Israel’s amended NGOs Law compels organizations with more than half of their funding coming from a foreign source to declare this fact before every contact with the Knesset or with government officials. Now B’Tselem and Breaking the Silence, both notoriously anti-Zionist groups whose funding has always relied heavily on foreign sources, declared that the law will not apply to them this year, Hadashot reported Wednesday.
Both NGOs have announced that in 2017 the proportion of grants they received from foreign entities amounted to less than 50% of their budgets. B’Tselem declared that 48.8% of its income came from abroad, and Breaking the Silence stated the rate of foreign donations at 44.7%. This means that both groups are below the threshold that would have required them to submit financial report that expose their funding sources, and absolves them of the requirement to present themselves as, effectively, foreign agents.
The NGOs law’s amendment originally required those groups to wear tags identifying themselves as recipients of more than 50% of their budgets from foreign sources, but this requirement was rescinded and the law now only requires them to register as such before appearing before Knesset committees or having contact with government officials.
The amended law also absolves the NGOs from declaring private donations from anywhere in the world, which could be the bookkeeping loophole B’Tselem and BtS may have used to curb their income statements.
The About B’Tselem page on the group’s website still states: “B’Tselem is an independent, non-partisan organization. It is funded by donations alone, from foundations in Europe and North America that support human rights activity worldwide and from private individuals in Israel and abroad.”
But now, both organizations said they plan to add to their websites a statement saying: “In accordance with the law passed by the government in order to frame the receipt of international grants as an expression of disloyalty, we note that we are not an organization whose main sources of funding are from foreign state entities. Either way, we remain loyal to the values of human rights, freedom, democracy and an end to the occupation.”
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked’s office chose to embrace what is most likely a bookkeeping trick as victory, issuing a statement declaring: “The figures submitted by the extreme left organizations Breaking the Silence and B’Tselem testify more than anything else to the great success of the NGOs Law, which was led by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked.
“Figures from the Justice Ministry and NGO Monitor show that whereas in 2012-2014 both organizations benefited from 55% to 70% of their funding coming from foreign state entities, now, according to their own testimony, foreign participation has dropped below 50 percent.
“This was the main purpose of the law – to reduce the interference of foreign countries in the internal affairs of the State of Israel.
“Minister of Justice Shaked was pleased that the law was well assimilated among European countries, which are reducing their support for these problematic organizations. The law will be even more successful when more and more such organizations will ‘escape the regulation’ created by the law by significantly reducing the influence of foreign countries on them through injecting funds.”
If only that were true.