Knesset set to discuss bill to outlaw boycotts against Israel 8Jul11 July 8, 2011

by Jonathan Lis   -   Ha’aretz -   8 July 2011

MKs will also vote on limiting overseas donations to local NGOs .

Two controversial bills – one prohibiting calls for a boycott against Israel, and the other restricting the ability of human rights groups to raise funds abroad – are likely to be the focus of fierce debate in the Knesset next week.

The Peace Now movement and the Coalition of Women for Peace will hold a demonstration outside the Justice Ministry to protest both bills on Sunday. On Monday the opposition will hold a “convention to save democracy” in the Knesset, ahead of the House plenum’s debate on the boycott bill.

On Monday a bill imposing sanctions on individuals and groups calling for an academic, economic or cultural boycott against Israel will be brought to the Knesset for second and third reading.

If enacted, the law would enable companies operating in West Bank settlements to sue anyone calling to boycott their produce and win compensation fees without having to prove damages.

On Sunday the ministerial legislation committee will discuss whether to endorse a bill intended to curb Israeli human rights groups’ ability to receive contributions from other states.

The bill, sponsored by MK Fania Kirshenbaum (Yisrael Beiteinu ), is aimed at causing financial damage to organizations that provided the United Nations Goldstone Committee with information about the government and IDF’s conduct during Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip.

Taxable contributions

The bill stipulates that any contribution made by a foreign government to a group that is not supported by the Israeli government will be liable to a 45 percent tax.

“Some Israeli organizations’ goal is to denounce the state in the world’s eyes and bring about the persecution of IDF officers and soldiers,” the bill’s explanation says.

“These organizations, sometimes calling themselves ‘human rights organizations,’ receive money from unknown states and sources whose sole purpose is to damage and alter public discourse in Israel,” it says.

A similar bill sponsored by MK Ofir Akunis (Likud ) was also submitted to the committee, but has not been discussed yet.

Akunis’ bill prohibits Israeli non-profit organizations from receiving contributions higher than NIS 20,000 from foreign governments and international organizations such as the United Nations and European Union. Knesset sources said this bill was problematic due to the difficulty in defining the political occupation of non-profit organizations.

“Israel cannot allow other states to interfere with its internal affairs by funneling money to political groups. The law is intended to prevent the absurd situation in which foreign states can influence the Israeli agenda by funding political groups,” Akunis said.

Black flags

Peace Now sent black flags to all 120 Knesset members yesterday in protest and as a warning of the infringement on the freedom of expression.

The Association of Civil Rights in Israel said Kirshenbaum’s bill was “harmful, biased and fallacious.”

Association CEO Hagai Elad said “Kirshenbaum and her friends keep trying to harm Israeli organizations they don’t like. The bills they sponsor go go against democracy’s fundamental principles – freedom of expression, protest and organization. These rights are reserved to all opinions and positions, not only to those Kirshenbaum approves of.

“Many organizations for social change, including human rights groups, are careful not to ask and receive government funding in order to maintain their independence and ability to criticize the state. Clearly Kirshenbaum sees free criticism of the government’s policy as illegitimate,” he said.

“Voting for the boycott bill is voting against democracy and for quashing the freedom of expression and protest,” said Ayelet Maoz of the Women’s Coalition for Peace. “This is a test for the Knesset. Ambassadors and diplomats will follow the vote, which effect Israelis international status and legitimacy,” she said.

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