Israeli ministers accused of trying to muzzle critics with funding curbs

The Guardian reports: An Israeli cabinet committee has voted to pass legislation backed by the prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, that would cut tens of millions of pounds in foreign funding to human rights organisations.

The ministerial committee for legislation passed two bills, one of which limits all funding for non-governmental organisations from foreign bodies, including the United Nations, to 20,000 shekels (£3,300) a year. The other seeks to tax all contributions to NGOs by foreign states. Those who support the bills say many NGOs are political groups working under the guise of human rights to “delegitimise Israel”.

Last week, Matthew Gould, Britain’s ambassador to Israel, added his voice to concerns from international diplomats. Gould met the bill’s sponsor, Likud minister Ophir Akunis, to warn him that the passage of his legislation would reflect very badly on Israel in the international community.

On Sunday, embassy sources in Tel Aviv confirmed they would be monitoring the bill’s progress carefully.

In 2010, the British embassy donated £300,000 to human rights organisations in Israel.

The EU’s ambassador to Israel, Andrew Standley, is also reported to have contacted Netanyahu’s national security adviser, Yaakov Amidror, last Thursday to advise him that approving the bill would threaten Israel’s standing as a democratic state.

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