Germany’s Foreign Ministry spokesman said Israel’s NGO transparency law is in the same category as legislation passed by nondemocratic countries like Russia and China, prompting astonishment on Thursday from Jerusalem over the new wave of criticism from Berlin targeting the Jewish state.The Israeli Embassy in Germany told the mass-circulation daily Bild: “Israel is a vibrant and free democracy and there are no restrictions on donations. Recently, Israel adopted a demand for transparency, as is custom in other democracies. Israel requests an explanation from the Foreign Ministry.”Martin Schäfer, the German spokesman, said at a press conference in mid-June, “Hungary thus joins the ranks of countries like Russia, China and Israel, which obviously regard the funding of nongovernmental organizations, of civil society efforts, by donors from abroad as a hostile or at least an unfriendly act.” He criticized Hungary because the Central European state’s new NGO law obligates foreign nonprofits to register their status.When asked at the press conference about Israel’s “angry” reaction to the parallel drawn with Russia and China on Friday, Schäfer said: “I can’t report of any [Israeli] reactions to the Foreign Ministry. I don’t know... I don’t know anything about that.”Israel’s 2016 NGO law requires nonprofit organizations that receive more than half of their funding from foreign governments to report this fact each year to the registrar in the Justice Ministry.Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said this month he wants to make the NGO transparency law stricter. Critics view the current NGO law as an infringement on civil liberties.Bundestag deputies slammed Schäfer’s anti-Israel statements, the Bild reported.Lawmaker Thomas Feist of the Christian Democratic Union said likening Israel to China and Russia is “divorced from reality,” and the comparison “is damaging for the bilateral relationship between Germany and Israel.”Jürgen Hardt, foreign policy spokesman for the CDU/CSU parties in the Bundestag, said: “Such a comparison is insensitive.We should make it unambiguously clear who Germany’s partners and allies are – the free democratic, constitutional states.And, without question, Israel and Hungary belong to those states, not China and today’s Russia.”Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, who is a Social Democrat, has faced criticism for an increased hostility toward Israel. He has previously called Israel an “apartheid regime” and last month hosted an Iranian cleric who called for Israel’s destruction.
Gabriel declined to meet Netanyahu’s request to cancel meetings during his recent visit to Israel with two NGOs critical of the government. As a result, Netanyahu pulled the plug on his meeting with Gabriel.At the start of Gabriel’s visit to Israel in April, he authored a controversial opinion piece that played down the significance of the Holocaust.When asked about Gabriel’s comments, a spokesman for the German ministry told The Jerusalem Post: “It is goes without saying: Foreign Minister Gabriel and the Foreign Ministry are against every form of antisemitism.”
Netanyahu snubs German minister over plan to meet far - left groups like Breaking the Silence (credit: REUTERS)