Despite growing criticism from abroad, Israel’s ruling coalition is pushing a new bill in the Knesset which would impose major penalties on human rights groups, including a massive 45% tax on all foreign donations and a full ban on funding for groups seen as too critical of the government.
The 45% tax will apply to all human rights groups except those who are already funded by the Israeli government, which will be able to solicit funds tax-free. It is seen as a “compromise” bill after previous efforts by Avigdor Lieberman’s faction to ban all funding to all human rights groups not approved by the foreign ministry were blocked by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who feared a major international backlash.
The bill is explicitly aimed at civil rights groups critical of the government’s harsh moves against freedom of the press and its restrictions against Arab citizens. NGOs have been outspokenly critical of the measure, saying it threatened to damage Israel’s democracy irreparably.
In other news, the controversial “Talkback” bill is moving forward in the Knesset as well. The bill, which is almost uniformly supported among both the ruling coalition and the “moderate” opposition, imposes serious restrictions on the posting of comments in online forums, and allows MPs to sue any poster, even anonymous ones, in Israeli courts for any comment which they believe is designed to “damage” their positions. It would also force Israeli ISPs to keep track of the sources of all such comments so they could “out” anonymous posters for punitive lawsuits.
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