Charity Commission confirms investigating ‘concerns’ re CAA petition

The CAA (Campaign against Antisemitism) – an organisation that has been accused of being pro-Israeli “shock troops” “pos[ing] as a charity” and has been the subject of a petition seeking the revocation of its charitable status – has published a petition attempting to topple Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn or, failing that, to persuade Labour MPs to split from the party and form a new one.

The petition has horrified many observers, who have criticised it as inciting hate and violence and have pointed to comments left by signatories to the petition wishing harm or worse on the Labour leader:

caa hate 3caa hate 2caa hate 1

The petition and associated comments have triggered a wave of complaints to the petition host, Change.org, but the petition currently remains online.

The petition has been accused of recklessly endangering the Labour leader, with some pointing to the fact that Finsbury Park terrorist Darren Osborne, who killed a Muslim man outside a mosque, originally hoped to kill Corbyn and Labour’s London mayor Sadiq Khan. The tragic death of Labour MP Jo Cox at the hands of an extreme right-winger is also evoked.

But even apart from the accusations of incitement, the petition raises serious questions about whether the CAA’s activities are compatible with its charitable status.

The Charity Commission (CC) issues guidance on what kind of political activities are and are not acceptable for a charity – and the legal ban on party political activities is considered important enough to be stated at least twice in its guidance document:

cc guidance party.png

It’s difficult to imagine how trying to replace a party leader – or prompt the formation of a new party – is not ‘party political activity’.

It’s also difficult to believe that such attempts fulfil the obligation to be ‘politically neutral’ and arguable that they meet the requirement not to support a political party.

These discrepancies have prompted a number of complaints to the CC. A CC spokesperson told the SKWAWKBOX:

We can confirm that concerns have been raised with us about a petition by the charity. As with all concerns raised with us about a registered charity, we are assessing this in line with our risk and regulatory framework.

However, the CC would not provide any indication as to the likely outcome and has not yet signalled whether it will disclose the number of complaints received.

The SKWAWKBOX asked the CAA:

The CC’s guidance on charities’ political activity emphasises twice that charities must not participate in party political activity, must remain politically neutral and must not support a political party.

How do you respond to criticisms that your petition breaches these obligations in attempting to change the leader of a party and encouraging its MPs to leave and form a new one?

The CC also says that a charity must guard its reputation. Your petition has attracted numerous comments wishing harm or worse to Corbyn, which has horrified many observers. How does this fit with the CAA’s legal obligation to protect its reputation?

The CAA responded:

Gideon Falter, Chairman of Campaign Against Antisemitism said:
We condemn this violent language which is as bad as the language about Jews on Jeremy Corbyn’s own Facebook page. We have asked Change.org to give us a means of removing it. Campaign Against Antisemitism fully understands its obligations. We are obliged to act in the public benefit and without political fear or favour. That is why we have called out Jeremy Corbyn as an antisemite and demanded his departure, just as we have done before with antisemitic politicians in other parties.”

The response did not address the call for MPs to form a new party and how this is compatible with the CAA’s obligation not to engage in party politics. No response to a request for specific information on this point had been received by the time of publication.

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  1. As Campaign Against Antisemitism is a registered Charity, and are required to be ‘balanced’ in relation to political issues, where are their complaints about the higher levels of anti-semitism in the Tory and UKIP parties, never mind the BNP? Here is a template letter to complain to them, then the Charity Commission, about CAAS’ lack of balance: http://beta.charitycommission.gov.uk/charity-details/?regid=1163790&subid=0

    Gideon Falter
    Campaign Against Antisemitism
    PO Box 2647
    W1A 3RB

    Dear Gideon Falter

    You will be aware that recently, in relation to the Institute for Economic Affairs, a Charity Commission [CC] spokesperson is reported as stating that: “charities can play an important role in informing the public,” ….“The law is clear, however, that they must do so in a balanced and neutral way. There are clear rules for charities regarding political activity that form a key part of both charity law and public expectations.”

    I am concerned about your Charity’s ‘political activities’, which seem to be in clear breach of your responsibilities as a registered charity, and I wish to make a formal complaint.

    I am also going to make a formal complaint to the Charity Commission, if you are not able to satisfy me that you are not acting outside of the regulations governing the political activities of registered charities, but their online advice is that I should first approach a representative of the charity itself.

