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UK charity regulator rejects Jewish Voice for Labour's complaint against pro-Israel group

Jewish Voice for Labour's complaint against the Campaign Against Antisemitism dates back four years and centres on the latter's alleged political activity
Gideon Falter, CEO of Campaign Against Antisemitism (Campaign Against Antisemitism on X)
Gideon Falter, CEO of Campaign Against Antisemitism (Campaign Against Antisemitism on X)

The UK's charities regulator has rejected a request by a Jewish group in the Labour Party to have a pro-Israel charity stripped of its charitable status.

In April 2020, Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL) filed a complaint with the Charity Commission against the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA), accusing it of acting as a "highly politically partisan organisation which does not deserve charitable status". 

The CAA, which was founded in 2015 and says it is "dedicated to exposing and countering antisemitism", had played a leading role in antisemitism allegations against the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and has since pursued antisemitism complaints against Labour MPs.

In correspondence seen by MEE, the regulator told JVL on 8 May - over four years after its initial complaint - that it had "not made out a clear case that it is a person that is or may be affected by the registration of CAA”.

The regulator said: "We are therefore refusing your application on the basis that it has not been demonstrated that JVL has the standing to bring it."

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JVL had launched a complaint against the CAA around two years after it was targeted by the group. In April 2018, the CAA published an article where it referred to JVL as being "on the fringes of the Jewish community". It also accused JVL of being "supportive of extreme elements" and of "cooperating" with organisations, such as the BDS Movement, which it said "camouflage themselves as anti-Zionists."

JVL considered these accusations to be defamatory. 

'Challenging antisemitism and other forms of racism is clearly a legitimate charitable purpose. Attacking expressions of opinion about the conduct of the State of Israel towards Palestinians is not'

Geoffrey Bindman, lawyer

In its April 2020 complaint, JVL alleged that the CAA had engaged in the "persistent conflation and equating of antisemitism with criticism of the state of Israel" and "denouncing Labour Party activists as anti-semites" with "minimal" supporting evidence. 

The group then launched another complaint on 15 March 2021, accusing the CAA of continuing to engage in such behaviour.

Later that year, in September 2021, the CAA described JVL as an "antisemitism-denial group" and a "sham Jewish representative organisation".

In April 2022, JVL complained again to the Charity Commission after the CAA attacked journalist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown for writing that "criticism of the state of Israel is deemed anti-semitic."

In January 2023, the Charity Commission said it was "assessing concerns" about the CAA and that it had opened a regulatory compliance case against the organisation, according to a report in the Guardian

According to the UK's charity law, an organisation cannot be a charity "if its purposes are political".

The Charity Commission told MEE in a statement: "We previously closed this regulatory compliance case after assessing the various concerns raised and issuing the charity with advice and guidance.

“After careful consideration of Jewish Voice for Labour’s specific request to remove the Campaign Against Antisemitism from the register of charities, we concluded it has not demonstrated it has the required legal standing to make such an application. Jewish Voice for Labour can ask for decision review, if it disagrees with this decision.”

'A duty to investigate'

MEE understands that since the 8 May decision, JVL has written to the Charity Commission’s customer relations manager raising concerns over the handling of the case and that those concerns are being considered.

Labour’s former shadow chancellor John McDonnell MP, among others, has since written to the Charity Commission asking for information about its progress investigating the CAA.

Rabbi Chaim Blayer, a Jewish community rabbi working in north London, has also sought such clarification from the Charity Commission.

In his email on Thursday 23 May, seen by MEE, Blayer asserted that “the conduct of the Chief Executive of the CAA has misrepresented the experience and views of many Jews in the UK about peaceful protest against the actions of the Zionist State of Israel”.

Sir Geoffrey Bindman, a prominent lawyer and writer on human rights, and the founder of law firm Birdman & Partners, told MEE that he believed the Charity Commission still had a "duty" to investigate JVL's complaint. 

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"Challenging antisemitism and other forms of racism is clearly a legitimate charitable purpose. Attacking expressions of opinion about the conduct of the State of Israel towards Palestinians is not," he said.

"The Charity Commission has a duty to investigate evidence of the latter supplied by Jewish Voice for Labour."

The CAA has recently drawn public scrutiny after it released footage in April 2024 showing its CEO, Gideon Falter, being told by a police officer at a pro-Palestinian protest that his "openly Jewish" appearance could antagonise protesters. 

The incident led to widespread condemnation of the police officer, but a longer video released later showed the officer saying that Falter had walked into the middle of the march, and was “looking to try and antagonise”.

Lord Mann, the government's antisemitism tsar, said Falter's intention at the protest had been "quite explicit" - and accused the CAA of “not playing it straight”.

The CAA has previously been criticised for its activities.

In 2015 the all-party parliamentary group against antisemitism said: “It is important that the [CAA’s] leadership do not conflate concerns about activity legitimately protesting Israel’s actions with antisemitism, as we have seen has been the case on some occasions.”

In July 2022 Labour MP Margaret Hodge tweeted: “I’m fed up of CAA using antisemitism as a front to attack Labour. Time to call them out for what and who they really are. More concerned with undermining Labour than rooting out antisemitism.”

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