They Say/We Say: "No reason to be hysterical about this bill – it's just as an excuse to attack Israel and hurt its reputation."

They Say We Say We know that pro-Israel does not mean blindly supporting policies that are irrational, reckless, and counter-productive. Pro-Israel means supporting policies that are consistent with Israel's interests and promote its survival as a Jewish, democratic state.

You've heard the arguments of the religious and political right-wing, and so have we. They've had their say. Now, we'll have ours.

Go HERE for all installments of APN's "They Say, We Say"

They Say, We Say: Why should we be worried about Israeli democracy?

They Say:

The Left and other anti-Israel forces are hysterical about this bill for no reason – just as an excuse to attack Israel and hurt its reputation.

We Say:Israel’s 2016 NGO law is dangerous because it is intended to harm organizations that do critically important work in the service of Israeli society, Israel’s national security, and Israel’s ethical, moral standing. Indeed, this law seeks to undermine the institutions that form the bedrock of Israel’s democracy. Unless it is overturned by the courts, this law will harm not only the NGOs that it targets, and not only their important goals, but also Israel’s international image and reputation. It will put Israel on the list of notorious, anti-democratic regimes that limit the freedom of their countries’ civil societies, inviting even more of the international pressure that the bill allegedly wants to prevent.

They Say/We Say: "There is nothing anti-democratic about adopting a law that compels Israeli NGOs to be more transparent."

They Say We Say We know that pro-Israel does not mean blindly supporting policies that are irrational, reckless, and counter-productive. Pro-Israel means supporting policies that are consistent with Israel's interests and promote its survival as a Jewish, democratic state.

You've heard the arguments of the religious and political right-wing, and so have we. They've had their say. Now, we'll have ours.

Go HERE for all installments of APN's "They Say, We Say"

They Say, We Say: Why should we be worried about Israeli democracy?

They Say: The Israeli Knesset was democratically elected. There is nothing anti-democratic about this body adopting a law that merely compels Israeli NGOs getting foreign government funds to be more transparent.
We Say: A key attribute of democracy is “rule of law”; a conspicuous feature of authoritarian societies is “rule by law” and “tyranny of the majority.” In the first case, laws apply equally for everyone and protect everyone’s rights equally, regardless of whether they support the government in power. In the second case, laws are manufactured to promote the interests and the views of those in power, at the expense of the rights of those who are not. The 2016 NGO law is a textbook example of the latter case, exemplifying an anti-democratic move – by a democratically-elected government – to pass laws designed to quash political dissent and opposition. It is part of a wave of efforts taking place under governments led by Benjamin Netanyahu to silence progressive Israeli organizations, to intimidate them, to demean and degrade them, and to diminish their influence. Clearly, the objective – of the 2016 NGO Transparency law and similar efforts – is to enhance the hegemony of the government’s narrative by silencing dissent – an objective that in its very essence is anti-democratic.

They Say/We Say: "An Israeli organization that accepts foreign government funding is an agent of that government and should be named and shamed as such."

They Say We Say We know that pro-Israel does not mean blindly supporting policies that are irrational, reckless, and counter-productive. Pro-Israel means supporting policies that are consistent with Israel's interests and promote its survival as a Jewish, democratic state.

You've heard the arguments of the religious and political right-wing, and so have we. They've had their say. Now, we'll have ours.

Go HERE for all installments of APN's "They Say, We Say"

They Say, We Say: Why should we be worried about Israeli democracy?

They Say:

An Israeli organization that accepts foreign government funding is an agent of that government and should be named and shamed as such – especially when these organizations are actively working against Israel’s interests, and especially when they are doing it abroad. The government of Israel is right to do whatever it can to silence such groups.

We Say:The NGOs targeted and demonized under Israel’s 2016 NGO law are not agents of foreign governments. They are Israeli-founded and Israeli-run organizations, many of which have existed for decades. They have with well-established agendas and programs defined by their own missions and goals, not by the interests of their foreign donors.

The notion that accepting foreign government funding transforms these Israeli-founded, Israeli-led, Israeli-staffed NGOs into agents of a foreign government’s agenda is absurd. It is akin to suggesting that if, hypothetically, France were to give funding to Planned Parenthood to carry on with its decades-old mission, Planned Parenthood would suddenly become an agent of the EU (and be forced to register as such under FARA). Israel’s Navy receives submarines from the government of Germany. This does not make Israeli officers – or the IDF – an agent of Germany. Equally absurd is arguing that Peace Now – established in 1978 by a group of 348 Israeli reserve officers and soldiers, and which has been challenging Israel’s settlement enterprise ever since – serves interests that are not genuinely Israeli but rather are implanted by foreign governments.

