C'tee prepares bill restricting NGOs

New, watered-down law meant to prevent funding from foreign states.

Ze’ev Elkin 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerzolomiski [file])
Ze’ev Elkin 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerzolomiski [file])
The Knesset Law Committee is set to begin discussion on Monday of a much-watered down bill aimed at imposing specific supervisory requirements on nonprofit organizations that have a political, social or human rights agenda and that receive financial support from foreign states or foundations funded by their governments.
The current wording of the bill is far less restrictive than the one originally proposed by a group of right-wing MKs headed by Ze’ev Elkin (Likud), David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu), Avraham Michaeli (Shas) and Otniel Schneller (Kadima). That bill was approved by the plenum in preliminary reading.
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According to the current proposal, “the aim of the bill is to increase the transparency and correct flaws in the existing legislation regarding the funding of political activity in Israel by foreign political entities.”
Despite the changes, however, several human rights groups and other NGOs charged that the aim of the legislation was to deal a blow to civil society organizations, using the claim of transparency as a pretext.
According to the text of the bill that will be discussed on Monday, any NGO or company created to assist the public and receiving financial support from a foreign state entity would be required to report any direct or indirect contribution to the registrar of nonprofit organizations within one week of the end of the quarter in which it received the funding.
The organization would have to disclose the identity of the donor, the sum of money, the purpose of the donation and any promises the NGO made to the donor in return for the funding.
Every three months, the registrar will publish on the Internet the information provided by the NGOs for that quarter.
The bill also calls on the NGOs “to do everything possible” to determine whether the funding it received came from a foreign state entity.
The original bill called for the NGOs that received foreign state contributions to register with the registrar of political parties – an indirect inference that the state considered such NGOs to be political organizations, even though according to the definition, they included schools, hospitals, universities and other organizations.
In fact, the bill originally applied to any organization that received a donation “to fund political activity in Israel.”
It defined political activity as “activity aimed at influencing Israeli public opinion or any individual or group in any of the branches of government in Israel with regard to any aspect of Israel’s domestic or foreign policy.”
The original bill also called on NGOs receiving foreign state funding to state that fact in all official stationery. Furthermore, an official of such an organization taking part in a meeting or discussion “which included political activity” would also have to declare that his organization was supported by foreign state funding.
In addition, the original bill declared that an NGO that received foreign state entity funding would not be entitled to the tax deductions granted to institutions defined as “public institutions” according to the Income Tax Law.
All of these provisions have been dropped from the draft that will be considered at Monday’s Law Committee meeting, which is being convened to prepare the bill for first reading in the plenum.