Israeli law proposal: Outlaw organisations reporting on violations

Foreboding in the Israeli human rights community as a new proposed law targets organizations reporting on breaches of international law

Thursday, 29 April, 2010 - 13:44
London, UK
Knesset minutes, nrg, Maariv, Israeli human rights groups

A new draft bill tabled on Wednesday in the Israeli Knesset, seeks to forbid registration of Israeli organizations (NGOs) that are suspected of provision of information or involvement in law suits against Israeli officials or commanders for breaches of International Humanitarian Law, or war crimes.

It would also require the Registrar of Association to close down existing organizations engaged in such activities.

The proposed Associations Law (Amendment – Exceptions to the Registration and Activity of an Association), 2010, comes in the wake of an incitement campaign against the human-rights community in Israel and is the second law to be proposed against their activities this year.

Among the signatories to the proposed bill are two former members of Israel’s secret police, the Shin Bet or shabac: former director Avi Dichter and former deputy director Gideon Ezra.

The law proposal does not cite names of specific organizations, but the initiators of the bill, 19 Knesset members (MKs) from various parties of both the coalition and the opposition, cited Israeli groups Adalah, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel and Coalition of Women for Peace as examples, in the course of a debate held on the bill Wednesday.

Israeli daily Maariv focused specifically on Adalah, a human-rights organization led by Palestinian citizens of Israel. Its news item on the law proposal was headed “MKs propose: Outlaw Adalah.”

In a heated discussion in the Knesset yesterday, MK Nitsan Horovitz of the left-leaning Meretz party described the law proposal as a witchhunt.

So long as activities are legal under Israeli law, they are [allowed] under freedom of expression, and the conflict is a political one,” said Horovitz. “Is anything illegal being done by an organization? – then go to the police,” he said.

He added that the Knesset should address the allegations made by the organizations under attack, instead of silencing them.

A group of ten Israeli human rights organizations has published a response to the bill, saying that it “violates international treaties and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, which was signed in the wake of the horrors of World War II,” and that it “seeks to conceal information or suspicions of a crime.”

The group added that “The Israeli government’s refusal to allow the domestic legal system to investigate allegations of war crimes is the very reason that war crimes may be investigated and prosecuted abroad,” and that “instead of defending democracy, the sponsors of this bill prefer to reduce it to ashes.”

Adalah’s Director Hassan Jabareen, added that “if the legislation is enacted, it would constitute an official admission by the State of Israel that it is committing war crimes, and is ordering human-rights organizations in Israel to keep silent about them, to refrain from passing on information about them, and to cease assisting both the victims and the international community in working to prevent their continuation. Only a state that commits prohibited acts would be interested in such legislation.”

Draft Bill:
The Eighteenth Knesset

Bill of Members of Knesset:
Ronit Tirosh
Arieh Eldad
Yulia Shamalov-Berkovich
Uri Yehuda Ariel
Marina Solodkin
Otniel Schneller
Zevulun Orlev
Abraham Dicter
Yoel Hasson
Yitzhak Vaknin
Michael Ben Ari
Moshe Gafni
Chaim Amsellem
Jacob Edery
Uri Maklev
Avraham Michaeli
Alex Miller
Orly Levi-Abekasis
Gideon Ezra

Proposal for Associations Law (Correction-Restrictions for Registration and Activity of Organizations)

Amendment to Clause 3.1: In the Non-Governmental Organizations Law – 1980 (the Main Law), in Clause 3 what is written will be part A), after which will come: B) “No organization will be registered for which there is a reasonable suspicion that the organization passes information to foreign authorities or is involved in legal prosecution abroad against senior Israeli politicians and/or IDF officers suspected of war crimes,”

Amendment to Clause 49.2: In clause 49 of the Main Law after clause 6) will come: “(7): The organization or its goals are directed towards filing legal prosecutions abroad for war crimes, against senior Israeli politicians and/or IDF officers, because of war crimes”;

Explanatory notes:

Today registration and activity of an organization is forbidden if it denies the existence of the state of Israel or its democratic character. Likewise, the organization will not be allowed to register, and can be disqualified by order of the District Court if its activities are illegal.

In recent years Israel has gone through difficult changes, in terms of both security and diplomacy; Israel’s publicity has suffered from sharp and anti-Zionist criticism abroad against Israeli security measures.

The Palestinian publicity campaign makes waves in the wider public and especially among youth and students at many academic institutions across Europe and in the USA. The activity of Israel in the territories, even when it is part of a defensive military campaign after attacks or missile firing on our country, is perceived as illegitimate. The UN’s one-sided and controversial report by Judge Goldstone, on the IDF’s actions in Gaza during “Operation Cast Lead”, brought Israel to an unprecedented low in terms of publicity.

In many countries, such as England, there are a growing number of voices calling for arrest of senior Israeli government officials and IDF officers on suspicion of war crimes against the Palestinians.

Our best leaders and officers find themselves fearing arrest in a foreign country because of crimes never committed which have been attributed to them.
It is very troubling that at this time, when we must be united against these baseless accusations, we find that Israeli NGOs and associations, through passing of information (mostly incorrect and even fraudulent) to foreign authorities who are our enemies, and through public agreement or approval that Israel is guilty of war crimes. Sometimes they even provide significant legal assistance in phrasing the legal claims.

The underlying assumption behind this bill is that this type of activity must be made illegal, (specifically regarding NGOs that receive a lot of money and some of which are supported by the state), because they effectively undermine the state and damage it, as if they were denying its existence.

Therefore it is suggested in this bill to prevent preemptively the registration of NGOs for which there is a reasonable suspicion that they will take legal action against senior government officials or the IDF in cooperation with foreign authorities. It is furthermore suggested to make illegal NGOs whose activities are directed against senior government officials or the IDF. The manner of illegalization will be identical to the method in the Main Law—through widening the legal grounds for breaking up the NGO by court order, which will be served through the NGO Registry or the Attorney General.

Unofficial Translation of Original Hebrew By the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI)

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