An investigation by BBC News Arabic has found that Chelsea’s billionaire owner Roman Abramovich controls companies that have donated $100 million to a settler organisation operating in occupied East Jerusalem.
The organisation, Elad, calls Silwan, an East Jerusalem Palestinian neighborhood, “the City of David” and also runs the City of David archaeological sites, which are a massive tourist attraction in the area visited by over a million people a year.
Elad relies on donors to fund its work. Nearly half of the donations it received between 2005-2018 came from four British Virgin Island companies. The person behind these companies had remained anonymous, until now.
The names of the four donating BVI-companies also appear in a set of bank documents known as the “Fincen Files.”
In the documents, the name Roman Abramovich appears. He is named as the ultimate beneficial owner of three companies that have made donations to Elad, and he controls a fourth. Elad’s accounts show those companies have donated more than $100 million to Elad in today’s conversion rate.
That means the Chelsea football club owner, who is now an Israeli citizen, has been the biggest single donor to Elad over the last 15 years.
Without those funds Elad would not have been able to so quickly and successfully pursue their goal of strengthening the Jewish presence in this Palestinian neighborhood.
Some of the houses where Elad settlers live were purchased from their previous Palestinian owners. But other Palestinian families were evicted from others, based on a controversial Israeli law titled “The Absentee Property Law.”
The law enables Israel to take over property of Palestinians who, according to Israel, have left or fled their houses during conflict.
A spokesman for Abramovich told the BBC: “Mr Abramovich 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.”
By 2018, there were 611,000 Israeli settlers living in 250 settlements in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in contravention of international law.