The executive director of War on Want says he is “exploring what our options are” after a Sunday Times article suggested he is leaving the organisation due to accusations of anti-Semitism.
John Hilary, executive director of War on Want, told Civil Society News that claims he is leaving his position with the charity due to accusations of anti-Semitism are “entirely fabricated at every single level”, and said it was a label that he and his organisation “categorically reject”.
“Anti-Semitism is a charge that we absolutely and categorically reject,” said Hilary. “We’re an organisation which is committed to opposing all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and any others - we’ve always been that.”
When asked whether War on Want would consider legal action against the Sunday Times, or against Andrew Gilligan, who wrote the piece, he said “we are exploring what our options are in regards to the article”.
The piece, entitled ‘War on Want chief quits amid claims of anti-Semitism’ appeared in the Sunday Times on 11 September.
In it, Gilligan claimed that Hilary is “leaving without a job to go to amid investigations by the Charity Commission into the organisation’s “campaigning and political activities”’.
It also said that Hilary – who announced in June that he would be leaving the organisation after 12 years at the helm – would “step down next month after growing controversy about the charity’s work against Israel”.
On 3 April 2016, the Sunday Telegraph ran a story which said that the Department for International Development had ceased funding War on Want because it “had sponsored events accused of promoting hatred and violence against Jews”.
The story was also written by Andrew Gilligan, who was then at the Sunday Telegraph.
At the time, War on Want complained to Ipso about the story. The Sunday Telegraph ended up changing its headline and making a number of amendments to the piece, before Ipso became involved.
Hilary said that the latest piece “is an incredibly old story,” and that he’d spoken to the Charity Commission himself.
“They [the Commission] consider it to be a complete fabrication as well, which is quite nice,” he said.
A Charity Commission spokesman said "The Charity Commission has an ongoing case regarding War on Want. John Hilary stepping down is a matter for the charity. The Commission is not aware that it is in connection to our open case."
Hilary said that attacks from certain areas of the media “goes with the territory” of what he called “pro-Palestine work”.
“For us, when we see this in the press, we don’t just consider it to be a thing that one journalist has dreamt up. This is part of a stated and explicit strategy to tar all Palestine solidarity work with the accusation of anti-Semitism.
“War on Want are very proud to stand up for the rights of the Palestinian people, and have done so for years and years. We know that that will bring us into conflict with those groups who are very keen to promote the position of the Israeli State – irrespective of its crimes and implications.”
Hilary confirmed that he would be departing the organisation at some point “around 14 October”, and said he’d had “some very nice discussions with people” about his next move.
The Sunday Times have been approached for a comment.