    The Charity Commission published guidance, Campaigning and political activity guidance for charities (CC9), includes the following:
    1.1 Key points about campaigning and political activity [extracts]
    • legal requirement: in the political arena, a charity must stress its independence and ensure that any involvement it has with political parties is balanced.
    • a charity can campaign using emotive or controversial material, where this is lawful and justifiable in the context of the campaign. Such material must be factually accurate and have a legitimate evidence base

    On the first point there is no perceptible ‘balance’ in your activities that I can see, as your published material and public activities seem mainly criticism of the leadership of the Labour Party and its attitude to the issue of Palestinian rights and Israeli state policy, conflated with claims of anti-semitism [within the Labour Party], and factually I can see no basis for your charity’s approach, when recently published research:-

    Antisemitism in contemporary Great Britain, by 2 Jewish organisations,
    Jewish Institute for Policy Research & the Community Security Trust

    found that:

    “Looking at the political spectrum of British society, the most antisemitic group consists of those who identify as very right-wing. In this group about 14% hold hard-core antisemitic attitudes and 52% hold at least one attitude, compared again to 3.6% and 30% in the general population. The very left-wing, and, in fact, all political groups located on the left, are no more antisemitic than the general population. This finding may come as a surprise to those who maintain that in today’s political reality, the left is the more serious, or at least, an equally serious source of antisemitism, than the right.”

    I have not seen this reflected in your public statements and activities, so the balance necessary for your activities to be lawful as a charity seems to be contradicted.

    I would be interested to hear what activities your charity is undertaking to ensure political balance in your activities.

    If I do not hear from you within 14 days I will assume that I am not going to receive a reply.

    I look forward to your response to my observations; which you may take as a formal complaint.

    Yours etc

  2. I’m old enough to remember when Avaaz completely removed and killed a huge 120,000+ signatory petition calling for Angela Eagle MP to be censured by the Labour Party (for lying about “Brickgate” and using that lie as a tool for attacking Corbyn supporters and also making false claims she had cancelled a political rally at a hotel because she had received death threats) because of TWO abusive comments.

    Change.org MUST remove this petition.

  3. Falter says he condemns the language – but NOT the people spouting the bile.

    Falter says he wants the comments removed – but NOT the names added to the petition.

    And what’s this about antisemitic politicians in other parties having campaigns to have them removed, or have had their removal ‘demanded’ by CAA?

    First I’ve heard.

    I know what you are, falter. I know.

  4. I visited the change.org petition page to complain & this morning received an email from change.org saying
    Hilary we’re missing your name since you visited the petition, now has 26,688 supporters, every signature helps.. add your name today.
    Change.org is obviously not taking any notice of the complaints raised, which is a shame as I have supported many petition through them.

    1. Did you click on ‘report a policy viol;ation’ at the bottom. I did and reported it for hate speech. Additionally, iIn the comment box I said It is promulgating a lie, is not a charity, is a political organisation with an agenda and invoking comments to kill.in Corbyn

      1. Yes I did report it for Hate Speech. They are even provoking murder on Twitter I’ve just chastised someone called molly.

  5. If Momentum were not so influenced by Jon Lansman, a foolish Corbyn advisor and strategist on this issue, surely an appeal for all Momentum members to write to complain on various matters including this, would have been made. Change .org would have been inundated, possibly! There seems to be very little political PR skill on the NEC left or in Corbyn’s office …..I suspect, Momentum is in fact a shadow of its former self and I , one of the founders of Momentum in a marginal seat, have noiw left Momentum and cancelled all DDs because of Lansman..

  6. I complained about the CAA to the CC 5 months ago and got the usual blamd acknowledgement. I followed it up with an enquiry as to what they were doing, and got no response. Don’t hold your breath, people.

  7. corbyn is certainly not an antisemite.

    “We condemn this violent language which is as bad as the language about Jews on Jeremy Corbyn’s own Facebook page. ”

    – Ehh ?? Where has there been language like this against Jews on Corbyn’s Facebook page? I’ve never ever ever EVER seen violent threats, death threats, or death wishes against Jews from Corbyn/Labour voters.

  8. You are wasting your breath! Not so long ago, the Anti-zionist Jewish Network complaint against the chariity, the Jewish National Fund for its use of charity funds to purchase and develop land in Israel against Charity commission rules was dismissed by the Charity Commissioner who then turned out to be a ‘friend’ of JNF himself……………

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