There Israel goes again, causing problems and upsetting the whole wide world. This time, the EU, which just passed discriminatory laws for imports of Jewish products, is blasting an Israeli bill that would require NGOs to disclose funding they receive from foreign governments. From Ynet:
The bill requires NGOs who receive more than half of their funding from other countries to make a note of this in publications and reports released to the public. These NGOs will also have to state that fact in any inquiry made to an elected public representative or public official, as well as in discussions of public nature. The NGOs will be required to state the names of the countries that donated to them and the years the donations were made.
The legislation also seeks to impose on representatives of these NGOs the same rules that apply to lobbyists at the Knesset, including wearing an identity badge detailing the name of the person and the NGO they represent. Representatives found without such a badge will have their entry permit to the Knesset revoked.
Oh the horror. According to Ynet,
EU officials [said] that ‘Israel should be very careful about reigning in its prosperous democratic society with laws that are reminiscent of totalitarian regimes.’
EU officials might be a little bit surprised by some of the totalitarian regimes that require such transparency. Here’s the US government’s own description of the US Foreign Agents Registration Act:
The Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) was enacted in 1938. FARA is a disclosure statute that requires persons acting as agents of foreign principals in a political or quasi-political capacity to make periodic public disclosure of their relationship with the foreign principal, as well as activities, receipts and disbursements in support of those activities. Disclosure of the required information facilitates evaluation by the government and the American people of the statements and activities of such persons in light of their function as foreign agents.
It’s true that the US law does require disclosure of donations from foreign private individuals as well as governments. Making a distinction between foreign governments and foreign individuals, however, hardly seems “reminiscent of totalitarian regimes.”
The law does not put any “restrictions” on speech, as the AP erroneously reported. Transparency is not a restriction. Jerusalem Post reporter Benjamin Weinthal quoted the bill’s primary proponent, Ayelet Shaked, asking, “why it was legitimate for the EU to label products from settlements and not for Israel to label the products of their funding.”
Based on my observations, those who oppose transparency usually do so because they have information that they don’t want the public to know. The EU’s — ahem — disproportionate response to this bill begs the question of what it is trying to hide.