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Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked.(Photo by: REUTERS)
US Jewish groups express concern over Israel's proposed NGO bill
ADL urged Knesset members to “carefully consider the negative ramifications of the passage of this legislation.”
NEW YORK – Jewish organizations in the United States have expressed concern over the Israeli draft legislation requiring NGOs that receive more than half of their funding from “foreign political entities” to declare and detail the funding each time they issue a report or meet with a public official.

This “NGO transparency bill” was introduced by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and approved by the ministerial committee on legislation last month.

The bill has been criticized by both EU and US government officials, as well as human rights groups in Israel, as a piece of legislation meant to stymie dissent and poses a threat to democracy.

“The strength of Israeli society internally, as well as its international position, has been its bedrock commitment to democracy and free expression,” the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, which aims to combat anti-Semitism, Jonathan A. Greenblatt said on Monday.

“There is no doubt that many Israelis today feel beleaguered, both by the security situation and the campaign to undermine the Jewish state’s legitimacy,” he added. “However, efforts to counter such campaigns through the tarring of NGOs and those holding certain political perspectives, threaten to erode Israel’s very democratic character, and could significantly harm Israel’s international legitimacy.”

The ADL stated it urges Knesset members to “carefully consider the negative ramifications of the passage of this legislation.”

In an official statement, the American Jewish Committee also said that the bill draws attention to the “vexing problem” of well-financed foreign involvement in the Israeli democratic process.

“The proposed solution poses as many risks as the problem itself, including the risk to Israel’s reputation as a confident and open society that has long been true democracy’s sole Middle East outpost,” the AJC stated.

The committee also pointed out that legislation requiring some disclosure of foreign funding of nongovernmental organizations already exists in Israel and it is an “efficient method of protecting the public from hidden political influences.”

“When foreign governments seek to advance their policy agendas through the activities of Israeli NGOs, the Israeli public and taxpayers in the countries that are sources of the funding deserve to know,” the AJC said. “Existing Israeli laws make that information available, and is, in our judgment, sufficient.”
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