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Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Strategic Alliances for a Secure, Connected, and Prosperous Region

Problems with the Current Palestinian Leadership, Extremism in Charities, and Anti-Semitism in England – William Shawcross

Filed under: Antisemitism, Europe and Israel, Palestinians

On March 19, 2018, William Shawcross, writer, commentator, and former chairman of the Charity Commission for England and Wales, addressed a conference on “Israel-Europe Relations: A New Paradigm,” organized by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. 

I think that so long as the so-called Palestinian issue remains, it will remain a cancer between Europe and Israel. I don’t see how Israel is going to be able to find a solution which satisfies Israel’s security and Palestinian people’s aspirations so long as the Palestinian people are led as they are today. Israel is in a very, very difficult position, and that difficulty is not adequately and always recognized by European politicians or people. Israel faces an existential threat every day, and Europeans don’t adequately recognize that. Israel is the only country in the United Nations whose extermination is openly called for. It’s an extraordinary and awful position for Israel to be in, and it’s very important that a solution be found. Perhaps, with the movement now in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states against the growing movement, against their Iranian foes, they may help Israel and the Palestinians sign an agreement, which they were not helping before to find.

One must hope that perhaps also President Trump and the Trump effect will have a beneficial influence on the stasis, on the log jam that has been so long the tragedy of both Israel and the Palestinian people. But one must hope that the Palestinian people get better leadership as soon as possible. I have been chairman of the Charity Commission for five and a half years. I recently left the job. It was a very important and interesting job, and I was very grateful to have it. The Commission is the government regulator of all charities in England and Wales. Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own charity commissions. We made it a priority, when I started and created a new board and brought in a new chief executive in 2013, to concentrate some of our resources on stopping extremist abuse of charities, and that meant, amongst other things, extremist Islamist abuse of good Muslim charities. We made that a priority. That was at the time when a lot of convoys were going to Syria, and some of the charities that sent those convoys to Syria were sending materiel that ended up in the hands, or materiel or people that ended up in the hands of terrorist organizations like ISIL. We did our best to stop that. We were a small organization of less than 300 people. There are 170,000 charities in England and Wales. We were not able to succeed in everything that we did, but I hope that we managed to stem the flow of charitable money to terrorists in Syria and other places.

The growth of anti-Semitism in Europe is one of the most appalling features of life today. In England, at least, anti-Semitism now is not so much a threat from the far Right as from an infernal horrific combination of Islamist extremism and the far Left. This is a toxic and very frightening brew, and it happens. It takes place in universities and in associations all over the country, and it’s very frightening. For example, now for Jewish students to go to some universities they are afraid of being attacked because they’re Jewish, and some young Jewish people I know have decided not to go to British universities for that reason. This is an appalling state of affairs that we must be alive to and try to deal with.

The far Right is a problem in Britain, and I think about 20 percent of police activity on extremism is directed against the far Right. But 80 percent is directed against Islamist extremism, which is a much more potent threat, unfortunately. The vast majority of Muslims in Britain, of course, are peace-loving British citizens who want to prosper and want their children to prosper. But there is a hardcore minority that feels that the British state should be exploited and abused in any way possible, and that hardcore minority also is fostering anti-Semitism in a horrible combination with the far Left in Britain. This is a very new and appalling feature of life in Britain today.