Germany’s foreign ministry spokesman said Israel’s NGO transparency law is in the same legal category as non-democratic governments Russia and China, prompting astonishment on Thursday from Israel’s government over the new wave of criticism from Germany targeting the Jewish state.
Israel’s embassy told the mass-circulation daily BILD: “Israel is a vibrant and free democracy and there are no restrictions on donations. Recently, Israel adopted a demand for transparency, as is custom in other democracies. Israel requests an explanation from the foreign ministry.”
Martin Schäfer, the foreign ministry spokesman, said at press conference in mid June, “Hungary thus joins the ranks of countries like Russia, China and Israel ,which obviously regard the funding of non-government organizations, of civil society efforts, by donors from abroad as a hostile or at least an unfriendly act.” He criticized Hungary because the central European state’s new NGO law obligates foreign non-profits to register their status.
When asked at press conference about Israel’s “angry” reaction to comparison with Russia and China on Friday, Schäfer said:“I can’t report of any [Israeli] reactions to the foreign ministry. I don’t know… I don’t know anything about that.”
Israel’s 2016 NGO law requires nonprofit organization that receives more than half of its funding from a foreign political groups and entities to register its status with Israel’s government.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said this month he wants to intensify the NGO transparency bill. Critics view the current NGO bill as infringement on civil liberties.
The BIlD reported that German MPs slammed Schäfer’s anti-Israel statements.
The Christian Democratic Union (CDU), MP Thomas Feist, said the comparison between Israel and China and Russia is “divorced from reality” and the comparison “is damaging for the bi-lateral relationship between Germany and Israel. “
Jürgen Hardt, foreign policy spokesman for the CDU/CSU parties in the Bundestag, said “Such a comparison is insensitive. We should make it unambiguously clear who Germany’s partners and allies are—the free democratic, constitutional states. And, without question, Israel and Hungary belong to those states, not China and today’s Russia.”
The social democratic foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel has faced criticism for an increased hostility toward Israel. He has previously called Israel an “apartheid regime” and last month hosted an Iranian cleric who called for Israel’s destruction.
Gabriel declined to meet Netanyahu’s request to cancel meetings with two NGOS critical of Israel. As a result, Netanyahu cancaled his meeting with Gabriel. At the start of Gabriel’s visit to Israel in April he authored a controversial opinion piece that played down the significance of the Holocaust.
When asked about Gabriel’s comments, a spokesman for the ministry told the Jerusalem Post:” It goes without saying: foreign minister Gabriel and the foreign ministry are against every form of antisemitism.”