Israel’s democracy is under threat again! This is the constant refrain heard
from certain NGOs every time their taciturn and covert work comes under the
spotlight. It has become so frequent and predictable it would be pitiful, if not
for the nefarious and outsized effect these NGOs have on the internal and
external conversation about our country and its future.
In 2011, the
Knesset voted in favor of the public’s right to know the details of foreign
government involvement through NGO funding, passing legislation requiring all
recipients, regardless of political agenda, to report quarterly in order for
this shadowy industry to work in a more transparent manner.
act of legislation was fought using the NGO industry’s almost limitless
resources, and political support was mobilized with claims the proposed law
signaled the end of democracy. The substance of the bill was massively distorted
and the bill itself was seldom referred to or referenced in this all-out
Thankfully, this bill passed into law. However, smarting from the
loss, certain NGOs have upped the ante since and have sought to ensure their
activities will be placed under no further public scrutiny and that even their
illegitimate activities will be placed above the law.
The bill I am
co-sponsoring with Ayelet Shaked seeks to remedy a situation which no
self-respecting democracy can endure. Any NGO which receives foreign government
funding and which advocates for or carries out certain actions will be
restricted to receiving no more than NIS 20,000 a year from a given
The criteria which would restrict government funding are: if an
NGO or member of an NGO calls for IDF soldiers to be tried in international
courts; calls to boycott, divest from or sanction the State of Israel or its
citizens; denies Israel’s existence as a Jewish and democratic state; incites to
racism or supports armed struggle against the State of Israel by an enemy state
or terror organization.
Any and all opponents of the bill should simply
state which of these criteria are problematic or offensive to them. These
actions are deeply injurious to the State of Israel and its citizens and are
already to a great extent illegal if performed by Israeli citizens. The question
which should remain is: Why should NGOs be above the law, and why should foreign
governments continue to fund these activities? Should a state allow the flow of
massive funding to any organization which incites racism, supports terrorism or
the dismantlement of our nation in its current form? It is time the NGOs using
scare-tactics and threats answered this simple question.
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In fact, we
should stop referring to these organizations as NGOs, because they are far
closer to the definition of a GONGO; a government organized nongovernmental
organization. In an article in The Washington Post
in 2007, Moisés Naím,
editor-in-chief of Foreign Policy magazine, described GONGOs, writing that
“Governments are funding and controlling nongovernmental organizations (NGOs),
often stealthily” and act “as representatives of citizen groups with lofty aims
when, in fact, they are nothing but agents of the governments that fund them.
Some governments embed their GONGOs deep in the societies of other countries and
use them to advance their interests abroad.”
Any government which
supports an organization meeting one of the five criteria mentioned in the
proposed law is covertly seeking to undermine our nation and society and its
highly representative liberal democracy. As a democratically elected official,
it is my responsibility to protect our society and its citizens from such gross,
covert encroachment and interference in our democratic process.
vital that the public become more informed, not less, regarding who or what is
pulling the strings, especially since a concerted public relations campaign is
already being mobilized against this new legislation.
through the masses of op-eds and press releases that have been written against
our legislation, few, if any, refer to the bill or its actual
Terms such as “anti-democratic” and the “repression of
criticism” are bandied about in the certainty that they will press the correct
buttons and bring about pressure for the law to be shelved.
most threatened by this legislation are not only threatening Israel’s democracy,
they are also scrambling to ensure the endurance of their multi-million dollar
(or euro) industry and their paychecks, which could be depreciated as a result
of curtailed funding.
While the NGO world is very good at asking
questions, it is very bad at answering them. It is time to turn the focus on
these organizations that frequently deem themselves above the law.
campaign of intimidation will only succeed if we as a nation are uninformed and
British philosopher William Haley once said that:
“There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof
against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting
ignorance – that principle is contempt prior to investigation.”
what the NGOs who are mobilizing against our legislation hope for. They hope
that their ad hominem attacks against the authors and supporters of the bill and
the use of negative tried-and-tested keywords will disguise the reality behind
this long-overdue law.
We must turn the spotlight where it has yet to be
truly shone: on those who believe that by holding the light themselves they will
continue to remain in the dark, free from inquiry.
It is time to ask
important questions and demand a code of legitimate and appropriate conduct from
the self-appointed and heavily funded yet opaque guardians of our public
If enough Israelis are informed and accept that the criteria
contained in the law is perfectly legitimate to mitigate against the danger,
then we will win the battle for the heart of Israel’s democracy. If not, then
our nation will continue to be unduly influenced by foreign governments and
their shadowy, self-serving agents.The writer is a Knesset member for
Yisrael Beytenu and vice chairman of the coalition.
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