The irony about trying to portray these groups as “foreign agents” is that Jews around the world have throughout history been at the forefront of defending core values like human rights and democracy. The even greater irony is that for decades, Israelis from across the political spectrum, including the right wing, have pointed to Israel’s vibrant civil society as proof that Israel is a healthy democracy.

As for the actions and positions of these targeted groups, make no mistake: These Israeli organizations represent and serve Israel’s true interests, both at home and abroad. Israeli human rights organizations serve as watchdogs for the benefit of Israeli society. Israeli civil rights groups are guardians of Israeli democracy. Israeli peace organizations advance peace for the benefit of Israel. The fact that these goals do not correspond with a given Israeli government’s agenda does not mean that these NGOs are illegitimate. Like any healthy democracy, Israel needs strong civil society groups that advance human rights, civil rights, peace and equality, particularly at times of heightened terrorism and threat, when such important values don’t enjoy the kind of popular backing that they deserve.

They Say/We Say: "Israel’s 2016 “NGO transparency” law is no different than FARA."

They Say We Say We know that pro-Israel does not mean blindly supporting policies that are irrational, reckless, and counter-productive. Pro-Israel means supporting policies that are consistent with Israel's interests and promote its survival as a Jewish, democratic state.

You've heard the arguments of the religious and political right-wing, and so have we. They've had their say. Now, we'll have ours.

Go HERE for all installments of APN's "They Say, We Say"

They Say, We Say: Why should we be worried about Israeli democracy?

They Say:

The U.S. has a law regulating NGOs that receive foreign funding, known as the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). Israel’s 2016 “NGO transparency” law is no different.

We Say:Israel’s 2016 NGO law is nothing like FARA.

First, FARA applies to all foreign funding – governmental and private – of U.S. persons or organizations, ensuring transparency about any foreign donor’s efforts to sway U.S. policy. In contrast, Israel’s 2016 NGO law applies only to funding from foreign governments – funding that is already transparent under a law passed by the Knesset in 2011. According to that law, non-profit organizations receiving funding from foreign governments must disclose all such funding in their quarterly reports to the government’s registrar and must post this information publicly.

Second, FARA makes no presumption that simply by receiving foreign funding, an American NGO ipso facto is a foreign agent and must register and report as such. FARA applies only in cases where the recipient of the foreign funding is actually acting as an agent of the foreign donor. Indeed, the phrase “in the interests of such foreign principal” appears eight times in the statute. In contrast, under Israel’s 2016 NGO law, merely receiving major funding from a foreign government automatically brands any Israeli NGO a foreign agent.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has also tried to argue the 2016 NGO law is no different from U.S. laws governing witnesses testifying before Congress. As with the comparison to FARA, this is false. There are no “laws” governing such matters; there are House rules and Senate rules, adopted by the respective bodies to govern procedural matters within each body. House rules* do require individuals testifying before any committee to disclose foreign government funding relevant to the issues on which they are testifying.

*Text of these rules are here, see XI(2)(g)(5)(A); Senate rules include no such requirement.

They Say/We Say: "There is nothing discriminatory about an effort to make the funding of NGOs completely transparent."

They Say We Say We know that pro-Israel does not mean blindly supporting policies that are irrational, reckless, and counter-productive. Pro-Israel means supporting policies that are consistent with Israel's interests and promote its survival as a Jewish, democratic state.

You've heard the arguments of the religious and political right-wing, and so have we. They've had their say. Now, we'll have ours.

Go HERE for all installments of APN's "They Say, We Say"

They Say, We Say: Why should we be worried about Israeli democracy?

They Say:

The government of Israel is right to do everything it can to highlight foreign funding of Israeli NGOs. There is nothing discriminatory about an effort to make the funding of such NGOs completely transparent.

We Say:Israel’s 2016 NGO “transparency” law is, in fact, explicitly discriminatory – by design and with intent. Its authors openly stated that they wished to target progressive groups that they dislike. By focusing solely on foreign government funding, and ignoring funding from foreign individuals, the law is structured to only affect progressive groups, since right-wing groups – whose agendas align comfortably with that of the right-wing government under which it was passed – do not receive funding from foreign governments. These same groups, however, receive large amounts of funding from foreign individuals and entities, including foundations and non-governmental foreign organizations.

