Peace Now Position: MK Ofir Akunis’ Draft Law

The purpose of the draft law brought before the ministerial committee on legislation is to silence and neutralize Israeli civil society organizations identified with left-leaning liberal values from operating effectively, while continuing to allow right-wing organizations in Israel to act freely without any supervision. The draft law seeks to take advantage of the parliamentary majority to change the democratic rules of the game and severely curtail the basic right of freedom of expression.

• Foreign money influences the public discourse in Israel daily, on the right and on the left. Most of the right-wing organizations receive regular funding from evangelical and conservative organizations in the US. Most of them refuse adamantly to reveal their sources of funding and lists of donors. Many members of Knesset from all parties also enjoy a cash flow of hundreds of thousands of dollars straight out of the pockets of the world’s wealthiest people from Europe and the US, to fund their election campaigns and primaries in Israel.

• Indeed, there is a difference between a donation given by a private person and a donation from a state, but as opposed to the claims of the right, a donation from a state has more oversight and is more open than a donation from any foreign private entity. Whereas a donation from a foreign state is completely transparent and open, has clear motives and cannot be used for illegal actions, a donation from a private person is hidden from view, its motives are unknown, it has no supervision and may serve the receiving body to carry out illegal acts, such as invading buildings and building caravans and houses in outposts in the territories.

• Donations from foreign countries come only from countries that maintain warm diplomatic relations with Israel, and assistance to organizations is only a small percentage of a broad aid package including joint projects in the areas of education, health, research and culture. A donation from a foreign individual, however, may come from any party, including dubious organizations that want to create instability and conflict in the area by strengthening the most extreme settlers. Foreign money from a private donor may flow into Israel among other reasons in order to launder money, influence decision-makers and serve any number of interests known only to the donor.

• Freedom of expression is not only the freedom to write a Facebook status or letter to the editor. Freedom of expression is also the freedom to associate, to create an organization, to raise money and to act effectively to convince and influence the public discourse and provide relevant information to the public. A true democracy must grant freedom to organizations from the left and the right to raise money from private parties and states and to act as they see fit to change the society and state. The attempts by right-wing elements to exploit their parliamentary majority in order to undermine Israel’s democratic nature must be stopped including by the opposition of senior Likud members and ministers, the true followers of Ze’ev Jabotinsky.

For further information: Yariv Oppenheimer, Secretary-General of Peace Now: 0544-200060, yarivop@peacenow.org.il