It is hard to believe that Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu, who has also been foreign minister, deputy foreign minister, Israel's ambassador to the United Nations and deputy ambassador to the United States, is taking seriously the recent suicidal legislative proposals aimed at crippling nongovernmental organizations considered to have a political bent.
Netanyahu's former spokesman, MK Ofir Akunis of Likud, is behind the bill to cap foreign governments' contributions to "political" nongovernmental organizations at NIS 20,000, and MK Fania Kirshenbaum of Yisrael Beiteinu is seeking to impose a 45 percent tax on foreign governments' donations to NGOs ineligible for state funding.
Is it possible that Netanyahu is not familiar with the 2002 trade pact between Israel and the European Union? The pathbreaking agreement granted Israel breaks in customs duties and tightened cooperation between Israel and the EU countries in the fields of economics, science, law, culture and society. In addition, Article 2 of the agreement stipulates: "Relations between the Parties, as well as all the provisions of the Agreement itself, shall be based on respect for human rights and democratic principles, which guides their internal and international policy and constitutes an essential element of this Agreement."
What is Netanyahu thinking? Does he really believe EU leaders will keep silent when the Israeli government silences organizations that are keeping track of, and reporting, violations of this key article in the agreement? It is to be hoped Bibi realizes that only total ignoramuses can make the argument that no country in Europe would be willing to have a foreign country intervene in its domestic affairs; the EU allocates billions of euros to human rights organizations throughout the European continent.
True, the initiators of the bill are allowing the generous European friends to transfer funds to nonprofit associations that enjoy the support of the Israeli government. That is, they are expecting the Europeans to agree that Israel's right-wing government will determine which nonprofits are worthy of benefiting from the European taxpayer's money. For example, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz wouldn't hinder the Europeans from donating to settler organizations that are encouraging settlement in illegal outposts. There are also quite a number of nonprofit yeshivas that serve as incubators for Jewish terrorists and would be glad to put their hands into the leaky coffers of Greece and Italy. And maybe Bibi believes in the old Israeli saying that suckers never die - they just get replaced.
It is doubtful the dangerous and anti-democratic bill will pass the test of the High Court of Justice (unless the Knesset passes the bill enabling MK David Rotem of Yisrael Beiteinu, and his friends on the extreme right, to vet nominees for Supreme Court justices ).
What will the attorney general reply to the court's question about which criteria make a nonprofit "political"? Documentation of testimony from soldiers who have served in the territories (Breaking the Silence )? A report on outposts established on land privately owned by Palestinians (Peace Now )? Supporting civil society (New Israel Fund )? Monitoring human rights violations in the territories (B'Tselem ), fighting discrimination against Israeli Arabs (Adalah )?
And what will the state's representative reply to the justices' question about why the law applies only to donations from foreign countries and not from foreign donors? Why is the money of a Christian fundamentalist from the United States more kosher than the money of a Spanish taxpayer? What will the attorney general say about the confession of Samaria regional council spokeswoman Ahuva Shiloh concerning acceptance of donations from evangelicals? "The settlers want to settle the land, in part because of the belief that settling the land will bring the redemption, according to Judaism," the Hadrei Hadarim website quoted her as saying in January 2005. "The Christians are interested in the Jews settling the land, in order to bring the Christian redemption."
Many Christians believe that the redemption will begin only after the Jews either convert to Christianity or are wiped out. But that apparently doesn't make their donations any less kosher.
Netanyahu has to hope that Israel's efforts to keep foreign countries from getting involved in Israeli politics don't backfire by making those countries realize that Israel is meddling in their business. What will happen if, as a farewell gift on the eve of his defeat in the French presidential elections, Nicolas Sarkozy decides to close the Jewish Agency offices in Paris? He could say that luring French citizens to immigrate to Israel is a crude form of meddling in France's internal affairs.
Whenever a claim about foreign meddling comes up, Netanyahu has to hide out in his glass house. There has never been a politician in Israel who has meddled (and is still meddling ) more than him in American politics. True, the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC doesn't take a cent from Israel. But then, it has more than enough money to encourage politicians to say amen to anything that comes out of the Israeli government.
Herewith is a reconstruction of a conversation last Friday between two journalists whose paths crossed at a demonstration by leftist organizations on the outskirts of the West Bank settlement of Anatot.
Journalist A: "I've had a strong story come to me about that judge who is a candidate for the Supreme Court. To my regret, I won't be able to write about him. He ruled against me in a libel suit filed by settlers and people will say it's not ethical."
Journalist B: "I'd be glad to write the report myself, but I've also lost in a case pressed by a settler in his court."
An interesting method. The settlers are inundating the courts with libel suits, the suits are directed to a judge who specializes in libel law, and the judge gets immunity from yet another journalist.
Incidentally, at an earlier demonstration, some six weeks ago, police looked on from the sidelines as settlers - among them uniformed police officers - rained blows on the demonstrators. Dozens of police officers surrounded the holding pen into which they pushed the leftists, filming them from every angle. This is called closing the stable doors after the horses have bolted. To this day, not a single settler has been arrested.
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