Bill aims to stop NGOs spreading ‘lies’ about Israel

EU ambassador condemns move to track foreign funding of groups as anti-democratic

The UN report on the Gaza war of 2014 was based on testimony from human rights groups such as Breaking the Silence. Photograph: Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters

The UN report on the Gaza war of 2014 was based on testimony from human rights groups such as Breaking the Silence. Photograph: Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters

 

Israeli ministers have backed a Bill demanding increased transparency from nongovernmental organisations that receive extensive foreign funding, in a move denounced by opponents as anti-democratic.

The Bill, proposed by justice minister Ayelet Shaked from the right-wing Jewish Home, applies to all NGOs that receive more than 50 per cent of their funding from the European Union or foreign states.

Representatives from such groups will have to a wear a tag while in the Knesset parliament. The NGOs will also be required to state the sources of their funding in their public reports and in all written communication with officials.

Ms Shaked said the “transparency Bill” aimed to stop foreign-funded NGOs spreading “lies” about Israel: “The blatant interference of foreign governments in internal matters of Israel with money is an unprecedented, widespread phenomenon that violates all rules and norms in relations between democratic countries.

“It cannot be that the European Union donates to NGOs who work in the name of the state of Israel, when in practice they are being used as a tool in the hands of foreign states to implement their policies.”

‘Biased’ testimonies

United Nations

About 70 NGOs operating in Israel focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and receive funds from the EU or individual governments, including Ireland, Scandinavian and west European countries.

EU ambassador to Israel Lars Faaborg-Andersen said the Bill was more suited to a “despotic” country.

“The Bill is explicitly intended to harm organisations critical of government policy. It will have a negative impact on the image of Israel and its standing in Europe as an open and democratic society.”

Zahava Galon, leader of the left-wing opposition Meretz, said the Bill was a continuation of the government “witch-hunt”.

The Bill now has to be voted on in the Knesset, where the coalition has a majority of only two in the 120-seat parliament. Knesset member Michael Oren, from the centrist coalition Kulanu, said he would vote against it.

“As someone who has worked all his life to improve the foreign relations of Israel, my conscience does not allow me to vote for the Bill.”