NGO transparency bill to apply to 27 foreign-gov’t-funded groups

All organizations aligned with Left; Bill to ban Super PACs advances.

June 2, 2016 01:56
2 minute read.
A woman reads testimonies during a gathering in Tel Aviv

A woman reads testimonies during a gathering in Tel Aviv to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Israeli NGO "Breaking the Silence". (photo credit: AFP PHOTO)


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Legislation requiring greater transparency for organizations getting most of their budgets from foreign governments will affect 27 NGOs, Nonprofits Registrar representative Yafit Shemer told the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee Wednesday.

Committee chairman Nissan Slomiansky (Bayit Yehudi) prohibited Shemer from presenting the list to the MKs, arguing that he wants the bill to be “clean” of being drafted in a way that would target specific NGOs, sparking vocal debate among lawmakers. The Justice Ministry did not respond to requests for the list.

The Justice Ministry bill in question, which returned to the committee after passing a first reading in the plenum, requires any NGO receiving more than half its funding from a foreign political entity identify itself as such in any publications and any meetings with public officials, and has been controversial because most of the organizations under the bill’s purview are likely to be leftwing.

Research by watchdog organization NGO Monitor indicates the suspicions are correct, finding 19 organizations that fit the conditions of the bill, according to their donations received in 2012-2014.

Yesh Din – Volunteers for Human Rights, which is active in the West Bank, leads the pack, with 93.5 percent foreign government funding, amounting to more than NIS 15 million, according to NGO Monitor. Nearly all of the organizations on the list identify as human rights NGOs and are affiliated with the Left: B’Tselem, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, Hamoked: Center for the Defense of the Individual, Adalah-The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, The Parents Circle, Breaking the Silence, Mossawa Center, The Public Committee against Torture, Gisha-Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, Education for Peace (affiliated with Peace Now), Comet-ME, Zochrot, Coalition of Women for Peace, Terrestrial Jerusalem, the Human Rights Defenders Fund, Emek Shaveh, and New Profile.

The watchdog found six other NGOs that did not pass the 50% mark.

MKs Miki Rosenthal (Zionist Union) and Michal Rozin (Meretz) argued with Slomiansky about his prohibition on giving the list to the committee. Rozin said the bill is “political persecution against human rights organizations. It is absurd that in a discussion of a transparency bill, the committee chairman will not reveal the names of the organizations to which the law will be applied.”

MK Omer Bar-Lev (Zionist Union) called for transparency of all donations and not just those from foreign political entities, saying he is “more concerned by donations from millionaires from around the world who want to influence what happens in Israel.”

Association for Civil Rights in Israel representative Debbie Gild-Hayo called for the legislation’s advocates to “stop hinting, and put the list of NGOs on the table. Whoever does not agree with the political majority in Israel is immediately delegitimized,” she argued.

NGO Monitor President Prof. Gerald Steinberg said donations of more than NIS 100m. per year from foreign governments “distort Israeli democracy and dangerously damage its sovereignty.”

But this should be mitigated by dialogue with lawmakers in Europe, many of whom oppose their government’s donations to political organizations.

Also on Wednesday, the Knesset approved in a preliminary reading the “V15 bill,” meant to make American- style Super PACs illegal. The measure proposed by MK Yoav Kisch (Likud) would limit political organizations’ ability to raise funds in an election year by making the limitations on NGOs involved in elections similar to those on a political party.

The legislation is nicknamed “V15” after an organization that campaigned against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the last election using advanced data methods to target voters door-to-door.

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