And while funds coming from foreign governments are already public – subject to scrutiny and transparency both on the donor’s end and on the recipient’s end – private funds are not. Such funds could come from shady sources, from criminals, or, indeed, from individuals who seek to engage in “blatant interference … in Israel’s domestic affairs by means of money.” One such foreign donor who uses money to interfere in Israel’s domestic affairs and advance a far-right agenda is US gambling mogul Sheldon Adelson. The Adelson-owned free daily paper, Israel Hayom, has earned the nickname “Bibi-ton” for its consistent parroting and promotion of Netanyahu’s agenda; it is estimated that the publication loses roughly $3 million each month.

In the past (November 2011), when Knesset members submitted a bill that sought to limit foreign government funding for Israeli NGOs, the government’s own legal advisor, Yehuda Weinstein, wrote that limiting the law to foreign government funding and excluding private foreign funding is discriminatory. It “raises concern of harming the equality principle,” Weinstein wrote then to Prime Minister Netanyahu.

They Say/We Say: "Transparency is a good thing – unless you have something to hide."

They Say We Say We know that pro-Israel does not mean blindly supporting policies that are irrational, reckless, and counter-productive. Pro-Israel means supporting policies that are consistent with Israel's interests and promote its survival as a Jewish, democratic state.

You've heard the arguments of the religious and political right-wing, and so have we. They've had their say. Now, we'll have ours.

Go HERE for all installments of APN's "They Say, We Say"

They Say, We Say: Why should we be worried about Israeli democracy?

They Say:

Why does the Left oppose Israel’s 2016 NGO Transparency law? Transparency is a good thing – unless you have something to hide.

We Say: Transparency is indeed a good thing. However, Israel’s NGO law (passed in July 2016) is not about transparency – it is about demonizing progressive NGOs. The fact is, transparency regarding NGOs and their funding has long existed in Israel. Indeed, enhanced transparency for NGOs receiving foreign government funding has been in effect for years, by virtue of a 2011 law. According to that law, all non-profit organizations receiving funding from foreign governments must disclose all such funding in their quarterly reports to the government’s registrar and must post this information publicly. The NGOs in question do, in fact, publish these details on their websites, fully available to the public.

If transparency was truly the issue in question, then the 2016 “transparency” law would have been written to require disclosure not only with respect to foreign government funding (which goes almost entirely to progressive civil society NGOs and other NGOs working on peace and human rights) but also with respect to foreign individuals (who provide massive amounts of funding for right-wing NGOs). Instead, the bill permits right-wing NGOs to continue to maintain secrecy with respect to their funders, while NGOs on the left, which are already transparent about their donors, are publicly branded, in effect, as agents of foreign governments.

They Say/We Say: "US Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro should apologize to Israel for saying Israel has a double standard in law enforcement"

They Say We Say We know that pro-Israel does not mean blindly supporting policies that are irrational, reckless, and counter-productive. Pro-Israel means supporting policies that are consistent with Israel's interests and promote its survival as a Jewish, democratic state.

You've heard the arguments of the religious and political right-wing, and so have we. They've had their say. Now, we'll have ours.

Go HERE for all installments of APN's "They Say, We Say"

They Say, We Say: Why should we be worried about Israeli democracy?

They Say:

The US Ambassador to Israel (speaking in January 2016) was wrong to say that Israel has a double standard in law enforcement against Jews versus against Palestinians.

We Say:Regrettably, Israel has a well-documented record of showing a double standard when it comes to law enforcement in the West Bank. This double standard is on clear display with the Israeli response to settler violence, especially the more than a decade-long campaign of “Price Tag” attacks. Notwithstanding the recent arrest of a suspect in the horrific July 2015 arson-murders of a Palestinian father, mother, and baby, these attacks have almost universally met a weak, ineffectual response from Israeli authorities, as has been well-documented by the Israeli media. For years, Israeli authorities have turned a blind eye to settler violence. As Amos Harel wrote in April 2014, “Neither the police nor other authorities have treated attacks by settlers against the IDF or Palestinians the way they treat Palestinian terror…”

Facts about prosecutions and convictions of Palestinians versus those of Israelis are illustrative of this problem. Palestinians prosecuted for crimes by Israel (including stone throwing, terrorist acts, etc.) are tried in military courts. Such Palestinians are, in effect, presumed guilty upon arrest, and face trial before courts that have a conviction rate of nearly 100%.

