It turns out that various politically active, generally far left-wing Israeli NGOs, some of which deny the very legitimacy of the Israeli government, get funding from various European governments (see, e.g., this detailed NGO Monitor Report, which focuses only on funding through the EU itself; member states provide substantial additional funding). Some of these organizations, for example, support the international “Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions” efforts against Israel. (Exactly why European governments fund NGOs whose views diametrically oppose the governments’ official policies vis a vis Israel is an interesting question that we’ll leave to another time).
These NGOs are often given special legitimacy in the international media because they are purportedly Israeli NGOs. NGO Monitor’s investigations show that many of them are, in fact, organizations with little if any domestic base within Israel and instead represent the views of the international far left with a fig leaf of Israeli leadership drawn from its domestic far left.
Israelis, tired of this rather subtle form of ideological warfare emanating from their purported friends among governments in Europe, are now considering a measure that would ban foreign government funding of political NGOs above a certain low level. (UPDATE: Many of these organizations have also received substantial funding from private organizations like the Ford Foundation and the New Israel Fund, but the legislation in question does not target such private contributions.) Whether this particular measure is workable, and whether it’s the best way to deal with the situation, I’ll again leave for another time.
What’s striking, however, is the EU’s reaction:
The EU’s ambassador to Israel, Andrew Standley, contacted the prime minister’s national security adviser, Yaakov Amidror, on Thursday and warned him that passage of the legislation could harm Israel’s standing in the West as a democratic country.
So the idea here, obviously is that a “democratic” country must allow foreign governments, who represent foreign citizens and not Israelis, to interfere in its domestic politics by supporting organizations that range from the fringe left to beyond the fringe left.
Now that is chutzpah! Imagine if Israel was funneling millions of Euros annually to Basque separatists in Spain, Flemish nationalists in Belgium, or to one of numerous neo-fascist fronts in Norway and France. I have a very strong feeling that the EU’s views of what “democratic” countries must tolerate from foreign governments would change rather quickly.
UPDATE: Among other laws, in the U.S. the NGOs in question would be subject to the Foreign Agent Registration Act which, according to the official website, “requires persons acting as agents of foreign principals in a political or quasi-political capacity to make periodic public disclosure of their relationship with the foreign principal, as well as activities, receipts and disbursements in support of those activities. Disclosure of the required information facilitates evaluation by the government and the American people of the statements and activities of such persons in light of their function as foreign agents.” Last I heard, Israel had no such requirements, but perhaps the EU thinks that the U.S. is “undemocratic” as well.
FURTHER UPDATE: As near as I can make out, Kevin Jon Heller responds to my hypothetical suggesting that EU countries would not take kindly to Israeli interference with their domestic politics with the notion that EU nations should be free to donate to leftist Israeli NGOs because they are “progressive” and purport to be “human rights” organizations. On the other hand, it would be a completely different story if Israel chose to donate to European neofascist groups or Basque separatists because these are not “progressive” organizations, even though, of course, they purport to be promoting the human rights of their constituents. In other words, interfering with local democracy is fine promotes Heller’s ideological agenda, but not fine if it doesn’t. I’m glad we’ve cleared that up. And for those coming here from Heller’s link, please note that contrary to the impression you may have gotten from Heller’s post, I “defended” the pending legislation only from charge of being “undemocratic,” without endorsing it.