Settlement Under the Guise of Tourism: The Elad Settler Organization in Silwan


October 17, 2020
JFJFP

Elad Security Personnel photographing Palestinians, protected by the police

Elad, also known as the Ir David Foundation, is a settler organization engaged in settling Palestinain neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, developing tourism and archaeology, and “strengthening the Jewish connection to Jerusalem.” This association is one of the strongest and wealthiest in Israel (in 2018, its operating turnover was NIS 116 million and its assets were valued at NIS 372 million). The State of Israel has granted Elad the license to operate one of the most nationally and religiously valued and politically sensitive sites: the City of David archaeological site, which is located inside the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan near the Temple Mount and the Al-Aqsa Mosque.“We are a foundation whose goals are to house Jewish families in the City of David. These are the foundation’s stated objectives with the Registrar of Associations for which we receive donations. This is a main part of the foundation’s goals,” the association’s CEO and founder, David Be’eri, told the court in one of the lawsuits filed by Elad against a Palestinian resident of Silwan.So how do settlers get to the heart of a Palestinian neighborhood?

In the beginning of the process, it was the government that helped Elad acquire properties. A governmental mechanism was established in the late 1980s dedicated to transferring properties in East Jerusalem from Palestinians into the hands of settlers. This mechanism was founded under the leadership of then Minister of Housing, Ariel Sharon. Dozens of properties were transferred to Elad and Ateret Cohanim organizations without auctions and in violation of the rules of proper administration. Millions of shekels were handed over to these organizations; the organizations then established companies (which they owned) that charged the state for “handling fees” and project management fees for the “services” provided to the organizations; and the organizations used the powers of the Custodian of Absentee Property as a tool to declare properties as absentee and claim possession of them.

When the Rabin government was formed in 1992, it set up a commission of inquiry, the Klugman Committee, to examine the governmental assistance provided to the settler associations in East Jerusalem. The committee’s report revealed very alarming findings about the conduct of government officials in transferring properties to the organizations. Following the Klugman Report, the activity of the governmental mechanism was halted and the direct line of assistance from the government to Elad was weakened. However, Elad was already equipped with dozens of properties which served as the basis of settlement development in Silwan and beyond. For more information on the Klugman Report, see here.

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