As a teacher of politics and as a citizen in a democracy, I am uncomfortable with restrictive legislation as a matter of principle.
Based on this general approach, I have previously opposed various proposals to penalize Israeli political NGOs that receive millions of shekels from foreign governments for use in promoting boycotts and false allegations of war crimes. My hope was that the public debate and exposure of the facts – in Israel, among the European governments and parliaments that provide the money, and in the media both here and abroad – would lead to changes in policy.
But I am beginning to sense that I was wrong about European governments and their commitment to democracy, including in Israel.
In the past few months, the European Union secretly added a million shekels to the BtS budget – a slap in the face to Israeli democracy. None of the European politicians who have been recruited by the Israeli NGOs to oppose proposed legislation even mention these facts.
As a result, I am seriously considering the proposal by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked that would require Breaking the Silence, and other NGOs that engage in this form of political warfare with foreign government funds, to register as foreign agents. Unlike other proposals, this one does not involve selective taxes or other penalties…Israel cannot legislate rules for Europe, but it can regulate Israeli NGOs, and reassert the core principle that only Israeli citizens can decide our future.
But before supporting this approach, the Israeli government and Knesset should make one more effort at educating these governments to reconsider these mistaken policies that exploit the language of human rights for discrimination and the language of peace to fuel conflict.
If successful, legislation such as proposed by the justice minister and by others in different formats is unavoidable to respond to this deadly war of demonization. I still hope that this does not become necessary.