Israel Advances Law to Expose Foreign Funding of Rights Groups

  • Opponents say bill intended to stifle criticism of policies
  • Law crafted by justice minister approved by panel of peers

An Israeli ministerial panel approved a bill that would require civil rights groups to publicly disclose their funding from foreign political bodies, as opponents charged the government with trying to intimidate critics of its policies toward the Palestinians.

Many Israeli human-rights groups are dependent for a majority of their funding on donations from foreign governments and international bodies such as the European Union and United Nations. The new law, which requires a parliamentary vote for final approval, would require such organizations to declare their foreign funding on all official documents and in public forums.

EU Ambassador to Israel Lars Faaborg-Anderson has warned Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked in private that the law would damage her country’s standing as a democracy, Israel’s Army Radio reported. A spokesman for Faaborg-Anderson declined to comment on the report.

“This law deals only with the issue of transparency, which is also a value important for the European Union, and I expect the EU to respect Israel’s democratic society,” Shaked told Army Radio.

The bill is the latest measure by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government that political opponents say are aimed at stifling dissent toward its peace and security policies. Previous Netanyahu governments were forced to scuttle bills designed to limit foreign funding for rights groups after the attorney-general deemed them unconstitutional.

“The bill approved today would basically require the representatives of human rights groups to mark themselves with a special badge,” lawmaker Zehava Galon, leader of the leftist Meretz party, wrote in a Facebook post. “If this reminds you of some of the darkest regimes in history, it is no coincidence.”

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