(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
MK David Amsalem (Likud) is sponsoring legislation to cancel the NGO property tax (arnona) discount for organizations that receive the majority of their funding from foreign governments.
Currently, the Municipal Tax and Government Tax Ordinance extends discounts to all kinds of nongovernmental organizations that are approved by the interior minister.
The bill “wishes to end the phenomenon in which organizations that act against the state by means of foreign government funding receive state benefits,” according to a statement that was issued on Wednesday by Amsalem, who is also chairman of the Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee.
The legislation was drafted in cooperation with the right-wing organization Im Tirtzu, one of the leading voices opposing the intervention of foreign governments in Israel’s internal affairs.
According to Im Tirtzu, around 25 NGOs registered in Israel receive the majority of their funding from foreign governments. Among the organizations that would fall under the measure’s purview are B’Tselem – The Israel Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, Breaking the Silence, Yesh Din – Volunteers for Human Rights, Peace Now and Ir Amim, all left-wing.
“Those propaganda organizations are getting funding of millions of shekels annually, and using them to act publicly against the State of Israel and the IDF’s soldiers,” Im Tirzu said in a statement.
Amsalem said “it is inconceivable that organizations acting deliberately against the State of Israel should receive ‘gifts’ from the state that are then used to harm it.
“If they want someone to pay their property taxes, they can turn to the foreign governments that funnel them enormous sums of money,” he said.
“We will use the tens of millions of shekels that will be saved to help the weak sectors of society.”
Im Tirtzu CEO Matan Peleg, who was involved in promoting the legislation, welcomed it and said that it is absurd for the Israeli taxpayer to subsidize the property taxes of anti-Israel NGOs that serve the interests of foreign governments.
“This bill sends an important message to those seeking to harm the Jewish and democratic identity of the State of Israel by means of foreign government funding,” said Peleg. “We will work to see to it that the State of Israel will not fund or subsidize those seeking its destruction.”
This comes after the Knesset had advanced a series of legislation designed to place restrictions on these types of NGOs. Last week the legislature passed a law to forbid national service in organizations that receive the majority of their funding from foreign governments.
Earlier this month, the Knesset approved in preliminary reading a bill that would strip tax breaks from institutions that were determined to be “working against the State of Israel.”
Meanwhile, Knesset House Committee chairman Yoav Kisch (Likud) announced on Wednesday that he will advance an amendment to the statute that will forbid lawmakers from traveling abroad while funded by organizations that call to boycott Israel, deny the Holocaust or call for the indictment of Israeli soldiers under international law.
“An MK who decides to travel on the expense of an organization that boycotts Israel – will pay from his own pocket,” Kisch said.
In response, MK Ahmad Tibi (Joint List) said that passage of such legislation would be a severe blow to lawmakers’ parliamentary immunity and to their freedom to engage in political activity.
“If it was up to Kisch, MKs traveling abroad would be limited to the funding of Evangelical organizations and gambling moguls who donate to settlers’ organizations,” Tibi said. “To make it short – going abroad will be only with Kisch’s approval, and plays in the theaters only with [Culture Minister] Miri Regev’s approval.
“The 20th Knesset is slowly eliminating lawmakers’ legal immunity,” Tibi said.