Netanyahu: EU to Stop Funding Israeli Civil Liberties Umbrella Group

Prime minister's office attributes EU move to Netanyahu's efforts ■ The Freedom Protection Council is a consortium of civil society organizations seeking to act against government restrictions on civil liberties

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem.
Sebastian Scheiner/AP

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's bureau announced Tuesday that following the premier's efforts, the European Union would stop funding the Freedom Protection Council, a consortium of civil society organizations.

The Freedom Protection Council, which was founded last year by Ilam – the Arab Center for Media Freedom Development and Research – consists of some 20 Jewish and Arab NGOs, including B’Tselem, Adalah, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and the Mossawa Center.

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The groups have all banded together in order to provide a response to the issue of restrictions the government promotes on a span of civil rights and liberties.  

The EU has not responded to the statement. Ilam’s director, Kholod Massalha, said Ilam was looking into the matter.

Senior officials at Israel's Foreign Ministry told Haaretz that an official report on the EU's halting of the funds was communicated recently to the Israeli Embassy in Brussels.

Several organizations affiliated with the council did not take the announcement seriously. The initiative, according to them, will not have a significant effect on their everyday activities.  

Right-wing groups have attacked the council over the past year. The Facebook page of the right-wing group Ad Kan wrote last month that the council works “against Israel’s character as a Jewish a democratic state” and that it “openly interferes in Israeli domestic politics.”

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Netanyahu’s statement Tuesday contained a similar message, claiming that which the council “undermines Israel’s right to existence and acts to defame it internationally.” According to Netanyahu “this is just the beginning. We will continue to act with determination against organizations that work to delegitimize the State of Israel and seek to defame it and the Israel Defense Forces internationally.” 

In a May 2017 conference, council members said it had been established to address “the feeling that the space for action of human rights groups was becoming increasingly limited.” The organizers cited as examples the nation-state law (which was then only a bill) and legislation against left-wing groups.

Prof. Amal Jamal, senior adviser to the council and a senior political science researcher at Tel Aviv University, said at the conference: “There is a process of normalization of the assault on human rights groups. This was not part of our reality in the pastthis is exceptional and dangerous. We haven’t reached the point where we can’t speak out at all, but we must act so we don’t get there.”