The Law to Limit Democracy

Once again, a McCarthyist bill to to persecute, abuse and silence civil society organizations has surfaced in Israel.

Haaretz Editorial
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Haaretz Editorial

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation will discuss on Sunday the proposed law known as the “nonprofit organizations bill,” sponsored by MKs Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi) and Robert Ilatov (Yisrael Beiteinu) to amend the Income Tax Code.

The bill proposes - once again, continuing similar bills proposed in the previous Knesset and blocked by Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein because of serious constitutional difficulties - to persecute nonprofit organizations and other groups (mostly those whose goal is to promote human and civil rights), to silence them and abuse them.

According to the bill, certain nonprofit organizations that receive donations from foreign entities will be required to pay a 45 percent tax on those contributions. The new law would apply, among others, to nonprofits that act or call for a boycott of Israel, for disinvestment, for levying sanctions on the state and its citizens, and for putting Israel Defense Forces soldiers on trial in international courts. In addition, it would be enough for just one member of the nonprofit organization’s management to call for these actions for the law to be applied to the entire NPO.

Alongside criminal acts such as incitement to racism and aiding terror of an enemy state - which are banned in any case - the list of activities for which donations to the nonprofit would be taxed include statements (even if not explicit) such as the rejection of Israel as a Jewish state. Also, calls to put IDF soldiers on trial for war crimes. Even the act of revealing these acts and calling to investigate them would be penalized by the law.

This proposed law is a mortal blow to the freedom of political expression and one of its important by-products - the freedom of association. The bill applies the destructive proposed arrangements to nonprofit organizations in general, even when a member of its management is acting completely as a private individual.

The unavoidable result of the proposed law will be the creation of a “blacklist” of people who signed petitions or expressed themselves in one of the ways listed in the bill, and who will thus not be able to be appointed to the leadership of the nonprofit organizations. They will be forced to place limits on their freedom of expression.

The social, political and moral damage entailed in this bill is also matched by the international damage - the adoption of the “nonprofit organizations bill” will harm Israel’s deteriorating international standing even more, and will add it to a list of countries, such as President Vladimir Putin’s Russia, in which the freedom of expression and the individual is narrowing.

The government must completely reject this proposed McCarthyist law, which harms the very breath of the democratic regime, and to preserve the freedom of expression – which is one of its fundamental principles.

The Knesset.Credit: Emil Salman

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