Ma’an News Agency | – –
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — The Israeli Knesset on Monday approved the first reading of the “NGO transparency bill,” denounced by critics as a move to delegitimize and weaken human rights organizations in Israel.
The first reading of the bill, which passed 50 to 43, sparked uproar among some lawmakers, two of whom were removed from the plenum after interrupting far-right Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who wrote the bill, a Knesset press release said.
Palestinian MK Hanin Zoabi of the Joint List was also eventually removed by ushers from the podium after she continued to speak after her time was up.
The bill would require any nonprofit organization that receives the majority of its funding from a “foreign political entity” to label itself as such in publications.
Accompanied by a preexisting law requiring that NGO’s report foreign governmental funding, the bill would also require nonprofits to list countries supporting it at “any forum at which they meet with elected officials and in their advertisements.”
The bill is believed to target left-wing rights organizations, many of them pro-Palestinian, as they are the primary recipients of foreign political aid.
Shaked, who initially proposed the bill in November, accused the Israeli left of historically “hijacking” the values of transparency solely to target the right, according to the Knesset release.
Meretz MKs Tamar Zandberg and Esawi Frej were forced to leave after they interrupted Shaked, who also accused the left of claiming ownership over what constituted democracy and justice.
Dov Khenin, an MK with the Joint Arab List party, addressed Shaked’s statements saying: “George Orwell has come back to life and has spoken here from the Knesset podium. It`s simply unbelievable — dark is light, silencing is democracy.”
Khenin argued that leftist rights organizations promoted transparency while the Israeli government covered “communities and secrets” of right-wing groups, specifically citing Im Tirtzu, a group supported by Shaked that recently accused four Israeli human rights activists of promoting terror.
Israeli watchdog Peace Now responding to the passing of the first reading by saying the bill was “a violent and discriminatory act of public shaming against those criticizing the government.”
Voicing concern regarding freedom of speech, the group said in a statement: “Coercing specific civil society organizations to mention their funding sources in every possible occasion is no different in principle than the wearing of special badges.”
It continued: “To improve Israel’s image in the world, what’s needed is a change in policy rather than a crackdown on dissent.”
The transparency bill has received major flak since its introduction, with US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro in a meeting with Shaked last month expressing concern that the bill could have “adverse effects” on rights organizations in Israel, according to Israeli daily Haaretz.
The bill is one of several that critics argue severely challenges the self-professed democratic values of the state of Israel . . .
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