Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Knesset Passes Human Rights NGO Harassment Bill

When an Israeli newspaper last Fall published a list of Bibi Netanyahu's potential list of donors for the 2007 elections, which included certified strident rightwingers like Kenneth S. Abramowitz, the Prime Minister's office responded that "Netanyahu makes his decisions in accordance with what is good for the State, not according to the opinions of donors, as important as they may be". Fair enough – when it comes to the Right. But when it comes to the Left, apparently not.

Israel is now the first "Western" government to require of NGOs that receive human rights funding from "foreign governmental entities" to report and publicize the funding in addition to the reports they already submit as non-profit organizations. There is no other comparable legislation in the Western world, although authoritarian regimes (see under Egypt), and recently India, have passed similar legislation.

As for India,

Following concerns raised by right wing groups and law enforcement agencies that civil society was exposing human rights violations by state agencies to the international community, the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act (FCRA) was passed in August 2010. Among other things, the law allows for broad executive discretion to designate organizations as being of a 'political nature' and thereby prevent them from accessing funding from abroad.

Sound familiar? Israel is not there yet, but is on the way.

Apologists for Israel like Noah Pollak are making an absurd comparison between the Israeli law and the US Foreign Agents Registration Act, which requires agents for foreign governments to register with the US. An "agent of a foreign principal" is defined under the act as someone who:

  1. Engages in political activities for or in the interests of a foreign principal;
  2. Acts in a public relations capacity for a foreign principal;
  3. Solicits or dispenses any thing of value within the United States for a foreign principal;
  4. Represents the interests of a foreign principal before any agency or official of the U.S. government.[


None of this is remotely relevant to the Israeli NGOs, which are not lobbying or acting on behalf of political interests of England, Holland, etc., -- unless you define human rights activity as the political interests of these states.

But FARA is highly relevant to Israel lobbyists like Noah Pollak.

Pollak and others of his ilk believe that ultra-right wing Israeli organizations that violate human rights law and US policy can receive anonymous donations from gambling moguls and Christian evangelicals who are praying for Armageddon and the mass conversion of the Jews. But Israeli NGOs that uncover injustice and the violation of human rights in Israel and the Occupied Territories, like the Association of Civil Rights in Israel and B'Tselem, should walk around with signs saying, "Brought to You by the European Union," – even though they already acknowledge external support in their publications, on their websites, and, of course, already report all their contributions.

h/t to Matt Duss


pabelmont said...

It would be a really terrible thing if foreign sources (similar to the CIA) could no longer pour money into the pockets of NGOs and newspapers and political parties and candidacies and heads-of-administrative-agencies, and high-public-officers.

I mean, how is democracy to defend itself in this difficult world we all live in if it cannot corrupt other governments?

Happily, it appears that this Israeli legislation merely seeks to limit (or inconvenience) a VERY SMALL PART of all this foreign agitation -- perhaps the least important part.

So the CIA and its analogs outside the USA can go right on subverting Israel (as it and they do everyplace else) (if it does it in Israel, which, of course, I do not and cannot know, and do not for a moment assert!)

But then, Israel is well-known to be a democracy so that -- for all I know -- no other (democratic) government is at all interested in subverting it.

Ami Nahshon said...

Nonsense pabelmont. These "foreign grants" are above board, from entities like the US State Department and the European Union. The purpose of these grants is to promote civil society, democratic institutions and peacebuilding. NGOs are already required to disclose these funding sources in their annual amuta filings. Sorry to challenge your conspiracy theory.

Anonymous said...

hey jerry,

your powers of comprehension are either very weak, or you just chose not to read the bill that was passed.

all ngo's both right and left, must disclose where their funding comes from.

whats the big deal? do any of something to hide?

is it possible that many of your beloved left wing ngo's will be as embarrassed as your beloved j street, when it was disclosed that they had been lying about how much george soros had to do with the organization?

btw...one cannot equate demonizing israel with working for human rights.....oops...forget that, you, dickie, maxie and phillie, do that all the time.

Jerry Haber said...


you are ignorant on two counts.

Only two this time.

1. The bill applies only to funding from "state entities", and not to private individuals. So when George Soros gives 10 billion dollars to the Israeli Arab NGO that seeks to destroy the state, this law will not require that money to be reported.

Get it?

1. Since the bill only applies to funding from state entities, it only applies to human rights NGOs. For the only state entity that gives money to the right wing is the state of lunacy. No state is going to give money to activity that is illegal -- and settlement activity is illegal.

Get it? Weren't the rightwingers clever to put in that proviso about "state entities"?