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.

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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.