Left-wing Israeli NGOs on Friday jointly condemned attempts to depict their leaders as foreign agents, saying that such claims have led to harassment and even death threats.
Five heads of left-wing NGOs held a rare joint press conference in Tel Aviv to express their concern at increasingly personal attacks they have been subjected to in recent months.
They said they were speaking on behalf of 50 pro-peace or human rights organizations.
“We are facing an orchestrated effort to destroy civil society in Israel,” said Yuli Novak, president of the Breaking the Silence group which provides a platform for former IDF soldiers to denounce the army’s actions.
She said NGOs had faced “an unprecedented wave of attacks and (the campaign’s) strength is taking root in the highest political levels, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.”
One video posted online by the group Im Tirtzu shows a man, apparently Palestinian, poking a knife at the camera along with images of Israeli left-wing NGO leaders.
“Before the next terrorist stabs you, he already knows that (left-wing NGOs) will make sure to protect him,” the narrator says. “While we fight terror, they fight us.”
The leaders of the left-wing NGOs claim that they receive regular death threats and harassment.
Outside the event protesters holding placards with “Traitors” written on them were kept away by private security guards.
A new government bill to be considered in parliament next week would compel NGOs majority-funded by foreign governments to declare this in all of their official reports.
The text does not specifically refer to leftist organizations, but they are the ones it would impact.
Right-wing NGOs supporting Israel’s control of the West Bank tend instead to rely on private donations, such as from American Irving Moskowitz who grants funds for Jews to buy homes in East Jerusalem.
“The government tries to make us despair and make us invest time and energy in fighting its antidemocratic legislation,” said Tania Hary, executive director of Gisha, an association that fights for freedom of movement for Palestinians.
“We stand in the midst of a struggle for Israeli democracy and we have no intention to lose this fight,” said Novak.
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who proposed the law, argues it will boost transparency as the government seeks to fight foreign interference and attempts to delegitimize the state of Israel.