Charities ripe for suing

by Richard on October 7, 2010

David Hallam is claiming that the resolution at Methodist Conference represents a misuse of charitable money given to the church. In which case, he’d better get his lawyers issuing writs against some of Britain’s most respected development agencies. For example, here’s Christian Aid

Agencies such as Christian Aid have a duty to fulfil their humanitarian mandate and to meet immediate needs, especially in times of emergency.

But our role, in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Israel as elsewhere, is also to speak out about the causes of poverty.

Crippling poverty

Palestinian poverty is as crippling a part of the conflict as suicide bombs or military incursions.

Sixty-four per cent of the Palestinian population now exist on less than £1.10 a day – below the official UN poverty line – compared to 20% in 1998.

The Gaza Strip, a narrow sliver of land with a huge concentration of refugees, has been effectively sealed off from the world, and the latest blockade means not even the minimum of humanitarian supplies of medicines and food are getting in.

Palestinian life is dominated by a lack of money to buy food, severe movement restrictions and the collapse of public services. Palestinian society is falling deeper into poverty and despair.

Creating poverty

Responsibility for the current humanitarian crisis rests principally with Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.

And Oxfam

The conflict in the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel continues to deny ordinary people their basic rights.

Oxfam identifies the end of Israel’s 43-year occupation of the Palestinian territory as fundamental, not only to delivering peace and security, but also to helping end poverty and injustice for Israelis and Palestinians alike.

And Cafod

Since the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip by Israel following the 1967 Six-day War, Palestinians have seen their standard of living fall; today, almost three-quarters of the population lives below the UN poverty line

In the West Bank, most Palestinians cannot build homes or roads, or move freely from place to place because the Israeli authorities will not give them permission. This damages the economy, local services and breaks up families.

(The emphases in these quotes are, of course, mine)

Three leading charities, each identifying the actions of the Israeli authorities as a major driver of Palestinian poverty. Should their solicitors be preparing to hear from David too?

Christian Aid state their position this way:

Christian Aid is not party-political and always works within the law. But we believe that it’s our duty to address the causes of poverty. Many of these causes, such as debt or trade, are essentially political or economic in origin. Christian Aid believes we can use our influence on politicians and business leaders to make sure that they think about what is best for the world’s poorest people.

Unless you think that the church should have neither debate nor opinion about political, economic and social affairs — and I don’t think David does — I don’t see how you can possibly claim that Conference reaching a conclusion about Israel represents “a misuse of a charity’s funds”.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1

Earl 10.07.10 at 3:42 pm

A member of one of these organizations may legitimately take issue with their actions up to and including legal action. If one does not hold membership in one of these organizations, one is without standing except as provided in law to challenge their actions.

Responsibility for the current plight of Palestinians is the result of their unwilling and sometimes willing manipulation and use by the surrounding Arab nations as third-party forces against Israel. Israel is not at fault for refusing to surrender Israeli territory to their enemies.

2

Richard 10.07.10 at 3:55 pm

The issue here is not whether these organisations are right — though I think they are. The point is that they are charities. David is arguing that under British charity law, the Methodist church misused its resources. Christian Aid et al must surely be open to the same charge. Membership doesn’t have anything to do with it.

3

Earl 10.07.10 at 4:17 pm

Membership is an issue as a good bit of the objection so strongly expressed to that course of action adopted by MP focuses on turning to the legal process for relief rather than relying upon institutional process.

4

Richard 10.07.10 at 5:53 pm

That’s a fair point, Earl. But the fact of David’s membership of the church is only one element of the objections that have been raised to his threatened lawsuit (still, note, only a threat) but for my part I’m angrier about the substance of his claims than about his disregard of process. At least, I think I am.

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