There are Israeli Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) in Israel which demonize and delegitimize the State of Israel. They are known to use false and misleading information to damage Israel's reputation. They are funded by foreign governments.
Now, Israel’s Justice Minister wants to institute requirements for these NGO’s (see below). The Jewish Left in Israel and abroad object. They call the proposed bill a blow against Israel’s democracy (“Israeli Cabinet Undermines Democracy with Vote on anti-NGO Bill”, jstreet, December 28, 2015).
In response to this objection, Morton Klein, President of the Zionist Organization of America, has offered his opinion of this matter (“Israeli Bill Requiring Phony NGOs to Identify Themselves As Foreign Funded Should Be Enacted”, American Thinker, January 1, 2016). He believes the bill is neccessary.
Here's the story.
Israel's Justice Minister, Ayelet Shaked, has proposed a transparency law that requires non-governmental organizations (NGOs) operating in Israel, which are funded by foreign governments, to identify themselves as foreign-funded when lobbying in Israel’s Knesset (Gil Hoffman, Herb Keinon, "As NGO bill nears approval, Europe warns Israel against curtailing free speech", Jerusalem Post, December 27, 2015). Klein likes this law--for a good reason.
The term ‘non-governmental organization’ means something. It refers to groups operating in Israel that are not affiliated with, supported by, or acting on behalf of any government. That's why these groups are called, 'non-government'.
But the watch-dog, NGO Monitor, has reported that European governments actively support 'Non-Government' groups in Israel. These foreign governments provide $100 million of direct and indirect funding to purported ‘human rights NGOs’ in Israel (ibid).
These ‘human rights NGOs’ include B’tselem, Breaking the Silence , Yesh Din, Machsom Watch and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel. They are hostile to Israel. Klein claims that these NGOs use foreign monies from hostile-to-Israel foreign governments to invent and purvey false stories about Israel and its IDF (Israel Defense Force) (ibid).
For instance, in 2014, B’tselem used funding from European governments to create false reports of terrorist combatants as innocent Gazan civilians, and misleadingly presented a targeted meeting of terrorist operatives as a “family bombed at home.” It used an emotional account by an Islamic Jihad commander’s family member to embroider its report (ibid).
In another example, 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 (ibid). That exhibit falsely depicted Israeli soldiers, tanks and planes as intentionally shooting 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 was three times greater than the already exaggerated UN child-casualty numbers (ibid).
One drawing in the PHR-I exhibit showed a smiling child happily standing next to a house with a large rocket pointing upwards, starting to lift off from the lawn. Such a drawing didn’t confirm human rights activity. It confirmed Hamas war crimes (firing rockets from residential areas). PHR-I didn’t comment on that.
These purported ‘human rights NGOs' work closely with the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement to delegitimize and wage economic war against Israel. For example, European-funded “Breaking the Silence” signed a letter calling for South Africa to expel Israel’s ambassador and led ‘apartheid week’ activities [a BDS activity] in South Africa (ibid).
Hamas wants to bring Israelis up on war crimes charges throughout the world. It uses a Breaking the Silence (BTS) “report” containing alleged BTS “testimonies” maligning the IDF. These “testimonies”--which allege that the IDF callously targets women and children--are posted anonymously without independent verification. They have repeatedly been thoroughly discredited—but only after doing immense damage (ibid).
Minister Shaked’s proposed law is a simple matter of truth-in-advertising. The law prevents NGOs that are really agents of foreign-governments from pretending that they are simply home-grown ‘human rights’ groups.
It’s entirely appropriate for the proposed Knesset law to target NGOs supported by foreign governments. It's appropriate to have such NGOs register as foreign-supported.
The reason is simple: foreign governments and their agents have massive resources. The also have their own foreign agendas. If they operate in Israel, we should know about them.
When foreign governments invest millions of dollars and euros into hostile-to-Israel NGOs, they create foreign 'agents' paid to thwart Israel’s sovereign right and ability to have her own citizens democratically determine her own policies and destiny (ibid). In the current situation, foreign governments easily hide behind ‘human rights’ NGOs while they secretly push their own hostile-to-Israel agendas.
The United States won't tolerate such secret foreign support. Organizations that are supported by or working on behalf of foreign government interests are required to register as a foreign agent under the U.S. Foreign Agents Registration Act (“FARA”). They are required to file promptly copies of every piece of information that they disseminate (ibid). None of this hurts either free speech or democracy in America.
Klein points out that the American President George Washington, in his famous Farewell Address, warned that a free people must constantly guard against “the insidious wiles of foreign influence.” Washington 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” (ibid).
As a free and sovereign nation, Klein argues, Israel must likewise guard against 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. Certainly, George Washington was right. A free nation must be vigilant. It must protect itself from outsiders who would practice 'arts' of deception to influence that nation’s destiny.
The Left is wrong (jstreet, above). Europe is wrong (JPost, above). The requirements of this bill do not threaten Israel’s democracy. They strengthen that democracy. They protect Israel against insidious foreign influence.
Read the entire Klein essay. It's good.