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Knesset passes controversial motion to probe NGO funding

The Knesset passed a preliminary motion yesterday to establish a controversial parliamentary panel to look into the funding of left-wing Israeli human rights groups. Right-wing parliamentarians accuse some human rights groups of acting with the support of foreign funding to delegitimise the State of Israel. The motion was initiated by Yisrael Beitenu back bencher Fanya Kirschenbaum, who raised suspicions that the source funding for some groups was coming from countries like Saudi Arabia. The motion passed a preliminary vote with the support of 47 of the Knesset’s 120 members. It will now pass to a house committee which will further consider the panel’s mandate and composition before returning to the Knesset for further approval. The Knesset also approved a separate motion proposed by Likud MK Danny Danon to probe organisations buying land in Israel.

The motions were harshly criticised by opponents within the Knesset. Meir Sheetrit, of the centrist Kadima party said, “this motion is plain McCarthyism.” MK Nitzan Horowitz of the left-wing Meretz party said, ‘Human rights organisations preserve the honour of Israel around the world, and protect its character as a democratic country.’

Israeli NGOs responded by stressing that they had nothing to hide from any inquiry. A statement by the Israeli NGO Machsom Watch, which monitors the actions of IDF soldiers at checkpoints in the West Bank  said, “We are all patriots, Lieberman cannot tell us what it means to love this country.” Israel has a very rich civil society with an extremely strong tradition of free speech. A wide range of independent groups work to hold the government to account.