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Netanyahu should end the anti-democratic witch hunt (Haaretz editorial)

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Violet_Crumble Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Dec-03-11 07:33 AM
Original message
Netanyahu should end the anti-democratic witch hunt (Haaretz editorial)
PMs support for the revised bill to restrict donations by foreign governments to left-wing organizations is an ill-conceived attempt to exploit his parliamentary majority to undermine Israeli democracy.

Benjamin Netanyahus address to a conference of jurists earlier this week raised hopes that perhaps the prime minister had decided to repel the recent wave of bills proposed by his right-wing coalition colleagues. Netanyahu used the occasion to make clear what should have been self-evident: Democracy is not just majority votes and majority rule. There is no way to run a democracy without checks and balances among the different branches of government.

But words are one thing, and actions are another: Netanyahus support for the revised bill to restrict donations by foreign governments to left-wing organizations is an ill-conceived attempt to exploit his parliamentary majority to undermine Israeli democracy. Social-welfare and human-rights organizations are one of the pillars that help preserve the balance between the different branches of government.


The new bill, cosponsored by Yisrael Beiteinu and Likud, is even worse than the original version that Netanyahu agreed to shelve. This time, the right seeks to completely bar donations by foreign governments to organizations that reject Israels existence, incite to racism, support armed struggle against Israel, support indicting elected officials or Israel Defense Forces soldiers in international courts, advocate refusal to serve in the army, or support boycotting Israel. Moreover, organizations that arent also funded by the Israeli government would have to pay a 45 percent tax on donations from foreign governments.

The bill would authorize the finance minister and the Knesset Finance Committee to exempt certain organizations from this tax, based on criteria that havent yet been set. In that way, the cabinet and Knesset would essentially acquire judicial authority over civil society organizations, whose purpose is to provide oversight of the executive and legislative branches.

Moreover, the bill discriminates against human rights organizations identified with the left, as well as against peace organizations: It doesnt apply to groups that get donations from foreign organizations or individuals donations that serve to bolster the settlements and finance right-wing extremist activity.

http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/netanyahu-should-end-the...
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Scurrilous Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-04-11 01:24 AM
Response to Original message
1. Indeed. n/t
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LeftishBrit Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-04-11 08:49 AM
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2. Agreed
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shira Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-04-11 09:04 AM
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3. Foreign funded anti-Israel NGO's undermine democracy...
The bills were meant to address a genuine problem: Foreign governments really are spending huge sums on blatantly anti-Israel activity. A document obtained by Makor Rishon, for instance, showed that Britains government gave 600,000 to Israeli NGOs in 2010 six times what it gave to NGOs in all Arab countries combined (excluding Iraq). Overall, according to NGO Monitor, European governments give more to Israeli NGOs $75 million to $100 million a year than to NGOs in all other Middle Eastern countries combined. That Europe spends more to promote civil society in the regions only democracy than it does in the entire undemocratic Arab world is a priori suspicious; European governments dont give comparable sums to NGOs in other veteran democracies. And indeed, a look at their recipients shows they arent trying to support Israeli democracy, but to undermine it.

Take, for instance, the Israeli Arab advocacy organization Adalah, which gets funding from the European Union and the governments of Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark and Holland. One of Adalahs avowed goals is to eliminate the Jewish state a goal clearly not shared by most Israelis. For instance, its proposed Democratic Constitution demands that Israel grant a right of return to millions of Palestinians, which would eradicate the Jewish state demographically and, until that happens, it demands that Arab parties be allowed to veto all government decisions, thus stripping the state of its right to self-defense (since these parties invariably oppose military action).

One can imagine how, say, America would feel if Europe funded American NGOs that openly advocated a Communist takeover. For Europe to be funding Israeli NGOs that seek an Arab takeover of the Jewish state is equally unacceptable.

http://www.thejc.com/blogs/jonathan-hoffman/foreign-gov... -contributions-need-be-restricted-how
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LeftishBrit Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-04-11 12:16 PM
Response to Reply #3
5. There are a lot of things that I might think undermine democracy...
Edited on Sun Dec-04-11 12:24 PM by LeftishBrit
but it would undermine democracy *more* to crack down on them.

I think that right-wing politicians and parties are a danger to democracy and indeed to humanity; but it would be even more anti-democratic and ultimately right-wing to ban them.

