(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
A day after the Ministerial Committee on Legislation advanced a bill that would require transparency for foreign-funded NGOs, the Zionist Union began an effort Monday to quash the legislation.
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked’s bill would apply to non-governmental organizations that receive more than 50 percent of their funding from foreign governments.
They would have to say so in its publications and reports that are publicly available, in any contact in writing or at meetings with public officials or employees, and will have to detail which foreign entities donated to them in the relevant years. In addition, the NGOs’ representatives will have to wear name tags with the name of their organization on it when they’re in the Knesset, as lobbyists do. Any violation of the law would carry a fine of NIS 29,200.
The bill is expected to be brought to its first reading in the Knesset Wednesday. Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog and his faction’s MKs wore signs around their necks at the Knesset Monday saying “Jews don’t mark other Jews,” a takeoff on slogans opposing withdrawing Jews from territories.
“When this bill passes, it will be a dark day for democracy,” Herzog told his faction at the Knesset Monday. “This is a dangerous bill that inflames hatred in Israel. I’ve been warning that political murder can happen again in Israel. This bill encourages hatred of a big sector.”
Zionist Union faction head Merav Michaeli said the bill was merely intended to distract the public from finding out that politicians on the Right receive donations from supporters of gambling and drugs. She said the bill would harm organizations that raise money for universal causes like the handicapped as well as groups that strengthen Israel’s democracy.
MK Tzipi Livni said that “Netanyahu won’t be able to call Israel democratic if he destroys Israeli democracy from inside...This law turns Europe into our enemy, and then we expect Europe to defend us at the United Nations Security Council. The longer the NGO bill is on table, the less the government can make the correct statement that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East.”
Speaking earlier Monday at a Knesset conference on the need for a strong Foreign Ministry, Livni warned that Israel’s public diplomacy would suffer if it has the wrong policies, even if it has the best English spokesmen.
The event was organized by Zionist Union MK Nachman Shai, who heads the Knesset caucus for strengthening Israel’s external relations.
“The government of Israel has forgotten how important the Foreign Ministry is,” Shai said at the event. “The ministers advanced a horrible bill and no one was there to tell them they were making a mistake and explain to them how much damage they were causing.”