By Jonathan Hoffman
February 1, 2011
JERUSALEM – In response to the NGO Funding Transparency Bill passing out of the Knesset Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee today, Professor Gerald Steinberg, President of NGO Monitor, released the following statement:
This bill is an important step towards protecting Israeli democracy and civil society from manipulation, and it provides the appropriate framework for informing Israelis about the funding provided by foreign governments to a narrow spectrum of political NGOs. While foreign governments allocate funds to many activities and organizations in Israel, the secrecy regarding political advocacy groups stands out, as does the role of the recipients in demonization through the UN, the European parliament, and foreign capitals.
Democratic governments that claim to operate with transparency should practice this, particularly with respect to other democracies. But for some European officials, Israel is an exception and is seen as a political playground. European government funding for political NGOs, based on highly secret decision-making processes with no accountability, has a very damaging influence.
The aim of the legislation, as specified by its main sponsor, MK Zeev Elkin (Likud), is to ensure the Israeli public's "right to know" regarding the tens of millions of Euros provided every year by European governments -- particularly the European Union -- to at least 50 Israel-based NGOs that are engaged in highly partisan political advocacy. Most of this funding is allocated without transparency, and the EU classifies all related documentation as "top secret", in order to prevent public debate of this use of taxpayer funds for political propaganda targeting Israel. As Elkin noted, many of these groups supplied the false allegations that were included in the Goldstone Report.
This legislation is independent of the various other Knesset discussions and decisions related to NGO funding, including the two investigation committees.