Israeli government ministers approve bill requiring NGO ‘transparency’

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli government ministers approved a bill that would  require non-governmental organizations to publicly state that they receive funding from foreign countries.

The bill, known as the “Transparency Bill,” on Sunday unanimously passed the Ministerial Committee for Legislation. The bill was sponsored by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked  of the right-wing Jewish Home party.

The bill would require NGOs that receive more than half their funding from foreign governments to officially say so, including noting it on all official documents. NGO representatives also would be required to wear identification badges when they attend Knesset sessions, as required of lobbyists.

The legislation would disproportionately affect left-wing human rights organizations.

“It is a black day for civil liberties, associations, and Israeli thought. The government decision to approve the twisted NGO bill is a bullet between the eyes for Israel’s standing in the world,” opposition leader Isaac Herzog tweeted.

“This is internal politics at the expense of proper foreign policy. This is not a law that’s designed for transparency; it’s a law that will mark Israelis,” a leader of the Zionist Union party and a former Justice Minister said in a statement that she also tweeted.

“The NGO bill is a hate crime against democracy,” Peace Now said in a statement issued after the vote. “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 delegitimation of organizations criticizing the government’s policies.”

Peace Now called on Shaked to “promote legislation requiring right-wing organizations to expose the millions they receive from private donors abroad and from the state budget.”

The bill now moves to the Knesset for its first reading.

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