Under Pressure, NGO Donation Transparency Bill Gets Watered Down

YERUSHALAYIM -
Peace Now activists hold signs reading "the right wing will not silence us", as they protest an NGO bill proposed by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked at her residence in Tel Aviv. Photo by Tomer Neuberg/FLASH90
Peace Now activists hold signs reading “the right wing will not silence us,” as they protest an NGO bill proposed by Israel Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked at her residence in Tel Aviv. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

A law that will require greater transparency on the source of donations and gifts to Israeli nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) was modified somewhat by the Knesset Law and Constitution Committee as it was being prepared for a second and third reading. The law, which has been the subject of criticism by foreign governments, was modified to remove the requirement that representatives of NGOs in the Knesset wear special name tags to identify themselves and the organizations they work for when in the building.

However, the “meat” of the bill – the requirement of organizations to list the source of their funding – will remain. The change came after numerous MKs, including members of the coalition, said they would find it “difficult” to support the bill proposed by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked in its current form. According to several reports, representatives from the United States and the European Union have expressed their dissatisfaction with the law, and have contacted MKs to convince them to vote against the bill.

The law will require that NGOs report the receipt of funding from foreign organizations, including governments, and advertise that fact prominently. The chief target of the bill are leftist groups, many of which receive funding from foreign governments. According to the Attorney General, the law will also require that donations by private individuals be listed.

According to Shaked, the interference by foreign governments in Israel’s internal affairs is unprecedented anywhere, and goes against all norms and accepted practices in democratic countries. Such interference seeks to upset Israel’s sovereignty and interferes with the authority of its elected officials.” The law would apply equally to all groups, left and right, she said.

Leftist groups have called the law “an attempt to silence us and to end the democratic right to protest and disagree” with government policies.