January 5, 2016 – New York -- The controversial draft Israeli NGO
“transparency” legislation draws attention to a vexing problem – well-financed
foreign involvement in the Israeli democratic process. The law, if adopted,
would require organizations receiving more than half of their funding from
foreign governments to include a disclaimer to that effect in every public
statement and communication with Israeli public officials.
But the proposed solution poses as many risks as the problem itself,
including the risk to Israel’s reputation as a confident and open society that
has long been true democracy’s sole Middle East outpost.
Israel already has on the books a law requiring disclosure of foreign
funding of nongovernmental organizations. As in the principle underlying
campaign financing law in the United States, AJC believes such disclosure, in a
free society with a robust and independent press, to be the most efficient
method of protecting the public from hidden political influences.
When foreign governments seek to advance their policy agendas through
the activities of Israeli NGOs, the Israeli public and taxpayers in the
countries that are sources of the funding deserve to know.
Existing Israeli law makes that information available, and is, in our
judgment, sufficient. In the best democratic tradition, advocates and public
officials are wise to weigh foreign support as a factor in evaluating the
statements and actions of recipient NGOs.