The NGO Monitor watchdog group has released a statement opposing a proposed law that would impose heavy taxes on foreign contributions to anti-Zionist groups in Israel.
The bill aims to reduce foreign interference in Israeli society through local NGOs, an issue that NGO Monitor has worked to bring to the public’s attention.
NGO Monitor stressed that it opposes punishment or fines for anti-Israel groups. “Legislative proposals that go beyond democratic transparency and accountability for these NGOs are ill advised, not enforceable, and damage Israel's vital national interests,” the group warned.
However, the group noted, the issue is an important one. “The current proposal is another in a series of legislative initiatives and debates focusing on the often secretive foreign government funding of political advocacy NGOs. This funding artificially amplifies the influence and power of these groups in Israeli political processes and public discourse.
“Additionally, many NGOs have abandoned their original mission of primarily addressing the Israeli public, and instead focus on condemning Israel - and advocating for specific policies - in international arenas.
“This legislation, as with similar previous ones, reflects the deep concern among Israel's democratically elected representatives regarding foreign government funding to NGOs that are centrally involved in delegitimization campaigns.”
Instead of taxing foreign contributions, Israel should focus on exposing them, NGO Monitor suggested. The group called for “full enforcement” of a 2011 law requiring NGOs to reveal funding they received from foreign governments.
The 2011 law was passed because “Both the secrecy of funding procedures and the external manipulation of civil society were understood to violate the accepted norms and practices among sovereign democratic nations,” the group stated.
NGO Monitor has previously argued that groups which receive most of their funding from foreign governments do not actually qualify as NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations).
A 2010 report by NGO Monitor revealed that many of the most well-known left-wing NGOs in Israel receive more than half of their total donations from foreign governments. Among the NGOs in question were the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), the Alternative Information Center (AIC), Breaking the Silence, B’Tselem, Ir Amim and Yesh Din.
Several of the groups that were found to have received more than half of their funding from foreign governments in 2009-2010 were involved in providing anti-Israel testimony to the Goldstone Committee, which went on to condemn Israel based in large part on the groups’ claims.