A controversial Israeli settler group that uses legal avenues to undermine the legitimacy of Bedouin villages is set to speak at an event in London, months after the talk was scrapped.
The charitable arm of UK Lawyers for Israel has re-invited Regavim for a talk scheduled for 1 December, which was postponed in September after a backlash from Zionist and pro-Palestinian groups.
Last week UKLFI said Regavim’s Naomi Linder Kahn would be giving a talk at a north-west London venue. Regavim files lawsuits to block or destroy “illegal” buildings, which mainly affects Bedouin and Palestinian families. It laments the “hostile takeover of [West Bank] territory” by Palestinians, and its mission is “to protect Jewish lands and natural resources and to prevent an alien takeover”.
In recent months it has petitioned the courts to demolish villages which last year prompted Jewish students in 15 British universities to protest to then Middle East Minister Alistair Burt.
This year Regavim opposed requests to delay the demolition of Khan al-Ahmar in the West Bank then petitioned the courts to order the Israeli Government to justify its decision, despite Israel’s most supportive MPs such as Theresa May and former Labour Friends of Israel chair Joan Ryan urging the bulldozers off.
UKLFI blamed “misinformed and misdirected criticism” for the backlash and said its charitable trust “aims to advance legal education in national and international political, social and economic policy” regarding Israel.
Some British Jewish groups have reacted to news of Regavim’s rescheduled visit with dismay, arguing that the organisation’s actions should make the representatives unwelcome.
“The announcement of the event comes in a week when the issue of settler violence against the IDF and Israel’s border police has been in the headlines,” said Adam Ognall, chief executive of New Israel Fund UK.
“This, along with ongoing ‘Price Tag’ attacks, represents a serious challenge to the rule of law in Israel. It would be instructive of UKLFI to ask how Regavim with its stated commitment to enforcing the law has responded.”
A spokeswoman for Yachad said: “We are disappointed that UKLFI have again decided to offer a platform to the extremist group Regavim which works around the clock to displace Palestinian communities living in the West Bank.”
She added: “There is no place in our community for a group which was founded by Bezalel Smotrich, a man who advocates for segregating of Jewish and Arab women in maternity wards.”
Asked for a statement this week, UKLFI chief executive Jonathan Turner referred Jewish News to his organisation’s statement from August, in which UKLFI said the talk had been “postponed so that proper security measures can be put into place”.
He added: “Regavim seek to ensure proper application of planning laws both in Israel within the Green Line and in Area C of the West Bank, which is under Israeli administration in line with the Oslo Accords… Proper enforcement of these laws benefits Arabs as well as Jews.”
Regavim has been approached for comment.