A new report from the Knesset’s Research and Information Center revealed that dozens of left-wing NGOs operating in Israel have apparently been violating the law by not reporting their funding from foreign governments.
In 2016, Israel passed the “Transparency Law” requiring NGOs that receive more than half of their budgets from foreign governments to disclose their funding to the NGO Registrar and note this fact on their websites, publications, and in their communications with public officials and at the Knesset.
The law sparked sharp debate in Israel, with supporters calling it a necessary step toward increasing transparency and a defense of Israel’s democracy, and detractors arguing that it only targets controversial left-wing NGOs, which are the only recipients of foreign government funding.
The Knesset Research and Information Center report revealed that not only were many NGOs not reporting their funding, but that the Justice Ministry-operated NGO Registrar has not enforced the law since it passed in 2016.
The report was commissioned by Member of Knesset Bezalel Smotrich after he was approached by the Zionist watchdog group Im Tirtzu, whose Legal Division discovered the lack of reporting via a request through Freedom of Information Law.
A request for information filed by Im Tirtzu on 13 organizations revealed that 11 of them did not report their foreign government funding.
The report also revealed that the NGO Registrar does not have a computerized system that keeps track of the number of complaints or audits filed against any given organization.
There are over 300 NGOs operating in Israel which are funded by foreign governments, and primarily by the Europeans, which operate to influence Israel in various aspects, and in many cases operate against the Jewish State.
Responding to the findings, Smotrich stated that “enforcing the law and upholding the rule of law is not optional.”
He said that the lack of law enforcement is “tantamount to criminal neglect at best, or intentional disregard at worst. In a democratic country, this is a reality that we cannot accept.”
Alon Schvartzer, Director of Policy for Im Tirtzu, which has been a leading advocate of increased transparency of foreign government funding, said that “the Knesset’s report confirms Im Tirtzu’s claims that far-left NGOs in Israel are systematically violating the law.”
“Unfortunately, these extreme organizations are taking advantage of the lack of law enforcement to continue to slander Israel and IDF soldiers,” he said, calling on the Justice Minister and the NGO Registrar to “enforce the law and sanction all the organizations violating it.”
“There is no reason to fear these organizations just because of their close connections with hostile actors in the European Union and other European governments. Israel is an independent and sovereign country and was not established so its citizens could continue to live in fear of foreign countries,” he asserted.