Daily Israel Report

Watchdog: NGO, Press Reactions to Boycott Law Biased

NGO Monitor is not happy with Anti-Boycott Bill but says press and NGOs’ reactions show "obsession and disproportionate focus on Israel."
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 7/14/2011, 9:23 PM / Last Update: 7/14/2011, 9:44 PM

NGO Monitor, the leading watchdog group following the actions of anti-Israeli non-governmental organizations and exposing their funding, is not particularly happy with the Anti-Boycott Bill. The bill, passed by the Knesset this week, will prevent any firm that boycotts Judea and Samaria from taking part in government tenders. It also allows anyone harmed by educational, economic or other boycotts of Judea and Samaria to sue the perpetrator for damages.

NGO Monitor’s chairman, Prof. Gerald Steinberg, explained that he does not see this legislation as the appropriate means to combat the so-called BDS (boycott – divestment – sanctions) movement against Israel. 
 
Steinberg has been promoting  legislation sponsored by Coalition Chairman MK Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) and framed after the US’s Foreign Agents Registration Act, which was already approved back in February. MK Elkin’s legislation requires all NGOs to issue quarterly reports on their foreign government funding and would exact fines from those that refrain from disclosure. 
 
Its reservations about the Anti-Boycott Bill notwithstanding, NGO Monitor accused NGOs and press outlets of showing “an obsession and disproportionate focus on Israel” as regards the new law. 
 
“Human Rights Watch (HRW), for example, within hours of the bill’s passage, released a statement attacking the bill,” NGO Monitor noted. “In contrast, it took the organization nearly a week to comment on the April 7 murder of an Israeli boy on a school bus targeted by a laser-guided Hamas rocket. And HRW and other NGOs continue to underreport the atrocities in Libya, Syria, North Korea, and other totalitarian regimes in the region.” 
 
NGO Monitor also noted that various groups had issued false statements about the new law, including the New Israel Fund, which claimed that the bill “criminalizes freedom of speech,” and Gush Shalom, which called the law “a death sentence for the right to freedom of expression.”
 
“The intense public debate and discussion about the new law is indicative of the strength and vibrancy of Israeli democracy, not its decline, as many political advocacy NGOs have claimed,” the watchdog group opined.
 
“These same NGOs,” it added, “are preparing to challenge the new law in the Israeli courts, [in] another sign of a strong democracy. Furthermore, those NGOs could have lobbied MKs and presented alternatives, in order to stop the bill. Instead, they spend more time and resources lobbying European Parliaments in opposing Israeli government policy.”
 
Steinberg has estimated that upwards of 100 million euros in public funds are transferred annually to NGOs operating in Israel, and has said that most European citizens are unaware of where their money is going.