Human Rights Groups Fret About Funding Rules

By Haaretz

Published November 16, 2011.

Human rights organizations in Israel have begun searching for strategies that will allow them to cope with a bill that would limit their access to foreign funding.

Some of the organizations are working directly with ministers and Knesset members in an attempt to thwart the bill or revise it. Others are assessing alternative arrangements that would allow them to continue receiving funding in round-about ways.

The bill is one of a series of controversial bills recently proposed by right-wing lawmakers.

Sources from the legal department of one of Israel’s most active human rights organizations in the Israeli-Arab society, Adalah, confirmed that management are examining two alternatives for dealing with the situation. The first strategy would involve cancelling Adalah’s registration in Israel as a non-governmental organization, and registering instead as an international NGO. This would allow Adalah to operate in Israel as a foreign organization. The second option would be to cease Adalah’s activities in Israel and allocate staff members to human rights organizations abroad.

The sources from Adalah explained that the alternatives arose after conversations with legal donators from Israel and abroad, including those in the Arab world, in which sponsors expressed support for the various alternatives. They expressed willingness to continue supporting the organization in a round-about way if those paths were pursued. The donators pointed out the motivation behind taking such a drastic step would be to the public – both in Israel’s and abroad - that the Netanyahu government is depriving the Arab minority in Israel of human rights services.

The two bills in question were approved on Sunday by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had already announced support for one of the bills, sponsored by two members of his Likud party - MKs Tzipi Hotovely and Ofir Akunis - which would cap foreign governments’ contributions to “political” non-governmental organizations at NIS 20,000.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu, meanwhile, is throwing its weight behind the second initiative brought forth by party MK Fania Kirshenbaum, which would slap a 45 percent tax on foreign governments’ donations to NGOs ineligible for state funding.

For more, go to Haaretz.com



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