Summary:  The UK registered charity, War on Want (WoW) campaigns “against the root causes of global poverty, inequality and injustice,” placing great emphasis on its "Palestine" campaign.   Despite a number of investigations by the UK Charity Commission for its political activities, WoW continues to ignore Palestinian terrorism, misrepresent international law and promote apartheid rhetoric, to justify boycott, sanctions and divestment campaigns against Israel.  A recipient of EU, UK and Irish government funds, War on Want is involved in international lobbying to isolate Israel, and has also employed anti-Semitic themes in its campaigns.  This report details War on Want’s activities in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

 

The UK registered charity, War on Want (WoW) states that it “fights poverty in developing countries in partnership and solidarity with people affected by globalisation.” It says that “poverty is political” and campaigns “against the root causes of global poverty, inequality and injustice.” Despite a number of investigations by the UK Charity Commission for its political campaigns, WoW makes no secret of its politicization and this is evident in its one-sided approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The conflict is a primary issue for War on Want.  Its "campaign" on “Palestine” is one of only two country-specific campaigns out of seven projects listed on its website.[1]  The prominence and resource allocation for this campaign is likely to grow in 2007.  In a “2006:  year of achievement” report, WoW states that “[m]uch of [our] work has focused on building coalitions in the UK to make a major push for Palestine next year.”  The "Palestine campaign" uses sophisticated marketing tactics, including high profile media figures, to promote the Durban Strategy of isolating Israel internationally through its identification with Apartheid South Africa.  The campaign utilizes political rhetoric to portray Israel as aggressor and Palestinians as victims, ignoring the context of terror and misrepresenting Israeli actions in response.  WoW publications frequently employ terms such as “war crimes” and “collective punishment,” and consistently condemn Israel's “campaign of apartheid,” “the apartheid nature of the West Bank,” and the “apartheid wall.” The Separation Barrier is further described as "part of a wider political game…– annexing the best resources and land for Israel and consigning the Palestinians to…a gigantic prison."  WoW’s distorted portrayal of Israeli self-defensive measures are used to justify its leadership of the boycott and sanctions movement, including campaigns against Caterpillar and extensive lobbying of the Church of England and EU and UK government officials.

 

Funding

War on Want’s finances are not transparent and annual reports or audited accounts are not made available on the NGO's website.  It states that it receives funding from a number of different sources including the European Union (EU), the UK Department for International Development (DFID), Irish Aid (IA) and others. However, no further details are provided on WoW's website and funding information was also unavailable via the EU and Irish Aid websites.   DFID provided War on Want with £265,000 in 2005/06 through its Civil Society Challenge Fund.[2]  Based on DFID reports, this money appears to have been directed towards WoW projects in Latin America and Southeast Asia.  It is unclear if WoW receives additional monies from DFID to support the “Palestine campaign.”   However, as money is fungible, support by DFID for WoW contributes to its status, visibility, personnel, and financial capacity and frees up funding which can then be utilized for its highly politicized activities directed against Israel.

EU and DFID support for WoW is also highly problematic given the NGO's activities which directly contradict both EU and UK policy goals.[3]

Political Campaigning

War on Want declares that 54% of its funds go to projects for poor people overseas and 27% is used for its political campaigns.  It does not specify what percentage of its funds support projects for the impoverished specifically in the Palestinian Authority.  Based on its website, however, and notwithstanding its charitable status, it appears that most of WoW's "Palestine campaign" funding is used for promoting political activities and lobbying government officials rather than for specific development programs. [4]    These highly biased political activities include:

  • A 2005 briefing paper entitled “Time for Sanctions Against Israel”, "calls on the UK government to press for an immediate suspension of the EU-Israel Association Agreement and the trading preferences it confers on Israel.”

  • War on Want’s website provides a downloadable petition form to send to UK Prime Minister Tony Blair calling him “to state his support for sanctions against Israel now,” due to Israel's "continued violation of Palestinian human rights."

