by David Bedein
JERUSALEM - Last week, Attorney Lee Bender, head of the Beth Hillel Wynnewood-based Israel Advocacy Committee, received documentation from Karmel Israel-Nytt, a Norwegian newspaper published in Oslo, Norway with editorial offices in Jerusalem, that the Norwegian government has allocated 1.3 million Kroner, something over $200,000, to "Peace Now," a political organization which conducts surveillance of Israeli Jewish communities in Judea, Jerusalem and Samaria, to determine the extent of their growth and expansion.
Norway stands out in its hostility to Israel, as one of the few Western nations to give full recognition and aid to the Hamas regime in Gaza, at a time when the U.S., the European Union, the UN and Russia, the entities that form the quartet in the Middle East peace process, have predicated any recognition or negotiation with Hamas that it must first recognize Israel and cease its terror activity.
Peace Now, registered as a legal entity in the U.S. (and not in Israel, even though its projects are carried out in Israel) has received annual grants from the Norwegian government over the past eight years, along with governmental allocations from the European Union, the United Kingdom, Finland and Holland.
On Monday, Mr. Bender dispatched a letter to the Counterespionage Section/Registration Unit of the U.S. Department of Justice to ask why the U.S. government does not demand that Peace Now register as a foreign agent, a procedure required of a political lobby which receives grants from foreign governments.
The fact that Peace Now, which has operated a lobby in Washington, DC, since 1992, has never registered as a foreign agent means that it may be liable to prosecution under federal law.
Mr. Bender's letter received wide publicity on Israeli Internet sites.
On Monday, a Peace Now spokesperson appeared on an Israel radio network and denied any connection to funds received from Norway.
However, following a Tuesday morning seminar at the Israeli Knesset Parliament session at which foreign government funding of Israel-based political groups was documented and discussed, the Peace Now spokesperson appeared on the Israeli TV on Tuesday night and said that Peace Now was proud to receive funds from foreign governments, including Norway. The Peace Now spokesperson said on Israeli TV that Peace Now had received more than 1.1 million dollars from foreign governments.
The U.S. Department of Justice has not yet responded to Mr. Bender’s demand that the federal government require Peace Now to register as a foreign agent of a foreign government.
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