Israeli NGO Law Is Long Overdue
by Morton A. Klein
Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked’s proposed transparency law, which requires phony non-governmental organizations (NGOs) operating in Israel to identify themselves as foreign-funded when they lobby in Israel’s Knesset, is needed, reasonable, and long overdue.
Although the term “non-governmental organization” is supposed to refer to groups that are not affiliated with, supported by, or acting on behalf of any government, NGO Monitor reported that European governments provide $100 million of direct and indirect funding to the purported “human rights NGOs” operating in Israel. These “human rights NGOs” (including B’tselem, Breaking the Silence (“BtS”), Yesh Din, Machsom Watch, and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel) use the largesse of hostile-to-Israel foreign governments to invent and purvey false stories demonizing the Jewish state and the IDF.
For instance, after receiving “emergency funding” from four European nations in 2014 to document and support “international mechanisms” (an apparent euphemism for the one-sided, anti-Israel UN Human Rights Council), B’tselem falsely reported terrorist combatants as innocent Gazan civilians, and misleadingly presented a targeted meeting of terrorist operatives as a “family bombed at home,” using an emotional account by an Islamic Jihad commander’s family member.
In another example of these NGOs’ anti-Israel projects, the European-funded Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-I) co-sponsored a propaganda exhibit of Gaza children’s drawings (called “Childhood under Fire“) regarding the 2008 Gaza war, falsely depicting Israeli soldiers, tanks, and planes intentionally shooting and lobbing rockets at Palestinian Arab civilians and their cars, school buses, and homes.
PHR-I’s exhibit also falsely stated that 468 “boys and girls” were killed — a number that is three times as many as the exaggerated UN numbers — and ignores the extraordinary precautions that Israel took to avoid harming civilians, while Hamas used civilians as “human shields.”
PHR-I’s distorted exhibit also failed to publish Israeli children’s drawings of Hamas rockets that continue to deliberately target innocent Israeli civilians. Interestingly, one drawing in the PHR-I exhibit showed a smiling (presumably Palestinian Arab) child happily standing next to a house with a large rocket pointing upwards, starting to lift off from the lawn (perhaps about to be lobbed at Israel — or elsewhere in Gaza if the Hamas rocket misfired; misfired Hamas rockets that landed on Gazan civilian targets have often been blamed on Israel).
The purported “human rights NGOs” also work closely together with the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement to delegitimize and economically destroy Israel. For instance, European-funded “Breaking the Silence“(BTS) signed a letter calling for South Africa to expel Israel’s ambassador and led “apartheid week” activities in South Africa.
Moreover, Hamas is promoting bringing Israelis up on war crimes charges throughout the world, using a Breaking the Silence “report” containing alleged BTS “testimonies” maligning the IDF. (BTS’ “testimonies” — which allege that the IDF callously targets women and children — are posted “anonymously” without independent verification, and have repeatedly been thoroughly discredited, after doing immense damage.)
Minister Shaked’s proposed law is a simple matter of “truth in advertising.” The law prevents NGOs that are really agents of their foreign-government funders from pretending that they are simply home-grown “human rights” groups. But, hypocritically, the extremist left-wing — which recently ran around the World Zionist Congress demanding “transparency” — does not want its own real masters and agendas to be transparent.
It is entirely appropriate for the proposed Knesset law to target NGOs supported by foreign governments and those foreign governments’ agents and political entities (as opposed to NGOs that obtain some small contributions from individuals). Foreign governments and their agents have massive resources — and have their own foreign agendas. Foreign governments’ infusions of millions of dollars and euros into hostile-to-Israel NGOs are extremely insidious, and thwart Israel’s sovereign right and ability to have her own citizens democratically determine her own policies and destiny. It’s a big issue that foreign governments are using deceptive methods to push their hostile-to-Israel agendas.
In the United States, organizations that are supported by or working on behalf of foreign government interests are required to do far more than Minister Shaked’s bill requires.
For instance, when Qatar’s Sheikha (empress) gave $240,000 to US public relations company Fenton Communications (J-Street founder and president Jeremy Ben-Ami’s previous employer) to run a propaganda campaign (the “Al Fakhoora Campaign”) falsely blaming Israel for the Mavi Marmara flotilla attack on Israel’s inspectors, Fenton Communications had to publicly file as a foreign agent under the USForeign Agents Registration Act (“FARA”), and include in its FARA filings a copy of its Qatari contract. FARA registrants are also required to promptly file copies of the every piece of information that they are disseminating.
In his famous Farewell Address, President George Washington warned that a free people must constantly guard against “the insidious wiles of foreign influence,” and warned that foreign influence affords “alarming” opportunities “to tamper with domestic factions, to practice the arts of seduction, to mislead public opinion, [and] to influence or awe the public councils.”
As a free and sovereign people and nation, Israel must likewise guard against the insidious foreign government-supported groups that seek to demonize the Jewish state with falsehoods, and subvert the will of Israel’s citizens and democratically-elected government.
Morton A. Klein is the President of the Zionist Organization of America.