ACRI Letter to Foreign Minister Lieberman: Foreign State Funding

1 September, 2010
Sent by fax

Attn: Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman
The Foreign Ministry

Dear Sir,

Re: The Foreign Ministry’s Intervention in Foreign Donations Received by Civic Organizations

The Israel media (Haaretz 19 August, 2010) has recently reported, on behalf of the Foreign Ministry, that “the State of Israel and its representatives abroad do not intervene with foreign governments’ considerations and resolutions regarding their policies on funding Israeli bodies or citizens.”

We welcome this stand which, to the best of our understanding, constitutes a significant departure from the Foreign Ministry’s past policy and presently reflects an appropriate policy. It is inappropriate for official bodies of a democratic state to intervene in the activities of the third sector because the existence and free operation of a civic society in a democratic state is essential for sustaining a pluralistic society and protecting the inherent values of democracy. The only relevant reservation here could be the legality of such civic activities. As long as the law is observed, there is no room for such government intervention.

Regrettably, according to reports from the recent past, the Foreign Ministry followed a totally different policy when it deemed it right to contact several foreign governments in an attempt to exert its influence on them so as to prevent them from supporting an Israeli organization (Breaking the Silence) whose stands the Israeli authorities did not favor though, even according to the Foreign Ministry’s own statements, its activities were perfectly legal. Furthermore, senior Foreign Ministry officials remarked at the time that raising the issue with foreign governments is “part of the ongoing activities” of the Foreign Ministry, which further kept its stands on other organizations to itself, stating, “As for other organizations, each case will be examined on its own merit.”

Below is a list of relevant reports on the Foreign Ministry’s contacts last year with the Governments of Britain, Spain, and Holland.

Needless to say that the Israeli law does not ban the receipt of donations from foreign countries. Furthermore, a related bill that the Knesset is currently discussing and, as it turns out, representatives of the Foreign Ministry were members of an interministerial committee that discussed the issue as part of the legislation process, does not suggest that the receipt of donations from foreign states should be banned, but merely intends to assign additional reporting duties, on top of the existing ones. Since the legality of such donations is not questioned, there is no room for any intervention by representatives of the state through exerting such or other pressures to prevent or minimize them.

Additionally, the EU-Israel Association Agreement established that “Relations between the Parties, as well as all the provisions of the Agreement itself, shall be based on respect for human rights and democratic principles, which guides their internal and international policy and constitutes an essential element of this Agreement.” That agreement constitutes a framework for the occasional granting of funds to various civic Israeli bodies, at defined scopes and with absolute transparency. Hence, such activities by Foreign Ministry representatives is not only inappropriate, being an antidemocratic intervention in legal civic activities, but also might conflict with the very foundations of the EU-Israel agreement.

The issue in question is most important and we feel that the Foreign Ministry needs to officially clarify its policy in this regard not only through media reports and incidental responses on various issues. The conflicting reports concerning the Foreign Ministry’s stand on the issue that were published all last year make this need even more urgent. We would appreciate it if the Foreign Ministry made its policy on the issue public as soon as possible.


Hagai El-Ad
Executive Director
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI)

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Categories: Anti-Democratic Initiatives, Democracy and Civil Liberties

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