EXCLUSIVE: Charity Commission opens cases into two JNF UK trustees

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EXCLUSIVE: Charity Commission opens cases into two JNF UK trustees

Jewish News understands that chair Samuel Hayek and JNF UK’s honorary treasurer, Gary Mond, are the two trustees whose conduct is being assessed by case workers for the regulatory body

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Samuel Hayek and former JNF UK trustee Gary Mond
Samuel Hayek and former JNF UK trustee Gary Mond

The Charity Commission has confirmed it has opened on going cases against two trustees of the JNF UK organisation – both in relation to the overall conduct of the charity.

Jewish News understands that chair Samuel Hayek and JNF UK’s honorary treasurer, Gary Mond, are the two trustees whose conduct is now being assessed by case workers with the regulatory body as they look into the charity.

At the centre of both cases are Hayek and Mond’s behaviour as trustees of the UK’s oldest Israel charity, following widely condemned comments made by the JNF UK chair about the alleged threat to British Jews from Muslim immigration.

The Charity Commission’s role is to look at how the charity acted in relation to Hayek’s comments made in December, in interviews with Jewish News and the Jerusalem Post.

Last month, the Board of Deputies passed a censure motion against JNF UK that noted that neither Hayek nor the charity had “retracted” oor been “explicit in condemnation” of the chair’s remarks, which it said caused “widespread and foreseeable offence within Muslim communities, damaging interfaith relations”.

If the Commission does find evidence of wrongdoing, the next step would be to launch a statutory inquiry.

This next step, if taken, could lead to various routes, including possible police action in the most serious of cases, if a crime is deemed to have been committed, the Commission confirms.

Recent cases taken up by the Commission that have not progressed to the statutory investigation stage have resulted in charities and their trustees being given guidance and warnings on how to act better in the future.

Jewish and Muslim communal organisations were among those to react furiously to the JNF UK’s comments – which included the claim “Jews have no future in the UK” as a result of immigration into this country.

In a statement issued last month Hayek, who has been JNF UK chair for 14 years, did not deny making the comments about Muslims, but suggested he did not believe “most Muslims” in the UK were Islamic extremists. He said there was an “important debate” to be had around antisemitism praciticed by Islamist extremists.

Hayek claimed that his comments made to Jewish News had been “misunderstood” and that he was not a “bigot”.

A 20-minute recording of the Jewish News interview with Hayek is available for Charity Commission case workers to assess if required.

The Commission’s ongoing case against JNF UK trustee Mond will look into his response to Hayek’s remarks as a trustee of the charity.

Mond had suggested Hayek’s comments did not represent “JNF policy” and said his own “views on this subject differ profoundly with those expressed” by the JNF UK chair.

Mond last month stood down from his role as a Board of Deputies vice president after Jewish News uncovered social media posts from him –including support for a far-right anti-Muslim activist in America.

Mond claimed he had been “cancelled” from holding his views, after stepping down from the Board ahead of an investigation into his conduct.

A Charity Commission spokesperson confirmed to Jewish News this week: “We have an ongoing case into JNF UK, in relation to the
conduct of two of the charity’s trustees. As such we cannot comment further at this time.”

A spokesperson for JNF UK said: “It is normal for the Charity Commission to investigate complaints, and during that process we will not be commenting in detail, other than to say that we are confident that JNF has dealt with these matters appropriately.

“We note that Gary Mond has apologised for his comments which were made a number of years ago and do not reflect his current view. We also note that Samuel Hayek was not speaking for the charity or its trustees and has clarified his remarks in a detailed article in the Jewish Chronicle, which those interested in his views would do well to read”.

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