Context matter: Bibi’s indictment and the NGO law

Many in Western Europe, especially in my country Sweden, believe that Israeli democracy is on the path of erosion. Two recent decisions by the current government in Israel has drawn ire and worries among Israeli´s allies. The passing of the Nation State Bill and the so called “NGO transparency law”.

The NGO transparency law require domestic organizations that are primarily funded by foreign governments to disclose this connection in their communications with the government. European governments that fund political groups only on the left- and far-left of the political spectrum, have denounced the law in apocalyptic terms as undermining Israeli democracy.

Critics of the Israeli law generally concede that the required disclosures are legitimate. They object that the application of such disclosure requirements only to groups funded by foreign governments, as opposed to those funded by foreign private individuals (who, unlike the EU, support both left- and right-wing political NGOs), are arbitrary and therefore sets Israel apart from other democracies.

As Eugene Kontorovich argues in a much recommended piece in Tablet Magazine:
“Governments are indeed different from rich individuals. Governments have foreign policies, trade rules, and United Nations votes—and they use the groups they fund in Israel to produce documents that they then invoke when taking those actions. Private people have no similar powers. As a matter of basic democratic integrity, groups that depend largely on government funds should not be able to advertise their “NGO” status without at least some small-print clarification.”

As been explained by Kontorovich Israel is unique in the sheer scale of the foreign government sponsorship of domestic political groups. There is a unique secrecy concerning the processes by which funding is granted to Israeli non-profits by the EU and many individual governments, including refusals in response to Freedom of Information requests.

To be eligible for funding one has to declare that the activities promote EU foreign policy, and the EU agrees. These are groups that get the bulk of their funding from the EU, but only if they promote Brussels’s interests—the very definition of a foreign agent.

Israel’s justice system is generally very well respected. For example, the ICC:s former prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo was quoted saying a few years ago that: “ “Being here in Israel is not liking talking about international justice in Boston or Sweden. The issues here are not academic.” Moreno Ocamp has also stated that : “In a dictatorship they can make you disappear and kill you. But here, even if the situation is awful, you cannot disappear; you have the rule of law.”

With that in mind, it is rather interesting to take notice of a Jerusalem Post article in February 11, that the Dutch government financed B’Tselem report attacking Supreme Court.

Barely three weeks after the published article, Benjamin Netanyahu was indicted pending a hearing for bribery and breach of trust. The courts in Israel has previously sentenced several high profiles and politicians to jail.

The example of the Dutch government financing a B’Tselem report attacking Supreme Court while Israel´s justice system is indicting the longest sitting Prime Minister, shows the absurdity and abnormality methods that European member states uses to affect Israeli domestic policies.

And maybe the rightfully response to the EU was the passing of the NGO Transparency law.

About the Author
In 2016 I released the Swedish book Who Says What? Voices in favor and against a Two-State Solution. The aim for the book was to be an objective and sensible voice by presenting balanced texts from respectable actors who provide different perspectives on the situation and reflect on alternative solutions. I recently released my second book Israeli Settlements: Land Politics beyond the Geneva Convention. The aim with that book is to go deeper to understand the rationale behind Israeli land policies. I am also a diplomatic Corp for the World Jewish Congress.