  • In 2006, War on Want initiated a major campaign entitled “Profiting from the Occupation: Corporate complicity in Israel's crimes against the Palestinian people”, advocating boycotts and divestment from corporations which sell goods made in the West Bank and the Golan Heights or which have carried out business with the Israeli government in those areas. 

  • Joining with other radical groups on this issue, War on Want has a dedicated campaign against Caterpillar's sale of equipment to Israel, and calls for a  boycott of all its products. It has also campaigned for the Church of England to withdraw its investments in Caterpillar and called on the Methodist Church of Great Britain to “divest from companies supporting Israel's illegal occupation of Palestine.” War on Want has also directly lobbied the large UK chain of department stores, John Lewis, to stop selling Caterpillar products.

  • In July/August 2006, War on Want joined with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign to promote a letter writing campaign to UK Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett. The letter laments Israel's "assault" and "collective punishment" of the Palestinians, but ignores the reason for the IDF operation – the Palestinian cross-border attack that resulted in the death of 2 Israeli soldiers and the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit.  It demands the UK restore aid to the Palestinian Authority, but makes no mention that aid has been withheld due to Hamas' refusal to renounce violence or recognize Israel.

  • An October 2006 press release, calling on the UK to suspend its trade pact and engage in an arms embargo against Israel, accuses Israel of “targeted killings,” firing artillery shells near civilians, “settler violence,” and “intimidation and harassment of Palestinians.” The release makes no mention of on-going Palestinian rocket attacks from Gaza, continued attempted suicide bombings, or shooting attacks on Israeli civilians.

  • As documented by NGO Monitor, WoW pursues a sophisticated public relations campaign against the "apartheid wall," involving former Pink Floyd singer, Roger Waters.  WoW maintains a separate website for its "no wall" campaign, which includes link to Electronic Intifada and Stopthewall.org.  Its "Facts about the Wall" page misrepresents the July 2004 International Court of Justice advisory opinion as a binding legal "ruling"; it describes the "surround[ing]" of Qalqilya without mentioning terrorist attacks that have originated from this town; and asserts the patently false claim that "the Wall still annexes some 47% of the West Bank."

  • A further example of War on Want’s political campaigning is its promotion of a one-sided position during the 2006 Lebanon War.  In July 2006, War on Want joined with Oxfam, World Vision UK, Save the Children and others in a press release and a letter to Prime Minister Tony Blair that urged a ceasefire "to help protect the civilians dying in this conflict." War on Want did not address the issue of disarming Hezbollah, and the right of Israel to defend its civilians from deliberate rocket attacks.

  • War on Want’s submission to the UK Parliamentary Committee addressing development assistance to the Palestinian Authority describes the Separation Barrier as a “land grab” intended to “make Palestinian lives more miserable” and claims the disengagement from Gaza “left all decisions of national sovereignty in the hands of the Israeli Government,” and “gave [Israel] carte blanche to re-invade at will.”  It blames Palestinian poverty solely on the “Occupation” rather than on Palestinian terrorism or internal corruption.  The submission erases the detailed evidence regarding the lives saved and reduction in terror resulting from the barrier.

 War on Want and Anti-Semitism

In addition to its rhetoric and political activities designed to demonize Israel, War on Want often incorporates anti-Semitic rhetoric and imagery in its campaigns.  Its website frequently abuses Holocaust themes in a highly offensive manner:  Israel is accused of “caging” Palestinians into “ghettos”; engaging in an “expulsion project”; and acting like a “heavyweight beating a child.”   War on Want adopts traditional anti-Semitic libels (such as “poisoning the wells”) in repeating unsupported allegations that the IDF targets Palestinian water sources as a “punitive and discriminatory tool”.  Most recently, its 2006 Christmas card campaign echoes the anti-Semitic blood libel of deicide.  One of three cards sold on WoW’s website portrays Joseph and a pregnant Mary being searched by Israeli soldiers against the Separation Barrier outside of Bethlehem. In this image, War on Want is explicitly connecting the suffering of Palestinians with that of Jesus.  The card further implies that Israel is intentionally persecuting Palestinian Christians, diverting attention from the ongoing oppression of Christians under the PA

Alliances and Activities

War on Want has alliances with notable radical, anti-Israel activists and NGOs:

  • UN Special Rapporteur and anti-Israel activist, John Dugard is featured in several places on the WoW website.  Its “Time for Sanctions” webpage is introduced with a quote from Dugard, stating, "Israel’s defiance of international law poses a threat not only to the international legal order but to the international order itself.”  Dugard’s activities have been documented as virulently anti-Israel and actively campaigns against the Road Map. 

