Americans alone donate over $2 billion a year to Israeli charities. Only as recently as 2009 did charitable giving by Israelis grow to reach, on and off, such a sum. So add in the private money from other Jewish communities worldwide and Israel’s nonprofit sector is mostly foreign-funded. That includes quasi-governmental NGOs, such as the Jewish National Fund and the Jewish Agency, which are legally-oblique channels often supporting extremists, as evidenced by NGOs on this list.
Very few Israelis realize the extent to which their nation is dependent on foreign, private donations. The right-wing’s first attempts to defund liberal NGOs proposed legislative bans or high taxes on all foreign donations. Later bills sought total transparency of all private donors. These bills sparked outcry from other right-wing NGOs who would be damaged by public scrutiny. Instead, the Knesset instituted onerous reporting burdens, such as reporting quarterly all donors over 20,000 NIS.
But all of this hubbub about transparency belies a simple truth — the most ideological of NGOs operate in near total blackout of the origins of their funds. Peace Now’s report identified the percentages of “transparent,” “somewhat transparent,” and “not at all transparent” funding for nine undeniably right-wing NGOs in Israel. The below list counts the most egregious offenders based solely on their rating of “not at all transparent,” meaning we’ve ignored legally-obfuscated sources in order to highlight egregiously hypocritical (and usually illegal) secrecy.
The Top Five Right-Wing Israeli NGOs Hiding Their Funding
5. Im Tirzu
Total donations 2006-2013: NIS 6.79 million
Percent of donations that are hidden: 2%
Coming in at fifth place, Im Tirtzu’s financials reveal some shady results: NIS 160,000 is missing. Which isn’t to say that the other 98% are admirable folks: One Israel Fund, Central Fund for Israel, Friends of Religious Zionism, Daniel Pipe’s Middle East Forum, Pastor John Hagee’s Christians United for Israel, and others who epitomize the most disreputable of the Israeli right. (And after Im Tirtzu’s 2010 scandals, even Hagee withdrew his funding.) Later, the label “fascist” was upheld by an Israeli court and its founder Ronen Shoval joined Avigdor Leiberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party.
4. NGO Monitor
Total donations 2006-2013: NIS 16.1 million
Percent of donations that are hidden: 23%
For an organization that claims to monitor transparency and accountability, it should be a surprise that NGO Monitor hides nearly a quarter of its funding. And in 2013, they didn’t even bother to submit a list of donors until, according to Peace Now’s report, a Haaretz investigation prompted it. In a statement that contradicts facts in their own tax filings and the political bias obvious to all, NGO Monitor said, “NGO Monitor is a non-ideological research institute […] is fully transparent, and fully complies with all relevant Israeli regulations.”
Total donations 2006-2013: NIS 5.1 million
Percent of donations that are hidden: 32.1%
Regavim is one of the prime aides of land theft from Palestinians by policing deeply discriminatory zoning laws that permit Israeli authorities to demolish, seize, and transfer Palestinian homes and land to Jewish settlers. They secretly mapped 2,026 structures built on private Palestinian land in order to aid legislation aimed at dispossessing the owners permanently. They also persecute Israel’s Bedouin citizens by challenging their land ownership in court. Today, Haaretz published that Regavim is under investigation for using these and tax-payer funds to campaign against left-wing NGOs in support of “transparency” legislation. A third of Regavim’s funding is completely hidden (about NIS 1.6 million) and it didn’t file donors lists at all between 2007-2009.
2. Yesha Council
Total donations between 2006-2013: About NIS 82.65 million
Percent of donations that are hidden: 99.7%
Nearly tying for first place, the Yesha Council is the mothership of the settler movement. It has a budget that dwarfs any single Israeli human rights NGO and a total fundraising haul equal to many such liberal NGOs combined. And yet, all but .03% of its donations are entirely hidden from public view, claiming even during a 2014 audit that no donations are greater than 20,000 NIS and thus do not need to be reported. But independent investigations, such as one by Ynet, revealed in reality that the Yesha Council receives millions through the One Israel Fund.
Earlier this year, the Yesha Council was caught in a separate funding scandal that revealed government funds for settlement security costs were secretly transferred instead to the Yesha Council and used to (yes) lobby the government for more settlements. (More on that in Part II.)
1. ELAD – Ir David
Total donations 2006-2013: NIS 427 million
Percent of donations that are hidden: 100%
But the boldest of the bold and the #1 Israeli NGO hiding its funding is ELAD-Ir David. Also known as Ir David or City of David, ELAD is nearly a household name for its bold expropriation of Palestinian homes in the center of densely-populated East Jerusalem neighborhoods like Silwan.
Not a single shekel of funding in recent years is known — the last report it filed was over a decade ago in 2005. The sordid details are in Peace Now’s report but here’s the short story: ELAD has failed all legal requirements for basic transparency since 2005, even flouting the nonprofit registrar itself. Only once, in 2013, did it submit a donor list as required — but it was granted government permission to retain donor anonymity. Nevertheless it has been permitted to continue taking donations, evicting innocent Palestinians from their homes, and heightening tensions in the most explosive neighborhoods in Jerusalem.
Transparency is a key ingredient of democracies and Israel’s right-wing has much to hide. The above NGOs are fully hiding nearly NIS 514 million ($128 million USD) from 2006-2013. Compared to the intense scrutiny that Israeli leftist groups endure, right-wing organizations are the worst offenders flouting the public’s need to know, Israeli law, and their own integrity.
Read the full report here.