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Knesset seeks to pass bill hindering leftist NGOs' access to state information

Feb. 27, 2017 6:54 P.M. (Updated: March 4, 2017 9:22 P.M.)
(AFP/File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli lawmakers have introduced a bill to the Knesset, Israel's parliament, which seeks to affect left-wing NGOs’ access to information from governmental agencies, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on Sunday.

According to the news outlet, all non-governmental groups in Israel are currently exempt from paying fees to obtain information from state organizations through the Freedom of Information Act.

However, the bill, sponsored by MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli from the far-right Jewish Home party, would not only strip this exemption for NGOs which receive the majority of their funding from foreign governments, but also make them pay double the regular fee of 20 shekels ($5.45) per document.

Organizations in Israel that rely on public foreign funding tend to oppose the government’s right-wing policies and human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territory.

“There’s no logic in allowing organizations that act as foreign agents in every respect to wear down the establishment for free, which comes at the expense of the ordinary citizen,” Haaretz quoted Matan Peleg, the head of far-right Zionist organization Im Tirtzu, as saying. “We must end the system of the state financing its enemies.”

Israel’s far-right lawmakers have been cracking down on leftist organizations in the country in the past year, notably passing the controversial NGO law, which compels organizations to reveal their sources of funding if more than 50 percent came from public foreign entities, in July.

The legislation was condemned at the time for seeking to “silence criticism” of Israel and delegitimize left-wing groups.

More recently, MKs have submitted a bill requiring that NGOs receiving more than half of their funding from foreign governments to declare this information in all court filings, Haaretz reported.

Right-wing Israeli organizations, which tend to depend more on private than public foreign funding, have not been affected by such legislation.

The Israeli government has also increasingly targeted Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS), with a bill seeking to ban supporters of the movement from entering Israel passing its first reading in January.
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