  • War on Want’s former General Secretary, George Galloway, is an MP in the UK for the RESPECT anti-Iraq war party whose website says “Israel has been formulating and directing UK and US foreign policy.”[5]

  • As reported by NGO Monitor, on July 9, 2006, War on Want held a meeting in London called “Profiting from the Occupation: A People's Tribunal to expose the Corporations behind the Israeli Occupation of Palestine.”  The keynote speakers list included Jeff Halper of ICAHD and Mustafa Barghouti, member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and board member of the Palestinian NGO, MIFTAH.  The event's political program sparked an investigation by the UK Charity Commission, as to whether WoW was abusing its legal status as a charity organization (see below).

War on Want is also connected to the independent “Stop the Wall” campaign although the nature of the relationship is ambiguous.   WoW claims that “it supports the work of Stop the Wall” and has described it as a “partner organization.” The lack of transparency in WoW accounts, however, makes it impossible to determine if this is a financial partnership.   Like WoW, Stop the Wall campaigns for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel, which it describes as an “apartheid state”.  It is partnered with PENGON, a Palestinian umbrella organization whose primary political agenda is demonstrated by its continued promotion of the myths and distortions of events that took place in Jenin in April 2002.  In May 2006, Stop the Wall also lobbied the UK’s largest teachers union, NATFHE, recommending that its members boycott Israeli academics.   Stop the Wall said “the NATFHE vote is an important step towards the implementation of the call for academic boycott...and shows the determination of British academics not to be complicit with or supportive of Israeli Apartheid.”

Investigations by the U.K. Charity Commission

War on Want has been investigated by the UK Charity Commission on a number of occasions.  In the 1980s, the Commission found that WoW’s accounts from 1985 to 1989 were “materially misstated”.  In August 2005, after another investigation, the Charity Commission warned War on Want that its political activities must demonstrate “a reasonable expectation” that they would further its “charitable purposes.”  The Charity Commission began another investigation into War on Want’s political activities in July 2006 responding specifically to a complaint about the “Profiting from the Occupation” conference. The results of the investigation have not yet been made public as of January 2007.  In response to an NGO Monitor inquiry for an update on the investigation’s progress, the Commission stated that the "issues are now being considered at a senior level … to determine what action, if any, it is appropriate for the Commission to take." [6]

Conclusion

War on Want is an extremely politicized NGO which actively promotes the Durban Strategy and uses anti-Semitic themes to attack Israel.  Given WoW's extensive political campaigning and lobbying efforts, its one-sided approach to the conflict that ignores Palestinian terrorism, and the recurring investigations by the Charity Commission, funding from the EU and UK to this NGO is highly problematic.


Footnotes:

1. War on Want’s campaigns include “Trade Justice,” “Corporate Accountability,” “Corporations & Conflict,” “Palestine,” “Western Sahara,” “Privitisation & Poverty,” and “Youth Action Network”.

2. This fund is intended for specific projects aimed at eradicating poverty.

3. See NGO Monitor’s recent reports on EU Funding and DFID for more information on these guidelines.

4. War on Want supports a farmer’s cooperative in the Palestinian Authority called Al Zaytouna.  Based on the WoW website, this appears to be its only development activity in the Palestinian Authority.

5. Galloway was General Secretary at the time when the UK Charity Commission stated that War on Want’s accounts for 1985 to 1989 were “materially misstated”. The Commission did not apportion blame to Galloway, however.

6. Correspondence between NGO Monitor and Soames Shillingford of the Charity Commission, January 10, 2006.