Wednesday

16th Aug 2017

Opinion

EU should help stop Israel's NGO bill

  • The bill’s calculated intention is to undermine and silence human rights defenders (Photo: Tzipi Livni)

“Hasbara” is the Hebrew word for Israel’s international campaign to disseminate favourable information about the actions of its government.

In a classic hasbara move, the Israeli embassy to the European Union recently circulated a message aiming to curb the growing international criticism of anti-democratic legislation in Israel that seeks to hinder and restrict human rights and pro-peace organisations.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The embassy’s message focussed on a new “NGO bill” promoted by justice minister Ayelet Shaked and supported by prime minister Netanyahu, which stigmatizes human rights and pro-peace NGOs and mobilizes against their foreign funding, including funding by the European Union and EU member states.

The Israeli Knesset is expected to vote on the bill today (8 February).

Interestingly, the embassy’s message did not explain the content of that bill and merely claimed what it is not. It claimed that the bill doesn’t place any limits on the funding and activities of NGOs, that it doesn’t discriminate between NGOs on the basis of political orientation and that it doesn’t restrict their freedom of association.

However, the NGO bill’s intention and consequences dramatically differ from these claims. Recent statements made by leading Israeli politicians underline that.

In an orchestrated campaign against several Israeli NGO’s, education minister Naftali Bennet and the leader of the Yesh Atid party Yair Lapid compared some Israeli human rights defenders to “Jewish terrorists”.

Avigdor Lieberman, leader of the right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party, called Israeli human rights organisations “traitors”.

A member of prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party submitted a bill to define human rights NGOs as “moles” of foreign countries. Another bill was submitted specifically to outlaw “Breaking the Silence”, an Israeli organisation of veteran soldiers who testify about the realities of military occupation in the Palestinian territories.

Justice minister Ayelet Shaked also said on her Facebook page: “Israel’s haters do not necessarily speak foreign languages, dress differently or fight for terrorist organizations. Some of them manifest their hate through polite discussions from the podium of various parliaments, with arrogance and full confidence in light of the enormous financial support they receive from foreign countries. This is contaminated and corrupted money whose purpose is to subsidize self-hatred and ugly actions. A fifth column, no less.”

It is true that the new NGO bill promoted by Shaked doesn’t explicitly mention peace and human rights organizations. However, these organisation will be the only ones affected by the law - and that is the political goal of those who sponsor it.

This is due to the fact that no settler or “pro-occupation” organizations receive funding from foreign governments. These organisations are funded by the state of Israel and by private foreign donors who fund them at a much larger scale and are exempted from many transparency requirements.

Thus, it is clear that the bill’s calculated intention is to undermine and silence human rights defenders and to selectively target NGOs that expose and criticize the government’s policies in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

What does the new bill say?

According to it, Israeli NGOs receiving the majority of their funds from foreign governments will be required to mark their documents, publications and social media pages accordingly, to state the fact they are “foreign funded” in any inquiry made to an elected public representative or public official (including to soldiers) and to expose themselves as “foreign funded” in any discussion with public officials.

Additionally, NGOs will be required to state the names of the countries that donated to them.

A requirement to wear a badge to visibly mark human rights defenders as “foreign funded” when they visit the Israeli parliament has been omitted in an attempt to soften international criticism.

This NGO bill is just another aspect of a wider campaign to destroy the work of Israeli NGOs that call for an end to Israel’s 48-year old military occupation over the Palestinians.

During the last few months, human rights and pro-peace NGOs have been facing an aggressive incitement campaign by right-wing organisations. For example, activists of these organization have been planted as “spies” in various human rights and peace NGOs in order to collect incriminating evidence about their work.

Some of these infiltrations were funded by extreme right-wing settler organizations that receive public funding from Israeli authorities. These organisations won’t be affected by the new NGO bill.

The goal of that bill is clear: it is to name, shame, harass and discredit Israel’s most prominent human rights and peace organisations and to create an atmosphere of intolerance to alternative narratives that are based on peaceful co-existence and human rights.

