CESCR reviews Israel: No mention of Bill on NGOs’ Foreign Funding
Thursday, 08 December 2011 16:11

On 17 November 2011, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (the Committee) finished reviewing the third periodic report of Israel. The Committee experts addressed a number of issues, including those presented in NGO reports. The Committee paid special attention to the cultural rights of the Bedouins, which is considered an indigenous population by the Committee but not by Israel. The experts and the Israeli delegation also found themselves in disagreement on the State party’s responsibility to report on the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). According to the delegation, the OPT fall under the responsibilities of the Palestinian Authority as a result of the 2005 Interim Agreement. The Committee, on the other hand, reminded Israel that it is legally bound by international law to report on such matters, despite denying having effective control on the area.


Surprisingly, the Committee members made no mention of the two recent bills passed early in the same week by the Israeli Ministerial Committee for Legislation on NGOs in Israel. The two bills limit foreign donations to NGOs and human rights groups to approximately 3’900 Euro per year, with an imposed tax of 45 percent. The bills come with the support of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who stated that they are a necessity in light of ‘acts of incitement by many organisations operating in the guise of human rights organisations that seek to influence political discourse, the character, and policy of the State of Israel’. The bills have faced national and international opposition. Six Government ministries voted against them, arguing that the documents represent an infringement on Israel’s democratic values. The bills would de facto weaken NGOs critical of the coalition government, many of whom receive funds from the European Union and its member States. The EU itself, along with the US, has pressured Prime Minister Netanyahu to reconsider the bills, stating they would harm freedom of association, freedom of speech, and Israel’s image as a democracy.


CESCR’s review of Israel ended on a note of disagreement, as the Chairperson, Mr Ariranga Govindasamy Pillay, restated that Israel is under legal obligation to report on the human rights situation in the OPT. In addition, the Committee’s general affirmation that it saw no improvement since Israel’s last review in 2003 emphasises the need for more attention by treaty bodies to following up their own work. The concluding observations will be published on the OHCHR Web site.

Last Updated on Friday, 09 December 2011 10:54
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