Communism, at least in its Soviet-supported form, was a danger to democracy, but McCarthyism did infinitely more damage to America than the few communist groups there ever could have.

And in this world, there are probably no significant organizations anywhere that don't get some foreign funding, directly or indirectly. This doesn't mean that they are controlled by other countries; just that in a 'global world', they will receive and accept support from whoever is interested. The NGOs are not less valid because they receive some foreign funding, and that is so for right and left NGOs. (There are funding sources that I would indeed regard as bad sources; but the mere fact that some are from abroad does not invalidate them.) Whatever one thinks of Adalah, people with these views would be present, and have a right to express them, whether they received EU funding or not.

For that matter, America gives plenty of financial support to Israel, and it comes with significant strings attached. Is that also a threat to democracy?

On another thread, you said that freedom of speech is one of the most crucial things there is, and that it has made Israel great. I agree: Israel's tolerance for internal dissent and disagreement is one of the best things about it, and distinguishes it from most other countries including the other countries in the Middle East. It would be a thousand pities if this is now crushed and replaced with a form of McCarthyism.
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shira Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-05-11 04:01 AM
Response to Reply #5
8. Something needed to be done WRT contributions to organizations connected...
...to BDS for example, like Adalah - which calls for full RoR and one state. Foreign gov'ts have no business contributing to such NGO's and AFAIK, Israel is looking into stopping such donations. I don't know of any other country in the world which would allow such a thing.

As for politically oriented NGO's, they'll be taxed 45% on contributions.

Other contributions for genuine charities and education will be unaffected.
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LeftishBrit Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-07-11 08:58 AM
Response to Reply #8
16. 'I don't know of any other country in the world that would allow such a thing'
Umm.

See this for example:

http://www.alliancedefensefund.org/Home/ADFContent?cid=...

An American Christian Right group that fully admits that it contributes to Europaean organizations - including, I am aware, some British ones such as Christian Concern for Our Nation.

Do I like it? No. But I don't see any way of 'doing something' about it, beyond straighforward opposition to the organizations, without imperilling freedom and democracy in my country.

As regards foreign *governments* - well, both the UK and Israel are subject to very considerable political influence by the American government.

It would be one thing if Israel were simply trying to limit *all* foreign contributions to local charities and NGOs. But they appear to be singling out left-wing organizations. Right-wing organizations also get foreign contributions; e.g. the far-right, pro-settler organization 'SOS Israel' quite explicitly solicits American donations on its site. Is this being treated in exactly the same way as foreign donations to left-wing organizations? If so, well, at least they're being consistent; if not, then this is a blatantly McCarthyite, anti-left initiative - which, I'm glad to say, seems to be concerning not just foreigners but the Israeli Supreme Court.
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shira Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-07-11 11:47 AM
Response to Reply #16
17. Not the same thing, is it? We're talking foreign governments funding supposedly grassroots NGOs...
Edited on Wed Dec-07-11 12:18 PM by shira
...that delegitimize their own nation in order to eventually destroy it. I know of no other situation like it. AFAIK, Israel is not clamping down on individuals or organizations contributing to Israeli NGO's. You're confusing them with foreign gov't funding.

I mean, what the hell are EU countries funding Adalah for, if they're for 2 states?

You think Israel should take that lying down? I don't see how the EU can be taken seriously in the peace process anymore. If they're busy trying to delegitimize Israel by funding organizations like Adalah, they have no place in 2 state negotiations, and certainly shouldn't be dictating terms to Israel. They should go screw themselves. Talk about being undemocratic - I can't think of anything more undemocratic than funding groups like Adalah which advocate for one state (like the rest of Israel's mideast neighbors). That's as undemocratic as it gets, right?

Correct me if I'm wrong...
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shira Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-05-11 06:53 AM
Response to Reply #5
12. Also, what do you make of EU govt's funding groups like Adalah?
The EU is supposed to be for 2 states.
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eyl Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-04-11 02:20 PM
Response to Reply #3
6. Even granting the danger
posed by these organizations - which I think this bills proponents are vastly overstating - the cure is in this case worse than the disease.

