Israel passes law targeting pro-Palestine groups

A bill that targets pro-Palestinian groups won initial approval in Israel's parliament on Monday. More than 30,000 NGOs are registered in Israel. Around 70 of those groups deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Israeli parliament

Israel's parliament has finalised a contentious law for the strict monitoring of human rights organisations operating in Israel.

A bill that critics say targets pro-Palestinian groups won initial approval in parliament on Monday with the support of right-wing parties. The law had been approved late on Monday by a vote of 57 to 48. This will go to the relevant committee of the parliament for two rounds of voting.

The legislation would require NGOs to give details of overseas donations in all their official publications if more than half of their funding comes from foreign governments or bodies such as the European Union.

More than 30,000 NGOs are registered in Israel, about half of which are still active. Around 70 of those groups deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and receive funds.

Israel Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (R) takes part in the party's meeting in the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem.

Opponents of the law say it is discriminatory because it is mainly groups that oppose the policies of Israel's administration towards Palestinians which receive money from foreign governments. But private funds from overseas, such as money donated to Israeli groups that support Jewish settlements in occupied land that Palestinians seek for a state, are not addressed in the bill.

Critics have claimed that the bill targets leftist groups, particularly those that campaign for Palestinian rights.

Peace Now, an Israeli NGO that tracks and opposes Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, has called the legislation "a hate crime against democracy".

The Human Rights Watch also criticized the bill, saying that if the Israeli government were truly concerned about transparency, "it would require all NGOs to actively alert the public to their sources of funding, not just those that criticize the government's policies."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended the legislation, however, saying the law's goal was "to prevent an absurd situation, in which foreign states meddle in Israel's internal affairs by funding NGOs, without the Israeli public being aware of it."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

"Unlike the left's claims, the law's approval will increase transparency, contribute to creating a discourse that reflects the Israeli public opinion, and will strengthen democracy," he wrote on his Facebook page following the final vote.

TRTWorld and agencies