EU-US urge Israel to scrap legislation against civil society

14.11.2011 - 15:54

The Israeli government, with the support of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has proposed legislation limiting the funding by foreign governments of Israeli non-profit organisations. The EU's ambassador to Israel Andrew Standley has applied pressure on the office of Israel's PM by contacting his national security advisor, Yaakov Amidror, urging that the proposed legislation be scrapped and that passing it could harm Israel's standing in the West as a democratic country. The United States, Canada, and Norway have also joined the EU in pressuring Israel to do away with the legislation, while Britain and the Netherlands have begun to take individual action.

Specifically, the proposed law would bar political non-profit organisations from receiving more than NIS 20,000 from foreign governments or international agencies such as the UN or the EU.

An explanation in support of the bill said it was necessary in light of what were called "acts of incitement by many organisations operating in the guise of human rights organisations that seek to influence political discourse, the character, and policy of the State of Israel."

The EU is said to be promoting civil society activity in Israel and the proposed laws would be viewed as an attempt to limit that and part of a wider disturbing development.

In addition to individual EU countries, including Denmark, Belgium and Spain, as well as the U.K. and the Dutch government, the EU itself funds Israeli non-profits. The United States and Canada do so too, and the American embassy has registered its own concern to the prime minister's office.