The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has drawn attention to efforts by a Philadelphia attorney, Lee Bender, to have the U.S. Justice Department investigate the far-left organization, Peace Now, as being an unregistered agent of foreign governments. This move follows reports that the Norwegian government has given Peace Now millions of Kroner over the past seven years totaling, in todays money, over $1.2 million. In 2008 alone, Norway reportedly gave the left-wing organization some 1.35 million kroner, or more than $200,000. Peace Now director, Yariv Oppenheimer, said in response to these reports that he does not know of the Norwegian funding while simultaneously saying that Every contribution that is received is done legally, and we have permits for each one.
A Norwegian newspaper, Karmel Israel-Nytt, reported that Annika Evensen, the First Secretary at the Norwegian Embassy in Tel Aviv, confirmed that Norway gave this sum to Peace Now last year and did the same again this year. Also, the Embassy secretary, Pål Klouman Bekken, disclosed that Norway has given Peace Now Settlement Watch the following sums: 1.2 million Kroner in each of 2003, 2004, and 2006, and roughly 1.3 million Kroner in each of the years 2007 and 2001.
Recently, Israeli Member of the Knesset, Danny Danon (Likud) announced plans to craft legislation that would prohibit all organizations funded by foreign governments from engaging in political activity inside Israel. Danon has previously called for Peace Now to be stripped of its non-profit status due to its failure to publicize its foreign funding (Maayana Miskin, Danon: Criminalize Peace Now, Israel National News, October 26, 2009).
In his letter to the U.S. Justice Department, Bender wrote, Peace Now is a registered entity in the United States under the designation, Americans for Peace Now Even though many of its members and events are in Israel, Peace Now is not a registered legal entity in Israel. However, Peace Now has received millions of kroner from the government of Norway since 2001, including approximately 1.35 million kroner this year, and appears not to have registered as a foreign agent, in accordance with the requirements of the Foreign Agent Registration Act. If this in fact is the case, it is a clear and serious violation of the statute, subject to criminal penalties. Thank you for your prompt attention and consideration of this matter. I look forward to your response (Hillel Fendel, Accusation: Foreign-Funded Peace Now Didnt Register, Israel National News, November 3, 2009).
As ZOA has previously noted, Peace Nows European government contributors include the Norwegian government, which gave 800,000 shekels, the European Union as a whole, which gave 451,600 shekels, and the government of Finland. In addition, the British government gave the group more than 540,000 shekels for the express purpose of tracking and publicizing Jewish growth in Judea and Samaria under its Settlement Watch project.
Peace Now, once an Israeli fringe group whose idea began to influence the left-of-center mainstream during the 1990s, has urged the Israeli government and public for decades to make major territorial concessions to the Palestinian Arabs and Arab regimes and heavily criticized past Israeli governments for not doing so and actually blaming Israel for the lack of peace. Despite 16 years since the commencement of the failed Oslo process, in which Israel ceded half of Judea and Samaria, all of Gaza, as well as assets, funds and even arms to the Palestinian Authority (PA), only to receive unprecedented terrorism and extremism in return, Peace Now continues to urged massive concessions to the unreconstructed, terror-supporting PA.
Peace Now also has a history of falsely claiming that Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria are built principally on land that is Palestinian-owned. In a 2006 report, Peace Now claimed that a large proportion of the settlements built on the West Bank are built on privately owned Palestinian land, including 86.4% of land upon which the city of Maale Adumim is built. After being proved false, Peace Now never addressed the objections, only eventually admitting that no more than 0.54% of Maale Adumims land was privately owned by Palestinians. Similar results occurred with respect of other Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, such as Revava. Sued by The Fund for Redeeming the Land, which formally owns Revavas land, for libel in Jerusalem Magistrates Court, Peace Now was convicted of libel and ordered to pay the Fund 20,000 NIS and to make a public apology. ZOA has previously described the findings in the case of Revava.
Steve Goldberg, Vice-Chairman of the ZOA Board, said, The news about Peace Now being in receipt of funds from foreign powers must compel serious reconsideration among all supporters of Israel who have previously donated money to it. It is one thing to support Peace Now as an indigenous Israeli organization engaging in the battle of ideas within Israel. It is quite another thing to do so when one realizes that Peace Now is accepting funding from foreign governments who oppose the policies of successive democratically-elected Israeli governments and seek to meddle and intervene by the back door into Israeli affairs.
Peace Nows Yariv Oppenheimer claims that all of Peace Nows contributions are received legally, but that statement is rendered null and void by his simultaneous denial of knowledge of the Norwegian contributions received by Peace Now. Obviously, if he is unaware of a particular contribution, he cannot possibly be certain that it was received legally.
The ZOA has always found it disturbing that Peace Now has continually fixated on preventing Jews from living and developing their communities in Judea and Samaria while ignoring the failure of the Palestinians to fulfill their obligations under the Oslo Agreements to arrest terrorists and end the incitement to hatred and murder in the PA-controlled media, mosques, schools and youth camps that feed terror and extremism.