Seeds of dictatorship? Calling a spade a spade

The NGO law won’t stop BtS and their ilk operating, but it takes an important first step in calling the problem by its name.

Tags: EU -Israel
David Gross

OpEds David Gross
David Gross
INN:DG

It is an exciting time to be a political spectator.

The US Presidential Election is in full swing.

The UK voted to leave the European Union, precipitating a Prime Ministerial resignation, and the main opposition party remains at risk of a permanent schism.

Francois Hollande is scraping along the last year of a disastrous presidency, while Germany could very well do away with Angela Merkel as well in 2017.

Italian banks are in danger of defaulting. Australian elections produced a hung Parliament.

The EU is trying to deal (unsuccessfully) with the waves of refugees from the Middle East.

Venezuela is starving. Brazil has impeached one president and is about to embark on an Olympic Games that are being overshadowed by the Zika virus.

The political scene in Israel is relatively sedate by comparison. The Prime Minister recently embarked on a successful tour of Africa which has, according to some sources, resulted in a UNESCO vote being pulled that would have denied the Jewish connection to Jerusalem. The government seems in no immediate danger of collapse.

But if you meander through social media, you may have heard the first "flowering of Israeli dictatorship" being declared. You see, the government passed the much maligned NGO bill this past week. It’s not a great law. It has been stripped down to a collection of symbolic directives which have negligible impact.

And yet, those who are not too busy playing PokemonGo will have noticed a large graphic sponsored by the usual collection of so called “human rights” groups – B'tselem, Breaking the Silence et al. – declaring that “while they may not have stopped the NGO Law, the law won’t stop them operating.” Opponents of the law have decried the law as “offensive” that a group that is founded and operated in Israel yet funded by foreign governments could possibly be considered a “foreign agent”.


The scope for "creativity" on the part of BtS has already been documented, with the group’s star performer, Avner Gevaryahu, repeatedly shown to be a liar, no less, by his own platoon comrades.
Some ask how such groups could possibly be foreign agents if they receive funds from a range of foreign governments. Others mock the fact that foreign individuals get a free pass while foreign governments are scapegoated.

We don’t have the time to explore the numerous instances of opacity and corruption in the EU, nor discuss US State Department support for One Voice and therein V15. The fact that the USAID supports a large chunk of the UNWRA budget is one more stain in a never-ending litany of missteps.

The arrogance of EU officials that the passage of the law makes engagement with Israel more difficult is the same attitude which the UK has decisively rejected.

But I do want to address the one seemingly insoluble point that the law's detractors raise time and again – that well-meaning foreign governmental money is inherently virtuous, and those who receive it are heroes of democracy.

Let us take Breaking the Silence as a case in point. Breaking the Silence receives funds from a variety of governments and extra-governmental entities, my favourite being the Human Rights and Humanitarian International Law Secretariat which is conveniently located in Ramallah. Part of the conditions of their grants is that they provide a certain number of testimonies in a designated time period.

Let us just say the scope for creativity on the part of BtS has already been documented, with the group’s star performer, Avner Gevaryahu, repeatedly shown to be a liar, no less, by his own platoon comrades.

The NGO law won’t stop BtS and their ilk operating, but it takes an important first step in calling the problem by its name. “Foreign agent” is kind in comparison to what the average Israeli on the street thinks of this kind of operation. When one does favours for those who pay for them to the ultimate detriment of the former, we call those paymasters “pimps” and “dealers”.

I urge those groups to take a good look in the mirror in the meantime.



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