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January 3, 2016 7:12 am

Why the Israeli Left Fears the New NGO Law

avatar by Matan Peleg

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The Israeli Knesset. Credit: James Emery

The Israeli Knesset. Credit: James Emery

The shrill reaction to the proposed NGO law in Israel is hardly unexpected. It is consistent with the reflexive reaction to any perceived incursion on the monopoly that the Israeli Left believes itself entitled to.

Whether it is holding themselves out as the only guardians of human rights, or the truest patriots because of their self-conceived courage in confronting the institutions of the state, the Left has long believed that it should be accorded great respect and unencumbered flexibility in how it conducts itself.

For a long time, the citizens of Israel fell into line and acted accordingly. But something tectonic has taken place in Israel, and the Left ignores this at its peril. What has changed is that there has been an awakening to the relationship that Left-wing NGOs, whose mission is to demean and de-legitimize the state of Israel, have with foreign governments — mostly in Europe.

That relationship is based on financing. Lots of it.

Israelis intuitively know that this threatens our self-determination and even sovereignty. Why? Because foreign governments are players seeking to change Israeli policy concerning the Palestinians, as they seek to further the Palestinian agenda.

Foreign governments can influence world bodies, other governments, trade relationships and a whole host of geopolitical issues that private donors to NGOs — no matter how wealthy or influential — cannot hope to match.

So when a law is proposed that would require an NGO receiving significant foreign funding to identify itself as working on behalf of that government, most Israelis believe this to be reasonable, justified and not an incursion on the operational freedom of NGOs.

Rather, the opinion of most Israelis matches that of the US Supreme Court, which has opined that “democracy is not a suicide pact.” Simply stated, democracies have the right, indeed the obligation, to protect themselves. The proposed Israeli law is just such a protection.

So the reaction from the Left is just as misplaced as it is loud. The law applies to any NGO that receives foreign government funding. (The fact that the only NGOs receiving such funding are left-wing ones bears out the fear of why that money is being given in the first place. No money is being given to groups that support the state, only those that stand in active opposition to it.)

The law would not prevent the NGOs from receiving the funds; rather it would require a clear identification and affiliation between the funder and a donee organization. The only conceivable reason that the NGOs should be worried is because somehow the very relationship they have with these governments could be worrisome.

And that’s the whole point. The Left is worried because a light shone on the true state of things is indeed troubling. They liked it better when hardly anyone was aware of the truth.

If an organization gets money from the Schwartz family or the Schmendrik Foundation, that bespeaks identification of the donors with the cause they are giving to. But when the government of Sweden, Belgium, Scotland or Norway is writing checks, they are looking for the organizations to reflect their own policies and priorities, and will have considerable influence in setting the NGOs’ course.

The recent defection of Bassam Eid from B’Tselem because the European funders of the NGO insisted that he not pursue allegations of malfeasance against the Palestinian Authority, but only against Israel, is just one such example.

So, let the Left howl and cry, calling the rest of us fascists and McCarthyites, and predicting the demise of democracy in Israel. The more they cry, the more they point the finger, the more marginal they become.

Israel strengthens, not weakens, its democracy with the NGO Law. It is long overdue and much needed.

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  • Susan Davidowitz

    What does NGO stand for? Non Governmental. It is a lie in the first instance that these groups even are NGO’s since these groups receive majority funding from governments.

    Further the compromise to Israeli democracy does not lie in exposing the funding by foreign governments, it lies in the existence of foreign funded NGO’s who wield power over Israeli policy and politics. They undermine Israel’s freedom to operate as an independent country.

    Finally, the USA has long had strict disclosure laws. In the 1930’s when the USA feared fascist infiltration from Germany, they passed a law called FARA, Foreign Agent’s Registration Act, to shine light on the alien agenda of the funding. The USA, which has the highest Constitutionally protected free speech rights in the world, sees these laws as a way to protect democracy and it’s political integrity and defense.

  • Monty Pogoda

    The Left should be excised, excommunicated, and left to the mercies of Hamas, Hizballa and others of this ilk. They actually support themselves on the money received from foreign interests. This money is their bread and butter. Disgusting!

  • Salomon

    The Arabs stab, ram the cars on people and shoot. However the great incentive comes from the Jewish Left, because they find support and that feed them with hope that with enough terrorist act they will win…
    If Israel wants to stops terrorism it should first try to stop the Left!

  • Israel Pickholtz

    Not “significant foreign funding,” but MAJORITY foreign funding.

    Why shouldn’t we know if someone is 25% foreign funded?

  • Judah Jacobs

    This article is poorly written and incomprehensible.

    • Willy Wonka

      Your comment is reflective of your inability to comprehend?

  • Joy D. Brower

    It’s nice to read, for a change, that the hegemony of the Left is being called out, as it – and every other (political) entity – should if receiving funds from a foreign gov’t. I shudder to think what the fate of Israelis would be if the Left ran the show!

  • marta mikey frid

    What is the Left frightened of? What is it they are trying to protect? Can’t they see that by opposing this ruling they are revealing their own excuses for not being exposed?

  • Larry A. Singleton

    How about improving our print function?

  • Jeffrey Zucker

    Interesting how it is only the leftist NGO’s take money from foreign governments; then want to hide the fact that they are doing it.

  • David Cherrie

    It is not only a matter of ideology. There are really big bucks. The left wants to hold on to the money. They want to do their dirty work and they want everything secret because it is very dirty. Especially, lawyers for terrorists. This will inflame Israelis and rightly so.

  • stevenl

    Western world Judeophobia is far greater than its fear of Islamism!! Amazing isn’t it? Islamism is safe!

  • Stein

    NGO transparency is long overdue.