MK Khenin warns against passage of anti-NGO bill

The anti-democratic and fascist NGO bill aimed at curtailing the activities of “anti-Israeli groups” in Israel passed a major hurdle on Sunday after being approved by the Ministerial Committee on Legislation. However, the bill still faces considerable opposition on several fronts.

"There is a very intense attack on the democratic sphere we have in Israel," MK Dov Khenin from Hadash told i24 News during an exclusive interview Sunday

“There is a very intense attack on the democratic sphere we have in Israel,” MK Dov Khenin from Hadash told i24 News during an exclusive interview Sunday

The bill, sponsored by MK Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi) and Robert Ilatov (Likud-Beytenu), would force any nongovernmental organization operating in Israel to pay a tax of 45 percent on contributions from political groups outside Israel if it calls for a boycott of Israel, the trying of Israel Defence Forces’ personnel in international tribunals or “supports the armed struggle carried out by Israel’s enemies or by anti-Israeli terrorist groups.”

Likud-Beytenu and Habayit Hayehudi ministers voted in favor of the bill, with Yesh Atid and Hatnua ministers opposed. Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (Hatnua), who heads the Ministerial Committee on Legislation, said she would file an appeal with the committee. The appeal essentially ensures the bill will not be forwarded to the Knesset plenum for a preliminary reading. “This is a populist piece of legislation that is masquerading as a patriotic bill. It shows no understanding of the complexity of the world we live in” Livni said. Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein is one of the opponents of the bill. “It infringes on a series of constitutional rights, chiefly the freedom of expression and the freedom of association,” Weinstein said. According to Weinstein, the proposed tax is “a fine of sorts, a punitive measure that is designed to stifle contributions to these NGOs and thus compromise the free discourse in the State of Israel.”

Weinstein stressed that laws that impose restrictions on contributions and the freedom of expression in civil society are common in “a number of countries with which Israel may not want to associate itself nor be among their ranks.” He stressed that such laws are occasionally manifested through human rights violations. Weinstein said similar things on Monday, warning that the bill would result in Israel being subject to “libelous claims.” He said there was a good chance that the bill would ultimately be shelved.

“The real goal of the NGO bill is to incite against the pro-peace organizations and human-rights groups and to compromise the contributions to organizations whose world view is different from to the settlers’ world view and that of the right-wing government,” said MK Dov Khenin (Hadash). He echoed Gal-On, saying that the “ministerial committee’s green-lighting of a bill that is against the pro-democracy and pro-peace NGOs dovetails the actions against the Bedouin and the African asylum seekers and the homophobic declarations from last week. This tainted spate of events requires a coalition of diverging groups that would join hands in the defense of democracy.”

“There is a very intense attack on the democratic space we have in Israel,” MK Khenin party told i24 News during an exclusive interview Sunday. Khenin was referring to the bill, passed by the Ministerial Legislative Committee, that declares donations to anti-Israel non-governmental organizations from foreign governments no longer exempt from tax. According to Khenin the bill limiting foreign government donations to far-left NGOs is a “very worrying development” that is intended to tax all kinds of human rights, democracy and peace-minded movements. “It is not a matter of taxation, but a penalty,” he added. “It’s using taxation as a kind of political penalty.”

Khenin expressed hope that left-wing parties would be able to block the bill and stop it from becoming law. He suggested that the fact that the government initiated the bill shows that they are perhaps afraid of the left wing. “With all our problems and with all our weaknesses, the Israeli left is still considered something to be afraid of.”As well as attacking the government, Khenin also condemned some of the left-wing parties for not being more open to all sectors of Israeli society. “The left as a whole is not speaking enough with the Arab minority in Israel,” he said. “They are speaking about them and not with them.”

Khenin also spoke about despair within the Arab community of Israel and how, after many years of trying to make a change with rather limited results, many are giving up, especially younger Arabs. With regards to the Palestinian conflict, Khenin was adamant that the two-state solution is the only solution. “One state in our situation is detached from reality,” he said.


Right-wing MKs revive bill that targets human rights organizations funding