
Massoud Shadjareh, Chair, Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC)
Samir Al-Haidari, Ahlulbayt Islamic Mission (AIM)
Abbas Ali, Inminds Human Rights Group
Amani Blackwood, Women of Colour, Global Women’s Strike
Professor Haim Bresheeth, SOAS University of London
Sara Callaway, Women of Colour, Global Women’s Strike
David Cannon, Jewish Network for Palestine (JNP)
Rabbi Ahron Cohen , Neturei Karta
Professor Abbas Edalat, Imperial College, London
Richard Haley, Chair, Scotland Against Criminalising Communities (SACC)
Sandew Hira, Decolonial International Network (DIN)
Ibrahim Hewitt, Senior Editor, Middle East Monitor (MEMO)
Ahammed Hussain, CEO, Muslim Public Affairs Committee UK
Selma James, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network UK
Mohideen Abdul Kader, Citizens International, Malaysia
Yasser Louati, President, Committee for Justice & Liberties, Paris, France
Ilana Machover, The London Support Group of Israeli Conscience Objectors
Reverend Dr Duncan Macpherson, Retired University Lecturer, Roman Catholic Permanent Deacon
Mick Napier, Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign
Professor Ilan Pappe, Director of the European Center for Palestine Studies, University of Exeter
Muhammad Rabbani, CAGE
Roshan Salih, 5Pillars
Reverand Stephen Sizer
John Tymon, Football Against Apartheid
Asa Winstanley, Journalist