Sanctions on Civil Society Organizations: Clear Hallmark of Authoritarian Regimes

>> Read the full position paper  

This position paper comes in response to the government’s plans to hold a vote in the Ministerial Committee for Legislative Affairs on MK Ariel Kellner’s (Likud) bill to amend the Income Tax Ordinance in order to tax donations from a foreign political entity.

According to the proposed bill, an NGO receiving a donation consistent with the terms specified in the bill will be excluded from the definition of “public institution” under Article 9(2)(b) of the ordinance. The NGO will lose its recognition as a public institution under any and all laws, with such attendant implications as donors no longer being entitled to a tax credit based on Article 46 of the ordinance. The bill also proposes to establish that an NGO receiving a donation from a foreign political entity consistent with the terms specified in the bill will be liable for a 65% tax rate on its income.


Zulat’s Position

  • The bill aims to impose economic sanctions on human and civil rights NGOs critical of the government and bring about their closure, which is a clear hallmark of authoritarian regimes.
  • It was submitted by MK Kellner as a private bill, similar to other bills of the regime revolution, to allow Prime Minister Netanyahu to evade any personal responsibility (given the international criticism against him, especially by the United States).
  • This was no independent initiative by MK Kellner. Back in November 2022, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich (Religious Zionism) said that these organizations were an existential threat to Israel and that the government must seize their funds.
  • The bill’s explanatory notes do not try to hide its anti-democratic purpose and overtly state as much: “The bill seeks to reduce, through taxation, the involvement of foreign political entities in Israel’s democracy.”
  • It violates the principle of equality by “targeting” human and civil rights NGOs, which are mostly funded by donor countries or foundations, whereas right-wing NGOs are usually supported by foreign tycoons and will therefore be unaffected.
  • Obviously, had the intention not been to specifically “target” human and civil rights NGOs critical of the government, a bill would have been introduced to tax all donations, regardless of whether they came from a state or a private entity.
  • The proposed bill will apply to “a donation that interferes in Israel’s internal affairs,” which broadly defines a donation to almost any type of public activity. Its basic premise is that sanctions should be imposed on NGOs trying to expose and stop human and civil rights violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and to provide relief to the victims.
  • What happens in the OPT is a matter of international interest, given that Israel has repeatedly declared at international forums and in response to Supreme Court petitions that this is territory under “belligerent seizure” that remains unannexed.
  • Nor are violations of human and civil rights within the State of Israel’s recognized sovereign territory considered an “internal matter” either, due to the fact that Israel is a signatory of numerous international treaties and a member of the United Nations.
  • The bill is intended to harm population groups in the OPT and within the State of Israel. It will not only affect Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, but also NGOs protecting the rights of women, LGBTQs, asylum seekers, the poor, disabled persons, Ethiopian immigrants, victims of police violence, and more.
  • It infringes on the fundamental rights of activists, volunteers, and workers of NGOs recognized in Supreme Court rulings and international treaties signed by Israel, in particular the rights to freedom of expression, association, and occupation.
  • It violates the principles of the UN Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society To Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
  • It will also harm Israeli men and women who are not active in NGOs or receive any services from them, as it will strengthen the delegitimization and political persecution of the opposition and government critics in Israel.

Dr. Maha Sabbah Karkabi


Senior Lecturer in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. She holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from Tel Aviv University (2015), a postdoctoral fellowship at the Center for Gender Studies, SOAS, University of London (2015-2016), a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Sociology at Tel Aviv University (2016-2017), and a postdoctoral fellowship Ph.D. at the Humphrey Institute for Social Research, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (2018-2020).
Dr. Maha Karbahi’s areas of interest focus on the connection between social change, family behavior, and gender inequality in societies in the process of change and specifically in Palestinian Arab society in Israel. Her research draws attention to the study of family life and employment, using a combined “ethnic lens” and “gender lens” and paying attention to the perspective of Palestinian Arab women, a group characterized by intersections between multiple marginal locations, which over the years has remained hidden from the research eye. Dr. Karkabi-Sabah’s research is published in professional journals and chapters in scientific books that are considered pioneers in family research, work, and gender equality.


Prof. Frances Raday

Professor Emeritus in the Lieberman Chair in Labor Law, in the Faculty of Law at the Hebrew University and serves as a full professor in the College of Management’s academic track, where she also serves as chair of the graduate program and as honorary president of the Concord Center for International Law Absorption. Radai was a member of a working group of the UN Human Rights Council on discrimination against women. In addition, she is a prominent and feminist human rights activist.


Dr. Rawia Aburabia 

Faculty member of Sapir Academic College’s School of Law, received her PhD from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Her research deals with the interface between law, gender, minorities, and human rights. Has published in leading journals on the subject of the matrimonial laws pertaining to Muslim women in Israel. Her book Under the Law, Outside Justice: Polygamy, Gendered Citizenship, and Colonialism in Israeli Law is expected to be published as part of the Gender Series of Kibbutz Meuhad Publishing House.

Dr. Aburabia has extensive experience in international human rights and public law. She has worked as a jurist for the Association for Civil Right and has been invited as a specialist to address such international forums as the United Nations and the European Parliament on the subject of indigenous communities and minority rights. She has interned with Human Rights Watch in Washington DC, and has been a member of the executive board of Amnesty International. In 2018, she was selected by the magazine Globes as one of the 40 most promising young persons in Israel under the age of 40.



Ron Kessler

With over two decades of experience in the field of digital content, Ron has participated in numerous political and social campaigns. He helped run the digital activity of senior public officials, and worked in various NGOs. Ron is a fundamentally optimistic man, who believes that Israel can be changed and so can people. Lives in Tel Aviv.