Regavim (NGO)

From Infogalactic: the planetary knowledge core
Jump to: navigation, search

Regavim (רגבים) is an Israeli NGO that describes its mission as “to ensure responsible, legal, accountable & environmentally friendly use of Israel’s national lands and the return of the rule of law to all areas and aspects of the land and its preservation”.[1] According to Nicola Perugini and others, the word 'land' here refers to 'Jewish national land,'[2] and by that term Regavim understands the entirety of Israel and the Palestinian territories it occupies, in which Palestinian habitation is considered an illegal takeover.[3]

It was founded in 2006 by Yehuda Eliahu and Bezalel Smotrich[4][5] as "response to a Supreme Court case against the illegal outpost of Harasha in Samaria" initiated by Peace Now in 2005.[5]

Regavim focuses most intensely on construction work in the Galilee, Negev, and the West Bank which has been done by Israeli Arabs and Palestinians without Israeli permits.[6] Regavim's objectives converge with those of Israeli settlers, with whom the group maintains close institutional ties.[3] Regavim is financed by public funds from West Bank local settlement councils and from the settler organization Amana.

Neve Gordon describes Regavim as a 'settler-colonial NGO' and denounces its "strategy of mirroring" in picturing Palestinian villages as "outposts" or Palestinian presence in the West Bank as a "kind of illegal occupation".[2] Critics argue that Regavim aims to 'try to force the state to speed up and increase the execution of home demolition orders and forced relocations of non-Jews, be they of Palestinians in the West Bank or Bedouin in the Negev.'[7] According to Peter Beaumont, 'Regavim describes its mission as using the courts "to protect national lands and properties and prevent foreign elements from taking over the countries [sic] territorial resources"', and pursues cases in of areas[8] not in Israel but in the occupied Palestinian territories.[9]

Origins

It was founded in 2006 as a settler-rights NGO.[10] Regavim's objectives converge with those of Israeli settlers, with whom the group maintains close institutional ties.[3] The purpose was to counteract what its founders considered to be the improper use by 'liberal' NGOs to 'subvert' Israeli democracy by using the legal system to pursue advocacy of human rights when the left failed to achieve electoral success. According to Dror Etges, former Director of the Peace Now program, Settlement Watch, Regavim was not only conceived as a response to the work of anti-settlement NGOs, it was modeled directly on Settlement Watch and Yesh Din.[11] This recourse to rights advocacy is dismissed as 'undemocratic lawfare' by Neve Gordon.[12] According to Neve Gordon and Nicola Perugini, settler rights NGOs like Regavim turn the relationship of oppressed and oppressor on its head, in transforming dispossession as a human right.[13] Regavim is financed by public funds from West Bank local settlement councils, and according to the last available public statement of accounts, received more than 2 million shekels ($550,000) of funding in 2010, a sixfold rise over 2008.[4] Regavim also receives funds from the settler-organization Amana.[14]

Name

The name, Regavim, lit. "patches of soil," is taken from the Hebrew word “regev,” meaning a very small piece of land, a word used in a Zionist poem about reclaiming the Land of Israel, “dunam by dunam, regev by regev.”[6]

Aims and activities

Regavim focuses most intensely on construction work in the Galilee, Negev, and the West Bank which has been done by Israeli Arabs and Palestinians without Israeli permits.[6] Regavim has also directly petitioned against government removal of settler outposts. It has also petitioned successfully to stop Israeli demolition orders against settler homes, as in the case of Har Bracha in April 2010, and Migron.[4] According to its director Ari Briggs, the courts and Civil Administration are often slow to act against illegal Palestinian construction activity, and Regavim files lawsuits to prod the courts to issue demolition orders.[7] After Yesh Din successfully petitioned the state to force settlers in the illegal Israeli outpost of El Matan to seal an unauthorized synagogue, Regavim retaliated by petitioning the Israeli Supreme Court to have a mosque, still under construction and serving 400 worshippers in Al Mufaqara, bulldozed in the West Bank on the grounds it was in Area C. Their suit was successful.[15][16][17]

Regavim argues that the Jewish people are 'being robbed of the Land of Israel . .ever so quietly without the roar of battle and the clamor of war' [2] Regavim appears to mirror the practices of human rights organizations like Yesh Din, which appeal to the courts on half on Palestinian communities, with the difference that for Regavim, all of Israel and the Palestinian territories is 'national land' and Palestinian habitation is an "illegal overtaking" of that land, it systematically inverts the terms of human rights language, by designating Jewish settlements as legal, and Palestinians under the Israeli occupation as "trespassers"[4] engaged in illegal occupation, settlement, and outpost construction.[2][3] By using a network of settlers to scout, photograph and report on Palestinian construction,[3] it monitors and then reports on constructions by Palestinians that lack full Israeli legal permits, and prosecutes cases of such construction through the judicial system.[6]

