Powered by WebAds

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Israeli NGO's may have to register as foreign agents

In the New York Times on Friday, Yossi Alpher raged against a bill pending in the Knesset that would require NGO's that accept foreign money and attempt to influence Israeli government policy to register as foreign agents.
The most blatant aspect of this right-wing campaign is its focus on the Israeli civil-society groups that monitor government actions and decisions. A bill that has already passed a preliminary vote in the Parliament would require all Israeli NGOs that receive support from foreign governments to publicly declare themselves “foreign agents” if they seek to “influence public opinion or ... any governmental authority regarding ... domestic or foreign policy.”

That means everyone from critics of the occupation to women’s rights advocates could be deemed “foreign agents” if they accept American or European financial support. This could seriously deter domestic criticism of Israeli settlement and occupation policies.


If 80 percent of the students in Israeli religious high schools want to disenfranchise the Arab citizens of Israel (one-fifth of the population), as a recent survey found, their schools must be teaching them something very wrong. If the spiritual head of the Shas party, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, can tell his huge flock, as he did late last year, that the Muslims’ religion “is as ugly as them,” and provoke little but embarrassed smiles, it is because Shas is a member of the governing coalition. Yet if an NGO I belong to objects to such statements, I might soon be legally labeled a foreign agent.
In an email, Professor Gerald Steinberg of Bar Ilan University, who publishes NGO Monitor, which first raised the issue, comments:
Alpher and Goldberg, among others, have invented a massive "right wing" conspiracy to discredit the widespread and justified Israeli response to the central role of FOGNGOs (Foreign government-funded non-government organizations) in funding demonization based on double standards and the exploitation of the human rights rhetoric. Goldstone, lawfare, boycotts, and "Israel apartheid weeks" are all part of this deadly political warfare targeted exclusively and immorally at Israel, as detailed in NGO Monitor's research reports. The draft legislation in the Knesset on NGO transparency is supported by MKs from many groups, including the opposition Kadima party. They recognize that tens of millions of euros are provided secretly every year by European government to groups that operate under the facade of Israeli "civil society", and which use this massive money to gain publicity and political power without any democratic accountability. Moreover, this cynical exploitation of human rights has undermined the universal foundation of these principles. If Alpher, Goldberg and others who claim to be liberals were truly committed to these liberal values, they would add their voices to the demand that such exploitation end, and that Europe practice the transparency that it preaches to others. Instead, they invoke simplistic and misleading ideological labels, and obfuscate the substance of the Israeli debate.
But Alpher and Goldberg and others who claim to be liberals are not truly committed to these liberal values. As Martin Kramer points out, many of the people who are crying foul over this are people who oppose foreign ownership of Israeli newspapers (i.e. by Sheldon Adelson).

In the US, if you take money from a foreign government and try to influence American policy, you must register as a foreign agent. Just this past week I pointed out that American Friends of Peace Now and B'Tselem, both of which are funded by European governments, are under investigation for violating the US Foreign Agents Registration Act. Why should Israel be any different? Why are Israelis not entitled to know that the entities that contributed to the Goldstone Report are mostly funded by the Europeans and that most of the appeals to the High Court of Justice against Israeli policies in Judea and Samaria are funded by European governments? Why?


More on some of the NGO's that this legislation targets here.


At 1:50 PM, Blogger Juniper in the Desert said...

This is excellent news; I hope this bill gets passed!

At 8:42 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

If it passes it means Israeli NGOs will have to disclose who they get their funding from and if its mostly foreign, as is true of all of them, they would have to register with the Israeli government as foreign agents. Israelis would know those who purport to speak in their name don't really work in the country's interests. Europe must not be allowed to secretly fund its agenda through Israeli non-profit bodies and think tanks. Its high time the Israeli public knew who is behind Israeli NGOs influence in the country and such "sunshine" legislation is much needed and long overdue.

Let's hope it gets passed into law.


Post a Comment

<< Home