Israeli Lawmakers Lead Smear Campaign Under Guise of 'Transparency'

Bill that seeks to 'out' foreign-funded NGOs is a stellar example of falsehood and disingenuousness.

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MK Nissan Slomiansky at the Knesset, 2014.
MK Nissan Slomiansky at the Knesset, 2014.Credit: Michal Fattal

The wheels of antidemocratic legislation in the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee are spinning vigorously. Along with advancing the suspension bill, which would allow the suspension of a Knesset member if 90 of his or her colleagues agree, the committee is also moving on the “Bill on disclosure requirements for those supported by a foreign diplomatic entity – increasing transparency,” the full name of the bill that would target and restrict human-rights organizations.

The bill imposes various obligations on organizations that get most of their budgets from foreign governments or agencies like the United Nations and the European Union, such as requiring them to mention that fact for the record during every discussion between a human-rights organization representative and an elected official or civil servant, as well as in all “visual publications.” During this week’s debate it emerged that although the requirement to wear special name-tags had been dropped from the government proposal, there had been a verbal agreement to raise it in committee anyway.

This bill is a stellar example of falsehood and disingenuousness. Why require “transparency” when there already is a requirement to report donations from diplomatic entities? This contrasts with private donations, which can come from all kinds of dubious sources and the bill doesn’t address at all. This bill makes improper use of the term “transparency,” when in fact it aims to undermine the legitimacy of these NGOs and mark them as foreign agents and “plants.”

The reality is totally different. These are independent nonprofit associations that raise funds from research foundations and countries that allocate money to support projects and proposals initiated by the groups themselves, not the opposite. These are organizations that improve Israeli society by helping weak populations. From an examination presented to Knesset panel it turns out that the bill would affect 27 organizations, 25 of which promote human rights.

The claim that the law resembles American legislation is false and foolish. In the United States there’s an old law that deals with those who get foreign funding from anyone, including private funding. If that would be the proposal, it would lose its sting because it would not be targeting NGOs on only one side of the political map. The true purpose of this NGO law is to smear the reputations of these groups and delegitimize their criticism of the occupation and the concern they display for its victims.