In September 2011, Regavim submitted a petition to the ICC urging it to revoke the decision to receive the Palestinian Authority’s declaration of recognizing the International Criminal Court’s jurisdiction, which was a gentle attempt by PA for statehood recognition. In April 2012 the ICC prosecutor turned down the request by the PA for a probe into accusations of Israeli war crimes in Gaza War (2008-09), stating that it had no jurisdiction over unrecognized states.[18][19]

Protecting nature preserves

Regavim monitors and reports on the violation of nature reserves for construction, roads and other development at Mt. Meron and elsewhere.[20] According to Rabbis for Human Rights some of these nature reserves in the Negev are declared in order to block Bedouins from using the land, and precedents exist for transforming reserves to future Jewish construction.[21][non-primary source needed] Regavim, however, calls the Bedouin settlements, "a silent conquest," of land by means of illegal construction funded from abroad.[22]

The organization sued the town of Majdal Shams for illegal construction inside the Mt. Hermon nature reserve.[23]

Accusations against the European Union in illegal construction

In February 2015 Regavim released a report[24] documenting the construction of houses funded by the British charity Oxfam and the European Union. The same material claimed that the European Union was subsidizing illegal housing in Area C of the West Bank, which according to Oslo Accords is under interim Israeli jurisdiction. Israeli international law expert Alan Baker, who took part in the Oslo Accords' creation, said that "EU is ignoring international law and taking concrete steps to influence the facts on the ground" Similar opinions were expressed by Eugene Kontorovich, another international law expert,[25] and by such MEPs as James Carver (Britain) and Michael Theurer (de) (Germany).[26][27][28]

Oxfam defended its funding of construction, stating that it had undertaken the activity on 'humanitarian grounds'. EU spokesman in the West Bank, Shadi Othman, admitted that EU-Oxfam 'unauthorised construction was taking place', justifying it on the grounds that Area C forms part of 'the occupied Palestinian territory which eventually will be Palestinian land,' claiming that Palestinians have a right to live, build schools, and develop projects there. Furthermore, Othman added, Israeli settlements on Palestinian territory are both 'illegal under international law and constitute an obstacle to peace', and said that approximately 97% of Palestinian permit applications for building in the West Bank have been rejected by the Israeli administration".[26]

As a result of report's publication, "Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon to move forward with a plan to demolish some 400 Palestinian structures built in the West Bank with European funding".[28] The first such building was demolished in March 2015 on Mt. Scopus near Hebrew University[29]

Bedouins

Regavim files law suits to block illegal Bedouin construction in the Negev and elsewhere.[5][22]

Regavim calls the Bedouin settlements, "a silent conquest," of land by means of illegal construction funded from abroad.[22] Regavim claims the Bedouin tribes of the Negev fail the definition of indigenous peoples since, according to Regavim, (1) They aren't the "Original Peoples" of the region (2) They have no long-standing presence as Ottoman records from late 16th century doesn't mention the current Negev tribes. (3) They never had sovereignty over the area (4) The demand for land ownership which allows for selling it, is contrary to a spiritual connection to the territory. The UN recognition of the Negev Bedouins is regarded by Regavim as questionable since no other Bedouin tribes in the Middle East made the indigenous claim. As a result, members of the same tribe may or may not be considered indigenous, depends on which side of the border they live.[30] Moreover, many Bedouin families are recent immigrants to the Negev.[22]

Regavim argues that the Palestinian Bedouin are trying to take over the area. Their argument is based on Israeli definitions of what are 'residential areas', of which the Bedouin, though constituting 30% of the Negev population, claim only 21%, in agricultural areas or a total of 5.4% of the Negev. The contemporary Bedouin claims in the Negev are, according to Rabbis for Human Rights, much less than what the Zionist "Israel Land Development Company" determined to be under Bedouin ownership in 1920.[31][third-party source needed] Regavim contests in courts Bedouin ownership of land, though Zionists prior to the establishment of the state of Israel recognized both their indigenous status and their land ownership system. To 'prove' historic Bedouin villages did not exist, Regavim uses aerial photographs from 1945 which do not reveal the presence of such villages, ignoring, according to Rabbis for Human Rights, the fact that Bedouins used mud hunts or tents whose colour blended with that of the landscape, and, they argue, not visible on low resolution black-and-white aerial photographs. Furthermore, the Regavim evidence ignores British maps which demonstrate the villages' existence.[31][third-party source needed]

