Last Wednesday, ACRI has sent a letter to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Avigdor Lieberman, regarding his use of a misleading description of the proposed Amendment to the Income Tax Order (Taxation of Public Institutions that Receive Donations from a Foreign State Entity), sponsored by MK Fania Kirshenbaum, a Member of Knesset from Mr. Lieberman’s party Yisrael Beitenu.
In several media interviews, Mr. Lieberman claimed that the Kirshenbaum Bill should be deemed acceptable since is no more than “a direct translation from English of an American law” – referring to the American Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). In ACRI’s letter, Executive Director Hagai El-Ad explains in detail why these two pieces of legislation are fundamentally different – both in terms of their essence and of their wording – and asks the minister to take back this misleading description of the bill and to cease from promoting it. The complete letter follows.
23 November 2011
Mr. Avigdor Lieberman
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Re: Misleading the Knesset and public regarding the bill proposed by MK Kirshenbaum on taxation of organizations
- According to recent publications in the media, your party intends to continue its attempts to advance the proposed Amendment to the Income Tax Order (Taxation of Public Institutions that Receive Donations from a Foreign State Entity) – 2011, sponsored by MK Fania Kirshenbaum (hereafter: the Kirshenbaum Bill).
- In order to promote the said bill, you have repeatedly claimed in several media interviews yesterday (22 November 2011) that the Kirshenbaum Bill your party is advancing is no more than an Israeli application of existing American legislation. For example, you were quoted on the Walla News website as saying: “The [Kirshenbaum] bill is a direct translation from English of the American law – the ‘foreign agent’ law […] This is a law that is also acceptable in the world’s largest democracy. There is no reason for us not to advance the bill.” You have said similar things in other interviews, among them for example on IBA radio, in an interview for HaKol Diburim: “This bill is a direct translation from English of an American law, called ‘foreign agent’ […] I have never heard any criticism, not in Israel, not in Europe, nor in the U.S. against that ‘foreign agent law’ in the United States […] This is also a law acceptable in the world’s largest democracy, we are determined to advance it.”
- However, your repeated claim that the Kirshenbaum Bill is “a direct translation from English of an American law” is incorrect, both in terms of essence and of wording. Therefore, this claim misleads the public as well as your colleagues in the government and Knesset, regarding the bill that your party is wishing to promote.
- Below is a detailed explanation:
- The manner in which this bill was presented by you, as though it is a translation of an American law, is misleading the public and the Knesset. Therefore, we ask that you take back this statement and that you cease from promoting this proposed bill – this, due to all of the reasons mentioned in the position paper that we have previously sent you regarding this bill.
A. The law you are referring to is an American legislation from 1938, The Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). For further information, please see: www.fara.gov
B. This American law contains no wording that resembles wording of the Kirshenbaum Bill, nor does it contain any provisions that are similar in their essence. Thus, the Kirshenbaum Bill is certainly not a “direct translation” of FARA, nor does it reflect its spirit or content in any way.
C. The said American law has no taxation clauses regarding the bodies to which it relates. This, when as you know, the very core of the Kirshenbaum Bill is to set a 45% taxation rate on certain bodies in Israel.
D. Not only that, FARA’s scope is very limited and is restricted only to those bodies (and individuals) whose specific function is to represent foreign interests within the United States. In accordance with this American law, the acceptance of foreign funding does not render the receiving body an agent of the giving entity.
E. Furthermore, the said American law does not limit the acceptance of support, nor does it tax this support; rather, it only requires reporting and transparency, as is already required by existing Israeli law with regards to donations from foreign state entities or any other source.
F. The said American law, in the limited cases in which it applies, is not restricted to those receiving donations from foreign state entities; rather, it relates to all forms of donations from foreign sources. This, in complete contradiction of the Kirshenbaum Bill, whose entire purpose is to grab specific donations granted to specific organizations only.
G. In summary, the Kirshenbaum Bill is not a translation of the aforementioned American law, nor does it in any way reflect its essence. The American legislation to which you were referring does not at all deal with taxation or with restrictions on donations, it is not limited to funding from foreign state entities but rather applied to all foreign sources of donations, and it is entirely different in its application; and most of all – this American legislation only requires reporting and transparency, a requirement that already exists in Israeli legislation, and nothing else.