Young British Jews descended on Kentish Town on Sunday to blockade a talk by a controversial Israeli organisation that uses “lawfare” against Palestinian communities.
Activists from anti-occupation group Na’amod linked arms and stood in front of the entrance to a community centre in north London which was playing host to a rescheduled talk by Naomi Linder Kahn, a director of Regavim.
Up to 25 Na’amod protesters made their presence known by singing songs, describing Regavim’s activities using a megaphone and recited Birkat HaBayit, the Jewish prayer for the home. A separate protest by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign took place nearby.
Kahn had originally been due to fly to London in September but following an article by Jewish News highlighting her pending visit, activists and protesters put pressure on her host – UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI) – and the event was postponed.
Regavim has led the legal charge to demolish Bedouin and Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem and Area C, the part of the West Bank under full Israeli civil and military control, including from land legally owned by Palestinian families.
Kahn was hosted by the charitable arm of UKLFI, which says its mission is “to use the law against attempts to undermine, attack and delegitimise Israel, Israeli organisations, Israelis, and supporters of Israel”.
A member of the Na’amod protest said: “The police were there but thankfully everything remained peaceful. We were called ‘self-hating Jews’ by a few attendees as they walked in but that’s par for the course and we didn’t react. There were about 40 protesters in total. We outnumbered the attendees.”
Josh Cohen, a Na’amod member who took part in the blockade, said UKLFI’s decision to welcome Regavim to the UK “demonstrates the depths of the moral crisis in our community when it comes to the occupation”.
He said: “Regavim doesn’t just support the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from Israel and the West Bank. It is actively involved in efforts to make this happen.
“Just as British Jews have rejected the home-grown extremism of Katie Hopkins and Tommy Robinson, they must reject the vile hatred championed by organisations such as Regavim. Everyone who opposes racism must condemn UKLFI for welcoming this sort of hate into our community.”
UKLFI director Caroline Turner said Regavim was “certainly not a champion of hate” as it took action “against Jewish as well as Arab violators”.
She said Kahn “gave an intelligent and interesting talk about Regavim’s work” and “described how Regavim monitors the building of illegal structures, or illegal use of land, and brings legal cases to court in Israel to try to enforce the law, in relation to building regulations, both inside and outside the Green Line”.
She added: “While the champions of hate chanted into megaphones outside our meeting, the attendees inside were given a fascinating insight into how a small NGO is seeking to preserve the land and natural resources of Israel.”