The radical left-wing protest in Tel Aviv
The radical left-wing protest in Tel AvivTomer Neuberg/Flash 90

The European Union provided the leftist B’Tselem group with funding to help combat the NGO Law that was recently approved by the government, the NGO Monitor organization revealed.

The NGO Law, also known as the "Transparency Bill", was approved by the government's Ministerial Committee on Legislation two weeks ago, clearing the way for a Knesset vote to make it law.

The bill, sponsored by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home), would require NGOs who receive over 50% of their funding from foreign states to reveal the precise sources of their funds.

The aim, its supporters say, is to curb the current practice of primarily European states who seek to undermine Israeli government policy by pouring millions into extreme-left and radical Arab Israeli NGOs.

NGO Monitor, a watchdog which tracks extremist anti-Israel NGOs, revealed that on December 15, B’Tselem received a grant for an unknown amount from the European Endowment for Democracy (EED).

According to NGO Monitor’s statement, the grant was meant for “Combating anti-democratic laws aiming to silence opposition.”

“The funding was allocated amid a heated internal Israeli debate over the role that foreign government-funded NGOs play in Israeli democracy. The nature of the grant, openly aiming at influencing Israeli legislation, again highlights the infringement on sovereignty and the manipulative intent of European government funding in the context of Israeli democracy,” said the watchdog.

The EED framework was established in 2013 by the EU and its member states, with the objective of providing “support for political and civic actors striving for democratic change in the European Neighborhood.”

NGO Monitor notes that EED is financed by the EU and EU member states, and managed by European officials and representatives. Juan Jose Escobar, a member of EED’s seven person Executive Committee, also currently serves as the Spanish Consul General in Jerusalem (Head of Mission).

The EED’s website notes that it is also mandated to “add[s] value to existing democracy support”, and “focus[es] on the ‘unsupported’, who are not eligible for EU or other funding.”

The EED also lacks the basic transparency requirements of a governmental body: details of grants including the amounts are not published, and there is no consolidated database that allows an overview or public scrutiny, notes NGO Monitor.

Professor Gerald Steinberg, head of NGO Monitor, sent a letter to Cabinet ministers to inform them of the EED and the grant to B’Tselem.

"The European Endowment for Democracy was established by the EU in 2016 to promote and encourage ‘deep and sustainable democracy’ in countries that are in the process of transition to democracy, and in societies that are fighting for democratization. The fund is financed solely by government money from the EU and European governments," Steinberg wrote in his letter, which was quoted by Walla! News.

He also noted that according to the EED’s website, the countries in which it operates include Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Egypt, Georgia, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Moldova, Tunisia, Morocco, “Palestine”, Syria and Ukraine.

Prof. Steinberg in his letter noted that "besides Israel, the only democracies in which the fund operates are Tunisia and Moldova, which are ranked 30 places lower than Israel in the Democracy Index."