Legislative proposals, such as the one introduced by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and discussed today (Sunday) by the government, might be unavoidable if European countries continue to fund anti-peace groups through secretive processes, Jerusalem-based research institute NGO Monitor warns. The bill would require NGOs that receive funding from foreign governments, to register as foreign agents.
“I have previously opposed various proposals to penalize Israeli political NGOs that receive millions of shekels from foreign governments (a total of 135 million NIS has been reported, January 2012-August 2015) for use in promoting false allegations of war crimes and fueling boycotts,” said Professor Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor. “My hope was that the public debate and exposure of the facts, both in Israel and among the European governments, media, and parliaments that provide the money, would lead to changes in policy. But without action by European funders, the Israeli government may have no choice but to act.”
Unlike private funding for NGOs, which is generally transparent to comply with regulations in the donors’ home countries, foreign government processes which fund NGOs are often secret and violate national sovereignty. Israel cannot legislate rules for Europe, but it can regulate Israeli NGOs, and demand foreign donations be made public and known – without limiting such donations or impeding freedom of speech. Instead of legislation, NGO Monitor has proposed a framework for agreed guidelines to regulate this external government funding.
“The real problem is in Europe, with irresponsible funding practices, not in Israel,” continued Steinberg. “When European governments try to short-circuit Israeli democracy, they should not be surprised when there is pushback.”