Government-backed Settler Organizations in Jerusalem
Elad Association (Ir David)
Elad Association (Ir David) was established in 1986. Its announced objective is the Judaization of Silwan and the creation of a contiguous Israeli-Jewish presence along the southern slopes of the so-called ‘Temple Mount.’ On its website, the settler colonial and apartheid association states that it works to Judaize Silwan through four key initiatives: archaeological excavation, tourism development, educational programs and residential revitalization.
In 1991, Elad has seized the first home in Wadi Helweh, the home of the Abbasi family. Since then, they have used legal and administrative mechanisms to take over more Palestinian homes and to force the transfer of Palestinians from Silwan.
Israeli government bodies play a key role in supporting the settler colonial activities of Elad to seize Palestinian homes in Silwan. The state gives public money to the organization and transfers land to Elad. Also, Elad representatives are allowed to participate in the planning process for the city.
Elad in turn supports government bodies to ethnically cleanse Palestinians from Silwan. Currently, the Israeli Antiquities Authority is excavating three sites in Silwan through the money Elad collects as a non-for-profit organization.
In 2005, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and Elad signed an agreement through which Elad has become in charge of the full management of the so-called ‘City of David’. As part of the agreement, the Israeli government allocated 50 million NIS (14 million USD) for the conservation and development of the ‘Holy Basin’ to be carried out by Elad.
Since then, Elad has been relentlessly working to Judaize Silwan by transforming the ‘City of David’ into a tourist attraction, including a visitor center, a souvenir shop, an Amphitheatre and an underground water tunnel trek. The construction of underwater tunnels entailed further excavation of tunnels underneath Palestinian homes in Silwan. This has been catastrophic on Palestinians as it caused flooding of rainwater into Palestinian homes above the tunnels.
Elad’s role as an auxiliary of the Israeli apartheid regime in ethnically cleansing Palestinians from Silwan extends to include the detection of any Palestinian buildings constructed without a permit. The collected information about unlicensed construction activities is conveyed to concerned municipal units. The Jerusalem Municipality responds by preparing a case file, and then proceeds with either an administrative or a judicial demolition order.
UK Friends of City of David and Friends of Ir David in the US are both registered as charities and collect money on behalf of Elad through tax deductible donations.
Ateret Cohanim claims to be “the leading urban land reclamation organization in Jerusalem, which has been working for over 40 years to restore Jewish life in the heart of ancient Jerusalem”. The truth is that the organization takes the lead in the pillage of Palestinian property and consolidation of Israeli apartheid and settler colonial structure to preserve racial and demographic superiority in favor of Jewish settlers.
Founded in the 1970s, it was originally known under the name Atara Leyoshna. It later reopened under the new name of Ateret Cohanim. The activities of Ateret Cohanim involve acquiring houses in the Muslim quarter or renting them from government companies and populating them with Jews.
Since its inception, the association has been connected with the Israeli military. Ateret Cohanim was founded through the efforts of Matityahu HaCohen Dan, a veteran of the Israeli occupation forces.
Ateret Cohanim is also involved in programs that aim at preparing young Jewish men to serve in the military through the Mechina, pre-military academy it manages and supports.
The association owns many buildings in the Old City, where it has illegally settled over 80 families. Some estimate that 1,000 Israeli settlers live in houses that Ateret Cohanim purchased in the Old City since 1978.
“Today, there are over 1000 Jewish families, and hundreds of children, play centers, Yeshivot, and Synagogues in the area close to the Temple Mount area,” states Ateret Cohanim on its website.
Ateret Cohanim has been involved in fraudulent actions to take over three church properties in Jerusalem’s Old City. Israel’s lower court ruled in favor of Ateret Cohanim by claiming that the Greek Orthodox church failed to provide evidence that the agreements through which Ateret Cohanim claims ownership of the church buildings are based on corruption and bribery.
Ateret Cohanim asserts that “with the help of donors and communities from around the world, Ateret Cohanim has built secure rooftop playgrounds surrounded by walls and cameras. These playgrounds offer a safe and secure area that is within the confines of each building giving parents and children a true sense of security and peace of mind.”
The association controls at least seven other organizations that are not registered in Israel
The American Friends of Ateret Cohanim, also known as Jerusalem Chai, is one of these organizations. It was founded in New York City in 1987 as a US not-for-profit organization, with the purpose of fundraising for Ateret Cohanim’s land acquisitions.
Daniel Luria, chief fundraiser for Ateret Cohanim-Israel asserts that the American organization has been registered as an educational entity to be able to collect money; adding that it is only an umbrella organization engaging in “redeeming land. Our [fund-raising] activity in New York goes solely towards land redemption.”
