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'Peace Now' Will Have to Publicize EU Contributions

The Knesset has passed a law requiring the publication on the internet of all contributions from foreign countries to Israeli associations.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 1/17/2008, 1:40 PM

The Knesset has passed a law requiring the publication on the internet of all contributions from foreign countries to Israeli associations. 

The bill, proposed by MK Uri Ariel (National Union), stipulates that the foreign donations must be announced not only to the Non-Profit Associations Registrar, as has been the case until now, but also to the public at large, via the internet.

The bill's final Knesset readings were approved on Wednesday.

The bill is designed chiefly to fight Peace Now, a far-left Israel-based organization promoting Israeli retreat to pre-1967 borders and the end of all Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria.  Peace Now is largely funded by foreign governments in the European Union. 

The organization, which spends large sums of money to locate every new Israeli structure in Judea and Samaria, has effectively been on the payroll of at least three European governments, according to the Knesset Interior Committee, based on research by Israeli investigative reporter David Bedein.

In 2005, for instance, European Union countries funded Peace Now to the tune of 1.75 million shekels (some $400,000), and three times that amount in 2006.  The biggest donors were Great Britain and Norway, which are opposed to the Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria - thus that the money they give Peace Now essentially serves those governments' foreign policy interests. Given Peace Now's surveillance activities over Israeli communities and IDF military installations in Judea and Samaria, the organization is thus "in effect spying on Israel for foreign governments," Bedein reported.

The Knesset Interior Committee confirmed in 2004 that Peace Now had received 50,000 Euros from the government of Finland to conduct intelligence activities in Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria, the Golan, Gaza and Jerusalem. The Israel Penal Code for Espionage defines “photography of sensitive areas of Israel for any foreign power” as an act of espionage, punishable by ten years imprisonment.

It was reported last month that Peace Now was suspected of setting up a financial scam to mask the European sources of its funding.  The Non-Profit Associations Registrar suspects that Peace Now used a non-profit organization called Sha'al, which supposedly dealt with educational matters, to receive and disburse millions of shekels over a period of many years.

MK Ariel said that the streaming of tremendous sums of money from foreign nations to various political non-profit associations "leads to foreign and hostile international intervention in Israeli affairs."

MK Ariel's bill was originally designed to ban outright all foreign contributions to non-profit associations.  However, after protracted negotiations with government representatives, the government agreed only to back a bill requiring full transparency of the contributions.