Complaint to Charity Commission re Jewish Chronicle

Stephen Pollard, editor of the Jewish Chronicle

Full text of complaint to Charity Commission

To the Charity Commission

Dear Sirs and Mesdames,

Complaint regarding the Kessler Foundation (registration number 290759) and possible or actual current similar charitable recognition for the Jewish Chronicle

We the undersigned organisations and individuals write to express deep concern regarding what appears to have been the creation of a charity with the purpose of largely funding and operating The Jewish Chronicle newspaper, namely the Kessler Foundation registration number 290759, and the possibilities that this model will be repeated or a new way of framing the funding and operating of The Jewish Chronicle as charitable will be developed and registered.

The Jewish Chronicle has referred to the Kessler Foundation as its ‘parent entity’[1], and further that a number of other charitable foundations have donated towards this.  (These donations should also be subject to investigation given the issues raised below).

Whilst we understand this arrangement may now have terminated post financial difficulties at the paper in 2019, we are given to understand via reports in various media[2] that its new owners will also seek to have some sort of charitable registration.

Our concerns regarding the previous or ongoing and future situations are elaborated, in brief, below:

  • The Kessler Foundation appears to submit the same accounts to the Charity Commission and Companies House claiming its operations are entirely charitable thus:

These can be found on the Charity Commission website and on Companies House website.

Notwithstanding that Kessler Foundation is no longer funding or operating The Jewish Chronicle after the recent takeover, the stated intention of the consortium that has taken it over to seek charitable status again is of deep concern.  As such

  • We are concerned that a newspaper with overtly political views expressed via editorial whether on UK issues or overseas issues, including but not limited to Israel, was and may in future be able to secure charitable status / funding and operational support by charitable status.  This has been evidenced in numerous commentaries on the content of the paper but also in the successful defamation claims made against the newspaper.  See, for example but not solely, ‘Jewish Chronicle pays out £50,000 and apologises for wrongly linking charity to terror group’.  Its repeated breaches of the IPSO code, the frequent complaints made against the paper to IPSO, the PCC before it, to the paper itself and in community circles, evidence not just bias but factual misrepresentations both overt and subject to damages claims but also mendacious (see Appendix A).  This breaches the requirements of charities to ensure that any political campaigns they undertake is ‘factually accurate and have a legitimate evidence base’.

Notably this has continued after the change of ownership of the paper.  Pease see Jewish Voice for Labour’s submission to IPSO dated 11 October 2020.

  • We are concerned that a newspaper that has published commentary denying the existence of Islamophobia was and may in future be able to secure charitable status / funding and operational support by charitable status.  See, for example, but not solely, ‘Don’t Fall for Bogus Claims of Islamophobia’ by Melanie Philips.  We believe that the undermining of the existence and prevalence of racism by a charity brings that charity and the charitable sector into disrepute.  The necessary checks and forethought required by a charity in this regard as per your guidelines and requirements are clearly absent and or flagrantly disregarded on numerous and repeated occasions including this one.

In particular, we do not see how denying the lived experiences of racism of another minority in the UK, could be deemed charitable, how it is in the best interests of any charity or indeed how any trustee could feel that this sort of editorial is reasonable.  It is further wholly disreputable to do so. 

There are frequent further instances of this type of denigration of Muslims and their experiences of Islamophobia e.g. ‘What will our leaders do about Trevor Phillips?’

  • We are concerned that a newspaper that has been taken numerous times to IPSO and been found wholly or partially in breach of the IPSO code numerous times may in future be able to secure charitable status / funding and operational support by charitable status.  See, for example, but not solely, White v The Jewish Chronicle.  The IPSO website details 6 breaches found since 2014 for the print version, and one resolution (see Appendix B for some examples).
  • We are concerned that a newspaper that has been socially divisive to such an exaggerated extent, and which pursues without end, the legitimization of anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian hatred has been and may continue to receive charitable status.
  • It is clear from it editorial interventions in the General Election of 2019, and in its reporting with regard to the Labour leadership election of 2020 that it has taken a partisan political stance and taken a stance in support of a candidate and against another during the general election (contrary to the Charity Commission regulations in this matter) and in the Labour leadership election made clear preferences for a candidates based specifically on their opposition to anti-racism campaigning vis Palestine.

The above leads us to have the conclude that:

  • The above were serious breaches of the responsibilities and duties of the Kessler Foundation and its trustees and would be for any future trustees of a charity that would fulfil the funding and or operational needs of The Jewish Chronicle and  further, that they bring the charity and the charitable sector into disrepute.
  • We further note that The Jewish Chronicle has been bought by a consortium which includes the former head of the Charity Commission, Sir William Shawcross.  The consortium is reported to have decided to: “establish a charitable trust to oversee the newspaper, appointing trustees…”[3].  We are concerned that forming another charitable trust will simply replicate the serious breaches referred to above and further bring the charitable sector into disrepute. 
  • Indeed it seems clear that the project is, a priori, not fit for charitable registration.  We note that there has been no change in the content or editorial leadership or structure since the consortium has taken over, indeed it has maintained the same editorial leadership and editorial line and style.

We believe the Charity Commission should:

  1. Desist from granting any sort of charitable status to funding or operation of The Jewish Chronicle – either directly or via any other method, unless and until there are clear written, binding and publicly available commitments made by the consortium and paper that there will be no more non-charitable activity undertaken.  Any such charitable registration must conditional on such agreements and must be closely monitored by the Charity Commission.
  2. Launch a separate investigation into conflicts of interest pertaining to relationships between Sir William Shawcross and The Jewish Chronicle during his tenure at the Charity Commission, in particular, but not solely with regard to involvement in complaints against the Kessler Foundation or any charity related to the Jewish Chronicle. 
  3. Undertake a wholesale investigation into the Kessler Foundation and any related charitable organisations set up to deal with The Jewish Chronicle, with regard to the systematic breaches of charitable function referred to above.

We are sure you agree that the matters raised herein are of the utmost seriousness and a matter of public confidence in the commission and the sector.

The Charity Commission cannot be seen to be facilitating racism and hatred in its operations.  Likewise its senior personnel must not be or appear to be biased, racist or discriminatory in any way, or seen to be or give the appearance of colluding with the promotion of bias or racism or any sort of hatred.

We look forward to your speedy response.

Signed,

Massoud Shadjareh, Chair, Islamic Human Rights Commission

Arthur Goodman, Jews for Justice for Palestinians (JFJFP)

Abbas Ali, Inminds Human Rights Group

Mick Napier, Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPCS)

Professor Abbas Edalat, Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran (CASMII)

Professor Haim Bresheeth, Professorial Research Associate, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, School of Oriental and African Studies

Michael Chanan, Professor Emeritus, University of Roehampton

Les Levidow, Jewish Network for Palestine

Stephen Sizer, Reverend, Peacemakers

Samir Haidari, Ahlulbayt Islamic Mission


[1] ‘See Good News About the JC’, Stephen Pollard, 20 June 2020 https://www.thejc.com/news/uk/good-news-about-the-future-of-the-jc-1.485633

[2] See e.g. ‘Jewish Chronicle under new ownership as consortium’s ‘very generous’ offer accepted’, Press Gazette, 23 April 2020, https://www.pressgazette.co.uk/jewish-chronicle-under-new-ownership-as-consortiums-very-generous-offer-accepted/

[3] See, inter alia, https://www.pressgazette.co.uk/jewish-chronicle-under-new-ownership-as-consortiums-very-generous-offer-accepted/