In recent years, Israel witnessed several anti-democratic initiatives taken in the Israeli Parliament, the Knesset. It is particularly alarming, that the Knesset passed several bills that challenge fundamental democratic rights like equality before the law or the freedom of expression and political protest. A number of laws severely restrict the space to oppose or criticize Israeli government policy and actions.
At the same time, verbal assaults and even hate speech of Israeli politicians on minorities and the Israeli peace movement and human rights NGOs severely increased. Numerous attempts exist to restrict the freedom of expression in academic, artistic and cultural activities. Acts of intimidation by the Israeli government against Human Rights Defenders and NGOs are widespread.
Part of a huge government campaign against NGOs criticizing the human rights violations committed against the Palestinian civilian population, is the so-called “Transparency Law” or “NGO Law”. This government bill seeks to oblige NGOs, which receive more than 50% of their funding from “foreign government entities” to always declare this, both in their publications and meetings or events.
As existing Israeli law already requires transparency, it seems obvious that the bill´s purpose is to stigmatize and delegitimize NGOs, which promote human rights. A prominent victim of this NGO law is “Breaking the Silence”, a NGO founded by Israeli Soldiers who request legal prosecution for violation of human rights of soldiers having committed human rights violations e.g. during the wars against Gaza.
The Parliamentary Assembly should examine anti-democratic trends and initiatives in Israel, particularly the “NGO Law”, with a view to drawing general policy conclusions and making recommendations to member States for improving their response and protecting Israeli society as well as NGOs from the prevailing trend toward the erosion of democratic values.