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Hagai Katz & Benjamin Gidron – Civil Society Encroachment in Nonliberal Democracies: The Case of Israel

By June 21, 2022No Comments

Photo: “Benjamin Netanyahu (25968752048),” by U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv licensed under CC Attribution 2.0 Generic. Hue modified from the original.

Katz, Hagai, and Benjamin Gidron. “Civil Society Encroachment in Nonliberal Democracies: The Case of Israel.” In Civil Society: Concepts, Challenges, Contexts, pp. 309-321. Springer, Cham, 2022.


In recent decades, many nations saw a major political shift, manifested in democratic regression, rising populist illiberal democracies, transgressions against democratic watchdogs, and increasing nationalism and unilateralism. This process includes government encroachment on the liberal elements in civil society, made possible by changing political opportunity structures, in resistance to the liberal world order and to external pressures that these regimes believe are imported by national nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Israel is a particular yet demonstrative example of these dynamics. We present the case of Israel and analyze the case of the New Israel Fund (NIF), which has been singled out by Israeli government as an “enemy of the state.” The encroachment on civil society by Israel’s right-wing governments and its NGO allies includes coordinated actions to subvert and delegitimize liberal civil society actors and their supporters and donors, using legislation, rhetorical assaults, restrictions on international funding, and differential treatment of human rights organizations. These infractions took place in overt and covert, direct and indirect ways, restricting the space available for left-wing NGOs that oppose the occupation and the stalemate in the peace process. The discussion stresses the nature of civil society and its relations with government that these processes elucidate.

The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural context, their intellectual genealogy, the sociology of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene.