Controversial Israeli NGO transparency bill passes first reading


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s Knesset approved the first reading of a controversial bill that would require certain Israeli nongovernmental organizations to publicly declare their foreign government funding.

The so-called NGO transparency bill passed its first reading Monday night by a vote of 50 to 43 following an intense debate. Left-wing human rights organizations, which would be disproportionately affected, have slammed the measure.

Proposed by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked of the Jewish Home party, the bill would require NGOs that receive a majority of their support from “foreign political entities” to declare that funding and detail it every time they put out a report or speak with a public official.

An earlier draft would have required representatives of such groups to wear badges identifying themselves as lobbyists of foreign governments, but that provision was removed at the request of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In 2011, the Knesset enacted a law requiring NGOs to declare any foreign government funding on a quarterly basis. A 2013 bill sought to levy high taxes on foreign government donations, but foundered after the Israeli attorney general advised that it was unconstitutional.

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