Im Tirtzu: Those Affected by NGO Bill Denigrate Israel, Defend Terrorists

Ahead of Knesset session, rightist organization to distribute position paper with alleged findings against, among others, Breaking the Silence and B'Tselem.

The Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee debates the so-called suspension bill, February 2016.
Olivier Fitoussi

The rightist organization Im Tirtzu plans to distribute Tuesday to Knesset members a document it recently compiled with a list of “findings” about the 25 non-profit organizations the Justice Ministry says will be affected by the NGO bill if it is passed by the Knesset. Among other demands, the bill would require them to disclose that a majority of their funding comes from foreign governments.

In addition to the contention that a Palestinian foundation funded a Knesset lobbyist for one organization, Im Tirtzu’s position paper also attacks organizations that protested the difficulty of access to government archives as part of an alleged attempt to conceal records of human rights violations.

The document is intended to bolster the arguments of the right-wing parties promoting the bill, and supply the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee with evidence that these organizations “directly operate against Israel and Israel Defense Forces soldiers, and even go so far as to defend terrorists.”

On Tuesday the committee will hold another session to prepare the bill for a vote on its second and third readings in the Knesset plenum. Committee chairman MK Nissan Slomiansky (Habayit Hayehudi) has already stated that the report’s findings justify the advancement of the bill, despite the criticism it has drawn. “The Im Tirtzu report shows that these organizations are concerned with terrorists’ rights, not with human rights,” Slomiansky said. “This has to be stopped as soon as possible. I will use all the avenues at my disposal to advance this bill.”

“Opponents of the bill are trying to portray it as political persecution of leftist or human rights organizations,” said Im Tirtzu director Matan Peleg. “However, the vast majority of the organizations on the list are political organizations, plants operating with funding from foreign governments against Israel and against IDF soldiers. Their main activity is denigrating Israel here and abroad while profiting economically from the conflict.”

The organizations that figure most prominently in the report are Breaking the Silence, B’Tselem and Geneva Initiative, but “evidence” is also presented against lesser known organizations. It is unclear whether any of this will convince the MKs who haven’t yet expressed support for the bill. About Breaking the Silence, the report says: “The Palestinian foundation Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law Secretariat, based in Ramallah, said it paid the organization to bring them at least one negative testimony against the IDF. Breaking the Silence provided 57 testimonies.” The report goes on to say that “Hamas admitted that it used the Breaking the Silence report on Operation Protective Edge for its war on Israel.”

The reports’ authors also claim that B’Tselem received funding from a Palestinian organization to investigate the conduct of IDF soldiers during Operation Protective Edge. “The Palestinian organization funded a Knesset lobbyist for B’Tselem. This organization works to block the demolition of terrorists’ homes and is quoted dozens of times in the UN’s investigative report,” they say.

The report also says that Yesh Din accuses the IDF of committing war crimes. “Yesh Din’s legal adviser, Michael Sfard, has defended PLO members in federal court in New York. The organization plays an active part in the work of Breaking the Silence.”

Nine points are cited against the Public Committee Against Torture, among them that it receives tens of thousands of dollars from a Palestinian foundation in Ramallah, works to make it more difficult for the security forces to interrogate terrorists and accuses Israel of committing war crimes.

Regarding some of the lesser-known organizations, the report says that the Akevot Institute for Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Research accuses Israel of making access difficult to government archives and of trying to conceal material concerning human rights violations by the state. It also says that Al-Marsad Arab Human Rights Center in the Golan Heights is taking action against oil drilling in the Golan Heights, arguing that it amounts to “exploitation of natural resources in occupied territory” and that this organization is encouraging a boycott of Israeli products.