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Israel: Fury Over Legislation That Would Limit NGO Foreign Funding

The Israeli Twittersphere reacted strongly to the decision of the Ministerial Committee for Legislation in the Knesset, approving two bills that would heavily tax foreign donations of human rights non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and would severely limit the amounts the organizations are allowed to receive funding.

This legislation was supported by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and due to Israel's parliamentary system, once the coalition endorses the bill, it is most likely to pass in the plenum, where the coalition holds the majority of seats. The votes in the plenum regarding these two pieces of legislation are expected in the coming weeks. If the law passes, human rights NGOs are expected to appeal against it at the Supreme Court, demanding that the law be struck down.

The Israeli Attorney General and the Ministry of Justice have warned the committee that the law is unconstitutional (opposes Israel's Basic Laws) and is “very likely” to be struck down by the Supreme Court.

Hagai El-Ad, the Executive Director of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, one of the organizations that would have their funding cut as a result of these bills, wrote that the bills do not reflect the will of the Israeli public, which spent the summer protesting for social justice:

The summer passed, the Knesset’s recess was finally over. Hardly a week or two passed. Has the Knesset opted to now devote its time to what had preoccupied the public all summer, or rather return to anti-democratic-business-as-usual?

So far, the answer is quite clear, and it is a slap in the public’s face. Social legislation? The coalition votes against. Anti-democratic legislation? The coalition is vigorously pursuing this agenda, as if the summer never happened.

Ziv Pug also pointed out the disconnection between the social justice protests in Israel and the government's actions, listing the bills the Knesset has turned down since returning from recess [he]:

נגד זכויות אדם, נגד רווחה, לא דיור ציבורי או אפילו פיקוח על שכר דירה. ממשלת מדינת יהודה עוסקת אך ורק בשרידה ושדידה. זו לא הממשלה שלי
@Zivpug: Against human rights, against welfare, against public housing and even rent control. The government of Judea is only busy with survival and robbery. This is not my government.

Ran Cohen, the Executive Director of Physicians for Human Rights, another NGO that would have its funding cut, reacted on Twitter [he]:

אין לי שום דבר חכם להגיד על תמיכת ועדת השרים בחוק הגבלת המימון לעמותות. אבל יש לי אצבע משולשת, ואני מתכוון להשתמש בה ביתר שאת. י
@Cohen_Ran: I have nothing smart to say about the support of the Ministerial Committee for the law limiting funding of NGOs. But I do have a middle finger, and I plan on using it with greater intensity.

Others discussed the implication of the bills on Israel's democracy.

Blogger Haim Har-Zahav wrote [he]:

הערב אני והגברת נקיים שיחת ״חיינו לאן״, ולראשונה לא אפסול את אופצית ההגירה. לא כי שלום עכשיו לא תגייס תרומות- אלא כי יש מי שחושבים שאסור לה
@haimhz: Tonight the wife and I will have a conversation about our future, and for the first time, I will not rule out the option of emigrating. Not because Peace Now [leftist NGO] will not raise donations – but because some think is should be forbidden from doing so.

Avishai Burla wrote [he]:

לכל הבכיינים שמאימים לרדת מהארץ לברלין, אני חושב שישראל היא מדינה אירופאית נאורה לכל דבר. בדיוק כמו גרמניה רק בדילאי של 72 שנה
@avishay_b: To all the cry babies threatening to emigrate to Berlin, I think Israel is totally an enlightened European state. Just like Germany, only with a 72-year delay.

Blogger Noam R. wrote [he]:

הסיבה היחידה שהחוק החדש מדבר על ארגוני זכויות אדם ולא על מפלגות שמאל היא שהממשלה חושבת שדעת הקהל עוד לא בשלה. אבל חכו, גם זה יגיע
@noamr: The only reason the new law talks about human rights NGOs and not leftist parties is because the government thinks public opinion isn't ready. But way, it will get to this too.
זה לא לפתע, זה לא בבום, זה בהדרגה, לאט לאט, בהתבשלות. #פאשיזם. הוא זוחל
@Rubynet: It doesn't happen suddenly, bam and that's it, it happens gradually, very slowly. #fascismIsCreeping
מכל הממשלות שהיו לנו בשנים האחרונות, היחידה ששורדת קדנציה שלמה זו הפאשיסטית?! מה לעזאזל, ישראל?
@DanielleBN: Out of all the governments we've had in recent years, the only one that lasts a whole term is the fascist one?! What the hell, Israel?
הכותרת בטמקא “מכה לשמאל: הממשלה בעד הגבלת התרומות”. חדשות לטמקא: זה לא מכה לשמאל, זה מכה אנושה לדמוקרטיה. אה, רגע.
@OferRon: The headline on Ynet [one of the most popular news sites in Israel]: “A hit for the Left: the government supports limitations of donations.” Newsflash to Ynet: it is not a hit for the Left, it's a devastating blow to the democracy. Oh, wait…

A widely-shared photo on Facebook, originally posted by We Won't Shut Up, a campaign by a coalition of leftist NGOs, congratulated Israel:

"Congrats to the government of Israel! For joining the exclusive club of countries that place limitations on foreign funding for NGO! Signed: Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sierra Leon, Belarus, China"

"Congrats to the government of Israel! For joining the exclusive club of countries that place limitations on foreign funding for NGO! Signed: Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sierra Leon, Belarus, China"

Others pointed out the hypocrisy in this legislation, considering Netanyahu's election campaign was mostly funded by foreign donors, and the newspaper supporting him, Yisrael Hayom, is funded by the American casino-tycoon, Sheldon Adelson.

A fake account of Yisrael Hayom, the pro-Netanyahu paper, posted [he]:

צריך להבין שמדינה דמוקרטית לא יכולה לאפשר לנתינים זרים לכוון ולשלוט במדיניות הפוליטית, החברתית והערכית שלה. רק כשזה בתקשורת זה די סבבה.
@Not_IsraelHayom: You must understand that a democratic country cannot allow foreign citizens to direct and dictate its political, social and moral policies. It's only pretty good when they control the media.

Daniel K appealed to the United States:

@dkapuchino: Hey, @barackobama @ronpaul Israel just voted to ban foreign donations to political NGOs. Does that cover US foreign aid to the IDF as well?

Blogger Itamar Shaltiel responded [he]:

ראש הממשלה, שלמעלה מ-95 אחוזים מהתרומות שלו מגיעות מארה”ב, תומך בחוק שמגביל תרומות מחו”ל לעמותות. מדהים. באמת מדהים
@itamars: The Prime Minister, over 95 per cent of whose donations come from the United States, supports a law that limits foreign donations to NGOs. Amazing. Truly amazing.

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