Amon other things, I'm struck by the irony. the irony: a major rationale held out for the need for this legislation is that some of the organizations in question gave the Goldstone Commission damning information about IDF activities. So essentially they're trying to prevent a PR problem by making a bigger one.
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shira Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-05-11 05:56 AM
Response to Reply #6
9. Some orgs like Adalah deliberately gave Goldstone false information...
Edited on Mon Dec-05-11 06:05 AM by shira
...due to the fact their purpose is to hurt Israel (for BDS, one state, full RoR, end of Israel). I don't see why other govt's shouldn't have that kind of power and it's outrageous other western democracies are funding such organizations within Israel.

Can you point to a similar situation anywhere else, and if not why should Israel put up with this nonsense?
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Violet_Crumble Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-07-11 04:47 AM
Response to Reply #6
14. Nutty's bunch are pretty skilled at creating PR problems where there doesn't need to be any...
btw, when's the next election over there due? Hopefully the next government won't be half as clumsy or prone not to think about the consequences of bills that get tabled...
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shira Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-07-11 05:55 AM
Response to Reply #6
15. Eyl, what do you make of EU governments funding orgs like Adalah that are for one state?
Edited on Wed Dec-07-11 05:57 AM by shira
The EU is supposed to be for 2 states and they're funding organizations that delegitimize Israel and call for its end.

The very least the EU can do is threaten to withhold funding until organizations like Adalah stop their efforts against 2 states and peace. There's simply no way the EU cannot know what Adalah is all about.
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Scurrilous Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-04-11 10:32 AM
Response to Original message
4. U.S. warns Israel over bill to limit foreign funding to NGOs
U.S. Ambassador Dan Shapiro tells Israeli officials that Obama administration is concerned by proposed legislation; says it is much more extreme than similar laws in western countries.

<snip>

"The U.S. ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, recently relayed a message to senior members of the Prime Minister's Office that the Obama administration is concerned by proposed legislation that will potentially limit funding by foreign governments for nonprofit organizations. Shapiro said the proposed legislation is much more extreme than U.S. law or similar laws in western democracies.

An Israeli source says Shapiro spoke on the subject with the national security adviser, Yaakov Amidror, and the PM's political adviser, Ron Dermer, some 10 days ago.

The ambassador stressed that he was instructed by the State Department to make clear to Israel the U.S. stance on the law on funding NGOs.

The exchange between Shapiro and the two senior advisers took place before the drafting of the latest version of the bill, agreed by Cabinet Secretary Zvi Hauser, MK Ofir Akunis (Likud) and representatives of Yisrael Beiteinu."

http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/u-s-warns...
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Scurrilous Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-04-11 09:02 PM
Response to Original message
7. Likud MK Akunis: Every word Senator Joseph McCarthy said was right
Ofir Akunis, who sponsored the bill to limit foreign funding to human rights groups, says he only meant Senator McCarthy was proven right by exposing Soviet agents in the U.S., but adds he strongly opposes McCarthyism.

<snip>

"Likud MK Ofir Akunis, who sponsored the bill to limit foreign funding to Israeli human rights organization, stood behind Senator Joseph's McCarthy's actions in the 1950s. Speaking on Sunday on the "London and Kirshenbaum" television show on Channel 10, Akunis said McCarthy who in the 1950s presided over a committee that investigated Americans suspected of harboring Communist views said "was right in every word, the fact is -there were Soviet agents."

<snip>

"Speaking to Haaretz later on Sunday, Akunis said he was referring to McCarthy's claim that several Soviet agents infiltrated the U.S. "I didn't say McCarthyism was right, or that every word that McCarthy said was right." He added that he does not support McCarthyism or political persecution of citizens suspected of being disloyal to the state. "God forbid, absolutely not," he said.

"I am far less extreme than what some columns say, and I am not part of the legislation against the judiciary. I have one law that is right and just, that says that a foreign country will not transfer money to another country." Akunis said the bill "is far from being fascist or ant-democratic. It is also not a law that targets the freedom of assembly."

