On Israel's "Transparency Law" and Civil Society-State Relations
(University of Waterloo)
Paper short abstract:
In this paper, I examine the politics associated with the introduction of the "Transparency Law" in Israel. I follow Wagner and ask if human rights NGOs resisting and challenging the authoritative power of government may lead to the symbolic performance of the state as democratic.
Paper long abstract:
In the summer of 2016, Israel's "Transparency Law" passed the Knesset by a vote of 57-48. According to the Times of Israel: "the roughly two-dozen existing Israeli organizations that are expected to be affected by the new rules belong to the left, including B'Tselem, Yesh Din, and Zochrot, which advocates for the return of Palestinian refugees and their descendants" ("Left Wing Groups Slam 'anti-democratic' NGO law," July 16, 2016). In this paper, I argue that the very fact this move can be framed as both "anti-democratic" and perfectly legitimate because it falls in line with the practice of other democratic states, such as the United States (e.g., Kontorovich, 2016), deserves our attention. Applying ethnographic research in Israel, discourse analysis of the newsmedia's reporting about the law, as well as official responses by some of the targeted NGOs, I will engage with the literature on contemporary democratic practice and the role of civil society. I am less interested in the Law's legitimacy than in how it has constructed an 'other' within and what that means for activists and practitioners. I will also explore the critical and the cynical (but symbolic) performances of democracy.
Investigating accountability: practices and performances [LAW NET]