Summary: Knesset approves NGO ‘foreign donations’ bill

11th July 2016: the Israeli Knesset has voted 57-48 to approve a controversial bill requiring non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to publicly report if they receive more than 50 percent of their annual budget from foreign governments.

NGOs affected by the law will be required to declare their sources of funding in all publications, including letters to government and public officials, and in reports to the registrar of non-profit associations. Those that fail to abide by these regulations will be fined 29,200 shekels (US$7,540).

Human rights organisations believe the Bill is targeting them because of their criticism of the Israeli government’s policies in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. 25 of the 27 Israeli organisations affected by the Bill are human rights groups.

In June 2016, three UN human rights experts urged members of the Knesset not to approve the NGO Bill. The experts expressed grave concern that the legislation would chill the speech of human rights NGOs by subjecting them to harsh penalties for violations and delegitimising them publicly.

SRT grantee Adalah said, “It is […] clear that the purpose of the law is to mark human rights groups that offer alternative positions and critique government policy. Financial assistance from international sources is acceptable and necessary in places and regimes where there are serious problems of human rights violations.”

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