Leak reveals Chelsea owner Abramovich funded Israeli settler group

Leaked bank documents claim that Russian billionaire and Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich donated tens of millions of pounds to a highly controversial Israeli settler group accused of displacing Palestinian families from Jerusalem, according to a BBC News Arabic investigation.

The documents contain more than 2000 suspicious activities reports(SARs) filed to the US government’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network(FinCEN) by banks between 2000-2017 that were leaked to Buzzfeed News, which shared them with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, of which the BBC is a member. Banks and other financial institution file SARs when they believe a client is using their services for potential criminal activities.

The documents which consist of 22000-page cache reports show that over the last 15 years, four companies run by Abramovich donated over $100 million to Elad, a right-wing Israeli settler organization dedicated to “strengthening Israel’s current and historic connection to Jerusalem”. Those figures would mean the Russian oligarch was the biggest single donor over the last 15 years to Elad.

Elad has been responsible for scores of Palestinian evictions and has in some cases fought several expensive battles to do so, particularly in Silwan, a town annexed by Israel in 1967 that accommodates some 55000 Palestinians. The group, which also receives backing from the government, has sought to strengthen the Jewish presence in the neighborhood of Silwan at the expense of its Arab inmates.

The four companies either controlled or owned by Abramovich funded more than half of the organization’s work between 2005 to 2015 – all located on the virgin island and registered on the same day in 2003. But until now, the Elad’s funding had been elusive with the name of virgin island companies listed but not their owner. Meanwhile, Israel’s so-called ” Transparency Bill”, passed in 2015 to the objection of Israel’s left-leaning blocs, requires non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to provide details of their funding activities.

Around the time of bill passing, Dov Khenin, a Knesset member wrote a letter to Israel’s attorney general, requesting that an investigation into Elad’s financing be opened- going after the perceived hypocrisy of the transparency bill, which the left said it was aimed at groups critical of Israeli occupation.

“The settler NGO Elad receives hundreds of millions of shekels in donations from companies registered in tax shelters worldwide – the identities of the controllers of which are not at all clear,” wrote Khenin, a member of Israel’s Joint List, a coalition predominantly of Arab political parties.

“This makes it extremely difficult to trace the real donors or their business. On the face of it, Elad has not fulfilled the requirement [incumbent on any NGO] that its donors and sources of funding be clear and transparent.”

This apparent non-conformance with norms “makes it necessary to immediately stop the funneling of public funds to Elad, including funds from Keren Hayesod, the Jewish Agency and state funds,” Khenin said.

BBC Arabic in its report aired on its flagship panorama programme, cited Elad saying they abide all Israeli non- profit organisation regulations but they would not confirm if Abramovich as a donor.

BBC News quoted a spokesman for Abramovich as saying: “[he] is a committed and generous supporter of Israeli and Jewish civil society, and over the past 20 years he has donated over five hundred million dollars to support healthcare, science, education and Jewish communities in Israel and around the world.”

Elad’s eviction and land confiscations on Palestine.

Elad has led Palestinian evictions and land confiscations by several means and tools provided by Israel government’s policies and lobbying. In other hand, with the backing of groups like Elad, Palestinian land has been regularly confiscated by the Israeli government.

The City of David National park funded by Elad, which includes densely populated Palestinian neighbourhood of Wadie Hilweh, home to over 4000 Palestinians, have been barred from doing any construction or renovations on their homes or properties without a building permits are systematically denied, due to the national park categorization

Elad also uses the means of archaeological digs to seize the lands, which it has registered as so called “salvage excavations” to avoid getting official permits. In 1977, the government handed control of the City of David archaeological site to Elad for excavation. Meanwhile, Israel is not permitted to carry out excavations at any sites in occupied territories, including east Jerusalem, by international law which prohibits excavation in occupied territories. These excavations caused several Palestinians homes sinking into the hillside.

Absentee laws are the another way the group has worked to confiscate Palestinian lands. Absentee laws are enforced by a government body formed just after Israel’s creation in 1948 to take control of properties belonged to Palestinians who flood during Nakba(catastrophe).

According to NGO peace now, there were 100 of families in Silwan are facing court proceedings in eviction cases.