|NIF Intensifies Campaign against Bills to Limit Funding for Israeli Human Rights Groups|
|Written by Ruby Ong|
NIF/SHATIL has mobilized to thwart two new anti-democratic bills, which seek to limit funding to Israel's human rights organizations. Both bills were passed by Israel's Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday. The first bill, proposed by MK Ophir Akunis (Likud), seeks to cap donations to NGOs by foreign states, UN agencies and the EU to NIS 20,000 ($5,400) per year. The second bill, proposed by MK Fania Kirschenbaum (Israel Beitenu), would impose a 45% tax on all such donations.
As part of its intensive campaign against the anti-democratic legislation, NIF/SHATIL and flagship grantee Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) composed and sent a ten-point paper to MKs, the media, key public figures and opinion shapers, explaining the new bills and the damage they would do to Israeli democracy and Israel's image worldwide, as well as to the country's human rights and other progressive organizations. The final point stresses that the new bills violate the US State Department's "Guiding Principles on Non-Governmental Organizations."
Click here to read the document.
In the wake of the 11-5 vote by the Ministerial Committee, NIF issued a strongly worded press release condemning the bill. The ten points and the condemnation received widespread exposure in the Israeli media including this Jerusalem Post article "Bill is a shameful moment for Israel".
At the same time, NIF Israel swiftly mobilized a social networking campaign. As an opening shot NIF posted a sarcastic ad on its "Don't Remain Silent" Facebook page (in Hebrew) immediately after the bills received the ministerial committee approval. The ad said, "Congratulations to the Israeli government on joining the exclusive club that restricts international funding of NGOs: Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Belarus and China”. In the first 12 hours after the post, the ad received 1,240 "likes", and the number of new members to the page rose by more than 1,100.
Congratulations on to the Israeli government on joining the exclusive club" – NIF's popular spoof Facebook ad reads.
And as of today, more than 2,000 American and other supporters of NIF have emailed the Prime Minister asking that the legislation be shelved.
Before proceeding to the full Knesset for their first readings, the bills must now be presented once again to the Ministerial Committee. Amid the furor and attacks from opposing MKs, including stalwart defenders of democracy in his own Likud party, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided that the bills must be amended before being introduced in the Knessett.
At this dark hour for Israeli democracy, NIF/SHATIL is strengthening our endeavors to combat the current deluge of proposed anti-democratic legislation. As we go to press, additional legislation and government action threatens not only the future of Israel's human rights NGOs, but virtually every democratic institution in Israel including the Supreme Court and the media.
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