Israeli NGOs angry at proposed new law

  • 03/11/2015
Ayelet Shaked, Israel's Justice Minister (Reuters)
Ayelet Shaked, Israel's Justice Minister (Reuters)

Left-wing Israeli NGOs have accused the government of a witch-hunt after the justice minister proposed tough new measures on organisations receiving funding from foreign governments.

The draft bill published by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked on Sunday will force such NGOs to mark all documents when presenting them to parliamentarians and also declare their foreign funding in any talks at which public officials are present.

They will also have to wear identification badges in parliament, similar to the current rules for lobbyists.

Shaked said she wanted to improve "transparency" over NGO funding.

"Blatant interference in internal Israeli affairs by foreign governments is unprecedented and widespread," the right-wing Shaked said in a statement.

The law would apply to groups that receive more than 50 percent of their funding from abroad and carries potential fines of 29,200 shekels (NZ$11,170) for violators.

Shaked cited a UN inquiry into the 2014 summer war in Gaza, which concluded that Israel may have been guilty of war crimes. She said it relied on evidence from foreign-backed NGOs B'Tselem, Adalah and Breaking the Silence.

Many left-wing Israeli NGOs receive large percentages of their funding from abroad, particularly from Western governments.

Right-wing NGOs tend instead to be funded by private individuals, also often outside Israel, but they are not subject to the restrictions.

Five left-wing NGOs on Monday told AFP they felt targeted by the rightwing government because of their criticism of Israel's policies.

"Funding from international sources to human rights organisations is legitimate and necessary, especially in states where there is a serious problem of human rights violations," said Adalah, which seeks to defend the rights of Arab Israelis.

The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, which receives funding from foreign governments, said it already reports four times a year on donations, which are listed on its website.

Shaked "doesn't seem to be bothered about transparency to party donations and to individual politicians," the group said.

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog accused Shaked of hypocrisy as she had herself received foreign funding in her election campaign.