Washington Post: 'Transparency Bill' Is a Danger to Israeli Democracy

Newspaper editorial says bill, which seeks to 'out' foreign-funded NGOs, 'reflects the kind of tactic that Russia and China have employed to squelch dissent.'

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Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked.
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked.Credit: Noam Moscowitz

Israel's proposed legislation to stigmatize left-wing non-profit organizations that receive funding from overseas "reflects the kind of tactic that Russia and China have employed to squelch dissent," the Washington Post wrote in an editorial on Saturday.

The so-called Transparency Bill – which would apply to organizations that receive more than half their funding from “foreign government entities” – was approved by the Ministerial Legislative Committee last week and is due to be voted on by the Knesset shortly

The editorial, titled "A danger to Israeli democracy," dismissed the claim by the bill's sponsor, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, that it would increase transparency, arguing instead that "the legislation is aimed at delegitimizing progressive groups in Israel that have long been advocates for human rights and opposed to Jewish settlements in the West Bank."

Noting that the bill would not cover the millions of dollars donated to right-wing causes by foreign individuals – as well as the fact that all NGOs are already required to report the sources of their funding – the Washington Post focuses its attention on the new bill's "odious' requirement that NGO representatives will have to wear a special badge when visiting the Knesset.

"President Vladimir Putin of Russia has made NGO groups register as 'foreign agents,' as if they were enemies of the state," the editorial says. "In China, the new restrictions on nongovernmental organizations will forbid support from abroad and give oversight to the security apparatus.

"In both cases, dissent is being purposefully silenced, and valuable services will be denied to people who need them."

"Israel," it continues, "should not allow itself to be lumped with these regimes."

Describing Israel’s democracy as "a pillar of strength through years of siege," the editorial concludes:

"It is not always easy to tolerate or defend groups that criticize the state or those in power, but allowing them to function normally is an important test of democracy, and, ultimately, the mark of an open and free society."