Ariel settlement: Boycotters to be fined (Archives)
Photo: AFP
Elkin: Foreign funds dangerous (Archives)
Photo: Zeev Elkin

New bill aims to punish foreign-funded organizations

Anti-boycott bill might punish talkbackers who support anti-Israel activity. Meanwhile, legislators seek to expand another law to revoke tax benefits from organizations financed by foreign funds

Encouraged by the preliminary approval of their anti-boycott bill, which aims to impose harsh punitive fines on Israelis who call for boycotts of Israeli institutions, Coalition Chairman Zeev Elkin (Likud) and Knesset Member David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu) are seeking to expand another bill's reach to punish organizations that are financed by foreign funds.


The anti-boycott bill, which was passed in a preliminary reading on Monday night, is yet another layer in the mass of controversial laws that are ruffling the feathers of civil rights organizations. It asserts that anyone who initiates or encourages a boycott on an individual, a company or an organization within the territory of Israel - including Judea and Samaria – violates the law, and therefore must pay a fine that might amount to much more than the direct damage that the boycott might cause.


Essentially, strict enforcement of the law will even punish talkbackers who speak in favor of a boycott.


The law will also allow the Finance Ministry to prevent companies who boycott Israel from bidding on government contracts.


Some 53 human rights organizations sent a letter to Elkin, demanding him to stop the legislature. "This law clearly intends to limit the activity of certain political positions and groups, only because their protest challenges the political consensus that exists in Israel," read the letter, which was signed by B'Tselem, the Association for Civil Rights, the Coalition of Women for Peace and Physicians for Human Rights, among others.


MK Hanna Swaid of the Hadash party said on Monday that the law is aimed at "perpetuating the occupation," adding that it "violates freedom of expression and every citizen's right to choose to boycott products from the occupied territories. There is racism here which must be condemned."


'Foreign financing is dangerous'

Elkin's new proposal, which is expected to be completed in the upcoming weeks, is actually an expansion of a bill that was passed by the Knesset in second and third readings two weeks ago, and requires organizations that are supported by foreign money to disclose the sources of their funding.


The revised version of the law is based on the US system that revokes tax benefits from organizations that act against the nation's policies and are largely financed by foreign funds.


Another clause that will be added to the law will call for wider transparency by the lobbyists who work on behalf of the organization, and for full disclosure of the public events that the organization takes part in. The watchdog group NGO Monitor, which is headed by Professor Gerald Steinberg of Bar Ilan University, has partnered with Elkin and Rotem in expanding the law.


"Financing of political activity within Israel by foreign nations is a dangerous trend that demands a democratic state to protect the internal dialogue," Elkin and Rotem said.



פרסום ראשון: 03.08.11, 17:00
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