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Reform Leader Opposes Troubling Israeli "NGO Bill"

Reform Leader Opposes Troubling Israeli "NGO Bill"

Contact: Max Rosenblum or Jacob Kraus
202.387.2800 | news@rac.org

Press Release from the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

Washington, D.C., June 6, 2016 – In response to legislation under consideration by the Israeli Knesset that would require non-profits that recover foreign funds to declare themselves as foreign agents, Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement: 

Legislation recently approved by Israel's cabinet that would silence the voices of many non-profits that engage in the critical work of a democratic people—ensuring human rights for all – is deeply troubling. The bill is now making its way through the Summer Knesset session with strong support from Prime Minster Netanyahu.  If passed by the Knesset, it would require nonprofit groups that receive funds from foreign countries to declare themselves as agents of that foreign country.

The effect of this bill will be to demonize nonprofit organizations that are critical of Israel’s policies towards Arabs and Palestinians and label Israeli citizens who work for these organizations as foreign meddlers. 

We applaud the principled stand of the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), the Reform Movement’s social justice and advocacy arm in Israel. Though not directly impacted by this law, IRAC has made public its plan for staff to wear the foreign badge as an expression of solidarity.

Israeli human rights workers and organizations are dedicated to promoting and preserving the values enshrined in Israel’s Declaration of Independence. By challenging Israeli authorities to investigate, prosecute and deter civil and human rights violations wherever they occur, these nonprofits serve as a crucial compass in places where there is the potential for moral failure. For many years Israel prided itself on the existence of these organizations, and one of the most significant links that the American people have to Israel is a shared commitment to a strong, healthy and thriving democracy where human rights advocates are seen as part of the fabric of civic life. We strongly hope that this bill does not become law and that efforts instead are made to strengthen, not weaken Israel’s moral and civic fabric.

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The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose nearly 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 2,000 Reform rabbis. Visit www.rac.org for more.

Published: 06/06/2016

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