Regavim is an Israel-based non-governmental organization that works to expand Jewish control of land across Israel and the Palestinian Occupied Territories by pushing Israeli administrative, judicial, legislative, and military bodies to dispossess Palestinian and other non-Jewish communities of their land. It collects data on Palestinian communities, formulates right-wing policy proposals, lobbying materials, and engages in the legal sphere to enact its goals.
Regavim frames itself as an organization dedicated to supporting the principle of “law and order” across all of the land controlled by Israel. However, it has never filed any complaint against Jewish-Israelis, but only against non-Jewish communities. The Guardian describes Regavim in these words: “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.” The organization surveils Palestinian communities, by drone as well as sending field workers, in order to monitor newly built structures. With this data, it lobbies the Civil Administration to demolish the buildings, or files petitions against the Civil Administration in the Israeli High Court in order to force demolition processes along at a quicker pace. In addition, Regavim lobbies the Knesset and international institutions. For instance, it was the main petitioner for the displacement of the Palestinian community of Khan al-Ahmar – an act the International Criminal Court Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda then said would constitute a war crime. Most recently, Regavim was charged a 10,000 shekel fine by the Jerusalem District Court for continuing to bring complaints against the Civil Administration for “not doing its job,” illustrating that even the Israeli military and court system perceive Regavim’s behavior to be problematic.
Regavim receives external funding from the One Israel Fund, the Central Fund of Israel, and the Israel Independence Fund, all of which are registered as charitable organizations in New York. The Central Fund of Israel provided Regavim with $553,000 in 2019, while for the other organizations’ specific numbers are hard to obtain. The organizations financially supporting Regavim are aware of their funding of ethnic cleansing. For instance, after criticism of their funding of Regavim, the Israel Independence Fund declared to be “proud supporters of Regavim”.
By and large, much of what Regavim’s public leadership communicates with the public relies on fear-mongering in order to justify continued violence against Palestinians. This is not particularly surprising, seeing as the organization was co-founded by current Deputy Speaker of the Knesset is far-right MK Bezalel Smotrich who helped to sponsor Israel’s infamous Regularization Bill regarding West Bank settlements, now revoked. This law would have benefitted the fifteen Regavim employees or volunteers who allegedly live in structures built on privately-owned Palestinian land in the West Bank – some with pending demolition orders.
Meir Deutsch, the General Director of Regavim, frequently uses fear-inducing rhetoric directed at the Israeli public in order to legitimize the violence and unlawful actions at the heart of Regavim’s work. In one case, after revealing a prank by the organization in which it hung Palestinian flags above the main road through the West Bank, Deutsch explained his actions by saying, “We understand the harsh reactions of the [Israeli] residents of Yehuda and Shomron […], but we also understand that there is a terrorist state taking shape right around the corner.”
It is clear that those operating the organization are not interested in the reality that Israeli settlers are effectively annexing land on a daily basis by continuing to build outposts in strategic locations — often, even in violation of Israeli domestic law. Rather, the leadership continues to invert the power dynamic at work which favors Jewish settlement and curtails even the most modest of Palestinian construction. Regavim’s International Division head, Naomi Linder Kahn, went as far as describing the Ottoman Land Laws still at work in the West Bank as being “exploited to Israel’s extreme disadvantage,” a flagrant denial of the reality in which Israeli settlers use old and outdated Ottoman Land Laws to seize control of huge swaths of “state lands.”