The Justice Ministry published yesterday a preliminary draft of a new bill which demands organizations receiving funding from foreign governments mark their documents accordingly when presenting them to lawmakers.
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According to the bill, groups will be forced to wear a tag indicating the involvement of foreign nations in their organizations activities when they are in the Knesset. Such groups are almost exclusively identified with the left. The bill is only a governmental memorandum now, a preliminary stage in which the draft is published for the public before it is put to its first vote.
According to Justice Minister Shaked, the bill’s sponsor, “blatant intervention in internal Israeli affairs by foreign government through funding is unprecedented and widespread, and infringes on the accepted norms and rules of relations between democratic countries,” she said, adding that foreign funding of organizations active within Israel “undermine [the state’s] sovereignty and identity.”
She cited the role Israeli human rights groups played in the UN inquiry into Israel’s last conflict in Gaza, largely regarded as hostile to Israel. “[The UN report] accuses Israel of war crimes and intentionally harming citizens during Operation Protective Edge, which was based on the testimony by Israeli NGOs like B’Tzelem, Breaking the Silence and Adallah.”
The bill is comprised of four central clauses: An NGOs that receives the majority of its financial support from foreign governments will be required to note so on its all of its publications, any written communications with lawmakers and any hearing or discussion involving a written protocol. Second, the NGO will also be required to make its foreign funding known in any verbal discussion being held in places where public or elected officials work. Third, such NGOs will be also be required to note the name of the foreign entities funding its activities on reports sent out to lawmakers and decision makers. And finally, like lobbyists, representatives of such organization will wear tags naming them and their organizations.
The bill was initially proposed as private legislation by Shaked and another lawmaker, but has since been embraced by the government and is now being spearheaded by the Justice Ministry. Unlike private legislation, governmental legislation does not face a preliminary reading in the Knesset.
Adalah, the legal center for Arab minority rights in Israel, commented: “This bill seeks to mark human rights organizations that express different views and criticize the government’s policies. Justice Minister Shaked well knows that all registered non-profit organizations, including Adalah, report, pursuant to the Law of Associations, on their finances and funding. This information is publicly available. Funding from international sources to human rights organizations is legitimate and necessary, especially in states where there is a serious problem of human rights violations. Therefore we believe that the Minister Shaked’s proposal is really intended to harass and incite against human rights organizations, a practice, which is characteristic of dark regimes historically as well as in the present.”