The situation is much different for crimes committed by settlers. The Israel organization, Yesh Din, which closely tracks Israeli law enforcement in the West Bank, reports that for the period of 2005-2015, 91.6% of investigations into ideologically motivated crimes perpetrated by Israeli citizens against Palestinians in the West Bank were closed without any indictment. Most of these were closed on the grounds of “offender unknown.” Yesh Din explains that this indicates: 

…the failure of the police to locate and identify suspected offenders, though there is evidence that a criminal offense had been committed. To illustrate, these were the grounds cited by the Hebron Investigation Unit for closing the investigation into vandalism of farmland belonging to a resident of the village of a-Tuwani, in the South Hebron Hills by residents of the settlement of Ma’on Farm. The file was closed without the police attempting to locate suspects who were clearly visible in video footage, and without the police demanding alibis from additional suspects, who were questioned only a year and a half after the offence was committed.

At various times in the past, the IDF and Israeli intelligence services have vowed to get serious about settler violence, especially after attacks targeting the IDF or particularly heinous attacks like July 2015 murders. Thus far, such promises have proven to be little more than lip service.

This double standard is likewise evidenced by the Israeli government’s response to the more than a decade-long campaign of construction by settlers, particularly settlement “outposts,” in violation of Israeli law. This campaign has been richly rewarded with the post-facto legalization by Israeli authorities of much of the illegal construction, sometimes in direct response to settler violence (proving that not only is settler violence tolerated, but it works). This legalization of illegal settler construction (which is in addition to ongoing “legal” settlement construction, authorized by the Israeli government), exists side-by-side with a situation in which Israel prevents Palestinians residing in so-called “Area C” – an area that spans over half of the West Bank, in which Israel retains control over Palestinians’ building and planning -- from building on their own privately-owned land, and demolishes structures built without Israeli approval.

They Say/We Say: "There are two sets of laws in the West Bank – one for settlers and one for Palestinians"

They Say We Say We know that pro-Israel does not mean blindly supporting policies that are irrational, reckless, and counter-productive. Pro-Israel means supporting policies that are consistent with Israel's interests and promote its survival as a Jewish, democratic state.

You've heard the arguments of the religious and political right-wing, and so have we. They've had their say. Now, we'll have ours.

Go HERE for all installments of APN's "They Say, We Say"

They Say, We Say: Why should we be worried about Israeli democracy?

They Say:

The US Ambassador to Israel (speaking in January 2016) was wrong to suggest that Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, has two sets of laws in the West Bank – one for settlers and one for Palestinians.

We Say:The criticism by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu criticized Ambassador Shapiro’s statement, like Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked’s demand he retract it, is about politics, not about truth. The dual legal system in the West Bank is a matter of uncontestable fact, not one of allegations or perspective.

Since 1967, Palestinians in the West Bank have lived under the rule of the Israeli military. The legal system that governs their lives is a combination of Israeli regular and emergency military orders, Jordanian law adopted by Israel, and even old Ottoman law (used, for example, as the basis for seizing Palestinian land). This means that Palestinians who are accused of crimes are tried in military courts, where they enjoy few rights and protections.

In contrast, Israelis living in West Bank settlements, while technically also falling under military rule, in reality, enjoy extra-territorial application of Israeli law in most matters by virtue of Knesset legislation,. This means that settlers who are accused of crimes in the West Bank are tried in Israeli courts, in which they enjoy the far-reaching rights and protections offered by a democratic nation to its citizens. Israel’s preeminent human rights watchdog, B’tselem, describes the situation as follows:

…Being subject to the Israeli judicial system, settlers enjoy liberties and legal guarantees that are denied Palestinian defendants in the Occupied Territories charged with the same offense. The authority to arrest an individual, the maximum period of detention before being brought before a judge, the right to meet with an attorney, the protections available to defendants at trial, the maximum punishment allowed by law, and the release of prisoners before completion of their sentence – all of these differ greatly in the two systems of law, with the Israeli system providing the suspect and defendant with many more protections. Thus, different legal systems are applied to two populations residing in the same area, and the nationality of the individual determines the system and court in which he or she is tried. This situation violates the principle of equality before the law, especially given the disparity between the two systems…

As a result of these different legal systems, Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank have very different rights under law and very different outcomes when they run afoul of the law, even for the same violations. Most glaringly, Israelis are tried in Israeli courts, where they are presumed innocent until proven guilty and enjoy far-reaching protections as citizens. Palestinians are tried in military courts, where procedures are much less stringent, and where they are almost always convicted.

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