Christian Aid fears for NGOs in Israel

Christian Aid fears for the future of NGOs in Israel after the country was accepted to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) last week.

Israel was accepted as a full member to the OECD, a forum for the world’s most developed economies, last week.

Christian Aid said its successful application “at a time when civil society in the country is increasingly under threat” was a “matter of real concern”.

William Bell, Christian Aids Advocacy Officer for Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory said: “Apart from Israel’s continuing occupation and illegal settlement in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, which has little to do with democracy, recent developments in the country point to further repression. This time, it is civil society organisations there that are under threat.”

Christian Aid fears legislation tabled in the Kesset in March will severely curtail the work of NGOs funded from outside Israel. The legislation seeks to remove the tax-exempt status of any organisation “seeking to influence public opinion in Israel”.

Christian Aid said the definition of political activity in the legislation was so broad that almost any organisation could be labelled as political, forcing many NGOs to scale back their work significantly.

Mr Bell warned that democracy in Israel was being threatened by another recently tabled Bill seeking the registration of Israeli NGOs suspected of assisting in documenting or collecting evidence of human rights abuses.

He said NGOs in Israel had faced increased levels of intimidation since the publication of a report by the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict detailing eye witness accounts of human rights abuses committed by Israel.

He said the Bill would have serious implications for Israeli NGOs which report on human rights abuses and breaches of international law.

“The legislation would also undermine human rights defenders working to uphold the rule of law and combat impunity. If enacted, it would strike at the very heart of the democratic space in which civil society operates, and which Israel purports to defend and respect,” he said.

“Where a state is seen to be in contravention of international law or abusing human rights, they should be held accountable regardless of who they are or what power they wield.”