Everything You Need to Know about Israel’s “NGO Law”

epa04752788 Israel's newly-appointed Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked smiles during a ceremony welcoming her at the Justice Ministry in Jerusalem, Israel, 17 May 2015. A nationalist in Bennett's Jewish Home party, Shaked is one of Israel's youngest ministers. EPA/GALI TIBBON / POOL

by Michael Schaeffer Omer-Man

Israel’s parliament passed the so-called “NGO Law” Monday night [July 11], a piece of legislation meant to stigmatize left-wing and human rights organizations in Israel as agents of foreign powers.

The law singles out NGOs that receive the majority of their funding from foreign state entities, forcing them to prominently declare their foreign funding in any publication or public engagement such as media appearances or events.

Contrary to what right-wing politicians claim, the law is not intended to create more transparency, since Israel already has very strict transparency laws and regulations. Furthermore, the vast majority of the organizations in question already list their sources of funding on their own websites and report the information to the government. (Of 27 organizations believed to be affected by the law, 25 were found to be left-wing or human rights groups.)

The intended effect of the NGO Law is to send a dangerous and stifling message to the Israeli public. The message it sends is that the values espoused and advanced by these organizations — like B’Tselem, Breaking the Silence, and others — do not exist organically in Israel; lawmakers are saying that the values of human rights and opposing the occupation are being imposed on Israel from the outside-in, and only for malicious purposes.

Both European Union officials and the Obama administration have previously criticized the bill. On Tuesday, the European Union blasted the law’s passing, saying it “undermines values of democracy and freedom of speech in Israel,” and called upon Israel to refrain from taking actions that may curtail freedom of expression and association.

Here are four must-read pieces on the NGO law from the +972 archives:

1. Israel is seeing a worrying resurgence of attempts to curtail and suppress dissent, particularly among anti-occupation and human rights activists. That process is not taking place in a vacuum.

2. In February fifty members of the European Parliament send an open letter to their Israeli counterparts urging them to abandon the NGO bill, which singles out European-funded human rights NGOs while not touching right-wing organizations.

3. There is nothing particularly new about the wave of attacks against human rights and the anti-occupation Left. There is nothing new about the increasingly hostile political atmosphere. Not at all. And yet something feels far worse, and scarier, this time around.

4. The NGO bill is a semi-fascistic law that harms democracy and silences dissent in a way that is reminiscent of Putin’s Russia, writes Meretz Secretary-General Mossi Raz. Maybe it’s time to talk about what kind of policies Israeli taxpayers are funding.

Michael Schaeffer Omer-Man is the editor-in-chief of +972 Magazine. Reprinted, with permission, from +972 Magazine. Photo: Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked.

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