Right, left and center pan bill limiting left-wing NGOs

MK Hoffman calls bill shameful, Gal-On says similar laws passed by Putin, Likud's Akunis calls it "most democratic, just bill ever."

July 10, 2013 19:11
3 minute read.
Ronen Hoffman,  the 19th MK on Yesh Atid's Knesset list.

Ronen Hoffman. (photo credit: Courtesy Knesset)

MKs from both the coalition and opposition came out on Wednesday against the “NGO Bill,” which seeks to limit funding to organizations that call for boycotts of Israel.

“This is a shameful bill, and the attorney-general already said in the past that proposals like it go against basic constitutional rights,” MK Ronen Hoffman (Yesh Atid) explained.

MKs Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi) and Robert Ilatov (Likud Beytenu) proposed the “NGO Bill” on Tuesday.

It seeks to cap donations to NGOs from foreign governments at NIS 20,000 if an organization, its members, a member of its management or one of its employees calls for IDF soldiers to be brought to international courts; calls for boycotts, divestment or sanctions (BDS) of Israel or its citizens; denies Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state; incites to racism; or supports armed combat by an enemy state or terrorist organization against Israel.

“The attempt to harm freedom of expression and stop legitimate political activity by NGOs is inappropriate and anti-democratic,” Hoffman added.

As for Shaked and Ilatov’s explanation that such legislation would prevent delegitimization of Israel, Hoffman said the opposite was true.

“This bill will only bolster delegitimization attempts and plays right into the hands of those who claim Israel is undemocratic. The attempt to solve delegitimization through a bill that violates freedom of expression is like trying to put out a fire by pouring oil on it,” he stated.

Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On said right-wing MKs were trying to destroy Israeli democracy.

“According to the Right’s vision, Israel will be an abominable, hated leper country that is isolated and boycotted,” Gal-On stated.

She explained that Israeli human rights organizations did not receive money from the government for ethical reasons because they supervised and criticized governments. In this way they were “unlike fat settler organizations that nurse from the udders of the government and milk the tax money of Israeli citizens,” she said.

“Limitations of the kind suggested in the NGO Bill exist only in nondemocratic governments. There is a similar law in [President Vladimir] Putin’s Russia, and apparently those who proposed the bill are inspired by his dark government,” Gal-On said.

Deputy Minister for Liaison with the Knesset Ofir Akunis (Likud Beytenu), who proposed similar legislation in the last Knesset, defended the bill against those who called it undemocratic.

“The NGO Bill is the most democratic and just bill ever, and any attempts to block it are not done in the name of Israeli democracy, but out of political motives by those interested in continuing the intolerable situation in which foreign countries intervene in Israeli politics by funding political NGOs,” Akunis said.

He called such funding “clear intervention in the State of Israel’s internal affairs [by a foreign country].”

NGO Monitor, an organization that has often criticized human rights and other non-profit groups for receiving funding from foreign governments, also came out against the legislation.

“Transparency and accountability for powerful NGOs are essential parts of the Israeli democratic discourse and policy debate,” the organization stated. “However, as NGO Monitor has repeatedly stated, legislative proposals that go beyond transparency and suggest distinctions based on political motivations and ideology are polarizing, not enforceable, and damage Israel’s vital national interests.”

NGO Monitor added that while “NGO political warfare against Israel – including lawfare, BDS, Holocaust denial, false allegations of ‘war crimes’ and other forms of delegitimization – are core threats, defeating this warfare requires a carefully designed and realistic strategy.”

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