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Website for UK charity fundraising for Israeli soldiers no longer online

Content also disappears from UK-AWIS's Facebook page and YouTube channel as charity regulator says it is still assessing fundraising concerns
The homepage of UK-AWIS's website, as captured on 1 December 2023 (Screengrab)

The website and social media content belonging to a British charity under scrutiny over its fundraising activities for Israeli soldiers since the start of the war in Gaza is no longer accessible online.

The London-based UK Friends of the Association for the Wellbeing of Israel’s Soldiers (UK-AWIS) is the subject of an ongoing preliminary inquiry by the Charity Commission, the UK’s charity regulator.

Middle East Eye reported in December that UK-AWIS had launched an appeal for donations to support forces taking part in Operation Swords of Iron, the Israeli military’s codename for its war against Hamas in Gaza.

In a post on its Facebook page in November, it said that all donations would allow it “to better provide essentials for our frontline soldiers”.

Its website featured a silhouette image of two soldiers under a banner reading: “Iron Swords: Donate to the IDF NOW!”

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But at the time of publication, the website’s content appeared to have been removed, with a message on the homepage reading: “The site is under construction."

UK-AWIS’s Facebook page said: “This content isn’t available at the moment."

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Videos posted on the charity’s YouTube channel also appeared to have been removed.

It is not known when the content disappeared or why it was removed.

MEE asked UK-AWIS why its website and social media content had been removed but had not received a response by the time of publication.

A spokesperson for the Charity Commission confirmed that the regulator was continuing to assess concerns about the charity.

“We are looking into concerns raised with us regarding fundraising activities by [UK-AWIS]. We are currently assessing information and are engaging with the charity’s trustees to determine any next steps.”

In January, the commission told MEE that it had opened a regulatory compliance case into UK-AWIS, a process that it said was not a formal statutory investigation but a way to assess concerns about a charity.

It says it has still made no findings in that case.

Charities facing scrutiny

UK-AWIS is the British arm of an Israeli organisation, the Association for the Wellbeing of Israeli Soldiers, which is funded by the Israeli Defence Ministry and works closely with the Israel Defence Forces (IDF).

In its latest annual report covering the year to March 2023, filed to the Charity Commission last month, it said that funds raised in the UK were donated to Israel through its Israeli partner.

It describes its charitable objectives as including “the relief of need and suffering of serving and discharged Israeli soldiers and their families”. 

The report said: “The Trustees regularly travel to Israel to ensure that the funds sent from the UK are applied consistently with charity’s objectives. The charity does not undertake projects directly themselves but provides funding for projects being undertaken by other organisations that have been pre-approved by the Trustees.”

UK-AWIS is one of a number of charities facing scrutiny over support for Israeli soldiers.

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In January, the Charity Commission said it had opened a regulatory compliance case into the Boys Clubhouse, a Jewish youth charity in north London which invited Levi Simon, a British man who fought for the Israeli army in Gaza to speak to teenagers.

MEE revealed that the Boys Clubhouse was also running a project assisting young British men that it had helped to join the Israeli army.

Israeli forces are facing mounting accusations of war crimes over their conduct in the war in Gaza.

The International Court of Justice ruled in January that it was plausible that Israel’s campaign amounted to genocide.

Almost 32,000 people have been killed and almost 75,000 injured in Gaza since October, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

The United Nations this week declared a state of near famine in Gaza that the world body’s human rights chief Volker Turk said was a consequence of Israeli restrictions on aid, and which may amount to the war crime of “starvation as a weapon of war”.

Israel has denied deliberately causing humanitarian suffering and accusations of genocide.

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