Criticism

Critics claim that Regavim's objectives converge with those of Israeli settlers, with whom the group maintains close institutional ties.[3] Regavim is financed by public funds from West Bank local settlement councils and from the settler organization Amana.[32]

Critics argue that Regavim aims to 'try to force the state to speed up and increase the execution of home demolition orders and forced relocations of non-Jews, be they of Palestinians in the West Bank or Bedouin in the Negev.'[7] Critics described it as a 'settler-colonial NGO'.[2] They argue that Regavim aims to 'try to force the state to speed up and increase the execution of home demolition orders and forced relocations of non-Jews, be they of Palestinians in the West Bank or Bedouin in the Negev.'[7]

Regavim has been described by Nicola Perugini and Kareem Rabie asn embodying a new type of political activism by the Israeli far right which

uses liberal techniques of struggle for the extension of an exclusivist Zionist agenda.[3]

According to Charlotte Alfred, it was reported that several Regavim leaders themselves dwell in either Israeli settlements in the West Bank (Bezalel Smotrich in Kedumim) or in Israeli outposts built without Israeli official authorization, such as Yehuda Eliyahu at Haresha, and lawyer Doron Nir Tsvi in the Havat Yair outpost.[4]

Buildings on private Palestinian land

In May 2015, Regavim provided a study to Knesset members, who are working towards legislation to expropriate private land from Palestinians in return for compensation. According to it, 2,026 structures are built on private Palestinian land in 26 settlements in the West Bank. When the details from this own study were revealed, Regavim replied in a public statement that

It is irresponsible to publish data that appears in the report; any discussion on this sensitive issue should be conducted with appropriate discretion in the proper forum. Regavim has presented its stance on this issue to the officials relevant in finding a solution for the complex situation that has arisen in these places.[33]

