Civil Society Orgs: “We Will Continue Struggling for Equality and Democracy”

Photo CC by Joshua Paquin

Yesterday (12 July 2011) Israeli media outlets reported that the Yisrael Beitenu party announced its intention to raise the parliamentary committees of inquiry into the funding of Israeli organizations for a final vote in the Knesset next week.
(For a ACRI’s briefing on parliamentary committees of inquiry and how they work – click here.)
In response to this announcement, 28 civil society organizations, including ACRI, made a joint statement today (13 July 2011) titled “The Wind Blowing in the Knesset Endangers Us All,” declaring that they will not stop struggling for equality, social justice, and democracy:
“We, civil society organizations and activists, think that it is inappropriate – and even dangerous – that the Knesset will conduct political investigations. This is also the opinion of the Knesset’s Legal Adviser, Eyal Yinon, who said that ‘this is a precedent that raises basic questions regarding the character of parliamentary committees of inquiry and the extent of rights that are at the core of a democratic regime.’
“We would like to emphasize that under the existing legal system, all donations to NGOs are from funds that were approved by the Israeli government, and are received and reported in accordance with existing laws.
“It is also important to note that this is not one Knesset bill, but rather a legislative trend that violates basic freedoms such as freedom of expression and political protest, as well as values such as equality and social solidarity. In the face of this trend, in the meantime, we prefer to invest our energy in promoting values of peace, human rights, equality, social justice, and democracy – for the benefit of all individuals and communities in the country. We do so with the support of our volunteers, partners, friends, and allies, who believe that these are the foundation stones for securing the future.”
(For the declaration and full list of signatories in Hebrew, click here).
Summary of ACRI’s Position on the Parliamentary Committees of Inquiry

  • A parliamentary committee of inquiry, whose purpose is investigating civil society organizations, is essentially a show trial run by politicians and targeting NGOs that do not match their political views.

  • If certain MKs feel that various actions taken by Israeli NGOs, right-wing or left-wing, constitute illegal activities, then they should turn to law enforcement authorities and demand an investigation and indictment. Israeli law includes extensive legislation, both for supervising the work of NGOs and for dealing with security offences or intent to cause harm to the State and its interests.

  • Existing legislation already regulates the transparency of donations and their reporting, and even specifically relates to donations from foreign state entities.

  • The State of Israel prides itself on being a free and democratic state. In various reports submitted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the UN, the OECD, and other international bodies, Israel explains that it includes a free and diverse civil society and specifically takes pride in the human rights organizations that are active in Israel – since democracies around the world are measured, among other factors, by the extent of freedom they give to their civil society. Among the organizations mentioned in this context, are the organizations that are currently targeted by the committees of inquiry.

  • The committees of inquiry are another step in the slew of anti-democratic legislation being promoted by the current Knesset, and specifically bills that target Israeli human rights organizations. The goal of this assault is to eventually weaken human rights groups and make them less effective in exposing human rights violations and criticizing government policies that weaken democracy, enhance inequality, and infringe on human rights.
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Categories: Anti-Democratic Initiatives, Democracy and Civil Liberties, Freedom of Expression

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