Transparency for Thee, But not for Me.

Sorry to commence the New Year with a downer, but in one respect the first week of 2016 has proved very similar to the 52 preceding it.

It turns out the Government of Malaysia has failed to provide Israeli athletes with entry visas that would allow them to compete in the World Team Table Tennis Championships scheduled next month in Kuala Lumpur.

ZFA President Dr Danny Lamm has written a letter urging Table Tennis Australia to intercede on behalf of basic sporting fairness principles. Anyone so inclined can also send a message direct to the Malaysian High Commission in Canberra at the following email address: zamani@kln.gov.my . Go for it.

Meanwhile a massive kerfuffle erupted this week over legislation pending in the Knesset that would inject transparency into the arcane world of NGO funding. Approved by the Israeli Cabinet late last year, this bill would obligate NGOs receiving over 50% of their budgets from foreign government entities to disclose those funding sources. It also stipulates that NGO representatives must wear an ID badge inside the Knesset, just as other lobbyists already do.

Yet from the brouhaha going on in some quarters of the media you’d think Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked had resurrected Torquemada with instructions to reopen the Spanish Inquisition – or worse.

The Washington Post decried this legislation as

“A Danger to Israeli Democracy”.

And a headline in Ha’aretz blared:

“Left-wing NGOs in Israel: Wear Your ‘Badge of Shame’ With Pride”.

Of course Ha’aretz didn’t bother to explain why it thinks NGO advocates should be exempt from same rules that apply to advocates for other causes.

And this outbreak of progressive petulance descended from the absurd to the obnoxious when some NGO activists proposed that the yellow star would be the perfect fashion accessory to their new ID badges. Perhaps someone should clue them in to Godwin’s Law , an informal rule of internet discourse dating from 1990 that declares:

“The longer a Usenet discussion grows longer the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one [absolute certainty] … once this occurs that [discussion] thread is over and whoever mentioned the Nazis has automatically lost whatever argument was in progress.”

There’s an utter absence of intellectual integrity on the part of the NGOs screaming loudest about this legislation – Btselem, Breaking the Silence and the New Israel Fund. For years these same groups have been yammering about the merits of openness. They’ve shown no compunction about taking Israeli governments to task with vociferous and self-righteous demands for accountability and independent investigations. But in light of their tooth-and-nail fight against the NGO bill these paragons of progressivism apparently subscribe to a doctrine of ‘transparency for thee, but not for me.’

Back in 2011, Btselem boasted that its operations were conducted with “complete transparency.” In reality? Not so much. And let’s not forget this is same organisation that has a track record of employing Palestinian Shoah-deniers and hate-mongers who describe Israel as “a big monster” that “nibbles our flesh.”

The Washington Post ran an editorial complaining that this legislation has a hidden agenda that involves:

“delegitimizing progressive groups that have long been advocates for human rights and opposed to Jewish settlements in the West Bank.”

But if secrecy is the only way these NGOs can retain their credibility in Israeli public debate isn’t there something rotten in the state of Denmark? And with millions of Danish taxpayer dollars funnelled each year to Palestinian nationalist and far-left Israeli activist groups, I would argue The Bard was on to something.

It was US Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandis – an avid Zionist – who wrote “sunlight is the best of disinfectants.” If these NGOs are truly so virtuous, what do they have to hide? Why should there be any impediment to the public knowing what these groups get and from whom they get it? As Queen Gertrude so aptly remarked in Act III, Scene II of Hamlet, “the lady doth protest too much, methinks.”

But ideological hypocrisy is not confined solely to the Left. Over recent months we’ve seen certain elements of the Israeli Right try to excuse inexcusable vigilante violence committed by a handful of Jewish extremists. So I was very gratified to read this week that Israeli prosecutors filed murder charges against two such radicals for their culpability in the terrible Duma firebombing incident last July.

And the fact that suspect Amiram ben-Uliel confessed and re-enacted the crime pretty much puts paid to those wacky conspiracy theories circulating amongst some right-wing circles. To those of you conversant in Hebrew, the following interview with Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon puts things in their proper perspective. Likewise the Council of Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza declared:

“It is now clear that these acts were perpetrated by a fringe group of anarchists bent on destroying the State of Israel and the freedom and justice it represents.”

Spot on. I say throw the book at ’em.

Given that I’ve been on something of a Shakespeare kick I’ll wind things up with cheerier observation that all is not “darkness and the gloomy shade of death” (Henry VI Part 1, Act V, Scene 4].

In fact, on Wednesday the Wall Street Journal reported that New York’s high-tech-oriented NASDAC share market joined forces with the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE) to establish a new private exchange to “help connect foreign investors and Israeli companies”. And Israel is a red hot market, with 62 firms being acquired last year in deals worth US$7.2 billion. As the WSJ reports:

“Some big-name deals included the acquisition by Google Inc. in 2013 of Waze Mobile Ltd., the developer of a popular navigation app, and the purchase of messaging-app developer Viber Media Inc. in 2014 by Japanese e-commerce group Rakuten Inc.”

When you look around the absolute mess that is the rest of the Middle East, this news only lends credence to my view that time is indeed on our side.

Signing off.

Ted Lapkin – Director of Public Affairs for the Zionist Federation of Australia

Check Also

From Israel: For Real?

On November 11, the New York Times put out a report saying that the Trump …