NGO “Funding Transparency” Law

Freedom of Association

This law targets human rights organizations. It requires NGOs that receive 50% or more of their funding from foreign governments to state that fact in various situations, including in all of their publications, written reports to Knesset members and decision-makers, and at any hearing or discussion involving a written protocol; and in any oral discussion held in a place where public officials work. An earlier version of the bill also sought to compel representatives of these NGOs to wear tags in the Knesset stating their names, organizations, and the fact that they receive funding from foreign governments; this provision was removed from the latest draft, dated 18 January 2016. Violations of the law will be punishable by a fine of NIS 29,200 (c. US $7,500).

The law aims to mark out, harass and incite against human rights organizations that express views critical to the government’s policies, particularly policies that discriminate against or otherwise harm Palestinians in the OPT and in Israel. The political motivations behind the law are clear since all registered non-profit organizations are already required by an amendment to the Law of Associations enacted in 2011 that imposes invasive reporting requirements on NGO by requiring them to publish quarterly reports on any funding received from foreign governments or publicly funded foreign donors. Thus, this information is already publicly available. Significantly, the law does not require transparency of donations received from private individuals, leaving right-wing, settler organizations, which are heavily funded by private US donors, unaffected.

This law follows several previous unsuccessful bills that sought to clamp down on human rights organizations by threatening them with closure and/or taxing their income. The US, the EU, numerous members of the European and the German Parliaments, among others, have criticized the law and called on the Israeli government not to support its enactment.