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EVER heard of Regavim? I’m guessing probably not. Despite this group’s significant role in the most heinous aspects of the Israeli occupation, they remain pretty much unknown. And this makes them even more dangerous.
So what is Regavim?
A so-called charity founded in 2006, Regavim is run by and for illegal Israeli settlers. Its mission is described as “preserving Israel’s national lands,” but what this translates to in reality is an unrelenting campaign to demolish Palestinian homes and villages.
Because of their work, over the last 10 years Israel’s cruel demolition policies have become more aggressive — giving Palestinians little chance to save their houses, roads, water networks and even trees from destruction.
The extremist group achieves this through petitioning the Israeli state to issue and carry out demolition orders on structures built without permits by Palestinians. In Area C, which makes up 60 per cent of the West Bank, Palestinians must apply for Israeli-issued permits in order to build. But these are virtually impossible to obtain meaning most construction has to be done “illegally.”
To throw more houses into the path of the bulldozers, the settler group also hires “fieldworkers” to spy on villages, often with drones, who identify “illegal” structures.
A powerful propaganda machine underpins Regavim’s operation of ethnic cleansing. This machine peddles out a false narrative in which Palestine does not exist, and its villages are mere “illegal Arab outposts” built on “Israeli land.” But anyone with an ounce of knowledge about the situation knows that it is the Israeli settlements that are the illegal outposts built on stolen Palestinian land. Regavim’s shocking inversion of reality would be laughable if it wasn’t so effective in destroying lives.
The extremist group is also deeply and unashamedly racist. If you can bear a visit to their website, you’ll find a video that likens Palestinians building homes to warfare.
“Ever so quietly, without the roar of battle and clamour of war, the Jewish people is being robbed of the Land of Israel,” the video’s narrator says over dramatic music. “On this battlefield cement mixers have replaced tanks … and innocent-looking civilians replace uniformed soldiers.”
This fearmongering is a crucial element of how Regavim operates. In August the extremists hung Palestinian flags along roads in the West Bank to warn settlers that a “terrorist state is around the corner.”
Despite its claim that it simply ensures Israel’s laws are being upheld, Regavim has never filed a petition against an Israeli settlement. Some outposts are illegal even under Israeli law, yet they are spared Regavim’s petitions. Palestinians affected by Regavim also say it’s clear that the group is doing the government’s leg work for it.
Nasser Nawaja is a resident of Susiyah, a village in the South Hebron Hills that has frozen demolition orders on every structure. “At the beginning, Regavim was just a small organisation — but now people can’t tell where Regavim starts and the Israeli government begins,” he says. Ties between the state and Regavim are also apparent by the fact that they receive Israeli taxpayers’ money. In an investigation by the newspaper Haaretz, it was revealed that the group has received millions of shekels in funding from local councils.
And it’s not just taxpayers that prop up Regavim’s work. Thanks to its charitable status, the group also receives donations, largely from the US. This is despite the fact that its discriminatory practices violates criteria that must be met to have charitable status.
Its reach goes beyond Israel and even the US. On December 1 this year Regavim’s director of its international division Naomi Linda Khan was invited to speak in London by powerful Israeli lobby group UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI).
The event was met by protests from Palestine solidarity groups, angered by the welcoming of such a racist organisation to Britain. The invitation by UKLFI is perhaps not so surprising given the fact that it has run multiple smear and divestment campaigns against pro-Palestinian groups. But what is shocking, is Regavim’s attempts to spread its propaganda and gain support outside of Israel.
Testimonies read out at yesterday’s protest from Palestinians laid bare the devastating actions of Regavim.
“People are now only living their life in the courtrooms rather than with their children,” a protester reading out the testimony of Awdah Hathaleen, a resident of the at-risk village of Umm al-Khair, said. “We spend more time talking with lawyers than we do our family members.”
Regavim’s relative anonymity has meant that its operations have gone unchallenged by the pro-Palestinian community. This has to change. Anyone who stands with the Palestinians in their struggle for freedom must know Regavim’s name and oppose their appalling work that not only wrecks homes but also lives.
Regavim is not a charity. Regavim is not a legal NGO. Regavim is a racist, sinister and lying propaganda machine driving the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people.
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