War on Want in­ves­ti­gated

The Jewish Chronicle - - HOME NEWS - BY JONNY PAUL

THE CHAR­ITY War on Want (WoW) is be­ing in­ves­ti­gated by the Char­ity Com­mis­sion fol­low­ing a com­plaint made by a com­mu­nity mem­ber.

Jonathan Hoff­man, a fi­nan­cial an­a­lyst from Tot­teridge, North Lon­don, com­plained about a con­tro­ver­sial WoW Christ­mas card. It shows Is­raeli sol­diers stop­ping and search­ing Joseph and a preg­nant Mary en route to Beth­le­hem. The card says: “Beth­le­hem is ef­fec­tively sealed off from the out­side world by Is­rael’s sep­a­ra­tion wall and a state-of-the-art mil­i­tary check­point, ex­ac­er­bat­ing the dev­as­ta­tion to the life and econ­omy of its Pales­tinian in­hab­i­tants af­ter years of vi­o­lence. An end to vi­o­lence in the Mid­dle East means con­struct­ing bridges, not walls.”

Mr Hoff­man called the card a “taste­less dis­tor­tion of the truth” and a “cheap shot” at Is­rael. He asked why the char­ity did not equally look at Mus­lim coun­tries where Chris­tians were per­se­cuted.

He said: “The card sim­ply per­pet­u­ates the dis­tor­tions re­gard­ing Is­rael’s pol­icy of de­fend­ing its own cit­i­zens… WoW is a char­ity and should not be us­ing donors’ re­sources to make po­lit­i­cal points.”

Last week the Char­ity Com­mis­sion’s Stu­art Bul­lock told Mr Hoff­man: “We have con­cluded that some form of in­ter­ven­tion may be nec­es­sary, and we are there­fore re­fer­ring the mat­ter to our Com­pli­ance and Sup­port unit.”

John Hi­lary, WoW’s cam­paigns and pol­icy di­rec­tor, told the JC: “The cards were in­tended to high­light the sit­u­a­tion in Beth­le­hem at a time when it was in the fore­front of the con­scious­ness of peo­ple cel­e­brat­ing Christ­mas. In par­tic­u­lar, [we wanted] to draw at­ten­tion to the di­rect link be­tween the clo­sure sys­tem, both check­points and the sep­a­ra­tion wall, and the poverty and hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis it is caus­ing.”

He added: “We are con­fi­dent that we are not in breach of our char­ity sta­tus. Our char­ity ob­jec­tive is to point to the poverty im­pact of the clo­sure sys­tem that the Pales­tini­ans face.”

Fun­ders of WoW in­clude the De­part­ment for In­ter­na­tional De­vel­op­ment, which gave it £310,364 for 2006/07. A spokesman said: “We are not cur­rently fund­ing any WoW ac­tiv­ity in Is­rael or Pales­tine. How any char­ity chooses to cam­paign or raise funds to sup­port over­seas projects in elim­i­nat­ing poverty is a mat­ter for them, as long as they re­main within the Char­ity Com­mis­sion­ers’ guide­lines.”

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