JFNA officials lambast Israeli on treatment of women, NGOs

JTA

The official spoke in a conference call with constituents of the Jewish Federations of North America, who pressed him hard about a New York Times story about a scientist who was banned by a Cabinet minister from accepting an award in her honor because of religious objections.

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Also discussed were reports of harassment of girls attending a school in Beit Shemesh, where the Haredi population is rapidly expanding.

The official said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had ordered ministries never again to ban women from receiving awards, and noted that the country’s leaders– including many Orthodox and haredi leaders — had condemned the Beit Shemesh incidents. He said Netanyahu was fully committed to equality for women.

Callers said they were not fully reassured, saying that they were concerned that “culture” of gender discrimination was growing in Israel.

The Israeli official also fielded questions about proposed laws that would monitor and possibly restrict foreign funding for non-governmental groups. The official defended concerns in the Knesset, including in Netanyahu’s Likud Party, about the NGOs, saying some sought to end Israel’s Jewish and democratic character.

One questioner pushed back, saying that the proposed laws appeared only to target groups on the left, noting that they targeted only foreign government funding, while nationalist groups were funded principally by wealthy individuals.