Israeli NGO Law Would Apply Almost Solely to Human Rights Organizations

Knesset check finds 25 of 27 affected NGOs are human rights groups.

Thousands march in Tel Aviv in protest of incitement against President Reuven Rivlin and left-wing NGOs, December 19, 2015.
Moti Milrod

The so-called NGO bill, requiring nonprofit organizations supported by foreign governments to publicize their funding sources, will apply to 27 bodies, all but two of which are human rights organizations, a check by the Knesset has found.

The review was carried out at the behest of MK Miki Rosenthal of the Zionist Union. The findings were presented Wednesday to the Knesset’s Constitution committee, but due to the objection of committee chairman Nissan Slomiansky, the full list of NGOs affected was not revealed to the panel.

“What that number means is one thing and one thing only — first of all, the goal was set: elimination of the human rights organizations. Then a law was tailored to hurt them and only them,” Rosenthal said on the results of the review.

The bill passed its preliminary vote in February. It is slated to undergo its final votes these very days.

Rosenthal had asked advocate Yafit Shemer of the Companies Authority at the Justice Ministry to put together the list of organizations to which the law would apply. On Wednesday, she came to a meeting of the Knesset committee armed with the full list. But after Slomiansky forbade her to present it, she left.

Rosenthal’s request of Shemer followed Slomiansky’s rejection a week ago of a request by the panel's opposition members to see the list in advance of debate on the bill. They sought to show that the bill in its present form would affect only NGOs associated with the left.

Last week Sigal Kogot, legal counsel to the committee, warned that the law, as is, humiliates the NGOs.

On Wednesday, the Knesset approved the "V-15 bill" limiting funding in a preliminary reading to political associations. The bill grew out of last year's election campaign by the V-15 organization, which called to replace the right-wing government. The bill seeks to regulate the election activity of NGOs unaffiliated with political parties, for example the ferrying of voters to the polls.

The bill subjects such associations to the Party Propaganda Law, imposing a list of constraints on them. As agreed in the coalition, after its preliminary approval in Knesset the bill will undergo further discussion. MK Yoav Kisch, who sponsored the legislation, said, “Our goal should be clear. On right and left, the democratic process belongs solely and only to the citizens of Israel.”