Foreign-Sponsored Non-Governmental Organizations Can Undermine Democracy, Transparency, and Sovereignty

June 28 2018

In recent years, India, Ireland, Hungary, and other countries have attempted to enact legal measures limiting the influence of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that receive funding from abroad. The Israeli law of this kind simply requires such groups to be transparent about their sources of funding. Responding to critics of such laws, and paying particular attention to Israel, Gerald Steinberg writes:

In the Israeli case, . . . out of over 200 active NGOs with human-rights and international-humanitarian-law agendas, 39 from a very narrow part of the political spectrum have received more than 500 million shekels (about $150 million) over the past five years. (Most other groups report less than one-tenth that amount.) Two-thirds of this largesse comes from the European Union and Western European governments. All 39 of the Israeli grantees stridently oppose Jerusalem’s policies regarding the West Bank, and a number promote allegations of “war crimes” and apartheid. Together, they form a network that includes coordinated activism and shared characteristics.

This is a huge budget, and it dwarfs the donations received by the NGOs that are not part of the network. Many also receive funds (approximately $10 million annually) from U.S.-based private donors identified with the political left, such as the New Israel Fund, the Open Society Foundation, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. Conservative donors channel parallel amounts to right-wing Israeli NGOs, which would produce a rough balance between the two poles, but the much larger foreign-government grants, which total on average $20 million a year, disrupt this equilibrium.

Furthermore, the processes by which European donors decide which groups to fund are conspicuously opaque, and freedom-of-information requests, . . . particularly pertaining to Israeli and Palestinian NGOs, are routinely denied. . . . And in many cases, the bureaucracies responsible for distributing funds lack the resources or interest in performing due diligence, as recently demonstrated when a number of European governments were made aware of connections between NGO grantees and terrorist organizations. After years of grants totaling tens of millions of dollars, they cut off this funding. . . .

Using the largesse provided by European governments, [far-left] Israeli groups appear before influential audiences at the United Nations, European Union, and International Criminal Court, and at parliaments, churches, universities, and media platforms. Citing the NGO allegations, faculty in European universities have banned Israelis from classrooms and pulled Israeli products off shelves. . . . Other Israeli NGOs that vehemently disagree with these narratives and policy prescriptions are shut out from these platforms because they lack the resources for high-impact political tours. . . .

[M]assive external funding for a very narrow group of unaccountable and polarizing NGOs is in fact corrupting the democratic process in whose name they claim to speak.

Read more at Lawfare

More about: Europe and Israel, European Union, Israel & Zionism, NGO

Why President Biden Needs Prime Minister Netanyahu as Much as Netanyahu Needs Biden

Sept. 28 2023

Last Wednesday, Joe Biden and Benjamin Netanyahu met for the first time since the former’s inauguration. Since then, Haim Katz, Israel’s tourism minister, became the first Israeli cabinet member to visit Saudi Arabia publicly, and Washington announced that it will include the Jewish state in its visa-waiver program. Richard Kemp, writing shortly after last week’s meeting, comments:

Finally, a full nine months into Benjamin Netanyahu’s latest government, President Joe Biden deigned to allow him into his presence. Historically, American presidents have invited newly installed Israeli prime ministers to the White House shortly after taking office. Even this meeting on Wednesday, however, was not in Washington but in New York, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

Such pointed lack of respect is not the way to treat one of America’s most valuable allies, and perhaps the staunchest of them all. It is all about petty political point-scoring and interfering in Israel’s internal democratic processes. But despite his short-sighted rebuke to the state of Israel and its prime minister, Biden actually needs at least as much from Netanyahu as Netanyahu needs from him. With the 2024 election looming, Biden is desperate for a foreign-policy success among a sea of abject failures.

In his meeting with Netanyahu, Biden no doubt played the Palestinian issue up as some kind of Saudi red line and the White House has probably been pushing [Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman] in that direction. But while the Saudis would no doubt want some kind of pro-forma undertaking by Israel for the sake of appearances, [a nuclear program and military support] are what they really want. The Saudis’ under-the-table backing for the original Abraham Accords in the face of stiff Palestinian rejection shows us where its priorities lie.

Israel remains alone in countering Iran’s nuclear threat, albeit with Saudi and other Arab countries cheering behind the scenes. This meeting won’t have changed that. We must hope, however, that Netanyahu has been able to persuade Biden of the electoral benefit to him of settling for a historic peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia rather than holding out for the unobtainable jackpot of a two-state solution.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Joseph Biden, Saudi Arabia, U.S.-Israel relationship