Soon to be Law? The Reporting of Foreign Funding

Learning the Goldstone lessons: Knesset Committee approves legislation to require transparency regarding foreign funding for associations.

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Hillel Fendel, | updated: 15:04

Who funds what?
Who funds what?
Israel news photo: Flash 90

The Knesset Law Committee has approved a rough draft of a legislative proposal regarding foreign funding of Israeli associations. Proposed by coalition whip MK Ze’ev Elkin (Likud), the bill obligates associations to report quarterly on how much funding it received from foreign sources and for what purposes.

“This bill comes to protect the citizens of Israel from foreign influences that do not correspond with our national interest and needs,” Elkin explains. “We wish to prevent a recurrence of the Goldstone Report scenario, in which a very anti-Israel report was formulated by a United Nations body based mainly on material from Israeli organizations that presented themselves as independent – but in fact were funded by foreign states.”

The NGO-Monitor site, which seeks to promote critical debate and accountability of Human Rights NGOs in the Arab-Israeli conflict, reported that the anti-Israel Goldstone Report referenced B’Tselem more than 56 times; Adalah, 38; and Breaking the Silence, 27. These organizations received, between 2006 and 2009, $3,086,243, $915,703 and $409,139, respectively, in estimated European government funding, according to NGO-Monitor.

In addition, the site reports the following:
* Association for Civil Rights in Israel received $642,923 in estimated European government funding during that period;
* Ir Amim, which works to prevent the Judaization of eastern, northern and southern Jerusalem, received $1,241,439;
* Physicians for Human Rights-Israel - $869,245; and
* Machsom Watch - left-wing women monitoring Israeli soldiers at checkpoints - $356,329.

“Frequently,” Elkin said, “the associations cooperate with foreign elements that use the associations to introduce messages and activities that are not in Israel’s interest.”

The introduction to the bill states that it “balances between the right of organizations in a democratic state to act freely and the right of the public to know who is funding its activities.”

The bill applies to all registered associations that are funded by either a foreign country or a foreign association that is itself mostly funded by a foreign country. The associations will have to fill out an on-line form four times a year, providing information on the identity of the foreign sponsor, the sum it gave, the purpose of the funding, and obligations the association may have taken upon itself – verbally or in writing, directly or indirectly – towards the foreign country.

This information must also be publicized on the association’s internet site, if it has one. The fine for violating the new law will be 29,200 shekels ($6,083).