5 Quick Points on Israel's Contested NGO Law - and Netanyahu's Intentions to Make It Even Tougher

Netanyahu made his intentions to clamp down on human-rights groups clear today

Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a Likud faction meeting at the Knesset, May 29, 2017.
Olivier Fitoussi

What did Netanyahu say?

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to prohibit Israeli non-profit groups from accepting funding from foreign governments. Addressing his cabinet, Netanyahu said the existing legislation concerning such funding was "too weak."

What's the NGO law?

The current legislation, known as the NGO law, requires non-profits that receive the lion's share of their funding from abroad to disclose that fact publicly. However, it does not bar them from accepting such donations.

The real targets – human-rights groups

Though the legislation only refers to NGOs, it in fact mostly targets human-rights groups. According to the Justice Ministry, there are only 27 organizations in Israel that get more than half their funding from foreign governments. Of these, 25 are human rights organizations identified with the left.

What was the international reaction?

The law's implicit target – human-rights groups – caused an international outcry. The Obama administration warned that the law would have a "chilling effect" on Israeli civil society, and the European Union said it risked undermining Israeli democracy

And this is what Haaretz had to say

"The so-called NGO bill, which was passed into law by the Knesset Monday night, is an embarrassing stain on the State of Israel’s history and legal code. The law, which mandates special reporting requirements for nongovernmental organizations that get most of their funding from foreign governments, is nothing more than a show of anti-democratic strength by the nationalist right, aimed at undermining and inciting against human rights organizations and nonprofits affiliated with the left."