WASHINGTON, D.C. – In another attempt to punish criticism of Israeli government policy, the Ministerial Cabinet today passed the bill that targets progressive and human rights organizations. Citing the need for “transparency” for organizations that receive funding from foreign governments, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked proclaimed the passage a victory for democracy. She and her cohort deliberately ignore the dozens of Israeli leaders who point out that failing to require transparency of the many opaquely-funded institutions of the right is not transparency, but hypocrisy.
This bill is a very precise imitation of the policies of Putin’s Russia and other authoritarian regimes clamping down on civil society. No democracy worthy of its name targets only civil society organizations that disagree with the government. No democracy pins a badge of shame on certain organizations that receive foreign funding while allowing others that do not even reveal the names of their donors to escape scrutiny. And no democracy that insists on forbearance from other democratic countries for almost 50 years of occupying and ruling over another people should further damage its international standing.
It is clear that the danger to Israeli democracy and security comes from the extremist right, among those who reject the state of Israel in favor of an ethnocratic theocracy and who purvey the most savage incitement even against Israel’s president. Although the current government has yet to bring the murderers of Duma to justice or deal with the ongoing attacks on Israeli civilians, it finds the political will to label human rights organizations as enemies and “moles.”
We at the New Israel Fund, the largest private funder of Israel’s human rights community and a target ourselves of ultranationalist attacks, urge the Knesset to reject this proposed legislation. We urge leading Jewish organizations in the US and worldwide to join us in calling for real transparency, not hypocrisy. Passage of this bill will expand the “open season” on human rights activists, further tarnish their work and exemplify the wave of self-righteous, cynical intolerance now engulfing the leadership of Israel.