Even Israeli right knows the NGO law cannot pass

November 24, 2016 23:17

Like similar pieces of legislation proposed in recent years by right-wing politicians, the new NGO "transparency" bill, approved on Sunday by the ministerial legislative committee, is unlikely to ever become law.

It is simply another shot across the bows of Israel's human rights advocacy community, much of which is funded through grants from European governments.

The law would force organisations that receive more than half of their funding from foreign governments to note the fact prominently in their publications.

The law, the brainchild of Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked of the Jewish Home Party, is an attempt to stigmatise such groups as "un-Israeli". While ostensibly apolitical, it clearly targets organisations on the left of the political spectrum, as they are the ones that have contacts with foreign governments.

NGOs on the right are also heavily funded from abroad. However, the cash mainly comes from private donors, who are not mentioned in the legislation.

Critics claim that by leaving out privately financed organisations, the law has little to do with "transparency" as it sheds no light on donations from shadowy billionaires and oligarchs.

Those in favour of the law counter that Israelis should be allowed to know which foreign governments are trying to influence Israeli policy and internal affairs. The law is part of a wider campaign against groups campaigning for civil rights, equality for all Israeli communities and better monitoring of human-rights abuses in the West Bank. These left-wing groups have been accused of being foreign "plants" that subvert Israel's existential interests.

The law will probably be quashed in the Knesset as not all the members of the coalition are in favour and the government is coming under discrete pressure from Israel's allies in Europe to shelve the bill.

From the perspective of the law's supporters at least, this pressure gives some justification to the claims of foreigners tampering with Israel's political process.

However, the governments supplying civil society groups in Israel with grants are, by and large, members of the EU, which is Israel's main trading partner and the source of hundreds of millions of euros in funding for Israeli research and development. EU cash also pays for other projects in which European governments and organisations co-operate directly with Israeli ministries and local authorities.

The German government is even funding Israel's acquisition of German-built submarines and missile boats - a key defence project for the Jewish state.

The right wing is fully aware of this contradiction, which is why, eventually, they will let the law be buried forever. Their intention was merely to demonise those pesky NGOs.

November 24, 2016 23:17

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