In Tel-Aviv a new bill is being proposed which will grant Israel powers to extend its crackdown on critical human rights groups that try to avoid the slaughter of Palestinian children.
The Ministerial Committee on Legislation will put forward a plan on Sunday to impose a tax on 65% of foreign donations to Israeli and Palestinian humanitarian and human rights groups.
The bill fulfills one of the promises made to the far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir’s Otzma Yehudit party by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as part of their coalition agreement at the end of last year.
Lawyers warned against the plan at the time and said that the move is similar to steps taken against human rights organizations in undemocratic countries. According to the deal, the government will pass the law 180 days after it is sworn in.
If adopted, as is thought likely, the new tax will have a serious impact on life saving human rights groups and NGO’s.
Some of Israel’s most prominent and best-known rights organizations, including Breaking the Silence, B’Tselem, Peace Now and Yesh Din, rely on foreign funding from the European Union and USA.
In 2021, B’Tselem joined other major human rights group in branding Israel as an Apartheid state. Michael Sfard, the legal adviser to Yesh Din, an organization that acts to protect the rights of Palestinians in the West Bank, warned against the bill in December:
If this section passes, it will be a fatal blow to the human rights community in Israel.
Experts highlighting Israel’s steady drift towards authoritarianism pointed to the fact that, globally since the 1940’s, official humanitarian and development assistance has generally been exempted from taxation.
The introduction of taxation of this sort by Israel would, therefore, stand apart from normal good practice by a state and act as a disincentive for donors to support Israeli and Palestinian civil society.
Should this happen, the resources of organizations critical to the provision of humanitarian relief and human rights protection would be depleted beyond recovery.
Middle East Monitor / ABC Flash Point News 2023.