Lawfare and Charity


Over at Harry’s Place, David T has reported that he has received libel threats from one of the trustees of the Viva Palestina charity. Kevin Ovendon has instructed Farooq Bajwa Solicitors to act on his behalf in an attempt to claim £50,000 damages based on a comment David T made on a Socialist Unity Blog. That’s right, a comment on a blog.

In the comment in question, David T suggests that Viva Palestina is a Hamas funding operation and says that their promotional t-shirts should include a quote from the Hamas Charter referring to their religious duty to kill jews.

Although it is not possible to prove beyond any doubt that VP raises funds for Hamas, it surely cannot be defamatory to suggest as much.  The head of the Charity, George Galloway, recently admitted to the Charity Commission that he gave £25,000 of his own money to Hamas.  Page 10 of a report on the Commission’s investigation into the Charity states:

Mr. Galloway also confirmed that he had handed over £25,000 in cash to Hamas and acknowledged that this was not the Charity’s [Viva Palestina] money.  In addition he informed the Inquiry that in order to distance the Charity from this act, he had been very clear that it was ‘personal money‘ that had been handed to Hamas.

Ovendon claims that David T’s comment defames him because it suggests that VP funds Hamas and that the Charity has misled the public as to the use of its funds.  On the first point: it will be very difficult for Ovendon to claim defamation on this basis. If he really feels that any association with Hamas defames him, he would cut his considerable ties with a man who openly admits to personally funding Hamas.  Secondly, although the Charity may not have misled the public about where its funds are going, it has certainly misled them about other things – the Charity Commission investigation found that the Charity ‘misled’ people about how much money it had raised.  Although claiming to have raised nearly £1 million, it had in fact only managed £180,000.  The Commission report states:

…it was misleading for the public for the Charity to claim on its website to have raised £1 million during the first convoy…

The current state of libel law in this country unfortunately encourages thuggish and clumsy attempts at censorship such as this one, and gives us all even more reason to support the libel reform campaign. David T has said he won’t even bother to respond.  Judging by the absurdity of Farooq Bajwa’s letter, this is a wise move. 

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