Pending legislation targeting foreign funding sources of political NGOs was met
with a defiant tone on Monday by the director of Breaking the Silence, one of
the more controversial organizations in the country.
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Dana Golan, director
of Breaking the Silence, which compiles testimonies from IDF soldiers who have
served in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, said on Monday, “In practice this
isn’t something that will stop us; we weren’t founded because there is European
We started in 2004 with a group of discharged soldiers from the
Nahal Brigade. Even if this door is closed we’ll open another one. This attempt
to silence the dialogue we’ve started won’t succeed.”
Golan, who said
that about 50 percent of the organization’s NIS 3 million annual budget comes
from foreign governments or foreign government- supported funds, added that such
a move would only cause more people to support the organization.
it’s obvious. Every time there is anther new act of lunacy by Bibi [Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu] and [Foreign Minister Avigdor] Lieberman’s
government, more people turn to us to volunteer, testify, help out.
this perspective, we think it’s a good thing.”
Golan sees the legislation
as “political persecution and an attempt to shut people up.”
the effectiveness of organizations such as Breaking the Silence, she
“The best way to protest these laws is to keep doing what we’re
doing, because it seems to be working. If we weren’t irritating them so much,
they wouldn’t be pursuing these laws against us.”
On Sunday, the
Ministerial Committee for Legislation gave government backing to two bills – by
a majority of 11 versus five – that will hinder the ability of foreign
governments and their organizations to finance Israeli NGOs.
proposed by Likud MK Ophir Akunis would ban foreign governments and
international bodies supported by foreign governments from donating more than
NIS 20,000 to what it refers to as political NGOs that seek to influence Israeli
government policy. A second bill, which was proposed by MK Fania Kirschenbaum
(Israel Beiteinu), would levy a 45 percent tax on donations made by foreign
governments to NGOs in Israel.
Yael Aberman, spokesman for Kav LaOved –
Worker’s Hotline, said the bills, if they became law, could see the elimination
of a third of the group’s NIS 3m. annual budget.
“A third of our budget
comes from the European Union by way of an international project to support
workers rights. If the law passes, we’ll be in a serious problem because we’ll
have cover this deficit,” she said.
When asked how this deficit would
play out, Aberman said, “We’ll be able to support fewer workers and do less of
our work in support of legislation supporting workers rights.”
said her organization helps not only for Israelis, but also foreign workers,
refugees and Palestinians employed in Israel.
If the law goes into
effect, “it will affect all of our functions, including those that help Israeli
workers,” she said.
The situation appears especially dire to Ishai
Menuchin, the executive director of the Public Committee Against Torture in
Israel, who said his organization receives around 80% of its funding from the
United Nations, the EU, and organizations supported by those two
The law would “force us to have to find different ways to
operate, Menuchin said. But his
organization would not close down as a
When asked if his group was politically motivated, he responded,
“You could say everything is political. We are for the social change of
preventing torture, that’s all. We are against torture of Palestinians,
Israelis, right-wingers, left-wingers, all torture that affects anyone
regardless of religion, sex or nationality.”
Another organization that
stands to lose funding as a result of the legislation is Achoti – For Women in
Israel, which in addition to having private donors, gets money from foreign
governments and organizations to run “female empowerment” programs, largely for
women from disadvantaged backgrounds.
At the “fair trade” shop operated
by Achoti in Shlomo Hamelech Street in central Tel Aviv, an employee named Ophir
on Tuesday showed off arts and crafts made by women from the Beduin, Ethiopian
and other impoverished communities.
While she was reluctant to speak on
the record about how the legislation would affect the organization they became
law, Ophir said “it will make it much harder for us to operate/ I don’t see how
this will improve the State of Israel or is to our benefit.”