Amid Pressure, Finance Minister Nixes COVID-19 Aid to “Anti-Israel” NGOs.

Finance Minister Israel Katz (Likud) announced on Tuesday evening that organizations that “work against the interests of the state” will not be eligible to receive aid from the state’s new aid fund for civil society organizations.

On Tuesday, Israel National News reported that Finance Minister Katz and Labor and Social Affairs Minister Itzik Shmuli (Labor) set up a fund to assist social organizations negatively impacted by COVID-19.

The fund will provide grants from NIS 10,000 to NIS 400,000 to non-profit organizations that work with “populations in need of assistance” and whose income suffered by more than 25%.

According to the criteria of the fund, organizations that work with illegal migrant workers were listed as being eligible for the grant, sparking sharp criticism led by the pro-Israel watchdog group Im Tirtzu and prominent south Tel-Aviv social activist Sheffi Paz.

Tens of thousands of illegal African migrant workers currently reside in Israel, the majority of whom live in south Tel-Aviv. The state has long been searching for a solution for this issue but has faced sharp pushback by civil society organizations, many of which are funded by European governments and the US-based New Israel Fund.

Amid the criticism, Katz’s office issued a statement that organizations who work against the state will not be eligible for state aid.

“In light of the claim that organizations that work against the interests of the State of Israel are included in the list, Finance Minister Israel Katz ordered to immediately halt the issuance of permits and to ensure that there are no anti-Israel groups in the list,” said the statement.

Im Tirtzu CEO Matan Peleg welcomed the decision and said that “public funds have no business going toward organizations that work against the State of Israel.”

The decision was also welcomed by residents of south Tel-Aviv, who say that the illegal migrants workers have made their lives unbearable given the rise in crime and drugs in their neighborhoods.

Im Tirtzu is a Zionist non-governmental organization based in Israel.  Its name is derived from an epigraph appended to the frontispiece of Theodor Herzl’s novel Altneuland, ‘if you wish it, it is no fairy-tale,’ rendered into modern Hebrew in Nahum Sokolow’s translation in 1903, as Im tirtzu ein zo agadah.

Eytan Meir – Director of External Relations & Development

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