Charity Commission drops inquiry into Campaign Against Antisemitism

<span>During Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, the CAA organised protests outside Labour HQ.</span><span>Photograph: Tolga Akmen/AFP/Getty Images</span>
During Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, the CAA organised protests outside Labour HQ.Photograph: Tolga Akmen/AFP/Getty Images

The Charity Commission has dropped its investigation into the Campaign Against Antisemitism – four years after the regulator was asked to look into allegations of political partisanship against the organisation.

The leftwing Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL), which has faced criticism from the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA), including being called a “sham Jewish representative organisation”, made a complaint against the CAA to the commission in 2020.

JVL, which has had dozens of members investigated by Labour for alleged antisemitism, was previously told by the commission that it was investigating the CAA, and the regulator gave a statement to the Guardian last year saying it had opened a regulatory compliance case into the charity.

However, earlier this month, the commission wrote to JVL saying that its application had been refused because it was not “a person that is or may be affected by the registration of CAA”, leading to consternation at JVL, given the length of time taken and the regulator’s previous statements.

The veteran human rights lawyer Sir Geoffrey Bindman KC said: “There can be no dispute that political campaigning requires investigation. The evidence provided by JVL is of CAA challenging criticism of Israeli policies and conduct towards Palestinians. This is clearly political.

“While combating antisemitism and other forms of racism is clearly a legitimate charitable purpose, attacking expressions of opinion about Israeli conduct towards Palestinians is not.”

Charity regulations state that “an organisation will not be charitable if its purposes are political”.

The Labour MP John McDonnell, who has been criticised by CAA in the past, and Rabbi Chaim Blayer, a community rabbi from north London, have also contacted the commission about the CAA investigation.

The CAA made the initial submission to the Equality and Human Rights Commission about antisemitism within Labour, which led to the watchdog finding that the party was responsible for unlawful harassment and discrimination.

During Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, the CAA organised protests outside Labour HQ and a petition, the wording of which was changed from Corbyn “must go” to Labour “must act” after a previous regulatory compliance case led to the commission telling it to do so “to ensure it complied with our guidance on campaigning and political activity”.

In April the CAA was involved in controversy when it released a short video clip showing a Met sergeant telling its chief executive, Gideon Falter, that because he appeared “openly Jewish” he would not be allowed to walk across a pro-Palestinian protest march through central London. A longer version of the exchange showed the officer explaining he was concerned Falter was trying provoke a confrontation with marchers.

In April, three MPs accused the Charity Commission of acting unlawfully by failing to investigate campaigning by a thinktank – the Global Policy Warming Foundation – that questions climate science.

A Charity Commission spokesperson said: “We previously closed this regulatory compliance case after assessing the various concerns raised and issuing the charity with advice and guidance.

“After careful consideration of Jewish Voice for Labour’s specific request to remove the Campaign Against Antisemitism from the register of charities, we concluded it has not demonstrated it has the required legal standing to make such an application. Jewish Voice for Labour can ask for decision review if it disagrees with this decision.”

The CAA declined to comment.