Saturday

17th Apr 2021

Israeli MPs to resume work on NGO gag laws

The flow of information to the outside world on Israeli settler and military abuses could diminish, as the Knesset resumes work, on Monday (12 October), with NGO gag laws on its agenda.

The two NGO bills were drafted before the summer recess by members of the hard-right Jewish Home party in the ruling coalition - Bezalel Smotrich and Yinon Magal.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The Smotrich bill says NGOs which receive grants from foreign governments must "conspicuously indicate" their outside support on all publications and in all letters or "spoken communication" with civil servants.

They must also wear a special badge when meeting public officials.

The Magal bill says the NGOs are to be designated as "foreign agents".

They must label all publications with the phrase, which is to be "no smaller than one eighth of the page or advertising space".

It obliges them to file quarterly declarations of foreign income and of "the foreign activity which it has performed or intends to perform".

It obliges them to pay 37 percent tax on foreign grants.

The bill also says "government ministries and Israeli Defense Forces will avoid cooperation with a foreign agent", with "cooperation" designated as "among other things: the transfer of budgets, national service regulations, the organisation of conferences and symposiums, or joint publications".

'Foreign interests'

Smotrich's "rationale" is that foreign-funded NGOs shouldn't be allowed to "represent inside Israel the interests of foreign states in a non-transparent manner".

Magal says "they must present themselves as entities who explicitly represent foreign interests that do not align with the Israeli interest".

The Jewish Home party's justice minister, Ayelet Shaked, went further in June, describing foreign grants as "contaminated and corrupted money whose purpose is to subsidise self-hatred … a fifth column".

The draft laws are expected to be amalgamated in a government bill and tabled for a first reading in the coming days or weeks.

EU part-funded NGOs, such as B’Tselem, Breaking the Silence, or Territorial Jerusalem, which contribute information to EU and UN diplomats, say the legislation is an attempt to "gag" their work.

Breaking the Silence said if the laws are passed it "will undermine Israel's civil society".

For her part, Federica Mogherini, the EU's foreign policy chief, told the European Parliament in a statement on 28 September that she "personally" voiced concern on the potential crackdown on her last visit to Israel.

She added that EU support for Israeli civil society aims to "advance the rights of vulnerable groups or minorities within Israel, notably the Arab minority" and "promote ... respect for international humanitarian law and human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory".

A senior EU diplomat told this website the EU is "one of the biggest funders" of Israeli NGOs and that the laws, if passed, could damage the "atmosphere and environment" in which the NGOs work.

Violence

The Knesset session will open amid a fresh wave of violence.

On Monday morning, a Palestinian tried to stab an Israeli border guard before being shot.

On Sunday, an Arab Israeli stabbed four Jewish Israelis and a Palestinian driver detonated a bomb at a roadside checkpoint. A Palestinian boy also died in clashes in Ramallah, the de facto Palestinian capital, and an Israeli air strike killed a pregnant woman and her daughter in Gaza.

Mogherini phoned Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to appeal for "calm".

But the situation is likely to harden the NGO debate.

For its part, Breaking the Silence has highlighted that Honenu, a right-wing Israeli NGO, is channelling US donations to families of Jewish settlers convicted of murder, attempted murder, and kidnappings of Palestinians.

Meanwhile, the My Israel movement, an online group which says it has 140,000 cyber "soldiers", last month flooded the Dutch foreign ministry with signatures designed to stop B’Tselem from winning a Dutch prize, the Human Rights Tulip award.

Israel threatens EU-funded NGOs

Israel’s deputy foreign minister has told EU countries to stop funding left-wing NGOs which, she says, “blacken” Israel’s name.

EU diplomats feel helpless on Israel violence

Diplomats say normal communication channels ill-equipped to address "individual" violence, while Israeli and Palestinian officials trade blame on "incitement".

Opinion

EU should help stop Israel's NGO bill

Israeli MPs are voting on a bill designed to harm the work of EU-funded NGOs which promote human rights. Don't be fooled by what Israeli diplomats say.

EU shops to mark 'Israeli settlement' products

European retailers must say “product from … Israeli settlement” on wine, food, or cosmetics from over the green line, the Commission has said, prompting Israeli outrage.

News in Brief

  1. EU postpones decision on labelling gas 'sustainable'
  2. MEPs call for mass surveillance ban in EU public spaces
  3. Greek and Turkish ministers trade jibes in Ankara
  4. Biden repeats opposition to Russia-Germany pipeline
  5. Navalny in danger, letter warns EU foreign ministers
  6. Lithuania keen to use Denmark's AstraZeneca vaccines
  7. Gas plants largest source of power-sector emissions
  8. Study: Higher risk of blood clots from Covid than vaccines

Opinion

Why Russia politics threaten European security

Russia could expand hostile operations, such as poisonings, including beyond its borders, if it feels an "existential" threat and there is no European pushback.

Analysis

Ten years on from Tahrir: EU's massive missed opportunity

Investing in the Arab world, in a smart way, is also investing in the European Union's future itself. Let's hope that the disasters of the last decade help to shape the neighbourhood policy of the next 10 years.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market

Latest News

  1. US rejects Slovenia-linked plan to break up Bosnia
  2. Ukraine urges Borrell to visit Russia front line
  3. Could US sanctions hit Russia vaccine sales to EU?
  4. Polish court pushes out critical ombudsman
  5. Political crises in Romania and Bulgaria amid third wave
  6. Von der Leyen's summer plans undisclosed, after Ukraine snub
  7. Over a million EU citizens back farm-animal cage ban
  8. Three options for West on Putin's Ukraine build-up

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us