Europe Steps Up Pressure to Quash NGO Bill

YERUSHALAYIM -
The European Parliament, in Strasbourg, France. (Patrick Hertzog/AFP/Getty Images)
The European Parliament, in Strasbourg, France. (Patrick Hertzog/AFP/Getty Images)

After the NGO Transparency bill passed a preliminary reading in the Knesset on Monday night, European lawmakers stepped up pressure on Israel to shelve the measure, which has been depicted by opponents as discriminatory against humanitarian and left-wing organizations.

“We write to you as Members of the European Parliament, who are committed to values of democracy, human rights, and freedom of expression, to convey our deep concern at the proposed ‘NGO Bill’,” read a letter signed by 50 members of the European Parliament addressed to Israeli MKs.

“We support transparency in the conduct of public affairs in any democracy. However, we are concerned that this law is inherently discriminatory. It is framed in a manner that delegitimizes and demonizes NGOs who promote and defend human rights, as well as the European states and institutions that fund them,” wrote the MPs from all 28 member nations.

The protest follows a letter sent on Friday by four German members of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu expressing similar sentiments.

The bill’s chief sponsor, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, denies the charges of discrimination, and maintains that it merely seeks to provide the country with a means of self-protection against foreign states that are trying to interfere in Israeli domestic affairs by compelling disclosure of financial sources.

Meanwhile, MK Michael Oren (Kulanu) took sides on the contentious issue, warning that Shaked’s bill would be damaging to Israel’s relations with Western countries vital to its security.

Oren was described by The Jerusalem Post as “the most vocal critic of the bill” in the government coalition. The former ambassador to the U.S., in a calculated gesture of rebellion against the coalition, absented himself from Monday night’s vote without arranging for someone from the opposition to offset him.