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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Knesset passes law requiring NGO's to disclose foreign funding

The Knesset passed a law on Monday requiring all NGO's - both Left and Right - to disclose their foreign funding sources.

At the same time, a bill calling for an investigation into acceptance of foreign funding by Leftist NGO's was withdrawn after Prime Minister Netanyahu released the Likud MK's from coalition discipline that would have required them to vote for the bill.

As you might guess, MK's from the Right are happy about the new law, while MK's from the Left are opposed.
"This legislation is illogical. We need to stop being a cowardly people, a persecuted people. We are strong. Week after week, time after time, bills like this come up," he said. MK Yitzhak Vaknin (Shas) said the Knesset was following "Lieberman's whims".

MK Michael Eitan responded to the criticism by calling the new legislation "transparent". He claimed many organizations have already agreed to such a move.

"The question is whether they are ashamed of what they are doing. I believe transparency is a proper obligation. In the US transparency requirements are far more severe," Eitan said.

MK David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu) also defended the bill, saying it treats both left and right-wing organizations equally and that all would benefit from it.
But Noah Pollak writes that a little bit of sunshine is a good thing.
It might seem strange to the casual observer that a seemingly obscure issue like foreign funding of NGO’s could be important. But Israel faces challenges different from other democracies. The intense media and political interest in Israel and its geographic isolation (which makes the media one of the only means by which the outside world learns anything about the country) make Israel’s image particularly vulnerable to manipulation.

The NGO’s—such as B’Tselem, Yesh Din, Shatil, Breaking the Silence, Adalah, Peace Now, and so on—promote what is by now a familiar narrative: that Israel is a war criminal, a cruel oppressor of the Palestinians, a human rights violator, and an aggressor uninterested in peace. They invest heavily in media outreach and PR firms, and enjoy credulous treatment in the media. All told, they receive over $100 million a year, mostly from the EU, European embassies, and the U.S.-based New Israel Fund, and operate as the political home for a desperately small fringe of radicals who cannot exercise political power by normal democratic means—say, by raising money for their cause from their fellow citizens, or by persuading voters and winning elections. Shorn of foreign funding, they would fade into obscurity. But with their millions, and their PR savvy, and the media’s infatuation with negative stories about Israel, and the desire of many westerners to be convinced that Israel is an embarrassment and a problem, they have flourished.

Ironically, the issuance of the Goldstone Report regarding Israel’s handling of the war with Hamas in Gaza probably changed their fortunes. It was largely a copy-and-paste job from material produced by the NGO’s, and was heavily supported by them. This profoundly unjust and one-sided document drew unprecedented attention both outside Israel and inside its borders to the poisonous role the groups play in assaulting Israel’s legitimacy. And upon scratching the surface, Israelis discovered something that troubled them even more: these groups aren’t even Israeli, as far as their funding is concerned.



At 6:26 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Its an almost toothless law. Will be it be enforced by Israel's leftist prosecution and courts?

Don't hold your breath waiting for it to happen.


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