New Law on NGOs Draws Criticism

14 July 2016

The passing of the controversial NGO Law earlier this week drew sharp responses within Israel and from around the world.

Speaking for the United States, State Department Spokesperson John Kirby warned of “the chilling effect that this new law could have on NGO activities.” He added that the “a free and functional civil society is essential, and governments must protect freedoms of expression, including dissent and association, and create an atmosphere where all voices can be heard.”

Flagship NIF grantee the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) said: “The law is but one of a series of bills and initiatives that oppose legitimate social and political action. Instead of facilitating debate, there are individuals who wish to silence criticism. Activists and people working in organizations are entitled to speak out without being labeled. ACRI hopes that this law deters neither organizations nor their activists from continuing to fight for Israeli democracy, which is so important to us all.”

Breaking the Silence commented: “They want to silence us, so that they can continue building settlements and expanding the occupation, without anyone standing in their way.”

Meanwhile, Peace Now said that the law’s “true intention is to divert the Israeli public discourse away from the occupation and to silence opposition to the government’s policies.” All three organizations are targeted by the new law.

MKs from the left have also been speaking out.

Opposition leader MK Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) said that the law “symbolizes the budding fascism that is rising and flourishing in Israeli society…an attempt to avoid the real debate over the character of the country and [over the government’s] failures.”

Joint List leader Ayman Odeh said: “You chose to persecute two kinds of organizations: those working for equality and those battling against the occupation. With that, you’ve clearly marked your enemies – peace and equality.”

Meanwhile, Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union) pointed out the hypocrisy of the legislation: “If you really wanted transparency, you’d have adopted my bill, which requires that everyone, but everyone, report on the sources of their income. This is nothing more than a campaign to divide Israeli society, one that reached its apotheosis already in the last elections.”

In an interview on leading Israeli radio station Reshet Bet, NIF chair Talia Sasson said “Only 27 NGOs are on this list, and they’re all from the left. They found a way to isolate the left. Why is the interference of private individuals allowed but not a foreign country? There’s supposed to be equality… There’s transparency already – this bill hasn’t advanced transparency; it’s just delegitimized those who disagree with the government…everyone who loves Israel needs to struggle against this law.”

Following the vote, some of the targeted organizations published an advertisement in the Israeli press. “Maybe we didn’t succeed in stopping the NGO bill. But the NGO bill won’t succeed in stopping us,” the ad read.


NIF’s statement on the law can be found here.