Rightist MK Wants to 'Out' Leftist Israeli NGOs in New Bill

Habayit Hayehudi's Bezalel Smotrich proposes that representatives of foreign-funded nonprofits wear identity tags in Knesset.

Olivier Fitoussi

Left-wing nongovernmental organizations would have to declare their funding sources and be forced to reveal publicly that they are being funded by foreign governments, under a bill submitted to the Knesset Tuesday MK Bezalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi).

To “increase transparency and the obligation to report,” representatives of these organizations would have to wear identification tags when meeting with government officials, and would have to note in all their publications and advertisements that they are operating with foreign funding. An NGO that violates the law could be fined up to 29,000 shekels ($7,552).

According to Smotrich, “The principle is simple. Left-wing NGOs are being funded by foreign governments, and the public has the right to know this. There are countries in the Western world that view this as treason and rescind a person’s citizenship when he gets funding from a foreign government. We are not demanding punishment, but there should at least be an obligation to report and declare the sources of funds.”

Smotrich wants the representatives of NGOs that enjoy foreign funding to observe the same transparency as lobbyists who represent commercial interests. Under the bill, NGO representatives who attend a hearing in the Knesset or at any other public institution will have to wear a name tag obtained from the Registrar of Nonprofit Associations. “In any conversation with a public employee or elected official, he must state clearly from which diplomatic entity he receives support,” he said.

But the bill is not meant merely to improve transparency. Smotrich himself made it clear that he was submitting the bill as part of the war against “leftist organizations” and their influence on Israeli society. “Foreign governments have found a way to erode the Jewish character of the state, and this has to stop,” he said Tuesday.

Smotrich also posted on his Facebook page that he supports Meretz’s bill that would require goods produced in the settlements to be marked. Contrary to its initiators’ intentions, he said, the marked products would experience an increase in sales.

“I’m sure that there are a lot more people who would be happy to specifically buy products produced in the settlements to strengthen them, than those from [Meretz chairman Zahava] Galon’s extinct species who will avoid buying the marked products,” he wrote. “Let’s turn the marking into a badge of honor and a source of pride, and we will increase sales and settlement.”

Last week Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would try to persuade Meretz to withdraw its bill. “I was surprised to discover that one of the factions of this house had submitted a bill to mark products. I am asking that the bill be withdrawn. As poet Erez Biton said, ‘He who marks products will eventually mark people.’ This must stop now.”

In response, Galon said, “There’s no way we will withdraw a bill that simply makes clear to the Israeli consumer the distinction between products produced in Israel and those produced in the territories it occupied 48 years ago and holds under military rule. If Netanyahu wants to cancel this separation and the heavy price that the settlement enterprise in the territories exacts from Israel, he is invited to launch negotiations for a permanent agreement and bring the occupation to an end. Until then he will have to live with the consequences of his destructive policy.”