NGO Monitor today released the following statement regarding legislation, introduced by MK Ayelet Shaked (HaBayit HaYehudi) and MK Robert Ilatov (Yisrael Beytenu), which would impose major penalties on a number of political advocacy NGOs in Israel:
Extensive foreign-government funding for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that lead international campaigns demonizing Israel is a serious source of concern. The false allegations and immoral exploitation of universal human rights, in order to promote “lawfare” (efforts to arrest elected leaders and IDF soldiers abroad) and boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS), warrant widespread condemnation across the Israeli political spectrum.
However, as NGO Monitor has repeatedly stated, legislative proposals that go beyond democratic transparency and accountability for these NGOs are ill advised, not enforceable, and damage Israel’s vital national interests.
NGO Monitor notes that in February 2011, the Knesset adopted the NGO Funding Transparency Law. Both the secrecy of funding procedures and the external manipulation of civil society were understood to violate the accepted norms and practices among sovereign democratic nations.
Instead of seeking new legislation, NGO Monitor emphasizes the need for full enforcement of the 2011 NGO funding transparency law. NGO Monitor research shows that a number of organizations that received such foreign government funding in the past failed to report in 2012 and through the beginning of December 2013. Transparency and accountability for powerful non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are essential parts of the Israeli democratic discourse and policy debate.
Effective opposition to the NGO strategy of political warfare that singles out Israel, launched at the 2001 NGO Forum of the UN Durban Conference, requires a realistic strategy. This strategy must be based on detailed analysis and diplomacy to confront European governments. Elected representatives in the Knesset can and should contribute centrally to implementing this strategy.
The current proposal is another in a series of legislative initiatives and debates focusing on the often secretive foreign government funding of political advocacy NGOs. This funding artificially amplifies the influence and power of these groups in Israeli political processes and public discourse. Additionally, many NGOs have abandoned their original mission of primarily addressing the Israeli public, and instead focus on condemning Israel – and advocating for specific policies – in international arenas.
This legislation, as with similar previous ones, reflects the deep concern among Israel’s democratically elected representatives regarding foreign government funding to NGOs that are centrally involved in delegitimization campaigns. This concern is also reflected consistently in public opinion polls.
For more background on this issue, see:
For previous NGO Monitor statements opposing restrictive legislation, see:
Time to focus on transparency, Gerald Steinberg and Jason Edelstein, Haaretz, July 22, 2011