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New York, NY; January 12, 2016 – In response to attacks against human rights NGOs in Israel, including the advancement of a “Transparency Bill” in the Knesset, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), issued the following statement:
We are deeply concerned by and strongly oppose legislation under Knesset consideration that, if passed, would place onerous requirements on Israeli non-governmental organizations that defend human rights. Called the “Transparency Bill” by its proponents, the proposed legislation would require organizations that receive over half of their funding from foreign governments to declare their foreign funding in any public communication or interaction with a public official. The stipulation that representatives of these organizations would have to wear special identification badges is especially odious. In practice, a vast majority of the organizations that this law would cover are affiliated with Israel’s political left, catalyzing a dangerous chilling effect on free speech.
Israel’s vibrant civil society is a cornerstone of her democracy and a source of pride to all lovers of Zion. In an open society, NGOs from across the political spectrum are constantly engaged in machloket l’shem hashamayim, an argument for the sake of heaven, and for the sake of improving Israel’s security and institutions. Attempts to silence one side of the debate weaken Israel’s democracy, civil society and its support abroad, making it even more difficult for Israel to defend herself against a swelling cohort of detractors.
That is why, in the midst of steady and dangerous incitement against human rights NGOs in Israel, where forces seek to delegitimize their work, our Movement has asked Prime Minister Netanyahu to defend the role of these important organizations. That defense is more needed today than ever. We urge Israel’s government to preserve its commitment to democracy by withdrawing this dangerous bill.
About the Union for Reform Judaism
The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) builds community at every level—from the way we collaborate with congregations, organizations, and individuals to how we make connections across North America to advance contemporary and inclusive Jewish life. Providing vision and voice to transform the way people connect to Judaism, we help congregations stay adept and agile, motivate more young Jews to embrace Jewish living, agitate for a more progressive society, and foster meaningful connections to Israel.
Founded in 1873, URJ has grown into the most powerful force in North American Jewish life, with almost 900 member congregations and work that inspires millions of people. Our legacy, reach, leadership, and vision mean that we can unite thousands of years of tradition with a modern, evolving Judaism to strengthen Jewish communities today and for future generations.
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