The introduction of a draft bill designed to cripple Israeli human rights groups which monitor official and military practices in the Occupied Palestinian Territories has raised doubts about the government’s commitment to democracy, a British newspaper has reported. According to the Independent, the bill presented by Knesset member Yinon Magal of the far-right Jewish Home Party, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling coalition, will undermine the funding sources of human rights organisations which rely heavily on external support.
Under the bill, any organisation that receives more than $50,000 a year from foreign governments, would have to pay a 37 per cent tax on those donations. It also stipulates that government ministries and the army must refrain from cooperating with foreign-funded NGOs, which must make clear their funding sources in their correspondence.
Magal said that the proposed law aims to prevent external criticism of Israel. “Foreign governments come and donate tens of millions of dollars to organisations that act against the policy of the Israeli government and slander Israel and the army of Israel,” he told the Independent. “This has to stop.” Such governments, he added, “can say whatever they want but when they spend all this money to change the policy determined by the democratic choice of Israel’s citizens we have to put a stop to it.”
The newspaper pointed out that Israeli human rights organisations played a key role in highlighting the violations of the Israeli government and army. It highlighted two groups – B’Tselem and Breaking the Silence – which will be affected significantly by the bill. The work of both groups was drawn on in the UN report on last summer’s war against the Gaza Strip issued on Monday. The international fact-finding commission found that Israel and Hamas may have committed war crimes during the Israeli offensive.