Thursday, January 21, 2016

NY State presents bill similar to Israel’s NGO bill - and silence - Ronn Torossian

by Ronn Torossian

Private funders must disclose their donations to Israel for tax purposes, but foreign governments must disclose their donations so their attempts to influence the state of Israel are known.

Israel, a small democratic nation surrounded by enemies devoted to her destruction has proposed a new bill which would mandate NGO’s receiving more than half of their funding from foreign governments declare it in all their official reports, while their representatives should wear a special badge during visits to parliament.

While Israel’s Minister of Justice maintains that the bill aims to ensure "transparency and clarity", opposition comes from the United States Government, who “expressed US concern over the "chilling effect" of the bill”, the European Union's ambassador to Israel who compared Israel to authoritarian regimes and others.

Hence, given the world’s opposition to this bill,  imagine my shock and horror at reading in the New York media today that New York’s ethics watchdog is requiring PR firms “to register as lobbyists—not only if they talk to government officials on behalf of a client, but even if they communicate with the press.” PR agencies will be forced to report activities to the government.

The current text of the bill now reads: “A public-relations consultant who contacts a reporter or editorial board in an attempt to get the media outlet to advance the client’s message would also be delivering a [lobbying] message. Further, a consultant who has input into the content of a message and helps deliver it to a public official using either the public or the press would be considered a lobbyist.”

And rather than enduring world outrage, in New York, and throughout the United States, this demand is considered standard.  As Crain’s New York Business quoted “good-government group Citizens Union”, saying, “This is about having everyone put their cards on the table so New Yorkers know who is trying to influence the actions of state and city government and getting paid for it.”

As usual, Israel is subject to a double standard. NGO, in case we have forgotten, stands for Non-Governmental Organization, and receiving money from foreign governments stands in direct contravention to that title, which comes along with tax benefits. Not only do these NGO's receive foreign governments' funds, making their very title a lie, they do not want to disclose the governments giving them the money to fight Israel's democratically elected government. Chutspa, anyone?

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday told a cabinet meeting that he supports transparency legislation as, “In a democratic system we need to know who is paying for the NGOs, both left and right, up and down, and their receiving funding from [foreign] governments is definitely something the public is entitled to know.”

Ronn Torossian


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