Right-wing MKs call to remove Amnesty’s tax exemption status
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Right-wing MKs call to remove Amnesty’s tax exemption status

Bezalel Smotrich says rights organization is ‘radically against the State of Israel and its leaders,’ should not receive benefits

Jewish Home parliament member Bezalel Smotrich addresses the Israeli parliament on November 16, 2015. Photo by Miriam Alsterl/Flash90
Jewish Home parliament member Bezalel Smotrich addresses the Israeli parliament on November 16, 2015. Photo by Miriam Alsterl/Flash90

Two coalition Knesset members on Tuesday called for the cancellation of human rights organization Amnesty International’s tax exemption status.

The two members of the Knesset Finance Committee, Jewish Home MK Bezalel Smotrich and Likud MK Miki Zohar, sent a letter to Finance Committee chairman MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) asking him to remove Amnesty from the list of organizations whose donors are eligible for a tax exemption, on the grounds the group is working against Israel, Army Radio reported.

The Finance Committee was slated to meet on Thursday.

It was not reported what prompted the MKs’ initiative. Israeli activists have often accused the organization of anti-Israel bias.

In a post on his Facebook page, Smotrich listed a number of Amnesty’s activities over the past few years, describing the group as being “radically against the State of Israel and its leaders.”

In response to the letter, Meretz chairwoman and fellow Knesset Finance Committee member Zehava Galon described the attempt as a “scandal” and urged Gafni not to give in to pressure from “the extreme right.”

Smotrich’s criticism of Amnesty follows denunciation of the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem over the past few weeks, after its executive director Hagai El-Ad gave a speech to the UN Security Council calling on the UN to take action against Israel over its settlement policies in the West Bank.

Coalition Chairman David Bitan during a Likud faction meeting in the Knesset on July 11, 2016 (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
Coalition Chairman David Bitan during a Likud faction meeting in the Knesset on July 11, 2016 (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

In response to El-Ad’s speech, coalition chairman and Likud MK David Bitan called for stripping El-Ad of his citizenship and said he would advance legislation that would forbid Israeli citizens from urging action against Israel at international bodies. Bitan was widely criticized for his proposal by lawmakers across the political spectrum, who called it undemocratic, ignorant, and short-sighted.

Bitan’s proposal was viewed as unlikely to pass.

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