Israeli Hawks' Call for Transparency Is Hypocritical

Gaby Lasky
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Yinon Magal in the Knesset, Jerusalem, Oct. 14, 2015.
Yinon Magal in the Knesset, Jerusalem, Oct. 14, 2015.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Gaby Lasky

We would all be better off if we were led by politicians of stature who busied themselves with Israel's problems, rather than with inciting hatred and spouting cheap demagoguery.

After the expiry of Yinon Magal's "foreign agents" law and after the justice minister was internationally criticized and told German lawmakers that she would re-evaluate her flagship bill to "brand" NGOs, a new initiative has emerged from the Likud backbenches.

The copywriter of the right-wing group Im Tirtzu seems to have worked overtime to wrap up old fish in new newspaper, and now, according to the new bill proposed by MK Yoav Kish (Likud) human rights groups will be described as "moles."

And what does Kish have a problem with? With donations from Israel's greatest friends in Europe – Switzerland, Denmark, Holland – which anyway report in detail four times a year.

If we are dealing with transparency, the big picture is important. It's important to examine, for example, the list that MK Zehava Galon recently obtained of organizations that were exempted from revealing the identities of their benefactors between 2012 and 2014.

A brief glance at the list shows that it doesn't include a single organization identified with the Israeli left. Breaking the Silence. Betselem, Rabbis for Human Rights – neither they nor other human rights organizations appear on the list.

But the Fund for Nurturing the Zionist Idea, which develops settlements and is controlled by Ze'ev Hever, is there. As is the Ateret Jerusalem yeshiva established by Ataret Kohanim in the Muslim Quarter as part of the efforts to Judaize East Jerusalem. And Sukkat Ovadia in the settlement of Beit El also appears on the list.

Seven of the 25 organizations that received anonymous donation are active in the settlements – as opposed to zero anonymous donations for human rights organizations – the same ones that the NGO bill wants to expose.

Next we'll hear that the Justice Ministry "forgot" to mention Im Tirtzu in its response. It turns out that the organization that cries out day and night about the need for transparency on the left – which is so petrified of human rights organizations – itself has enjoyed some 170,000 shekels in anonymous donations over the past three years, with the special permission of the registrar of NGOs.

For some reason, In Tirtzu was excluded from the list that the registrar made public.

Additionally, only four of the organizations on the list reported receiving anonymous donations in their financial reports, as published on the Guidestar website.

The justice minister recently complained to the registrar that a number of left-wing NGOs had not reported as required on the receipt of donations from foreign countries – and thus broke the law.

Will the minister demand that the registrar take action against right-wing organizations that received anonymous donations and didn't report them, as required?

The mask needs to be torn off the attempts to brand peace and human rights organizations. Those efforts are neither transparent not proportionate. They are simply political persecution and a stupid attempt to turn everyone who opposes the occupation into a traitor and a subversive.

It would be better if Kish acted in the interests of Israel, instead of collaborating with Im Tirtzu – which receives anonymous donations and has been described by a court as having "similarities to fascism."

It would be better for the justice minister, instead of involving herself in political persecution and damaging Israel's image in the world, to do a serious spring-cleaning and clarify, for example, why her ministry forgot to report to the public on right-wing organizations that receive anonymous donations and why, despite their not reporting as required by law, they continue to be certified for good governance.

The writer is a lawyer and human rights activist.

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