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A British charity that raises money for Israel’s military is under investigation by the Charity Commission for fund-raising videos that appear to show grainy footage of Palestinians being killed.
UK Friends of The Association For The Wellbeing of Israel’s Soldiers (UKAWIS) is a London-based non-profit organisation that is “dedicated to enhancing the well-being of Israeli Defence Force (IDF) soldiers.” Its website contains a marketing video that appears to show a Palestinian throwing a projectile and being blown up immediately afterwards. Shortly afterwards, the video displays a montage of air strikes on what are assumed to be Palestinian targets. These images appear to be military thermal imaging combat footage.
When Byline Times asked the Charity Commission to comment on the video, they replied: “we are assessing the information that you have shared with us as part of our active case into UKAWIS. We have engaged with the charity’s trustees on this and await their response to our questions and requests for information.”
The ‘active case’ is a historic complaint against the charity that, according the Charity Commission, is “regarding fundraising activities”.
While UKAWIS did not respond to Byline Times’ requests for comments as to whether showing someone being killed in a charity fund-raising video was appropriate or necessary, the charity commission stated: “we expect all charities to adhere to the Fundraising Regulator’s Code of Practice when it comes to fundraising and to campaign with respect and tolerance.”
Of note, the Charity Commission’s Chair – Orlando Fraser – specifically commented on charities with a Middle-East focus in his 2023 Annual Public Meeting speech. “The Commission is aware of a significant number of serious concerns regarding activities linked to some charities in relation to this conflict,” he said. “Let me be clear – charities must not allow their premises or events to become forums for hate speech or unlawful extremism… we will not hesitate to take action in accordance with the law to protect the reputation of the sector as a whole.”
Last year’s accounts showed UKAWIS held unrestricted funds of some £440,000. Furthermore, its accounts show that, between 2018 and 2022, the amount the charity expended on its fundraising, governance and support costs doubled from 28% to 60% of annual income. Also, over the past five years, UKAWIS has consistently held over £440,000 in de facto reserves. This is more than three times the amount UKAWIS spent on charitable expenditure in 2022. This is understood to be a source of concern for the Charity Commission.
There also appear to be contradictions in UKAWIS income and costs. Byline Times has seen correspondence from UKAWIS’s head organisation – the Association for Israel’s Soldiers (AIS) – that claims “all donations made through our organization are 100% to the soldiers.” The AIS said they incurred “No overheads AT ALL” as “it is all being paid by the (Israeli) Ministry of Defense”. The AIS said this also applied to UKAWIS as “they are basically our fellow organization”. There is, however, no indication in UKAWIS accounts that it receives funds from any overseas source.
UKAWIS, a charity established in 1942, has other videos that detail its recent projects in Israel, including creating a synagogue in memory of a former-IDF paratrooper killed in Jerusalem, the building of a desert swimming pool for an artillery unit, recreational zones on combat bases, an auditorium for an elite combat unit, and an annual 25,000 strong ‘enlistment festival’, involving bands and food stalls.
One of the directors of the charity is retired British Army Officer Colonel Richard Kemp. The video shows Kemp speaking at the above festival, praising the IDF for their “courage, humanity and the sacrifice”.
Col Kemp is a controversial figure and frequent media commentator who has become a very vocal supporter of Israel in recent years. Speaking to IDF soldiers in November last year, Kemp was reported to have said “he’d love to pick up a weapon and join them.” He has said in the past that the IDF have done “more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare”. And he has condemned “repeated UN Human Rights Council resolutions accusing Israel of war crimes, falsely.”
Kemp did not reply to a direct request for comment on why his charity would show Palestinians being killed, but he has spoken about civilian deaths in the current conflict. “We know that innocent civilians will die,” he has said in a recent interview. “As long as we do everything we can to minimize that, we’re going to go and destroy Hamas. Frankly, that is the only valid and realistic option.”
In 2018, Kemp was found to have libelled Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, Conservative peer and former Chair of the Conservative Party. In a front-page apology, as well as incurring substantial libel, Jewish News apologised after publishing an article by Kemp that claimed Warsi had sought to excuse the conduct of the Islamic State terror group. She had never done so.
That same year, Kemp also was the subject of a front-page newspaper claim that he was going to hand back his military commission in protest at the treatment of British veterans in Northern Ireland. He told the Daily Express, responding to news that British soldiers in Northern Ireland’s Troubles had been refused an amnesty for prosecution, he was “so angry that he is returning his precious officer’s Commission in protest.” Byline Times understands from a senior source in the Ministry of Defence that Kemp did not do so and still goes by the title ‘Colonel’.
Whilst neither Kemp nor UKAWIS responded to Byline Times’ requests for comment, the Charity Commission was adamant, saying: “Where there proves to have been wrongdoing, make no mistake, we will deal with it robustly.”