'Chilling' Israeli bill threatens left wing NGOs

New Israeli bill targeting left wing NGOs criticised by rights groups, Washington and European Union

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Right-wing Israelis (R) argue with a left-wing activist during a 'Peace Now' rally in Rabin Square Tel Aviv.

A new bill in Israel targeting non-governmental organisations (NGOs) has been accused of recreating the climate of hatred that existed two decades ago in the country and has drawn heavy criticism from rights groups, the US and the EU.

Human rights NGOs in Israel are under pressure from the controversial bill proposed by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked of the far-right Jewish Home party.

Left wing NGOs have challenged Israeli government policies, leading to accusations by the government that they are agents of foreign powers.  "In some ways it is worse" than during Rabin's time, Hagai El-Ad, executive director at B'Tselem, said.

"The situation has dramatically changed since 20 years ago. The number of politicians that reflect the values we strive to see is dramatically smaller."

The text of the bill is not directly addressed towards left wing NGOs, but these are the ones most likely to be hit by its provisions.

Rightwing NGOs back the Israeli occupation of the West Bank while Israeli leftwing NGOs support human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Anat Ben Nun from Peace Now called the bill "a heinous crime against democracy."

"Under the pretext of transparency, the government is trying to delegitimise anyone who does not share its views or opposes its policies."

The bill has also increased tension between one of the most rightwing governments in Israeli history and the US and the EU.

The US embassy in Tel Aviv published two press releases on Monday stressing its concern that the bill could have a "chilling effect."

According to a diplomatic source, Lars Faaborg-Andersen - the European Union's ambassador in Israel - stated Israel could find itself grouped with one-man regimes which have approved similar bills.

The bill will be discussed in Israel's parliament in the coming weeks.

TRTWorld and agencies