12 January '16..
The press has continued to harp on the criticism being voiced by the Jewish left and the Obama administration of a proposed law that might bring more transparency to the funding of Israeli non-governmental organizations. The latest shot fired in the battle came from Dan Shapiro, the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, who issued a rare written statement about a meeting with Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, the prime sponsor of the controversial bill. Shapiro not only registered his disapproval of the bill but claimed Shaked was wrong to suggest that there was little difference between the legislation and U.S. law, which similarly requires transparency for those who operate as agents of foreign powers.
Shapiro’s arguments are misleading since there is nothing in the bill that actually limits the activities or even the ability of NGO’s to get their funding from invariably hostile foreign governments. Moreover, as even the Washington Post noted in a specious editorial denouncing the proposed law, the only tangible accomplishment of it will be to force lobbyists for such groups is to force them to wear a badge in the halls of the Knesset much like foreign agents do on Capitol Hill. But there is another aspect to this story that not only was ignored by the ambassador but which has failed to elicit any stories in the mainstream press, which has been so eager to highlight Shaked’s controversial bill as a threat to Israeli democracy.
As our Michael Rubin wrote on Friday, the left-wing Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Ezra Nawi, a left-wing Israeli activist, hadn’t been merely hounding the Israeli Defense Forces and the West Bank settlement movement. He was caught on tape by undercover investigators boasting about his efforts trying to hinder land sales to Jews. More than that, he reported Arabs who were involved in selling land to Jews to the Palestinian Authority, which meant torture and certain death for those involved. The shocking indifference of the Israeli left to Palestinians victimized by the Fatah kleptocrats that rule both the West Bank and the Hamas terrorists that govern Gaza is not a secret. But acquiescence to the Palestinian movement’s deadly enforcement methods is something that shocked Israelis.
What is also important to understand is that the actions of Nawi are funded by the same NGO’s at the center of the Shaked bill like Breaking the Silence. However, the same American publications that have prioritized reporting about the NGO bill like the New York Times and the Washington Post haven’t printed a word about the revelations of Nawi’s NGO-funded activities. Nor have they taken into the resentment that most Israelis feel about groups that seek to undermine the Army’s efforts to root out terror or to promote the interests of groups bent on the Jewish state’s destruction at a time when bloody attacks on Israelis are commonplace. However, they did rush to publish a story speculating that a fire at the offices of B’Tselem was the result of right-wing terrorism incited by the NGO bill even though the incident was revealed to be the result of bad wiring within hours of the first report coming out.
Yet there is another layer to this story that goes beyond hypocrisy or media bias, but which goes to the heart of the concerns that motivated Shaked.
In Israel’s democratic system, just like in the United States, individuals and/or groups have every right to advocate for whatever policies they like as long they’re legal. But there is something insidious about a practice in which foreign governments seek not merely to influence the country’s leaders by normal diplomatic means but to subsidize politically oriented organizations that seek to overturn the verdict of Israeli democracy. Under those circumstances, the desire for greater transparency may not, as in the Shaked bill, really change anything, but it is understandable.
But if you think that’s all there is to this topic, you’re wrong. As one of the emails uncovered by Freedom of Information requests from Hillary Clinton’s private server reveals, Europeans aren’t the only ones plotting to undermine Israeli democracy.
As the Washington Free Beacon reported, one of Shapiro’s predecessors as U.S. ambassador to Israel sought to get then-Secretary of State Clinton’s support for a U.S. plot to organize Palestinian protests against Israel in 2010. Thomas Pickering, a longtime critic of the current Israeli government but who is often described as a friend of Israel and/or an honest broker between the Jewish state and the Palestinians, sought for the U.S. to actively organize non-violent demonstrations by Palestinian women.
The effort never had a chance because the Palestinians — whether male or female — have never had much interest in nonviolent protest. Nor was there much of a secret about the Obama administration’s desire to tilt the diplomatic playing field in the direction of the Palestinians. But what is disturbing is that the proposal — which was clearly to Clinton’s likely because of her response to print it out and distribute it to her staff — is that the entire affair was intended to be a secret plot for which the U.S. wouldn’t publicly take responsibility.
And that, in a nutshell, is why Israelis are so angry about foreign intervention in their affairs.
Israel is a country with a myriad of political parties and a noisy free press, much of which is as liberal as their counterparts in the U.S. media and deeply critical of the current government. It needs no lessons in democracy from the U.S. or the Europeans. But it also has a right to worry about the way governments that are both hostile and supposedly friendly like Washington, are constantly seeking to intervene in Israeli politics without being held publicly accountable for what can only be considered plots to overturn the verdict of Israel’s voters. The more one delves into this topic, the more it is apparent that the NGOs that are the recipients of these foreign funds do not have clean hands. Neither do the governments that are working in the shadows to undermine the democracy they claim to support.
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