By Tom Anderson & Therezia Cooper
Stewardship Services, a UK registered charity has admitted collecting funds for a project in the illegal Israeli settlement of Kochav Yaakov. Stewardship has collected the funds on behalf of another charity, Christian Friends of Israeli Communities (CFOIC). These funds, according to Stewardship, go solely to a project in Kochav Yaakov.
On 2 August Corporate Watch wrote an open letter to Stewardship Services urging the charity to end its support for Christian Friends of Israeli Communities, which, in our opinion, contributes to settlement expansion. We received a brief response from Frances Miles, Head of ‘Giving Services’ at Stewardship, confirming that the money collected for CFOIC goes exclusively to Kochav Yaakov, an Israeli settlement of around 6000 people located just East of Ramallah and Al Bireh in the occupied West Bank. Corporate Watch’s response to Stewardship’s reply can be read below Miles’ email.
If you are concerned about the way in which Stewardship willingly facilitates the funding of this project in an Israeli settlement why not write a complaint.
A response from Stewardship Services
“Dear Corporate Watch
Thank you for your open letter explaining your concerns on Christian Friends of Israeli Communities.
We are aware that the region evokes complex political and theological views. We do not hold a position on political issues in this or any region.
Our primary goal remains the Advancement of the Christian faith. Our charitable objectives also allow us to support the relief of poverty. Our agreement with CFIOC [sic] on use of funds is that they will be used solely in the provision of a hot lunch for children in Kochav Yaakov whose parents cannot afford to do so.
We will continue to monitor the use of our funds to see that they are used for this purpose and meet the advice from regulators, such as the Charity Commission. As part of our on-going monitoring we are reviewing advice given by UK government and Charity regulators to charities working in the region.
Frances Miles Head of Giving Services, Stewardship”
A Corporate Watch response to Stewardship Services
Dear Frances Miles and Stewardship Services,
Thank you for taking the time to respond to Corporate Watch’s open letter regarding your involvement with Christian Friends of Israeli Communities.
In your email you state that you ‘are aware that the region evokes complex political and theological views’ and that you ‘do not hold a position on political issues in this or any region’. You then go on to confirm that all donations you collect for CFOIC by agreement goes to Kochav Yaakov. As you will be aware, Kochav Yaakov is an Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank. Again, Israel’s settlements in the West Bank are illegal under international law, something that is recognised by the UK Government, with the Foreign Office considering them an ‘obstacle to peace’. Your predecessors as UK partners for CFOIC, World Action Ministries, cut their links with CFOIC when we pointed out this fact to them.
Christian Friends of Israeli Communities does not hide the fact that its aims are highly political. In the second sentence of the CFOIC homepage the organisation states that ‘Judea and Samaria (the “West Bank”) is not occupied territory‘. By its own admission, CFOIC Heartland was established as a direct response to the Oslo Accords. There can be no doubt that by willingly collecting funds for settlements and projects such as these, Stewardship is taking a very political stance indeed, and can not hope to be seen as neutral.
Your email to us highlights that your ‘charitable objectives also allow us to support the relief of poverty’, but by supporting settlements Stewardship is complicit in poverty creation. Kochav Yaakov is one of the expanding settlements located within what is frequently referred to as the ‘greater Jerusalem area’. According to its website, where the settlers describe Kochav Yaakov as a ‘dynamic growing community’, the settlement ‘is slated to expand into a large suburb and one day to hopefully link up with Jerusalem!’ .The result of the plan by Israel to expand Jerusalem to include the settlement blocs would be to deny any Palestinian state access to Jerusalem, something already partially achieved by the building of the Apartheid Wall. Any annexation would permanently prevent an independent Palestinian economy.
Only yesterday (13th of August) the Israeli Housing Minister Uri Ariel visited Kochav Yaakov pledging further illegal settlement expansion through the construction of up to 1000 new settler homes there. Previously, the Israeli legal human rights group Yesh Din has supported a petition in the High Court of Justice on behalf of Palestinians in the village of Kafr Aqab after Kochav Yaakov started illegal construction on private land in the village.
Palestinians living under occupation in West Bank villages within the ‘greater Jerusalem area’ are prevented by the Israeli occupation authorities from repairing their houses or accessing running water. Several Palestinian communities are threatened with forced displacement as a result of Israel’s plans to control the greater Jerusalem area and many, especially Bedouin communities, have lost their whole livelihood to settlement land grabs and from being denied access to their old markets in Jerusalem. If Stewardship is really concerned with poverty, it needs to to stop supporting Israel’s illegal settlements and their expansion.
We have noted that on Stewardship’s donation form for CFOIC, taxpaying donors have the option to tick a box allowing Stewardship Services to claim Gift Aid for their donation, amounting to a British government subsidy to CFOIC, so finally we have a few questions:
1. Are you aware of the European Council decision of 16 June 2005 which calls for ‘the abolition of financial and tax incentives and direct and indirect subsidies, and the withdrawal of exemptions benefiting the settlements and their inhabitants’?
According to recent questions posed in the House of Commons the Charity Commission is aware of the European Council declaration.
2. How much tax relief via Gift Aid has been received on donations for Christian Friends of Israeli Communities since Stewardship started to collect money for the organisation?
Corporate Watch hopes that Stewardship will think deeply about those questions and reconsider its support for Christian Friends of Israeli Communities and Israel’s illegal settlements.
We would greatly appreciate a response to the questions posted above.