Americans for Peace Now (APN) is alarmed and appalled by the Israeli Cabinet's approval today of a bill aimed at intimidating and silencing progressive Israeli non-profit organizations such as our sister-organization Peace Now (Shalom Achshav), Israel's preeminent peace movement.
The bill, introduced by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked of the far-right Jewish Home party compels representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs, or non-profit organizations), which receive funding from foreign governments, to wear special tags on their clothing whenever visiting the Knesset, and to provide details about their foreign funding in any communication with elected officials.
Contrary to allegations of the bill's backers, its objective is not to secure "transparency" of nonprofit funding, but rather to attack Israeli organizations that challenge the policies and the agenda of Israel's right wing government. The bill is about de-legitimizing these groups by depicting them as agents of foreign governments.
Almost all Israeli NGOs receive funding from abroad. Foreign support for Israeli human rights, civil rights and peace organizations comes mainly from foreign governments and foundations. Foreign funding for right-wing Israeli NGOs comes mainly from US Evangelical foundations and wealthy US right-wing Jews such as casino mogul Sheldon Adelson. Some also enjoy Israeli government support. The bill adopted today by the Israeli Cabinet's Legislation Committee targets only the type of foreign funding that progressive NGOs receive, although these NGOs publicly state, in keeping with existing law, what the source of their funding is. The bill, however, permits right-wing NGOs -- like those funding West Bank settlements and anti-democratic and racist campaigns – to continue keeping their funding sources secret.
APN joins Peace Now in strongly condemning the Cabinet's Legislative Committee's approval of the new bill. Like our colleagues in Israel, we view it as a hate-crime against Israeli democracy.
Here is Peace Now's full statement on the draft legislation: "The NGO Bill was just approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation. The bill is a hate crime against democracy. Instead of fighting against Jewish terrorism coming from the right-wing, the government is busy with legislation aimed at forcing peace and human rights activists to wear special badges. The bill, also known as the 'transparency bill' has nothing to do with transparency and everything to do with the de-legitimation of organizations criticizing the government's policies. If the Minister of Justice is truly interested in transparency, she must first and foremost promote legislation requiring right-wing organizations to expose the millions they receive from private donors abroad and from the state budget."
Peace Now activists last night held a vigil opposite Minister Shaked's home in Tel Aviv to demonstrate against the legislation she initiated, carrying signs that said: "The right will not Silence me."