The Charity Commission is assessing “a significant number” allegations of antisemitism and hate speech linked to the behaviour of some charities amid heightened tensions in the Middle East, its chair has revealed.
In a speech given at the commission’s annual public meeting in Liverpool yesterday, Orlando Fraser said the sector had a responsibility to bring people together at a time when reports of antisemitic and anti-Muslim hate crimes were on the rise.
The Metropolitan Police reported a 1,353 per cent increase in antisemitic offences and a 140 per cent increase in anti-Muslim offences in London between 1 October and 18 October 2023, compared with the same period in 2022.
Speaking at the event, Fraser said: “At a time of heightened tensions, people expect charities to lead the way in bringing people together, not stoking division.
“Unfortunately, however, the commission is aware of a significant number of serious concerns regarding activities linked to some charities in relation to this conflict.
“These include charities representing communities across the religious divide, although they largely concern allegations of antisemitic or hate speech.”
Fraser continued: “Where concerns have been reported to or identified by us, we are assessing these to establish the facts and are in contact with a number of charities.
“If we find that there has been wrongdoing, we will take action to address this.”
Fraser also used the speech to remind charities that they “must not allow their premises or events to become forums for hate speech or unlawful extremism”, or they would be dealt with “robustly” by the commission.
Fraser also warned charities against “responding in kind” to intemperate language from politicians as the country approaches a general election.
He said that when charities politically campaign they normally do so “with the law on their side”, but added: “Charity leaders must remember that it is not their political opinions that matter but the cause they represent.”
Fraser said: “When charities do get involved in this area, I believe they have a responsibility to do so with respect and tolerance and, yes, consideration for others or kindness.
“They need to avoid inflammatory rhetoric that may undermine public trust in the sector, and instead model a better kind of discourse.”
The comments echo Fraser’s warning to charity trustees at the Muslim Charities Forum last month, that political campaigning must be in the charity’s best interest.
Speaking to delegates in Liverpool, he said: “Disappointing though it may be, as the pre-election temperature heats up further, so may the intemperate language from our politicians.
“This would never justify a charity responding in kind, as charities are in a different and more privileged space than politicians, and the law expects different and better standards from charities.
“So remember, in the words of Michelle Obama: ‘They go low, we go high.’”