Israeli bill targeting NGOs passes first vote

Israeli Parliament gives initial approval for controversial bill which would effect human-rights NGOs by requiring details of foreign donations

Photo by: AFP (Archive)
Photo by: AFP (Archive)

Israeli activists holding placards during a Peace Now march call on Israel to end the occupation of Palestinian lands, in Tel Aviv, Dec. 19, 2015

A controversial bill targeting Israeli human rights groups opposed to Israeli government’ policies towards Palestinians won initial approval in Israeli Parliament on Monday with the support of right-wing parties.

The controversial “transparency bill” which was first proposed in late 2015 requires NGOs to give details regarding foreign donations if more than half of their funding comes from foreign governments or bodies such as European Union.

The far-right Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who is known for her harsh stance towards Palestinian human rights groups, claims the bill would not target NGOs, rather it would target foreign interference.

However, the bill has stirred outrage in Israel and overseas after the date it was proposed.

Human rights advocates and international NGOs say the bill targets non-governmental organisations which are free to be funded by governments, foundations, businesses or private individuals, claiming it “endangers Israel’s democracy and violates its freedom of speech.”

Previously, the United States and ambassadors from Germany, the United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands and others from the European Union have expressed their concerns about the so called transparency bill.

Shaked asserted that the draft law she proposed to the parliament and the US Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) were similar, US State Department spokesman John Kirby told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that they were "two different things altogether."”

Reiterating Kirby's statement on the “transparency bill” that Israeli Parliament is getting ready to approve, the United States Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro clarified the difference between the two laws while highlighting the importance of protecting free expression, peaceful dissent and create an atmosphere where all voices can be heard.

"US law imposes no limits, restrictions, or transparency requirements for the receipt of foreign funding by NGOs operating in the United States," he said.

"FARA requires individuals or organisations to register as foreign agents only if they engage in certain specified activities at the order, request, or under the direction or control, of a foreign principal – not simply by receiving contributions from such an entity."


Today The NGO Bill, which aims to label and silence progressive civil society organizations, passed its first reading at...

Posted by PEACE NOW on Monday, February 8, 2016

Israeli rights group Peace Now said in a statement released on it’s Facebook page on Monday that the passing of the NGO bill was a violent and discriminatory act of public shaming against those criticising the government’s policies.

“Despite Netanyahu's statements, the bill resembles the situation in Russia and not that in the United States or in any other democratic country. Even the current legislation in Israel requires of the organisations affected by this bill transparency which by far surpasses that required in the United States.” the rights organisation said.

In a statement ahead of the parliamentary vote, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel called the NGO bill a "discriminatory law that harms democracy ... (and) supports censorship and political persecution."

Seventy Israeli NGOs deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and receive funds mostly from EU or EU member governments.

The bill passed preliminary approval in the Knesset on Monday, the second and the third votes in the parliament will take place after final draft.

In order to become law, the bill needs to be pass two more votes in separate sessions in the Israeli Parliament where Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition governs by a single-seat majority.


TRTWorld and agencies