Controversial pro-settlement group invited to London

Controversial pro-settlement group invited to London

Regavim, "dedicated to the preservation of Israel’s land", has been asked to speak next month by UK Lawyers for Israel.

West Bank Bedouin community of Khan al-Ahmar (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)
West Bank Bedouin community of Khan al-Ahmar (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

A controversial pro-settler group has been invited to the UK by UK Lawyers for Israel.

Regavim will be hosted next month for a London talk titled: ‘Regavim: The Struggle to Preserve Israel’s Land.’ The speaker will be Naomi Linder Kahn from the organisation’s international division.

UKLFI calls Regavim an “Israeli think-tank and lobbying group dedicated to the preservation of Israel’s land… it empowers Israel’s government to enforce the law and uphold the basic principles of Zionism, protecting Israel’s lands, environment and national resources”.

Regavim’s day-to-day work involves filing 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 several villages in or near the strategic land corridor E1, as well as Susiya, which is is in the southern part of the West Bank. This, last year, prompted Jewish students in 15 British universities to protest to then Middle East Minister Alistair Burt.

Earlier this year Regavim led efforts opposing 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.

Some of Israel’s most staunch supporters in the UK, including former Prime Minister Theresa May and former Labour Friends of Israel chair Joan Ryan, have urged the bulldozers to back off.

Regavim was co-founded by the new Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich a “proud homophobe” who claims that LGBT+ Jews are “beasts” that control the media. He calls Reform Judaism “a fake religion” and advocates a “Torah justice system” in Israel, “as in the days of King David and King Solomon”.

He has defended the so-called ‘Price Tag’ attacks by Jewish settlers on Palestinian property as “not terrorism” and “only violence carried out in the framework of the war against us,” and last year suggested the 17-year-old female Palestinian activist Ahed Tamimi should be shot in the kneecaps.

Regavim even waded into the Brexit debate, encouraging Brits to leave the EU to punish the EU for its support for Palestinian farmers.

Naomi Kahn, director of Regavim’s International Division who will be speaking at the London event, told Jewish News: “We are a public non-governmental organisation that aims to influence Israeli public policy and tobring about the fruition of Zionist ideals in the Jewish homeland.

“We campaign for equal and universal law enforcement, as the only legitimate means of protecting the rule of law and Israel’s scarce natural resources. In order to achieve these goals, we conduct field and archival research, and seek legal remedies when necessary.”

Kahn added: “I invite your readers to attend my upcoming London presentation to hear more details about our current campaign, our objectives and methods, and our record of service toward achieving our goals. More importantly, I invite people to come to Israel to learn about the issues on Regavim’s agenda first-hand. I believe they will be convinced that spurious accusations against us are completely unfounded.”

Chief executive of UKLFI Jonathan Turner QC defended his invitation to Regavim, saying: “We arrange events with a wide range of interesting and challenging speakers, including speakers from the left and right of the Israeli political spectrum.”

He added that audience members could “put contrary points of view” in the Q&A session, saying: “We invite Jewish News readers to hear the speaker, participate in the discussion and reach their own conclusions.”

However, Adam Ognall of New Israel Fund UK said it would “bring to our community’s attention the work of organisations, with links to the settler movement and advocates of annexation, whose legal work contributes to the blurring of accepted lines.”

Noting that Regavim had been invited by UKLFI’s charitable arm, he added: “I hope UKLFI will further its educational mission by having at future events the differing perspectives on land and human rights among Israeli legal experts.”

A spokeswoman for left-wing group Yachad said Regavim “claims to act in the name of Judaism, but in truth its ideology has nothing to do with the peace-seeking Judaism our community believes in. Instead of offering them a platform, our community should reject Regavim and call out its ideology.”

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