One of the main claims of human rights organizations is that, regarding democratic behavior, Israel should adopt the norms accepted in democratic countries. That is a justified claim. Even with the assumption that the norms are not uniform, there is a wide, common denominator. This includes freedom of speech, the rule of law, freedom of association, etc. The common denominator includes Israel. Regarding relations between states, the application must be universal. No more double standards, rather mutual norms.
Take, for example, the NGO for the rights of refugees deported from the Czech Republic or Poland under circumstances involving the total confiscation of property left behind by the refugees and acts considered war crimes. This happened at the end of World War II and afterwards. Here and there, organizations were established to deal with the refugees’ rights, such as the Federation of Expellees (BdV). Freedom of speech and association give these bodies their mandate. Those who were deported feel like victims. They think that an injustice was done to them. They demand to correct this injustice.
The question is not whether they are right. We can argue about that. The question is whether foreign countries such as France and England, or international bodies like the EU, would fund those human rights organizations in the name of universal concern for human rights and refugees. And the bigger question: Do sovereign countries have the right to monitor political grants given by foreign governments? Unlike the myths offered sometimes, there is no single answer.
When Saudi Arabia asked to donate money in order to build two mosques in Norway, the Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jonas Gahr Store, clarified that he would happily receive the donation on condition that Saudi Arabia establishes freedom of religion, allowing for the building of churches. In France there are no limitations on donations for the building of mosques, despite the fact that French law forbids foreign government donations for political activity.
More importantly, even without legislation, there is no country that allows foreign donations for radical political NGOs that undermine the country’s founding ethos. There is not one country in Europe that dreams of funding one of the bodies in Germany dealing with the rights of refugees from central Europe. And of course, there is not one European country that would deliver money to an NGO in the Czech Republic or in Poland promoting the German right of return (if such an organization existed).
Those are the rules in Europe. So why do official government bodies in Europe heavily fund NGOs promoting the destructive fantasy of the Palestinian right of return to Israel? Why is there a European fortune, according to a report by NGO Monitor, behind a conference of an extreme left Israeli NGO preaching the “right of return?” There is, after all, no “right of return” for the tens of thousands of exiles inside Europe who were deported in the 1940s, and certainly there is no funding for NGOs dealing with this issue. The idea of return contradicts the European Human Rights Court ruling in the matter of refugees in Cyprus and regarding Germans deported from Poland. So why are principles that are widely accepted in Europe practically and legally turned upside down when it comes to the Middle East?
The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs needs to inform every country that gives aid: We embrace your norms. If you don’t fund European refugee NGOs – please don’t do it here, and don’t hide beyond the dubious excuse of “human rights.” And if you don’t understand this in a diplomatic way, as accepted between civilized countries, we will be forced to make legislation that will turn your accepted norms between European countries into our normative standards. The proposed law will note that it is nothing but a practical application of what has been accepted between democratic countries. And when things change in Europe, we will be happy to adjust to the new reality.
One can assume that such legislation will result in calls of McCarthyism, persecution, and “harm to freedom of association.” But those cries are nothing but a festival of incitement, lies and double standards. Because Israel is not the one who needs to apologize. It is the European countries that owe Israel explanations. If someone insists on not understanding this in the polite way, it is Israel’s right to act in its own democratic way: legislation.
And another thing: If any country in Europe were to fund a refugee NGO in Poland, supporting the German right of return, the funding country’s ambassador would be given less than 24 hours to leave Poland. Israel will not expel anyone. Israel acts with a slightly bizarre tolerance. Israel tries to be more righteous then the pope himself. But certain European countries have crossed all the red lines. It is Israel’s right to draw those lines again.
Ben-Dror Yemini is a senior journalist with the Hebrew daily Maariv who lectures about the spread and impact of anti-Israel propaganda.