Pro-Palestinian activist (file)
Pro-Palestinian activist (file) Reuters

A leading anti-poverty charity has been hijacked by anti-Israel activists, and is channeling millions in donations to causes not remotely connected to fighting poverty, according to campaigners.

A new initiative by the UK-based Israel Advocacy Movement seeks to raise awareness about how, over the past three decades, War on Want has morphed into little more than a front for some of the virulent anti-Israel activists, including the BDS boycott movement.

Founded in 1951, War on Want's initial mandate was to tackle global poverty and inequality. But following a disastrous period in the 1980s, when the charity was forced into insolvency under the management of anti-Israel campaigner George Galloway and then bailed out, it has taken on a far more radical political hue.

In fact, after being relaunched following its collapse in 1991, War on Want appears to have morphed into little more than a franchise of the far-left Socialist Workers Party (the "Donate" option on War on Want's homepage is even the same red, clenched fist as the SWP's logo).

Today, the majority of the charity's activities - funded by more than £2 million in annual donations - appear to have little to do with fighting poverty - and are disproportionately aimed at attacking the State of Israel.

Among its top campaigns is one aimed at pressuring the British government to enact a "two-way boycott" on arms purchases with Israel, as well as another targeting the G4S private security firm - a favorite target of BDS activists who object to its guards being employed to protect Jewish civilians from terrorist attacks in Israel.

Like many anti-Israel organizations, War on Want has received significant funding from the European Union (via the European Commission), as well as the UK government's Department for International Development. But it also receives support from several well-known British charitable foundations, including Comic Relief, which has contributed some £1.5 million over the past ten years.

"Since Galloway's leadership of the charity in the 80s War on Want have become increasingly anti-Israel. Each year bringing a rise of hostile activity," IAM founder Joseph Cohen told Arutz Sheva. "This year alone they ran major campaigns against defense and security companies they'd linked to Israel."

War on Want has even become a major sponsor of so-called "Israel Apartheid Week", the annual anti-Israel hate-fest which, again, has nothing to do with global poverty.

"Just last week they sponsored Israeli Apartheid Week, providing materials and speakers for multiple events," he added. "Infamous anti-Israel (not anti-poverty) activists like Omar Barghouti, the founder of the BDS movement and Atif Choudhury, the founder of International Solidarity Movement UK, are patrons of the charity.

"War on Want's anti-Israel activity has consumed the charity to such an extent that they are effectively a one policy party, morphing from an anti-poverty charity into an anti-Israel pressure group."

By way of illustration, he notes that while the topic of "Syria" - which is currently facing a humanitarian catastrophe - is mentioned on 42 pages of War on Want's website, "Israel is attacked on 772 pages. This is not about fighting poverty, it's about attacking Israel."

"Unless War on Want believe Israel to be responsible for global poverty it's clear they are no longer an anti-poverty charity," he said. "Their departure from being an anti-poverty charity would explain why nations that suffer endemic poverty and conflict are barely mentioned on their site - Syria, Somalia, Chad, Eritrea, to name a few."

Cohen emphasized that the issue is not just one for pro-Israel advocates. By conning donors into believing that their money will go towards fighting poverty, War on Want is also harming genuine anti-poverty charities, he explained. He urged activists and concerned members of the public to boycott the charity, and contact major donors to pressure them into redirecting their funds to organizations which actually fight global poverty.

In its call to action, the Israel Advocacy Movement highlights the stark differences in War on Want's distribution of funds, and the priorities of another anti-poverty charity, Concern Worldwide. It shows a staggering focus on anti-Israel activism by War on Want, while countries most affected by poverty - such as Chad, Somalia and Syria - are almost completely ignored.

Israel Advocacy Movement

"The reason War on Want are effective at campaigning against Israel is because they have deep pockets, they raise over £2 million each year for their campaigns (over half of which comes from large organisations, government bodies and foundations)," Cohen said. "We have decided to hit War on Want where it hurts - their pockets."

"Unsurprisingly most of the donations are raised under the pretense that the charity is tackling global poverty. Some organisations will limit their grant to a particular campaign (like improving conditions in sweatshops), but even when War on Want abide by these conditions, the injection of cash frees up hundreds of thousands more that they can invest in anti-Israel activity," he explained.

"We are encouraging people to write in to the foundations and bodies that fund War on Want, to highlight that this charity is an anti-Israel pressure group masquerading as an anti-poverty charity. For example, most organisations would not want to be associated with the BDS movement as anti-racism experts like the ADL and Simon Wiesenthal Center have branded it anti-Semitic. Yet when they bankroll War on Want they unknowingly endorse BDS.

"Most of War on Want's financiers are oblivious as to who War on Want actually are. We must make them aware of the truth and encourage them to switch to one of the many charities that genuinely tackle global poverty."