It is a moral obligation, a democratic responsibility and a political interest of Israel’s friends in Europe to stand with those vulnerable organisations and defend their importance to Israel’s democracy and to fundamental values that Israel claims to share with the EU.

Don’t let hasbara stop you from saving these organisations.

Gaby Lasky is an Israeli human rights lawyer who represents human rights activists and organisations. She is also a member of the Meretz political party.

Israeli MPs to resume work on NGO gag laws

Flow of information to outside world on Israeli settler and military abuses could diminish, as Knesset resumes work with NGO gag laws on its agenda.

EU needs lasting solution to refugee crisis

If we continue with the failed approach of the last two years then this could become a systemic crisis that threatens the EU itself, writes Gianni Pittella.

Young Poles can halt Kaczynski’s illiberal march

Debates are ongoing on whether president Duda vetoing two out of three bills on judicial reform should be seen as the opposition's success. But the protests brought about another, much less disputed success.

Setting course for strong and focused EU

From strengthening the internal market to completing the energy union, the prime ministers of Denmark, the Netherlands and Finland set out their vision for the EU.

Column / Brexit Briefing

The return of the chlorinated chicken

Britain has only just started on the path towards a post-Brexit trade deal with the US, but you can already see the same all-too-familiar disagreements.

Stop blaming Trump for Poland’s democratic crisis

If you were to judge events purely on the US media's headlines, you would be forgiven for wondering if the Polish government had anything to do with its recent controversial judicial reforms.

News in Brief

  1. Russian power most feared in Europe
  2. UK unemployment lowest since 1975
  3. Europe facing 'explosive cocktail' in its backyard, report warns
  4. Danish police to investigate misuse of EU fishing rules
  5. German constitutional court questions ECB's €2tn spending
  6. Low support for Norway's labour party ahead of elections
  7. Slovakia's future is with core EU, says PM
  8. Italy relieved as migration drops to lowest level since 2014

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ACCABusinesses Must Grip Ethics and Trust in the Digital Age
  2. European Jewish CongressEJC Welcomes European Court of Justice's Decision to Keep Hamas on Terror List
  3. UNICEFReport: Children on the Move From Africa Do Not First Aim to Go to Europe
  4. Centre Maurits CoppietersWe Need Democratic and Transparent Free Trade Agreements Says MEP Jordi Solé
  5. Counter BalanceOut for Summer, Ep. 2: EIB Promoting Development in Egypt - At What Cost?
  6. EU2017EELocal Leaders Push for Local and Regional Targets to Address Climate Change
  7. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceMore Women Than Men Have Died From Heart Disease in Past 30 Years
  8. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  9. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference
  10. ECPAFood Waste in the Field Can Double Without Crop Protection. #WithOrWithout #Pesticides
  11. EU2017EEEstonia Allocates €1 Million to Alleviate Migratory Pressure From Libya in Italy
  12. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen's Message on the Anniversary of the Coup Attempt in Turkey

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Martens CentreWeeding out Fake News: An Approach to Social Media Regulation
  2. European Jewish CongressEJC Concerned by Normalisation of Antisemitic Tropes in Hungary
  3. Counter BalanceOut for Summer Ep. 1: How the EIB Sweeps a Development Fiasco Under the Rug
  4. CESICESI to Participate in Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee on Postal Services
  5. ILGA-EuropeMalta Keeps on Rocking: Marriage Equality on Its Way
  6. European Friends of ArmeniaEuFoA Director and MEPs Comment on the Recent Conflict Escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh
  7. EU2017EEEstonian Presidency Kicks off Youth Programme With Coding Summer School
  8. EPSUEP Support for Corporate Tax Transparency Principle Unlikely to Pass Reality Check
  9. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament Improves the External Investment Plan but Significant Challenges Ahead
  10. EU2017EEPM Ratas: EU Is Not Only an Idea for the 500mn People in the Bloc, It Is Their Daily Reality
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersCloser Energy Co-Operation Keeps Nordic Region on Top in Green Energy