"Cotton’s bill aimed at settlements policy"

This week, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) introduced S. 2474, purportedly in order to ensure “fair” treatment by the United States of Israel and Israeli products. In truth, this bill has nothing to do with Israel or products made in Israel. It is about one thing only: reversing nearly five decades of unbroken U.S. policy opposing settlements built by Israel in territories it occupied in the 1967 war.  

Cotton’s bill is just the latest salvo in a broader campaign, taking place both in Washington and in state capitals, to exploit concerns about BDS (boycotts, divestment, and sanctions against Israel), in order to legitimize settlements.

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Michael Sfard in Haaretz: The Israeli Occupation Will End Suddenly

The strength of organizations working to end the occupation and their supporters is greater than we think.

One day the occupation will end. It will probably happen in one fell swoop. And when it happens, it will suddenly emerge that everyone was against it. That the politicians had actually worked to end it, that the journalists strove indefatigably to expose its injustices, that the cultural institutions condemned it courageously and that Israeli academia was a center of persistent resistance, from which the struggle drew ideological and moral backing. In short, everyone was part of the Resistance.

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APN's Lara Friedman for JTA: No comparison between Israeli NGO bill and US law

Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked is trying to sell the argument that her pending “NGO transparency” bill is no different than a U.S. law called the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA. In reality, the two pieces of legislation are worlds apart in intent and effect, and the differences go to the heart of the problems with Shaked’s bill.

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. The Shaked bill applies only to funding from foreign governments – funding that is already transparent under existing Israeli law. The measure does not apply to funding from nongovernmental foreign sources.

This distinction is neither accidental nor trivial. Israel’s progressive nongovernmental organizations are the main recipients of funding from foreign governments that support the progressive, democratic values embodied by these NGOs. Shaked, who has made clear her desire to quash dissent, has crafted her bill to target only these NGOs while permitting those that promote agendas more in line with her own views to continue to operate as always. The discrimination implicit in this bill is so clear that even Israeli Knesset member Michael Oren, a former U.S. ambassador, has criticized its “one-sided exposure, which ignores the funding sources of extreme-right nonprofits.”

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Ben Nun- Newsweek- 1-2016Unable to deliver real solutions to the ongoing violence, Israeli governments have been trying for years to blame the messengers rather than take responsibility for their own policies. Last week, this practice was taken to the next level when a ministerial committee approved the NGO bill, proposed legislation targeting specifically peace and human rights organizations.

Under the pretense of increasing transparency on donations received from foreign governments, the bill’s actual intention is to delegitimize any organization that criticizes the government's policies. According to the proposed legislation, members of left-leaning organizations, who already submit quarterly reports on donations from foreign governments, will be obligated to wear special badges and to identify themselves as “foreign agents.”

If the proposed legislation is truly aimed at increasing transparency, it must require all NGOs to expose their funding sources, instead of denouncing left-wing organizations, which are already held to higher transparency standards.

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Peace Now report: Who is Funding Israeli Right-Wing NGOs?

94% of the donations of 9 well-known right-wing NGOs are nontransparent

 In light of the NGO bill, a Peace Now study examining the funding sources and transparency of 9 right-wing pro-settler NGOs finds that 94% of the donations to these organizations in the years 2006-2013 were nontransparent, meaning that there is no possibility to identify their original donor. The study also finds that the majority of the funding to the organizations examined originated from private individuals abroad, arriving mainly through U.S. organizations with a tax-deductible donations status. Many other millions of shekels originated from Israeli taxpayers' money through government ministries and an local municipalities. 

Peace Now: The NGO bill, also known as the "transparency bill" has nothing to do with transparency and everything to do with the delegitimation of organizations criticizing the government's policies. If the Minister of Justice is truly interested in transparency, she must first and foremost promote legislation requiring right-wing organizations to expose the millions they receive from private donors abroad and from the state budget.
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Israel’s new NGO Bill – what it is and what it means

 What is the bill? What does the bill say?

NOTE: This post was updated on January 21, 2016, to reflect changes introduced to the draft bill, as submitted by the cabinet to the Knesset on January 18, 2016. The language of the bill (Hebrew) can be found here. 

The bill’s official title is “Amendment to Bill on disclosure regarding those supported by a foreign political entity (Increasing transparency for those supported mainly by foreign political entities)." It is also known by its backers as the “Transparency Bill.” The bill is an amendment to an existing 2011 law, which determines the disclosure requirements of Israeli non-profit, non-governmental organizations (NGOs or NPOs) that receive funding from “Foreign Political Entities” (foreign governments, the European Union or the United Nations).

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WATCH APN's Lara Friedman - Viewpoint with James Zogby on the Israeli Palestinian conflict

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Since the beginning of this year, an unprecedented but little-noticed campaign has been waged in Congress—backed by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and others—in support of Israeli settlements. At the core of this campaign is an effort to legislate a change in U.S. policy, which since 1967 has remained firmly opposed to settlements, under both Republican and Democratic presidents.

Backers of the campaign, both in Congress and among outside groups like AIPAC, are promoting numerous pieces of legislation that redefine “Israel” to mean “Israel-plus-the-settlements” and make supporting settlements an integral and mandatory part of American support for Israel, as a matter of policy and law. They pass off their efforts as an entirely non-controversial matter of countering boycott-divestment-sanctions (BDS) against Israel in general, countering BDS policies adopted by the EU and some European countries, in particular.

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Michael Koplow, the Policy Director at the Israel Policy Forum, this week added his voice to those suggesting that the US should drop its 48-year-old policy of opposing all Israeli settlement construction, and replace it with one that in effect green lights some such construction - or in Koplow's words, a policy that "distinguishes between kosher and non-kosher settlement growth." Koplow joins Brookings' Natan Sachs and others, all of whom follow in the footsteps of Dennis Ross in supporting such shift and predicting that it would help pave the way to peace. And Koplow - like his predecessors - uses words like "realistic" and "pragmatic" to describe his approach, suggesting that those who disagree are anything but.

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Support for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) targeting Israel is growing, generating great angst and solution-searching amongst Israel supporters – including pro-peace progressives – in the United States and elsewhere in the world.  From the Adelson-Saban summit earlier this year, which gave birth to a new anti-BDS organization (to be led by someone who for years headed a far right-wing, pro-Israel, Evangelical Christian operation), to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s letter to Jewish leaders, BDS is now being treated even by many pro-peace progressives as the new “existential” threat to Israel, despite the fact that the actual track record of the BDS movement, in terms of concrete impact, is thus far mixed.

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