Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Plumbing of Israeli Democracy: An Acceptable McCarthyite Law?

According to Haaretz, Israel continues its descent into McCarthyite authoritarianism or worse:

A bill that would require Israeli nongovernmental organizations to report every donation they receive from foreign governments, or from any source mostly funded by a foreign government, was approved for first reading by the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee on Monday. The bill, which would subject NGOs that fail to report such donations to a NIS 30,000 fine, has been branded "McCarthyist" by left-wing and civil rights groups....

Leftist parties, calling the bill "McCarthyist," said it infringes on freedom of association and seeks to intimidate legitimate NGOs whose positions are opposed to the coalition's. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel charged that the bill would exploit transparency regulations to undermine the legitimate activity of NGOs based on their political opinions."Freedom of association is not subject to political horse-trading; it is the preserve of anyone who wants to organize to advance civil causes, whether a given party or political majority at any given time likes it or not," an ACRI spokesman said.

Sounds ominous, doesn't it. Except that the same article also tells that:

But it is not clear whether the wording approved on Monday would actually bar Israeli NGOs from helping international investigative committees like the Goldstone panel, as its sponsors had sought. The bill does not require exposing private donors' identities, probably because academic institutions objected to disclosing anonymous donors. A former government registrar of nonprofit organizations, Yaron Keidar, said yesterday the bill was merely a "bureaucratic nuisance" and contributes nothing to the existing system supervising NGOs. "NGOs are already obliged to give a detailed report of any foreign donation, anyway," he said in a legal opinion he prepared ahead of the debate.
So which is it? the end of civilization as we know it, or merely another onerous bit of red tape?

I am very busy these days, as the light blogging demonstrates. Still, I did send out e-mails to various folks I know in various lefty organizations ("some of my best friends...") requesting a bit of clarification. Alas, the clarification wasn't forthcoming, but I did manage to acquire a copy of an e-mail sent out by Hagai El-Ad, the boss of ACRI, who was in the Knesset yesterday. He doesn't much like the proposed law, though he admits that as it moves through the legislative process it's getting better, even to the extent that he and his organization may end up supporting it:

In the hearing yesterday, the draft Bill (in its scaled-back version) was approved (the coalition has an automatic majority). The Bill will now advance to a first vote (after the Knesset returns from the summer recess, in October) where it will certainly be approved. After that stage, and before being brought to the final 2nd and 3rd votes, there will be an opportunity for further amendments to the law.

During the hearing (ACRI's chief legal counsel, attorney Dan Yakir, was one of those that testified at the hearing, backed by ACRI's Director of Policy Advocacy and myself) a lot of attention was given to the position (that was also expressed in ACRI's letter to the Committee) that transparency should be applied equally, across the board. MK David Rotem, the committee's chairperson, made the surprising promise, that he will not advance the Bill to 2nd and 3rd votes unless it will include language so that the reporting requirements will indeed apply with regard to any funding from a foreign source. If the bill will be amended in this fashion – ACRI will support it. We hope that indeed MK Rotem will stand up to this promise. [bold in the original]

Lest his colleagues wonder if he's losing it, he hastens to add that of course

In any case, the undoing of Israeli democracy continues, one step at a time. The Elkin Bill is just one example of the anti-democratic winds blowing in Israel, from the Knesset and throughout.
But how can be it an example, if you may end up supporting it? [Note to my friends at ACRI: the leak was so very roundabout you need not worry about a spy in your ranks. I have no secret admirers among you].

An a related matter. Those of you who read Hebrew are welcome to visit this site, at which a group of our lefties seem to be saying that anyone who disagrees with them is antidemocratic and is a thug. It's a very odd place, our far left.


ShrinkWrapped said...

"It's a very odd place, our far left."
It seems an awfully lot like our American left, ie, rules and regulations are for thee, not for me.

Barry Meislin said...

Here's a sensible column on the issue (hat tip: Martin Kramer).


Anonymous said...

last night I had an epiphany
Israel should start an NAF-Fund aka New America Fund its goal of course being to help the US's democracy to live up to its own ideals and language.

the revelation that there is an urgent need came to me when I read this (the piece is from 1997 and April 1 to boot, but to the best of my knowledge Harper's Magazine is a serious magazine and Michael Pollan has by now become a revered food guru who even by my standards has often something sensible to say about the subject.)


It seems that Washington, like many states, has a law under which tenants charged with drug crimes may be summarily evicted; after the bust, someone from the sheriff’s office had paid Hogshire’s landlady a visit, notifying her of her “rights” in this regard and urging her to serve the Hogshires with an eviction notice. It sounded to me like a violation of Hogshire’s right to due process—after all, he hadn’t been found guilty of anything. This was my first introduction to what civil-liberties lawyers have taken to calling “the drugs exception to the Bill of Rights”.