'NGO Law Will Not Apply to Us,' Israeli Anti-occupation Groups Say

The new law, meant to silence organizations critical of the Israeli military, requires NGOs receiving 50% donation from foreign sources to declare it, but Breaking the Silence and B'Tselem say they're under the threshold

Screen grab from video by B'Tselem of incident near Yitzhar – February 2017
Screen grab / B'Tselem

Israeli nongovernmental organizations Breaking the Silence and B'Tselem announced Wednesday that since more than 50 percent of the donations they raised in the past year do not originate from foreign political entities, the law that passed Monday will not apply to them.

The Knesset passed overnight Monday the NGO Law, aimed at clamping down on organizations critical of the Israeli military. The law requires non-profits that receive the lion's share of their funding from abroad to disclose that fact publicly.

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According to a joint statement by the organizations, in 2017 48.8% of the funds raised by Israeli human-rights organization B'Tselem and 44.7% of the funds raised by the anti-occupation veterans' group Breaking the Silence originated in "foreign political entities." Since this does not amount to the 50 percent mentioned in the law, they are not subject to it and will not have to declare that they are supported by foreign entities.

Breaking the Silence Director Avner Gvaryahu said that "with the end of the occupation, all these hollow political propaganda laws will be remembered as a footnote." Hagai Elad, the director general of B'Tselem, added that "in order to continue to control the Palestinians, Israeli consciousness must be controlled as well. Controlling Palestinians involves constant violence and attempts to deal with Israeli resistance to this violence involve suppressing the opponents and labeling them as domestic enemies. These attempts at oppression will fail."

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi) said in response that "the figures from extreme leftist organizations testify more than anything to the great success of the NGO Law. This was the main purpose of the law - to reduce the interference of foreign countries in the internal affairs of the State of Israel. I am happy to see the law being assimilated."

The legislation will prevent lectures and activities at local schools which are organized by groups that are in favor of legal actions being taken abroad against IDF soldiers. The proposal passed by a majority of 43 to 24.

The law is perceived as targeting the Israeli non-profit organization Breaking the Silence, which seeks to provide testimonies by Israeli veterans who served in volatile areas such as the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza.