MEPs send an open letter to Israeli MKs on NGO Bill

Julie and fellow MEPs have joined an international calls on their Israeli colleagues to refrain from voting for legislation which limits or delegitimises civil society organisations. An open letter, signed by 50 MEPs, was sent this evening, ahead of a vote in the Israeli Knesset.




Open Letter- Brussels, February 8th 2016



Dear Members of Knesset,

We write to you as Members of the European Parliament, who are committed to values of democracy, human rights, and freedom of expression, to convey our deep concern at the proposed ‘NGO Bill’[1], planned to be vote on in the Knesset in first reading this evening.

The Bill requires organizations which receive more than half of their funding from “foreign government entities” to include a notice to that effect in every public statement or publication, and communication with Israeli public officials, as well as announcing themselves as such, for the record at meetings with public officials or representatives.

We support transparency in the conduct of public affairs in any democracy. However, we are concerned that this law is inherently discriminatory. It is framed in a manner that delegitimises and demonises NGOs who promote and defend human rights, as well as the European states and institutions that fund them.

The NGOs that would be affected by this law already publish their sources of funding, and are transparent about their donors. Nationalist NGOs, on the other hand, who’s agenda is in line with the current government, receive their funding from private individuals, Israeli or otherwise, as well as Israeli government ministries and local authorities. They do not publish or disclose their funding sources, and would not be affected by this law.

We see this as part of a worrying trend, promoted and condoned by the current Israeli government, to restrict, delegitimise, and stifle the work of NGOs, organisations, artists, writers, and thinkers who may be critical of current Israeli government policy.

Initiatives such as the nationalist campaigns by the NGO Im Tirzu presenting human rights workers as spies and traitors is an example of the highly inflammatory and dangerous discourse that currently dominates Israeli public debate. A legislative initiative recently proposed by the Culture Ministry, called ‘Loyalty in Culture’, would cut off government funding from artists expressing views critical of ‘the State’, and would mean a further limitation of cultural debate and discourse in Israel.

We strongly urge you, Israeli Members of Knesset, to be brave and strong in upholding Israel’s pluralist democratic values, and share our view that a vibrant civil society and open public debate, with organisations able to criticise government policy and hold it to account, or provoke critical thinking and active citizenship, are not a threat to democracy, but a great strength.

Human rights and peace-building NGOs serve as watchdogs of democracy, not enemies of the state. Legislation which limits, narrows, and hampers civil society action only serves to weaken Israel, and damage the potential for a political solution to the conflict with the Palestinians. These NGOs or artists are not “foreign agents”, but represent a legitimate and important Israeli voice, as well as a clear Israeli interest. Far from damaging Israel’s standing in the world, they prove that Israel has a strong tradition of vehement democratic debate, freedom of expression, and a wide plurality of views. If anything, Israel’s reputation risks being damaged by dubious government attempts to silence its critics.

The occupation of the Palestinian Territories, the peace process, and human rights are not only internal Israeli affairs, but matters of regional and global interest and concern. The European Union has invested billions of Euros of European tax-payers money in both Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Israeli science and technology, universities, and businesses benefit from European funds. Israel benefits from an Association Agreement with the EU, which is worth billions in trade and access to the European market. The EU also funds the Palestinian Authority, without which the administration of the Palestinian Territories would not be viable.

All the European funds and benefits that Israel enjoys are based on Israel’s commitment to human rights, democracy, end of occupation, and the peace process, leading to a viable and just two-state solution.

European funding of NGOs working for peace and human rights, therefore, is not anti-Israeli in any way, but an embodiment of the values that the EU and Israel purport to share, and on which our cooperation depends.

We condemn the current wave of violence against Israeli civilians, as we do all violence against all civilians, and call on the Palestinian Authority to do all it can to prevent these attacks. Likewise, we recognise that the occupation must end in order to guarantee the security and human rights of Palestinians and Israelis.

The Israeli government must work together with the Palestinian Authority to deescalate this current wave of violence, and to engage in a resolute and committed long-term plan towards realising the two-state solution, while upholding the human rights, in line with international law and for the sake of both peoples.

We urge the Israeli government and Members of Knesset to refrain from legislative measures, or from support of campaigns of incitement that aim to stifle or silence civil society organisations, artists, and public discourse. Instead, we call on you to cultivate and stimulate a vibrant and critical public debate, with independent NGO activity that promotes diversity, and an honest struggle for peace.

Yours sincerely,




Members of the European Parliament,



Alyn Smith

Ana Gomes

Anneliese Dodds

Barbara Spinelli

Bart Staes

Claude Turmes

David Martin

Dennis de Jong

Dimitrios Papadimoulis

Eleonora Forenza

Ernest Maragall

Ernest Urtasun

Eva Joly

Fabio de Masi

Gabriele Zimmer

Ian Hudghton

Iris Hoffmann

Jean Lambert

Jill Evans

Jordi Sebastià

Josep-Maria Terricabras

Julie Ward

Jude Kirton-Darling

Karima Delli

Liadh Ni Radia

Lynn Boylan

Margrete Auken

Marie Arena

Marisa Matias

Marie-Christine Vergiat

Marita Ulvskog

Martina Anderson

Martina Michels

Matt Carthy

Michèle Rivasi

Molly Scott Cato

Neoklis Sylikiotis

Norbert Neuser

Paloma Lopez Bermejo

Pascal Durand

Patrick Le Hyaric

Philippe Lamberts

Sargentini  Judith

Sergio Cofferati

Soraya Post

Stefan Eck

Tania Gonzalez Penas

Ulrike Lunacek

Valero Bodil

Yannick Jadot