War on Want investigated
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.”