EU Airs Concern Over Israeli NGO Bill

Štefan Füle, European commissioner for enlargement and neighborhood policy. Photo by: EU

The European Commission has expressed concern over an Israeli reform proposal that requires non-governmental organizations in Israel to regularly disclose information about the funding they receive from foreign governments.

The commission does not support the draft legislation, Štefan Füle, European commissioner for enlargement and neighborhood policy, told the European Parliament.

“We are following with extreme concern the debate in the Knesset over this draft legislation to oblige Israeli NGOs to make public any funds received from foreign governments,” Füle said according to the EU Observer. “We have made our concern clear on several occasions to the Israeli government.”

The original version of the bill includes language that removes the tax-exempt status of organizations that receive foreign funding. This version was strongly criticized by Israeli human rights organizations and civil liberty groups, with several comparing it to laws that restrict NGO operations in Iran and Russia. Some have slammed the bill as “McCarthyist,” the EU Observer says.

A revised version of the reform proposal dropped some of its most controversial elements but Füle said its existence is still a huge burden for NGOs.

“We believe the demand for transparency from the NGOs remains too demanding,” Füle explained. “The new criteria for transparency solely concerns public finance, which would be discriminatory vis-a-vis those working with public funds, notably those from the EU.”

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  • Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.