Knesset Revives Attempt to Restrict Foreign Funding of Left-wing NGOs

Bill would restrict groups that call for boycotting Israel or indicting IDF soldiers from raising funds from foreign sources.

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

The Knesset is once again attempting to restrict foreign donations to certain nongovernmental organizations: MK Ayelet Shaked, chairwoman of the Habayit Hayehudi Knesset faction, submitted a new bill on this subject on Tuesday.

According to the bill, groups that call for boycotting Israel or for indicting Israel Defense Force soldiers in international tribunals are among those that would be restricted in raising funds from foreign sources, as would individuals identified with such groups.

It would be enough for a single paid employee of an organization, or someone who sits on its board, to call for a boycott of Israel to apply the restrictions, the bill states.

The bill would limit the funding such groups could obtain from a “foreign political entity” to NIS 20,000 a year. In addition to calling for a boycott or sanctions against Israel and calling for soldiers to be tried in international tribunals, the bill cites three other actions that would spark the restrictions: rejecting Israel’s existence as a Jewish and democratic state, incitement to racism, and support for armed struggle against Israel by an enemy country or a terror group.

In November 2011, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu froze two similar bills that the coalition was promoting at the time, though he said he supported them in principle. One of those bills, proposed by then-MK ‏(now deputy minister‏) Ofir Akunis of Likud, would have banned “political” organizations from raising over NIS 20,000 a year from foreign countries. The other, by then-MK ‏(now deputy minister‏) Faina Kirshenbaum of Yisrael Beiteinu, would have imposed a tax of 45 percent on funds raised overseas by groups that are not supported by the government. But after the bills were merged and given permission in principle to move ahead, they were effectively frozen.

The current bill, which resembles the Akunis proposal, is based on data compiled by the right-wing group Im Tirtzu. According to Im Tirtzu’s information, foreign governments have funded Israeli groups involved either directly or indirectly in delegitimizing Israel or attempting to have senior IDF officers indicted in foreign tribunals.

As an example, Shaked cited the Goldstone Report. This report, which accused Israel of war crimes during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in 2009 but was later recanted by its principal author, was based on false information provided by Israeli groups funded by foreign sources, she charged.

Human rights groups like B’Tselem and Adalah, which claimed that Cast Lead “violated international law because it was directed against civilians and involved disproportionate force,” would also see their foreign donations restricted by the bill, Shaked said.

“Foreign money distorts the power and will of the Israeli voter and gives an extremist minority greater means of expression than the Israeli majority has,” she said.

MK Zahava Gal-On ‏(Meretz‏) charged that the bill would “harm human rights groups, which do not take money from the government because of their professional ethics ... They cannot be dependent on government funding and also criticize the government.”

“Restrictions of this type exist only in nondemocratic regimes,” she added.

But Gal-On said the bill would never pass, because if it did, Israel would forfeit both its political and economic agreements with the European Union and its membership in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

A New York protester calling for a boycott of Israel.Credit: AP
MK Ayelet Shaked, pictured here in the Knesset, has own admiration for her handling of the delicate issue of drafting the ultra-Orthodox.Credit: Michal Fattal

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