Israeli Legislator Raps European Colleagues Over NGO Funding Bill

After five heads of European Parliament parties voice concern over bill that would 'expose' foreign-funded human-rights groups, MK Slomianksy says they 'don't know what they're talking about.'

MK Nissan Slomiansky
Emil Salman

A senior Israeli legislator has harshly criticized the European Parliament members who said Israel’s so-called NGO bill could harm the country’s cooperation with the European Union.

Under the bill, when representatives of nongovernmental organizations appear before Knesset committees they must disclose their funding from foreign governments if most of it comes from that source.

On Sunday, MK Nissan Slomiansky (Habayit Hayehudi), the chairman of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, scolded the five heads of European Parliament political groups. They had sent a letter to President Reuven Rivlin saying NGO officials might suffer physical harm if the bill is passed.

“The respected European Parliament members don’t know what they’re talking about and are simply reciting what the organizations in Israel tell them. After all, we aren’t stopping the money to those NGOs; all we want is transparency,” Slomiansky said.

“It’s hard for me to imagine that members of the European Union, who always have democracy in mind, have a problem with transparency. They’re talking just like the representatives of these organizations that claim we want to liquidate them.”

The Justice Ministry has found that 25 of the 27 organizations that would be affected by the bill are left-oriented human-rights groups. But according to Slomiansky, many of these NGOs are not involved in human rights.

“Among the entities in question are also groups that have absolutely no connection to human rights unless murder or abandoning soldiers is human rights,” Slomiansky said.

“If Breaking the Silence is a human rights group, all right. But even more extreme organizations get money from Ramallah,” he added, referring to the government of the Palestinian Authority.

“If human rights means informing on someone who sells land so they can kill him, or extracting secrets from Israeli soldiers, I don’t know the meaning of human rights.”

Slomiansky said European embassies in Israel had yet to ask to present any criticism to the committee.

“If they want to come and talk they can still do so,” he said. “If they come to the committee, they’ll realize that the bill refers only to transparency and not to other things. They’ll thank us yet.”

During the last committee meeting on the issue, an official from the Dutch Embassy sat in but did not ask to speak.

On Monday, the committee is expected to make a final decision on whether to add private foreign donors to the bill. Slomiansky believes that this version, which would affect many right-wing NGOs, would not be approved in the end.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has opposed a clause requiring NGO representatives to wear a special badge during meetings at the Knesset and ministries.

But Slomiansky says he might include this recommendation, which appears in the version submitted by MK Bezalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi).

“I haven’t yet decided whether or not to go with it,” Slomiansky said. “We’re completely independent on this matter. It’s true that there’s pressure from Bezalel, and he would certainly want it to be included in the final version of the law.”