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.