Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are very big business in Israel. Various NGOs—most of them from the Left and claiming to promote human rights and democracy—are very active in the Knesset, in filing lawsuits with the Supreme Court that seek to overturn government policies, and in the media. They receive hundreds of millions of shekels from large foundations and foreign governments—primarily European. While the activities of these NGOs are criticized by the Israeli Right, much of the mainstream Israeli media supports them. As a result, the “halo effect” that protects these NGOs from independent investigation is particularly strong.
…[I]n question is Israel’s right to reassert its national sovereignty in the face of foreign manipulation, demand transparency from unelected groups that campaign intensely against the policies of its elected government, and counter an international campaign of hate and defamation that potentially threatens Israel’s very existence.
Ironically, the NGOs and their patrons have made this controversy inevitable. They are answerable to no one but themselves, keep their own internal affairs completely secret in a manner they would condemn if the Israeli government did the same, and resort to hysterical and often slanderous rhetoric almost reflexively when anyone questions their activities or ideology. In the face of this, the rising anger and mistrust directed toward them is completely understandable.
…[T]he proposed NGO law is, contrary to the claims of many inside and outside Israel, entirely compatible with democratic norms. It does not restrict these groups’ freedom of speech or assembly in any way. Countries like the U.S. and India have similar laws that are observed without controversy. Comparable laws have been passed in Israel that have left NGOs and their activities undamaged. And there is no reason for organizations to fear simple transparency; in fact, if they support democracy and open government, they should welcome it.