Thursday April 24, 2014
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24.04.2014
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Attorney-general warns against passage of anti-NGO bill
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Dan Margalit

Shooting ourselves in the foot

The NGO bill is very similar to a story attributed to Yiddish author Sholem Aleichem: A Jewish man had a deed of ownership over a caravan packed with a certain product, and a friend of his had a deed of ownership of a different product. In trading between each other, the deeds ended up switching hands. The overwrought peddlers started exchanging nervous words, but one thing was totally clear: Neither one of them intended to claim ownership or take the goods, because there were no goods, just proofs of ownership.

That's exactly how the NGO bill is going to play out. Likud MK Ofir Akunis initiated it in one form. Habayit Hayehudi MK Ayelet Shaked and Likud-Beytenu MK Robert Ilatov took responsibility for the current manifestation. The ministerial committee deliberated on the bill and then approved it by a majority comprising Likud-Beytenu and Habayit Hayehudi's ministers, versus Yesh Atid and Hatnuah.

Justice Minister and Hatnuah Chairwoman Tzipi Livni said she would file an appeal to the entire cabinet. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will show greater understanding for the law. He'll sincerely mull it over. He knows what the European reaction to putting a heavy tax on the continent's support of different left-wing organizations in Israel is going to be. He's going to ask that Israel avoid starting more conflicts with Europe. Livni's deliberations are going to prolong the process for a very long time.

Self-satisfaction is going to go around. Livni will brag that she prevented the law from passing. Likud-Beytenu ministers who voted in favor are going to toot their own horns. Two days before the Likud convention, the ministers in Likud want to come off as hawkish as possible. Voting in favor of the NGO bill is their alibi. Reaping the benefit without giving anything back, each one of them gained something. No one lost out. Netanyahu will block their profits.

The main tenets of the law are indeed captivating. Informing international courts on Israeli soldiers and lending a hand to the boycott movement against Israel and its manufacturers are definitely loathsome deeds -- especially if we're talking about Jewish-Israeli organizations. But between the bitter truth and the political reality there are a few caveats. First, most human rights organization are neither encouraging anti-Israel boycotts nor maligning our troops abroad. Peace Now is at the forefront, and it doesn't cross the line. As for those organizations that do, the damage done by the law will outweigh the good. It will needlessly grease the wheels on the anti-Israel defamation machine.

Truly, the Israeli soldier deployed in the Palestinian territories under the government's authority -- not carrying out illegal operations -- has fallen victim to several of these malicious organizations, such as the reserves soldiers who were slandered in the film "Jenin, Jenin." Long ago, Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein promised those Israeli soldiers affected by the movie that he would prosecute its director Mohammed Bakri. That promise remains unfulfilled. Topical legislation is one thing. A law that penalizes those who fund activities masquerading as humanitarian is something else.

Weinstein rightfully warned the government that the NGO bill would not hold up in the Supreme Court. Anyway, it won't even make it there. Netanyahu will kill it during the appeal, which will probably also benefit the initiators behind the proposal.

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