References

  1. "About Regavim // Regavim". regavim.org. Retrieved 23 August 2015. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Nicola Perugini, Neve Gordon, The Human Right to Dominate, Oxford University Press, 2015, p.116
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 Nicola Perugini and Kareem Rabie, 'Human Right to the Colony,' in Tammaso Sbriccoli,Stefano Jacoviello, Shifting Borders: European Perspectives on Creolisation, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2012,p.47 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "PeruginiRabie" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "PeruginiRabie" defined multiple times with different content
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Charlotte Alfred 'Settler group patrols West Bank for demolition targets,' Ma'an News Agency9 May 9, 2012.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Miller, Elhanan (2015-05-01). "Tracking illegal Arab construction, one EU-funded house at a time". timesofisrael.com. Retrieved 26 August 2015. Regavim, the right-wing equivalent of Peace Now, says Europe is using an impoverished Bedouin population to create political facts on the ground... Regavim – Israel Independence Fund was founded in 2006 by newly elected Jewish Home MK Bezalel Smotrich and Yehuda Eliyahu in response to a September 2005 Supreme Court case brought by Peace Now against the illegal outpost of Harasha in Samaria 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Traiman, Alex (9 June 2013). "NGO counters illegal Palestinian and Arab building amid global focus on Jewish construction". JNS News Service. Retrieved 11 August 2015. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Ilene Prusher, The Susya: Next Outrage in the Israeli-Palestinian Dance of Build-and-destroy,' Haaretz 4 August 2015
  8. Kirbet Susiya according to Beaumont
  9. Beaumont, Peter (6 June 2015). "Israeli rights groups join battle to save symbol of Arab resistance to evictions". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 September 2015. 
  10. Nicola Perugini, Neve Gordon, The Human Right to Dominate, p. 112
  11. Fleish, Eric (2014). Israeli NGOs and American Jewish Donors: The Structures and Dynamics of Power Sharing in a New Philanthropic Era. Brandeis University PhD dissertation. p. 245. Retrieved 20 August 2015. 
  12. Nicola Perugini, Neve Gordon, The Human Right to Dominate, pp. 109-110
  13. Nicola Perugini, Neve Gordon, The Human Right to Dominate, pp. 112, 116: 'Within this context of convergence and mirroring, settler colonial NGOs like Regavim invert the historical asymmetry in which they operate and produce the frfamework of justice they rely on. The inversion -such as the indigenous being transformed into a settler and vice versa-is a political product of the mirroring . . .In the human rights struggles waged by settler NGOs, mirroring becomes inverting.: Jewish settlements become Palestinian settlements; "illegal Jewish construction" becomes "illegal Palestinian construction"; Palestinian villages become "Palestinian outposts," transforming Palestinian presence and existence into a kind of illegal occupation. Human rights become a weapon for further indigenous displacement.'
  14. Chaim Levinson (Apr 27, 2014). "Israel Seeks to Demolish Palestinian Village on Archaeological Grounds". Haaretz. 
  15. Amira Hass, 'You Have to Demolish Them While They're Small,' Haaretz 10 December 2012.
  16. Nicola Perugini, Neve Gordon, The Human Right to Dominate, p. 166 n.43.
  17. 'Court to debate sealing mosque in West Bank village Burin,' Jerusalem Post 21 February 2011
  18. Joanna Paraszczuk 'ICC: No Cast Lead probe as PA not a state,' Jerusalem Post 3 April 2012.
  19. SIMONS, MARLISE (3 Apr 2012). "Court Rejects Palestinians in Their Bid for a Tribunal". The New York Times. Retrieved 15 August 2015. 
  20. "Illegal Building at Mt. Meron Nature Reserve". mzfoundation.org. MZFoundation. Retrieved 18 August 2015. 
  21. 'Get the Facts: A Distorted Report Provides Backing to the Government’s Denial of Bedouin Rights,' Rabbis for Human Rights 21 November 2013.
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 22.3 Stackelbeck, Erick (1 July 2013). "Israel Biblical Lands Target of 'Agricultural Jihad'". CBN. Retrieved 18 August 2015. 
  23. Yellin, Avi (22 November 2009). "Regavim: Stop the destruction of Mount Hermon". Arutz Sheva. Retrieved 18 August 2015. 
  24. "Illegal EU Building in Adumim Region" (PDF). Regavim. February 2015. Table of Contents
    • Introduction: The Homeless in America, Roma and Travelers in the EU and Bedouin in the Adumim Region
    • Chapter 1: How Bedouin came to be in this area
    • Chapter 2: Actions taken by the State of Israel
    • Chapter 3: EU aid used for illegal building
    • Chapter 4: Detailed Research
    • Chapter 5: International Law
    • Chapter 6: Humanitarian Aid or Exacerbating problems
    • Chapter 7: Environmental concerns
    • Conclusions  line feed character in |quote= at position 18 (help)
  25. Eugene Kontorovich, Research & Faculty: Northwestern University School of Law
  26. 26.0 26.1 Jake Wallis Simons,'European Union is 'breaking international law by funding illegal West Bank building projects' Daily Mail 5 February 2015
    • "Professor Eugene Kontorovich, an international lawyer from the Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago, said: ‘There’s no question, the EU is openly in violation of international law.'"
    • "James Carver, a British MEP ... wrote a strongly-worded letter to the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs. ‘The structures all bear the name and flag of the EU and official EU agents have been photographed participating in overseeing the construction, so the active involvement of the EU can hardly be denied,' ... 'I kindly call upon you to do your utmost to bring an end to these illegal and destructive activities'"
    • "Michael Theurer, a German MEP who is a member of the European Parliament’s Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs, shares his concerns. ‘I am taking these allegations seriously and will thoroughly investigate them’"
  27. Keinon, Herb; Lazaroff, Tovah (2015-02-05). "Report: EU building hundreds of illegal structures for Palestinians in Area C of West Bank". jpost.com. Retrieved 27 August 2015. (James Carver]) wrote, “EU member states would not allow such behavior within their own borders, nor would the EU endorse or find it anywhere within the European Union. So why would the EU do so outside its borders?” Secondly, he wrote, the buildings contravene the Oslo Accords, which give Israel full administrative responsibility and authority over Area C. “Any building constructed without such permit is illegal, and by endorsing such acts by the Palestinians, the EU is participating in a violation of the Oslo II Agreement” 
  28. 28.0 28.1 Jalil, Justin (2015-02-06). "PM orders demolition of EU-funded Palestinian 'settlements' in West Bank". Times of Israel. Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Retrieved 31 August 2015. 
  29. Eisenbud, Daniel K. (2015-03-11). "Illegally constructed EU building razed on Mt. Scopus near Hebrew University". jpost.com. Retrieved 31 August 2015. 
  30. "The Truth About The Bedouin in the Negev" (PDF). Regavim. 
  31. 31.0 31.1 'Get the Facts: A Distorted Report Provides Backing to the Government’s Denial of Bedouin Rights,' Rabbis for Human Rights 21 November 2013.
  32. Levinson, Chaim (29 Mar 2015). "Israel Seeks to Demolish Palestinian Village on Archaeological’ Grounds". Haaretz. Retrieved 20 August 2015. 
  33. Chaim Levinson (3 May 2015). "2,026 Settlement Homes Built on Private Palestinian Land, Right-wing Study Finds". Haaretz. In response to inquiries, Regavim issued a statement that read "it is irresponsible to publish data that appears in the report; any discussion on this sensitive issue should be conducted with appropriate discretion in the proper forum. Regavim has presented its stance on this issue to the officials relevant in finding a solution for the complex situation that has arisen in these places." 

External links