Statement on new “NGO Law” in Israel

Partners for Progressive Israel condemns in the strongest possible terms the passage of a law in Israel that under the guise of “transparency” severely restricts the ability to function of 27 different NGOs and Human Rights Organizations, among them some of the most famous and effective like Breaking the Silence and B’Tselem. We associate ourselves with and endorse the statements of our sister organizations, Ameinu and J Street condemning this law; and we note with approval that the European Union has already put Israel on notice that the new law undermines the democratic principles upon which the state of Israel was founded.

At the same time we recognize that the law is part of a broader assault on democracy in Israel in which the government, various right-wing groups such as Im Tirzu, and diverse ad hoc vigilante groups have participated. These un-democratic practices have included fascist-like attacks on demonstrators for peace and human rights, and occasionally the murder of individual innocent Israeli Jews and Arabs, both within Israel and in the occupied territories. We take this occasion to reissue and reaffirm our own previous statement on Racism and Un-Democratic Practices in Israel as follows:

The current undermining of Israel’s once-vibrant democracy is an ongoing cause of great concern to supporters of Israel everywhere. Under the present government, such harmful practices continue to multiply and accelerate.

Partners for Progressive Israel deplores and condemns recent manifestations of racism in the government coalition and accompanying legislative efforts, largely successful, to curtail fundamental norms of equality and democratic practice.

PPI further deplores the spate of laws and draft laws deliberately intended to curtail democratic practices. We note, for example:

The recently upheld “anti-boycott law,” which renders anyone, anywhere who advocates boycott of goods emanating from any “territory under Israeli control,” subject to lawsuits for purported damages suffered by entities or businesses targeted by boycotts. The goal is simply to squelch the free-speech rights of those who oppose continued Occupation of the Territories.

Legislation has established the Refugee Detention Center in the Negev desert at Holot, a virtual concentration camp for refugees who have sought asylum in Israel but are labeled illegal “infiltrators.” This government’s practice, as the High Court has twice noted, directly violates Israel’s international commitment to not return asylum seekers to a place where they are likely to be persecuted.

The Citizenship and Entry law now prohibits Palestinian/Arab citizens of Israel from bringing spouses from the occupied territories or children born to them in the territories into Israel. This law treats such immediate family of Israeli citizens as prima facie enemies and flaunts family unification commitments Israel has signed.

A Residential Community Admissions Committee law legalizes community, housing, or apartment building owner associations’ that refuse entry, rental, or purchase to persons deemed “socially unsuitable.” This term is a euphemism for persons of Arab ethnicity and legalizes discrimination of a sort that Jews have struggled against for many decades.

The infamous Nakba Law reduces or eliminates funding for any group that holds events commemorating the Palestinian Nakba of 1948. Advocating alternative historical narratives is now in practice illegal. This government feels that Zionism is only credible if enforced by Legislation has established the Refugee Detention Center in the Negev desert at Holot, a virtual concentration camp for refugees who have sought asylum in Israel but are labeled illegal “infiltrators.” This government’s practice, as the High Court has twice noted, directly violates Israel’s international commitment to not return asylum seekers to a place where they are likely to be persecuted.

The Citizenship and Entry law now prohibits Palestinian/Arab citizens of Israel from bringing spouses from the occupied territories or children born to them in the territories into Israel. This law treats such immediate family of Israeli citizens as prima facie enemies and flaunts family unification commitments Israel has signed.

A Residential Community Admissions Committee law legalizes community, housing, or apartment building owner associations’ that refuse entry, rental, or purchase to persons deemed “socially unsuitable.” This term is a euphemism for persons of Arab ethnicity and legalizes discrimination of a sort that Jews have struggled against for many decades.

The infamous Nakba Law reduces or eliminates funding for any group that holds events commemorating the Palestinian Nakba of 1948. Advocating alternative historical narratives is now in practice illegal. This government feels that Zionism is only credible if enforced by threats.

Having frightened the High court into approving the Anti-Boycott Law, the present government has introduced legislation that would restrict or eliminate the right of the High Court to rule on the constitutionality of legislation even when that legislation conflicts with rights guaranteed by the Basic Laws of the land.

The guarantee of fundamental rights to all citizens is as necessary to democracy as majority rule and free and fair elections. But as we see in Hungary, Russia, Turkey, Poland and other similarly undemocratic countries, a government with transient electoral majorities can become committed to undermining the basic rights of all. Their first targets may be political opponents and ethnic minorities, but the real goal becomes to destroy democracy itself. The delicate balance of “Jewish and democratic” that has been fundamental to Israeli democracy is seriously imperiled by the current government. We call on American Jews to support Israeli and American organizations that are working to reverse this trend and return Israel to a democratic path.