Israeli Ministers Mull Bill Restricting Foreign Funding for Left-wing Groups

The legislation would impose high tax on nonprofit groups where at least one managing member has called for a boycott, divestment or sanctions against Israel.

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation will vote Sunday on whether to approve a bill limiting foreign-government funding to groups “whose goals or activities flagrantly exceed the bounds of Israeli democratic discourse.”

Under the legislation, sponsored by MK Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi), such nonprofit groups must pay a 45 percent tax on contributions.

Passage by the committee means the bill has the support of the governing coalition. It would then go the Knesset for a preliminary vote later in the week.

The bill applies to NGOs where at least one management member has called for a boycott, divestment, or sanctions against Israel or its citizens. It also applies to NGOs where at least one management member has called for Israeli soldiers to be tried by an international court or has supported armed struggle by an enemy state or terrorist group against Israel.

According to the explanatory notes, Shaked’s bill “seeks to curb the involvement of foreign government entities in Israeli democracy, carried out through financial support to nonprofit organizations whose goals or activities flagrantly exceed the bounds of Israeli democratic discourse.”

According to the bill, such efforts “constitute an attempt to inflict harm and represent major, material interference in the fundamental characteristics of the State of Israel and its sovereignty.”

In November 2011, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suspended the legislative process on two similar bills.

One of the bills, sponsored by MK Ofir Akunis (Likud), bars political NGOs from raising more than 20,000 shekels ($5,714) from foreign governments or international entities. The second, sponsored by MK Faina Kirshenbaum (Yisrael Beiteinu), imposes a 45 percent tax on contributions from “foreign state entities” to groups that do not also receive funding from the Israeli government.

The bills were later combined, with the legislative process coordinated with the Prime Minister’s Office, treasury and Defense Ministry.

Netanyahu declared he would supported the legislation if a few changes were made, including a distinction between human-rights groups and political groups. He also sought to have the shekel figure in Kirshenbaum’s bill increased. But the legislative process on these bills has been stalled, with Shaked’s bill going for a vote on Sunday .

A Belgian demonstrator displays a sign reading "Boycott Israel, racist state"Credit: Reuters
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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