Yisrael Beiteinu Renews Bid to Brand Foreign-funded NGOs as ‘Foreign Agents’

Under bill targeting human right groups and NGOs identified with left wing, foreign-funded NGOs would be subjected to closer inspection.

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman attends a news conference after a meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, January 26, 2015.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman attends a news conference after a meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, January 26, 2015.Credit: Reuters
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Yisrael Beiteinu has launched another bid to restrict human rights groups and NGOs identified the left wing. Under a bill, which the party is pushing anew, groups and individuals who receive funds from abroad will have to declare themselves “foreign agents” and come under closer supervision.

Sponsored by Yisrael Beiteinu faction chairman Robert Ilatov, the bill, entitled “foreign agents,” calls to tighten the supervision on NGOs or individuals who receive funds from other states and tax the donations. It requires the NGOs, which it calls “foreign agents,” to submit regular reports to the state. The bill is also signed by former ministers Avigdor Lieberman and Sofa Landver.

Each NGO will be required to declare next to its logo on its official documents that it serves as a “foreign agent.”

“Numerous organizations in Israel are financed by other governments and groups. They portray their activity as for the good of the Israeli public, while in fact they are advancing ideologies and agendas against Israel with foreign funding,” Ilatov told Haaretz.

“It’s important for the public to know who stands behind these organizations and whom they represent, and what states advance agendas in Israel and for what,” he said.

According to the bill, NGOs and human rights organizations will have to report foreign contributions “so the public knows their activity isn’t objective as they say it is and sees that foreign entities’ interests are behind them,” he said.

The bill is the latest version of a proposal Ilatov submitted in the last Knesset, with former MKs Ayelet Shaked and Yariv Levin.

Ministers Shaked and Levin are now the heads of the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, so the bill is likely to be advanced. Ministers of Hatnua and Yesh Atid, who blocked such bills in the Ministerial Committee for Legislation in the previous Knesset, are no longer members of the coalition.

“Dozens of organizations in Israel receive money from states and state entities in exchange for their commitment to advance those foreign entities’ interests, or the interests of foreign citizens,” the explanatory notes attached to the bill say.

A member of Yisrael Beiteinu faction said “these organizations’ goals are not clear. Under the guise of working for Israeli interests these groups are entitled to tax exemptions. But the Israeli public does not benefit from their activity and their aim is advancing foreign interests.”

Peace Now secretary-general Yariv Oppenheimer blasted the bill in the previous Knesset term. He said it was “riddled with lies and distortions” and no similar legislation existed in any other democracy. “The bill’s entire aim is to incite against the peace camp and de-legitimize it,” Oppenheimer said.

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