On the Way to Venezuela
On June 13, 2011, MK Ofir Akunis of the Likud proposed an amendment to the Associations Law that would prevent non-profit organizations from receiving contributions from "governments and international bodies like the United Nations and European Union." In this op-ed, which was published in Haaretz on July 24, 2011, IDI Vice President of Research Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer and Attorney Shiri Krebs warn that legislation that treats friendly states as if they were enemy states, and civil society groups as if they were terrorist groups, has no place in the democratic world.
On October 22, 2010, a law was enacted that forbids political organizations and human rights groups from receiving contributions from foreign countries. The law was legislated in Venezuela following an initiative by the country's president, Hugo Chavez, who said it was designed to defend the country against foreign intervention.
On June 13, 2011, MK Ofir Akunis (Likud) sought to adopt the Chavez legislation in Israel and proposed a bill to "prevent NGOs in Israel from receiving contributions from governments and international bodies like the United Nations and European Union." He did this "due to the inciting activities of many foreign organizations operating under the cover of 'human rights groups.'"
In a television interview, Akunis even compared Israeli human rights groups to terrorist groups, similar to the way Vladimir Putin justified legislation that sets limits on civil society groups in Russia, including on foreign funding. Like Putin and Chavez, Akunis seeks to silence legitimate criticism of the government.
First, the argument that an organization that receives foreign funding acts against the national interest must be rejected. An organization's activities should be examined based on their substance, not the origin of their funding. If a group's activities advance human rights, that group is worthy. Advancing human rights is a universal interest for democracies, so it comes as no surprise that they support such groups...
Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer is Vice President of Research at the Israel Democracy Institute. Attorney Shiri Krebs is a research assistant conducting research as part of IDI's Constitutional Principles project.