Mideast shorts

New law in Israel leaves left-wing NGOs up in arms

The Knesset has passed controversial legislation that requires nongovernmental organizations to publicly declare their foreign government funding.

The so-called NGO transparency bill, which was proposed by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked of the Jewish Home party, passed its second and third readings on July 11 by a vote of 57-48.

Left-wing human rights organizations, which would be disproportionately affected, had slammed the measure. In a statement, Peace Now said it would challenge the law in Israel’s Supreme Court.

Under the law, NGOs that receive more than half their support from “foreign political entities” — including foreign governments or state agencies — must declare that funding and detail it every time they put out a report and advocacy literature, or speak with a public official.

An earlier draft would have required representatives of such groups to wear badges identifying themselves as lobbyists of foreign governments, but the provision was scrapped.

Nearly all the 27 Israeli organizations identified by the Justice Ministry as being affected by the new rules belong to the left wing, including B’Tselem, Yesh Din and Breaking the Silence.

Many right-wing NGOs are funded by private Jewish individuals in the United States and other countries — sources whose disclosure is not required under the new law.

In a statement, Peace Now said the law “is a blatant violation of freedom of expression.”

“Tailored specifically to target only peace and human rights organizations, its true intention is to divert the Israeli public discourse away from the occupation and to silence opposition to the government’s policies,” the group said. “While the law will delegitimize left-wing organizations, pro-settler NGOs who receive millions of dollars in foreign donations without any transparency will remain unaffected.”

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel also issued a statement saying the law “is intended to harm organizations that promote democracy and worldviews that differ from the views of the majority in the current coalition.” — jta


UNESCO statute could erase Jews’ ties to holy sites

Israel’s Foreign Ministry has sent a letter to members of a United Nations committee condemning a draft resolution that negates Jewish historical ties to the Temple Mount and Jerusalem.

UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee is considering the joint Palestinian-Jordanian resolution on “the Old City of Jerusalem and its walls” during a 10-day

UNESCO meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, that ends July 20. UNESCO is the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

The draft refers to the Temple Mount 10 times as Al Haram Al Sharif, the Islamic term for the Temple Mount, without mentioning that it is the holiest site in Judaism, according to U.N. Watch, a Geneva-based nongovernmental organization. It also uses the term Buraq Plaza three times, placing Western Wall plaza in quotes, appearing to deny a Jewish connection to the site. Israel is repeatedly referred to as the “Occupying Power” in Jerusalem.

A similar resolution was adopted by UNESCO’s executive board in April.

“Again, UNESCO is considering the adoption of a completely one-sided draft resolution on the Old City of Jerusalem that deliberately ignores the historical connection between the Jewish people and their ancient capital,” reads the letter sent July 11 and signed by Dore Gold, director general of the Foreign Ministry. “We urge you to oppose this effort to distort history, which will offend the members of the Jewish and Christian faiths, and undermine the credibility of UNESCO in the future.”

The committee is made up of 21 constituent nations: Angola, Azerbaijan, Burkina Faso, Croatia, Cuba, Finland, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Tunisia, Turkey, Tanzania, Vietnam and Zimbabwe. — jta


Memorial service for slain girl, 13, held on Temple Mount

At least 50 people ascended the Temple Mount July 12 for a memorial with the family of slain West Bank teen Hallel Yaffa Ariel. It was the largest group of Jews permitted to visit the Temple Mount in the past year, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

About 200 supporters gathered afterward at the Western Wall plaza to support the family. They sang and danced in memory of Hallel, a 13-year-old who was stabbed to death while sleeping in her home in the Kiryat Arba settlement by a teenage Palestinian.

“We did not come this morning to cry. We have cried a lot and we will cry more,” Rina Ariel, the girl’s mother, told supporters on the Temple Mount. “We came to be strengthened and to strengthen others.”

Ariel called for the Mughrabi Gate, through which non-Muslim visitors may enter the Temple Mount, to be renamed Hallel Gate.

Lawmakers who tried to attend — including Yehuda Glick and Oren Hazan of the Likud party and Bezalel Smotrich and Uri Ariel of Jewish Home — were prohibited by police from ascending the Temple Mount. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered lawmakers not to visit the Temple Mount in order to prevent inflaming tensions with the Muslim community.

The 17-year-old assailant was from a Palestinian village. Civilian guards shot and killed the attacker. — jta


Probe underway: Did Netanyahu launder money?

Israel’s attorney general has confirmed that he has ordered an investigation into accusations against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in what the Israeli media is reporting as a money-laundering probe.

Avichai Mandelblit stressed to the media that the investigation opened on July 10 is initial and not a criminal investigation.

The attorney general reportedly discussed the accusations with the police intelligence unit, the state attorney and the Justice Ministry. Many media reports on the probe published in recent days have been “inaccurate, to say the least,” said a statement released by Mandelblit’s office.

The allegations have not been made public, although the reports say that it is a money-laundering probe separate from previous cases against Netanyahu. Netanyahu’s office denied the allegations. — jta


Egypt minister visits Israel; first time in nine years

The foreign minister of Egypt was in Israel this week to discuss his country’s recommendations for peace between Israel and the Palestinians with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The July 10 arrival by Sameh Shoukry marked the first visit by an Egyptian foreign minister since 2007, according to Netanyahu.

Speaking at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting that day, Netanyahu said the visit “teaches about the change that has come over Israel-Egypt relations, including President [Abdel Fattah] el-Sisi’s important call to advance the peace process with both the Palestinians and Arab countries.”

Shoukry, who has been foreign minister for two years, visited Ramallah for the first time two weeks ago to talk about Egypt’s peace plans with Palestinian leaders, Haaretz reported. — jta


Saudi group rates Hebrew University best in Middle East

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem was ranked as the best university in the Middle East, according to the Center for World University Rankings based in Saudi Arabia.

The center also ranked the university 26th among more than 25,000 degree-conferring universities from all over the world, it announced in a statement on July 11. Other Israeli universities to finish in the top 100 were the Weizmann Institute of Science, at 41, and Tel Aviv University, at 81, according to the Jerusalem Post.

Among the factors considered in rating the world’s top 1,000 universities were quality of education and faculty; Hebrew University placed 16th and 15th, respectively. Other categories were alumni employment, publications, influence, citations, broad impact and patents.

The top 10 schools were all either from the United States or the United Kingdom, with Harvard ranked first followed by Stanford, MIT, Cambridge, Oxford, Columbia, U.C. Berkeley, the University of Chicago, Princeton and Yale.

U.S. News and World Report ranked Hebrew University 159th in its 2015 world rankings, second in Israel behind the Weizmann Institute.

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, founded in 1918, is said to produce one-third of all civilian research in Israel. — jta