Bill to Restrict Foreign Funding Makes Comeback

Yisrael Beiteinu MK Robert Ilatov. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
Yisrael Beiteinu MK Robert Ilatov. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

A bill to rein in foreign funding by left-wing organizations, which provoked a fierce partisan battle last year, has been re-introduced in the Knesset, The Jerusalem Post reports.

MK’s from coalition partners Jewish Home and Yisrael Beiteinu have dusted off the legislative proposal which was shelved by then-minister Bennie Begin (Likud), who declared the bill “dead.” Subsequent promises to revive it by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and then-foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman failed to materialize.

According to the bill, submitted by MK’s Ayelet Shaked and Robert Ilatov, NGOs may not receive contributions of over NIS 20,000 from a “foreign political entity” if the organization, its members, a member of its management or one of its employees calls for IDF soldiers to be brought to international courts, calls for boycotts, divestment or sanctions (BDS) of Israel or its citizens, denies Israel’s right to exist, incites to racism or support armed combat by an enemy state or terrorist organization against Israel.”

“It cannot be that the State of Israel allows unlimited involvement of foreign countries to influence its character and values,” Shaked said.

“Israeli democracy is under a double attack. Foreign funding twists the power and will of Israeli voters and gives an extremist [minority] a greater ability to express itself than most of the Israeli public. That extremist [minority] endangers the State of Israel and is used as the arrowhead in the world’s attempts to delegitimize Israel.”

Left-wing MK’s have made it clear they will fight it again.

“This is a shameful bill, and the attorney-general already said in the past that proposals like it go against basic constitutional rights,” MK Ronen Hoffman (Yesh Atid) said.

Yesh Atid MK Ronen Hoffman. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
Yesh Atid MK Ronen Hoffman. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On accused the right-wing of seeking to destroy Israeli democracy. “Limitations of the kind suggested in the NGO Bill exist only in non-democratic governments. There is a similar law in [President Vladimir] Putin’s Russia, and apparently those who proposed the bill are inspired by his dark government,” Gal-On said.

Opponents were not limited to the left, though. NGO Monitor, which usually criticizes the sector the bill is aimed at, also came out against it.

“Transparency and accountability for powerful NGOs are essential parts of the Israeli democratic discourse and policy debate,” the organization stated. “However, as NGO Monitor has repeatedly stated, legislative proposals that go beyond transparency and suggest distinctions based on political motivations and ideology are polarizing, not enforceable, and damage Israel’s vital national interests.”

NGO Monitor added that while “NGO political warfare against Israel —­  including lawfare, BDS, Holocaust denial, false allegations of ‘war crimes’ and other forms of delegitimization – are core threats, defeating this warfare requires a carefully designed and realistic strategy.”

Deputy Minister Ofir Akunis, who authored similar legislation in the last Knesset, vigorously rejected the attacks on the new version.

“The NGO Bill is the most democratic and just bill ever, and any attempts to block it are not done in the name of Israeli democracy, but out of political motives by those interested in continuing the intolerable situation in which foreign countries intervene in Israeli politics by funding political NGOs,” Akunis said.

It is also noteworthy during these days, that Women of the Wall, which has caused so much discord at the Kosel, is a recipient of monies from the New Israel Fund (NIF), which has gained a reputation for organizing and funding a range of dissident forces including radical Arab groups, according to Arutz Sheva.

The NIF came under heavy scrutiny in recent years after it became known that 92% of the “Israeli” quotes (i.e., quotes from Israeli sources) in the Goldstone Report were provided by organizations underwritten by the NIF.

The fund has an ongoing partnership with the Ford Foundation and the Israel branch has been closely associated with former Meretz MK Naomi Chazan, its president for many years.