MK Ayelet Shaked’s bill aims to impose a 45-percent tax on donations from foreign governments to NGOs that support armed struggle by an enemy state or terror organization against Israel; that try to indict Israeli soldiers for war crimes; and that promote the BDS campaign against Israel. Both proponents and opponents of the bill claim that their motivation is the preservation of Israeli democracy. Who is to be believed? Neither.
I wonder if the US administration (or the Israeli government for that matter) would be allowed to fund European NGOs that promote independence for Scotland, New Caledonia, Corsica, Catalonia or the Basque region. And how about NGOs that advocate the annexation of Northern Ireland by the Irish Republic? Or NGOs that campaign against the French government’s ban on the Islamic veil and against the expulsion of illegal Roma immigrants? The British, Spanish, and French governments would obviously not put up with such foreign interference. Indeed, France would likely evoke article 411-5 of its “Code pénal” which states that contact with foreign governments or organizations which are likely “to undermine the fundamental interests of the nation” is punishable by a 10-year jail sentence and of a €150,000 fine.
Saying that some of the NGOs which operate in Israel “undermine the fundamental interests of the nation” is an understatement.
Because there is no standing for petitioners in Israeli law (i.e. the requirement that a petitioner should have a proven stake in the dispute for which he is petitioning the court), Israel’s High Court of Justice is constantly petitioned by NGOs that try to prevent, by judicial means, the implementation of government policies. Some of these NGOs are funded by foreign governments, and this funding undermines the sovereignty and authority of the Israeli government.
The 2009 Goldstone Report, which accused Israel of war crimes and of intentionally targeting civilians in the Cast Lead operation in Gaza (a claim that Judge Richard Goldstone himself retracted in April 2011), was based on the testimonies of Israeli NGOs such as B’Tselem, Breaking the Silence, Adalah, The Palestinian Center for Human Rights, Al-Haq, and Human Rights Watch. These organizations, which were out to defame Israel, receive significant funding from European governments and from the EU.
Other NGOs funded by the EU and by European governments implement policies that clearly undermine Israel’s sovereignty and interests. These include Ittijah, which actively promotes the BDS campaign against Israel, the indictment of IDF officers in European Courts, and the repealing of the tax-deductible status for donations to Zionist NGOs and institutions in the US and in Europe; Ir Amim, which challenges Israel’s sovereignty in Jerusalem; Adalah, which advocates the Palestinian “right of return” (which would turn pre-1967 Israel into a bi-national state); the Alternative Information Center, which campaigns for repealing Israel’s definition and identity as a Jewish state; Coalition of Women for Peace, which was involved in attempts to indict Justice Minister Tzipi Livni for war crimes; and Bimkom, which challenges Israel’s sovereignty in the Negev.
The list goes on. The phenomenon of foreign government funding for organizations that challenge Israeli democracy and sovereignty violates accepted norms among democratic nations. But this serious issue was already addressed by the “NGO Funding Transparency Law” passed by the Knesset in February 2011, which requires NGOs to fully disclose the identity of their donors and enables Israel to hold European governments accountable for their interference in Israeli politics and for their support of agendas (such as the “right of return”) that clearly contradict the two-state solution.
The ill-named “human rights NGOs” are looking for every excuse to avoid the full enforcement of the 2011 law. The new bill provides them with the perfect diversion because it enables the wrongdoers to depict themselves as victims. Yet, no matter how repulsive and disingenuous those NGOs are, penalizing political agendas is clearly illiberal and undemocratic. One should stand by Voltaire’s motto that no matter how much I hate your ideas, I shall fight to the death for your right to express them.
The views expressed in the article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect Kohelet’s views