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The proposed “Agent Provacateur” law: Unjust and unjustified

This legislation should prevent irresponsible foreign government funding for NGOs, but instead allows for it

The proposed legislation being advanced by “Im Tirzu” (the Agent Provocateur” Law) does not address problems of foreign government funding for non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Instead, if adopted, it would be counterproductive and increase the power of NGOs engaged in counter-peace activities, as well as the influence of the countries funding them. As NGO Monitor’s research has shown, proposed legislative measures that depart from the core democratic principles of transparency and accountability are ineffective. They are often unenforceable, and damage Israel’s vital interests.

The issue of large-scale and unprecedented NGO funding from foreign governments to manipulate Israeli politics is a serious issue. When countries like Holland, Denmark or Germany use NGO funding instead of the accepted diplomatic channels for relations between states, they contribute to internal conflict, and undermine Israeli sovereignty. For years, we at NGO Monitor have documented the absence of transparency and independent evaluation in the transfer of European taxpayer budgets to such organizations. Funds for NGOs operating under the facade of human rights are used to oppose peace efforts, through such initiatives as the pro-BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) campaigns, and in some cases, endorse and promote anti-Semitic themes.

These legislative proposals, and the ensuing responses, divert attention from the core issue: extensive and irresponsible European funding. Instead of demanding that funding states address these practices, such proposals add to the emotional reactions of fringe groups from both the left and the right.

Over the past few years, the Israeli debate on foreign funding for political NGOs has become increasingly intense. As a result, there is a need for professional, in-depth research in order to avoid confusion and understand the details. Let me add further that the name-calling from left and right — using terms like ‘traitors,’ ‘fascists,’ ‘agents’ or ‘McCarthyism,’ — and demonization campaigns or personal attacks do not contribute to a healthy public debate. This uncivil discourse is antithetical to Israel’s democratic values.

The above reflects an NGO Monitor Press statement.

About the Author
Gerald Steinberg is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Bar Ilan University and president of NGO Monitor. His latest book is "Menachem Begin and the Israel-Egypt Peace Process: Between Ideology and Political Realism", (Indiana University Press)
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