MK Khenin: Only Transparency Lacking is that of the Far Right

Israeli cabinet ministers have voted in favor of a bill that will crack down on human rights groups receiving funds from abroad, a move EU officials have said is reminiscent of totalitarian regimes. Opponents say the bill unfairly targets peace and human rights organizations critical of government policy, leaving right-wing pro-settlement groups immune from the same scrutiny, as the latter tend to rely on private donations – which are exempt from these measures.

A demonstration held Saturday night, December 26, against the so-called "Transparency Bill", outside the home of the far-right justice minister, Ayelet Shaked

A demonstration held Saturday night, December 26, against the so-called “Transparency Bill”, outside the home of the far-right justice minister, Ayelet Shaked (Photo: Peace Now)

The so-called “Transparency Bill,” sponsored by the far-right justice minister, Ayelet Shaked, requires organizations to provide details of the countries funding their activities, imposing a fine of NIS 29,000 (about $7,500) on any organization which fails to do so. In addition, employees of the targeted organizations will be required to wear special tags when present in the Knesset building, identifying of allegedly being agents of foreign countries. Hadash MK Ayman Odeh (Joint List) has accused the government of trying to silence criticism. “The government led by Binyamin Netanyahu is chipping away at what is left of the democratic space in Israel,” he said. “Human rights organizations fill an essential role in any society which aspires to be democratic, which is why they are constantly targeted as enemies of Israeli sovereignty.”

Commenting on the Transparency Bill, which was approved on Sunday, December 27, by the Knesset’s Ministerial Committee for Legislation’s, Hadash MK Dov Khenin (Joint List) has said: “The facts show that the only problem of transparency is with far-right organizations which receive confidential donations.” MK Khenin continued: “But the far-right government doesn’t care. It’s cynically using the issue of transparency here only as an excuse to silence its opponents.”

The organization “Breaking the Silence,” whose members are former Israeli officers and soldiers who oppose Israel’s actions in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, said the timing of the bill was intended to deflect attention away from the charging of the suspects arrested in connection with the deadly arson attack on a Palestinian family in the West Bank village of Duma at the end of July. “The reason the bill has come up for discussion now is simple: it’s a smokescreen to perpetuate the silence,” said former soldier Yehuda Shaul. “Last week we saw images from the wedding in which settlers repeatedly stabbed a picture of the Palestinian baby killed in the attack. We know that this week will be filled with discussions about Duma and the lack of law enforcement in the Palestinian occupied territories. “The fact is,” said Shaul, “that, for us, transparency laws are already in effect here: in our annual report we are required to report every donor contributing more than NIS 20,000, including private individuals.” In comparison, the pro-settlement group Elad receives estimated funding of NIS 60 million a year. Many right-wing non-profit groups have received exemptions from the Israeli NGO authority, meaning they do not have to reveal who their private donors are. “This new law is simply another attempt to politically persecute the left,” Shaul said.