The Jewish National Fund (JNF) has allocated four million shekels ($1 million) over the past two years for a project to support young Israeli settlers who have left education and reside in illegal outposts in the occupied West Bank.
The funds, originally designated for vocational training and skill development among these individuals, were redirected to associations that promote the establishment of illegal settlements.
Among the organisations benefiting from this project is one known as ‘The Return of Zion to its Soil’, which has received a total of half a million shekels in the past and is anticipated to receive an additional 1.75 million shekels later this year.
Under international law both settlements and outposts are illegal, however Israel distinguishes between the two, with ministers and settlers calling for outposts to be legalised and settled.
In response to Haaretz’s request for information regarding the farms associated with this organisation, the JNF declined to provide details. However, based on social media posts, it appears that volunteers are being recruited for activities at a settlement referred to as ‘Moshe’s Farm’.
In collaboration with human rights lawyer Eitay Mack, left-wing activists sent a letter in December to the European Union, urging sanctions against Moshe Sharvit, the owner of this farm, citing allegations of his violent actions against Palestinians.
These activists detailed Moshe’s tactics, which include hurling stones at Palestinians and their livestock, intentionally driving into herds and cultivated fields, deploying dogs to attack Palestinians and their livestock, and imposing physical abuse against animals using clubs and whips.
Moreover, Haaretz revealed that Israeli organisation Artzenu, which encourages volunteers to join illegal farms which, according to its website, “are meant to protect thousands of acres of state land against the trespassing of unauthorized people”, initiated other farming operations with the support of the JNF, including providing care for the radical Jewish settler gangs known as “Hilltop Youths”, which are backed by the Israeli government.
Over the course of the past decade, these Israeli shepherd’s farms, situated on nature reserves or private Palestinian-owned land have evolved into the most prevalent type of illegal outposts in the West Bank.
Figures, provided in August by Israeli NGO Peace Now, revealed that Israel’s far-right government has set an all-time record this year for approval of illegal settlement construction in the Occupied West Bank and for the legitimisation of illegal outposts.
The group stated that, within the initial seven months of this year, a greater number of outposts have been granted legal status than in the entirety of previous years.
It comes after the occupation authorities announced their intention to accelerate the approval process for settlement construction in June, in addition to giving Israeli Finance Minister, Bezalel Smotrich, even more authority to expand illegal settlements.
JNF told Haaretz: “This project operates in social and geographic peripheral areas and in farms across the country. The project affords children the opportunity to return to a meaningful life and to re-integrate into mainstream frameworks.”
“This project is part of the JNF’s educational programs for youths defined as ‘dropouts’ or who are at risk of dropping out. In this program, they receive a Zionist education and personal attention, as well as job training. They acquire basic life and job skills, and are encouraged to serve in the army or in a national service framework. Many youths have benefited so far from this project, integrating optimally into society.”
Estimates indicate that about 700,000 settlers are living in 164 illegal settlements and 116 illegal outposts in the Occupied West Bank. The United Nations considers all Israeli settlement activities illegal.