A proposed bill that would limit the ability of foreign governments and
international organizations to contribute to Israeli NGOs is coming under fire
from both left-wing groups and Israel Beitenu MK Faina
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Kirschenbaum slammed Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on
Tuesday for supporting the bill by Likud MK Ofir Akunis over her own
Akunis has proposed legislation that would ban foreign
governments or international organizations, such as the UN, from donating over
NIS 20,000 to political NGOs that seek to influence Israeli
According to Channel 2 News, Netanyahu plans to support the
proposal when it is brought to a vote in the Ministerial Committee on
Legislation on Sunday.
A similar bill, proposed by Kirschenbaum, will
also be brought to the ministerial committee.
However, her bill would
levy a 45 percent tax on donations from foreign governments to any NGO in
Israel, as opposed to banning contributions. An exception would be made for NGO
activities that are supported by government ministries.
“I don’t know why
Netanyahu supported Akunis’s bill over mine. He might not even be aware that my
bill exists,” Kirschenbaum pointed out. However, she said that the real question
should be: “Why doesn’t Netanyahu support a parliamentary committee of inquiry?”
In July, Netanyahu voiced opposition to Kirschenbaum’s bill to probe left-wing
NGOs, a move that Israel Beiteinu leader Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman
“An inquiry committee is much saner and less severe
than Akunis’s proposal,” Kirschenbaum said.
“I agree with Akunis that
foreign governments should not be allowed to influence Israeli policies,”
Kirschenbaum explained, “but my law is much more practical.”
the Israel Beiteinu MK, Akunis’s bill will be impossible to implement, because
“political NGO” has no clear definition.
“Are human rights organizations
political?” she asked, adding that her bill will allow the government to use the
45 percent tax for its own needs, “which could help fund new social
“I just hope that Netanyahu isn’t supporting Akunis’s bill to
make up for giving up on [West Bank] outposts, but that’s a matter of internal
Likud politics,” Kirschenbaum added.
Meanwhile, leaders of prominent
left-wing Israeli NGOs said the bill would deal a potentially crippling blow to
their work in the country.
“The effect of this legislation would be the
closure of all of these civil organizations,” said Haim Ehrlich, director of the
left-wing organization “Yesh Din.”
Ehrlich spoke at a press conference
held at the offices of Physicians for Human Rights Israel in Jaffa on Tuesday,
where he was joined by officials from PHR-Israel as well as the NGOs “Gisha,”
“Israeli Children,” the Movement for Progressive Judaism and the Public
Committee Against Torture in Israel.
According to a statement read at the
beginning of the press conference, those NGOs in attendance are joined in their
criticism by dozens of left-wing Israeli NGOs.
Sari Bashi, the director
of Gisha, said that “European governments fund battered women’s shelters,
universities, research institutions and other positive organizations in
This is not an attempt to thwart foreign influence on the State
of Israel, this is an attempt to silence people.”
Bashi said that the
amount of contributions that comes from foreign governments varies with each
NGO, but that Gisha, for instance, receives around half of its donations from
such bodies or from foreign organizations supported by foreign governments. She
said that the move would probably only affect left-wing NGOs, in that right-wing
NGOs get their funding mainly from private donations and not from any foreign
At the press conference, the NGOs also called for the
Israeli government to take stronger action against what they said is a worsening
climate of violence and incitement against left-wing activists, citing recent
“price-tag” operations taking against such activists, which they said are
drawing encouragement from bills such as this one.
On Tuesday, Rabbi
Gilad Kariv of the Israeli Union for Progressive Judaism asserted that the
parliamentarians supporting such bills aren’t concerned about the sources of
funding for NGOs, rather “the very activities of these
Anyone who is worried about the future of Israeli
democracy needs to understand the extent of the parliamentary campaign of
incitement being directed against these organizations.”
Kariv said that
he also believes that such legislation “isn’t directed only at any particular
organization, but also at tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of
Israelis who benefit from the assistance in health, education, legal assistance
[given by these organizations].”