New Israeli Disclosure Requirements Impacting the Left

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February 22, 2011; Source: Los Angeles Times | The Knesset (Israel's parliament) just passed a new bill requiring nongovernmental organizations in the nation to disclose funding received from foreign governments by reporting quarterly, posting the information on their websites, and including their receipt of foreign government funding in their public fundraising and political campaigns.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu supported the bill. The bill's cosponsor, Zeev Elkin, said it was the right of a democratic country to know when foreign governments were putting money into "groups with the intention of influencing policy and internal politics." Israel sees itself as also serving the interests of taxpayers in other countries who would learn where their tax money was going. However, the law does not require disclosure of NGOs' private funding.

Elkin said that the law would apply to NGOs of the left and the right, but critics say that this law favors the right wing and penalizes the left. Because right wing groups, like the Yesha Council which represents West Bank settlers, are typically privately funded, Yariv Oppenheimer of Peace Now charges that the "logic behind the new bill is simple, to de-legitimize the left-wing organizations and portray them as foreign agents." But the bill would leave untouched the "far bigger" private funding from U.S. evangelical organizations and "tycoons like Irwin Moskowitz" to right wing organizations.

An apolitical or "fair and balanced" disclosure law? It follows the effort of some conservative members of the Knesset to investigate the funding of Israeli human rights organizations, denounced by opponents as a "witch hunt" and "deepening McCarthyism." How do NPQ readers feel about the new Israeli government funding disclosure law? Should it also include private funding? Is it biased against the left, or are leftwing critics simply "feinschmeckers" (translated by the Times as "finicky, high-browed fusspots")? Do readers know which foreign NGOs (in Israel and elsewhere) receive U.S. government funding support, and does it matter? Do readers think it is important to know which domestic nonprofits in the U.S. receive foreign government financial support?—Rick Cohen