Akunis referred to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's criticism of the bill, which she voiced on Saturday, and said that "the Foreign Agents Registration Act in the U.S. is much harsher than the (current) bill, especially in light of the amended bill which clearly defines what constitutes a political organization."

http://www.haaretz.com/news/national/likud-mk-akunis-ev...
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shira Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-05-11 06:10 AM
Response to Original message
10. NGO Bill Watered Down
The new draft, signed by both Akunis and Kirshenbaum, forbids any foreign government donations to organizations that reject Israels right to exist, incite racism, support violence against Israel, support putting Israeli politicians and IDF soldiers on trial in international courts, call for boycotts of the state or for IDF soldiers to refuse orders.

In addition, donations from within Israel to such organizations will be subject to a 45% tax.

Political organizations funded by the European Union, such as BTselem or Peace Now, will also have to pay a 45% tax on donations but will have the option of undergoing a hearing in the Knesset Finance Committee, which may decide to waive the tax.

Non-political organizations that receive state funding will be tax-exempt and may receive unlimited donations from foreign governments. This category includes Magen David Adom and Hebrew University, among other similar politically benign organizations.
http://www.indynewsisrael.com/ngo-bill-watered-down
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shira Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-05-11 06:16 AM
Response to Reply #10
11. Foreign Support for Israeli NGO's
Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) wield very significant political and legal power in Israel, particularly through their use of the language and frameworks of human rights and humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians. These NGOs are also a major and often hidden channel for external influence in Israeli foreign and security policies.

Much of the funding for political lobbies that claim to be based in Israeli civil society comes from foreign sources particularly European governments, including the European Commission as well as foundations such as the New Israel Fund, the Ford Foundation, and the Open Society Institute. By using the generous resources made available by these external donors, the Israel-based NGO network is able to promote particular political ideologies, and to oppose the policies of the democratically elected government on many issues.

The NGOs discussed in this analysis are highly active and visible participants in both the international and national debates on issues such as the status and future of Jerusalem, the disputed territories in the West Bank, and the actions of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). These NGOs issue high-profile statements and reports, generate media publicity, organize demonstrations, speak to student groups and army units, and use the courts to advance their political agendas.

In the international arena, the same NGOs submit statements to United Nations frameworks such as the Human Rights Council, run major media campaigns, and spearhead lawsuits in various countries. Using the tens of millions of shekels, euros, and dollars they receive each year, the externally funded NGO network is far more powerful than other Israeli organizations that do not enjoy similar support from foreign governments.

For example, as this report demonstrates, foreign-funded local NGOs are responsible for a significant portion of the petitions brought before the Israeli High Court of Justice. Citizens, residents, and even non-residents have standing to litigate in the Supreme Court, without having to provide evidence of potential or actual injury. Thus an individual or an organization that opposes a policy, law, or administrative action can initiate legal proceedings, even if the individual or organization is not directly affected by it. Furthermore, Israeli courts play a central role in public policy making, particularly with respect to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict, thereby amplifying the impact of NGOs that operate in this arena.

more...
http://www.izs.org.il/eng/?catid=228
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Scurrilous Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-06-11 08:26 PM
Response to Original message
13. AG to Netanyahu: Bills targeting rights groups' funds are unconstitutional
'If these bills become law, I won't be able to defend them against the petitions that will be submitted to the High Court,' Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein warns government.

<snip>

"Proposed legislation to restrict foreign governments' donations to nongovernmental organizations is unconstitutional, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein warned this week, and if it passes the Knesset, he will not be prepared to defend it in the High Court of Justice.

"The attorney general's policy is to refrain as much as possible from declaring laws unconstitutional, out of respect for the legislative work of the cabinet and Knesset," Weinstein wrote in a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this weekend explaining his unusual decision. "But in light of the blatancy of the case before us, deviating from this policy is justified. What this means is that if these bills become law, I won't be able to defend them against the petitions that will be submitted to the High Court. That is what I intend to tell the Knesset, and afterward the Supreme Court."

The two bills in question were submitted by MKs Ofir Akunis (Likud ) and Faina Kirshenbaum (Yisrael Beiteinu ). Both are disproportionate and unconstitutional, Weinstein said.

"They deal a harsh blow to a long list of constitutional rights, including freedom of expression, freedom of association and the right to equality," he wrote. "Instead of enabling open discussion in an efficient 'marketplace of ideas,' they try to suppress speech. They put Israel on a par with the handful of countries that have taken similar steps, and I doubt the State of Israel should be jealous of these regimes and act like them."

http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/ag-to-netanya...
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