Dany Bahar

Labels are labels, aren’t they?

The transparency law that is in the process of being approved by the Knesset will force all representatives from Israeli NGOs with the majority of their funding coming from foreign governmental entities to wear a tag while they are in the Knesset. The tag is meant to indicate the lawmakers about the involvement of foreign nations in their organizations activities.

The government and its sympathizers claims that this law is all about transparency, and even though it over proportionally affects left wing organizations, they have tirelessly said that it is not a witch-hunt disguised in a democratic procedure (as totalitarian governments love to do). Moreover, government officials claim that this is just about being transparent and providing more information to the public, which it is not necessarily a bad thing when said like that.

But, if this government is so in favor of transparency and providing information, why do they go crazy whenever the European countries announce plans to label products imported from the settlements? Isn’t this transparency as well? Why is it a godo thing when a lawmaker can decide whether to listen or not to a particular NGO based on label but, at the same time, there is a strong opposition from within the government to a situation when European consumers can decide whether to buy or not a product produced by settlers in the occupied Palestinian territories?

I’m not a big fan of boycotts, but if the choice we have is between an extremist BDS movement that wants to divest all trade with Israel and an approach of labeling products from the occupied territories so that a consumer can decide on his/her own, then I rather the later. And as long as we maintain the status quo and keep expanding the settlements, this is the type of dilemmas we will have to deal with.

But, besides that, I’m still confused: Why would a government willing to label people for the sake transparency goes crazy when others want to label some of their product? After all, a label is a label, isn’t it?

About the Author
Dany Bahar is a fellow in the Brookings Institute in Washington DC. He holds a PhD in Public Policy from Harvard University.
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