Reader’s letter: Israel’s “transparency law”

November 6, 2015 by  
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This week many people asked me what really bothers me about the proposed “transparency law” promoted by the Minister of Justice, Ayelet Shaked.

I am an ardent supporter of transparency. However there are three problems with the bill: it is misleading and discriminatory, it is unnecessary, and the underlying rationale for the bill is wrong (and on a personal level, even insulting).

First of all, what does the bill say? A non-governmental organization whose funding is primarily from “foreign political entities” will be required to note this in publicly available reports and publications. When an organization contacts an elected official or public employee in writing, they will be obligated to note that they receive foreign funding. Representatives of NGOs who work in the Knesset will be required to wear an identification badge or tag, specifying the name of the organization that they represent and their funding sources.

Why is the bill discriminatory? The emphasis on ‘transparency’ deliberately misleads the public in order to conceal the true purpose of the law – which is to harm the activities of NGOs and organizations whose views are contrary to those of the proponents of the bill. If the initiators of the bill spoke candidly, the bill would be called “A law to harm human rights organizations that bother us.” The bill sets out criteria that in reality will only ‘catch out’ human rights organizations – it only refers to entities that receive donations from foreign governments (and incidentally, the frightening term “foreign political entities” refers to Israel’s allies – the United States and the European Union, who contribute hundreds of millions of euros and dollars to the country and official institutions each year). The bill does not relate to organizations that receive donations from corporations, foundations or private donors overseas.

There are various organizations and associations that receive huge contributions from foreign private entities, sometimes in much larger amounts than what human rights organizations receive from foreign governments. These organizations have no lesser impact, if not a greater impact, than that of human rights organizations. However the “transparency law” does not apply to them. Do you want transparency? No problem! But it should apply to everyone. If the purpose of the law is to provide the public with information about the variety of interests that underlie the activities of non-governmental organizations, there is no justification for distinguishing between different types of foreign funding.

Why is the bill unnecessary? Extensive transparency of NGOs already exists in Israel. On the website for the government body responsible for NGO oversight (Rasham Amutot) you can find details relating to every donation. Legislation proposed by Zeev Elkin was passed several years ago, to increase the reporting obligations of non-governmental organizations in relation to donations from foreign countries (to quarterly instead of annual reports). Ironically the private funding that many organizations receive tends to remain confidential; and the bill does not address this.

Why is the bill wrong (and insulting?) The implicit assumption of the bill is that human rights organizations are working to the detriment of the country. I have worked for human rights organizations and I have worked in the Israeli Government. I can attest to the fact that men and women working in NGOs are dedicated people, who have in mind the best interests of the State – no less so than those working in the public sector.

I, and the members of ACRI, are working to establish a more equal and just society, to give voice to minority groups and all people whose rights are violated, to combat every form of racism, to strengthen the freedom of expression and to protect our democracy – so that we can all live in a country that respects human rights and civil liberties. How are these activities harming the State!?!?

The bill does not directly affect us at ACRI, because we receive a relatively small percentage of our budget from foreign governments. However, we intend to fight this bill with full force, because it is a severe blow to democracy, freedom of expression and human rights; which weakens the freedom and security of every citizen in Israel.

Sharon Abraham-Weiss

Executive Director

Association for Civil Rights in Israel

Comments

2 Responses to “Reader’s letter: Israel’s “transparency law””
  1. Paul Winter says:

    Wearing a tag identifying the NGO being represented and its funding an insult? You must be joking! But then again, if I represented ACRI or Adalah or any other NIF fundee, I would be ashamed to identify myself.

    ACRI’s executive director claims that the bill is designed to harm human rights organisations and gives the fatuous reason that since the foreign funds come from Israel’s allies, it must be OK. Really? So meddling EU in Israel’s internal affairs is kosher? The EU that labels Jewish products from Judea and Samaria and show contempt for Israel by building in Area C is friendly? That of the US which is equating Pally murders of Jews with the killing of attackers in self-defence? Don’t insult my intelligence!

    Organisations which receive foreign funding do not interfere in politics. When NGOs interfere, they go beyond their mandate. When NGOs receive government funding they become QuanGOs (quasi-governmental organisations) and both ACRI and NIF are that. When much of ACRI’s activities is international, it not only interferes in Israel’s internal affairs but incites and supports foreign pressure on Israel. ACRI is in fact a subversive, traitorous anti-Israel entity.

    ACRI’s “human rights” concerns are reported by NGO Monitor. It claims that the Israeli government is racist, apartheid, a violator of international law, engages in collective punishment, a violator of human rights and portrays Israel as a foreign occupying power in areas where the Bedouin now squat.

    In 2014 ACRI opposed a Knesset bill bannig Nazi symbols and in 2010 published a report denying any Jewish connection to Jerusalem.

    ACRI is funded by the EU, Norway, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark and Christian Aid (UK), Diakonia and Bread for the World (Germany). It is also funded by USA based NIF which itself receives governmental funding.

    It is pure chutzpah for ACRI to describe itself as an Israeli organisation. And it is lucky that Israel does not act like any self-respecting sovereign nation and close it down and charge its officials with treason.

  2. Rami Reed says:

    Nonsense! The bill is aimed at NGOs that work against the state. Many support haters of Israel and work to undermine and even to delegitimise Israel. No other country has foreign governments actively supporting anti state activities. Only Israel

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