Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Israeli NGOs

Delivered in Plenary - 8th September 2010

Mr President

Like all sovereign states, Israel has an absolute right to supervise, monitor and regulate as it sees fit the activities of domestic and international NGOs which operate on its territory, particularly if they are of a political nature and might be supportive of terrorism or coming from states which support terrorism.

Israel is a parliamentary democracy, characterised by a vigorous civil society in which all shades of non-violent opinion can be openly represented and discussed. NGOs operating in Israel have a freedom unparalleled anywhere else in the Middle East, which is generally a repressive environment for civil society. Russia has passed draconian legislation against NGOs, despite being a member of the Council of Europe, but Russia is big and has oil and gas, whereas Israel is small and resource-poor, which perhaps explains why Russia largely escapes scrutiny in this respect.

Today’s debate therefore appears suspiciously like another Israel-bashing exercise by the usual suspects, of the kind in which this Parliament indulges all too often – never mind that the draft law proposed to the Knesset has undergone considerable alteration and improvement. With direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians having just resumed, we in the European Parliament risk condemning ourselves to irrelevance with unhelpful debates like this one.