Fundraising for Ateret Cohanim’s yeshiva operating in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City is handled by a different organization, American Friends of Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim.
American Friends of Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim is also a US not-for-profit organization, with the purpose of fundraising for Ateret Cohanim’s yeshivas in Israel. Between the years of 2007 and 2011 they raised $446,014 to support Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim.
Nahalat Shimon International
Nahalat Shimon International is an organization owned by a foreign company registered in Delaware (USA). It is one of two settler organizations responsible for the ethnic cleansing of Sheikh Jarrah. Its mission is to replace as many Palestinians in East Jerusalem as it can with Israeli settlers and Jewish-only neighborhoods.
Nahalat Shimon International has been described as a settler organization and a real estate company. Their actions in Sheikh Jarrah appear to encompass both these descriptions.
A source close to the group has labeled them as a business and as ideological and revealed that the settlers who have taken residence in the ethnically cleansed Palestinian homes in Sheikh Jarrah have been asked to live there but will be removed to replace the homes with a 200-unit Israeli settlement.
Since the Jewish committees falsely claiming ownership of Palestinian homes in Sheikh Jarrah sold their ownership rights to Nahalat Shimon International, the latter has succeeded in every single of its endeavors in the neighborhood. Through the support of the Israeli district court, as well as full backing of the Israeli authorities, the organization has displaced more than 67 Palestinians from Sheikh Jarrah, and continues to seek the looming ethnic cleansing of around 87 more.
The Jewish National Fund
The Jewish National Fund (JNF) was established in 1901 as an explicitly [settler] colonial tool to ethnically cleanse Palestinians and impose Israeli apartheid. It played a key role in the mass ethnic cleansing of 700, 000+ Palestinians in 1948: On the ruins of their homes, it planted millions of trees and celebrated that as an environmentally-friendly act.
The JNF calls itself Israel’s largest green organization and the oldest green organization in the world for its afforestation projects of millions of trees to cover up destroyed Palestinian towns and villages when Israel was created in 1948 and to prevent displaced Palestinians from returning back.
The JNF’s appalling present resonates with a shameful past of grabbing Palestinian land while wearing the garb of environmentalism, with the imminent forcible expulsion of the Sumarin family from their home in Silwan as a perfect example of this.
For about three decades, the JNF has been trying to expel the extended Sumarin family from their home in the Wadi Helweh neighborhood in Silwan. The forcible ethnic expulsion of the Sumarin family is being pursued in Israeli courts by Himanuta, a subsidiary of the JNF.
Through the collusion of the Custodian of Absentee Property who in 1989 announced the Sumarin home as absentee property behind the back of the family and without its knowledge based on the discriminatory and controversial law of Absentee property, the JNF has been trying to take over the family’s home.
Although the family has presented to Israeli district court the needed documents showing its ownership to the home, the court ruled in favor of Himanuta, a JNF subsidiary. The family now faces the imminent forcible displacement from their home.
On May 23, 1991, a barter deal was signed between the Development Authority and Himanuta, according to which the Development Authority was to transfer 30 dunams of absentee property in Silwan to Himanuta in exchange for land it owns in Wadi Ara, an area that falls within the borders of present-day Israel.
Palestinian families inhabiting the area did not know that their homes have been claimed by the JNF, then leased to Elad, which later on leased the properties to settlers.
In November 2020, the JNF officially adopted a plan to seize more Palestinian lands in the occupied West Bank.
Even before the official announcement of its intent to be involved in taking over Palestinian lands in the West Bank, the JNF has been involved in the theft of Palestinian lands in Bethlehem and elsewhere in the West Bank. It has also engaged in projects inside the already constructed settlements.
The JNF is registered as a tax-exempt environmental charity in over 70 countries across the world, including in the USA, Canada, the UK, Germany, France, Spain, South Africa, among others; and has been granted observer status by the United Nations to the Conferences of Parties (COP) to the Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC).
If you are interested in our actions to hold the JNF accountable, please contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Occupation, settler colonialism and apartheid are never charitable
Israel’s largest state-backed settler organizations, including the JNF, receive a large part of their funding from foreign donations. The JNF’s ‘blue boxes’ have historically worked on the concept of crowd-funding. Beyond this, modern day crowd-funding and contributions by wealthy supporters are a core part of their fundraising efforts that directly support Israel’s illegal settlement project and its regime of apartheid and colonization.
None of these organizations that channel donations to fund war crimes, crimes against humanity such as the crime of apartheid or other human rights abuses should enjoy charitable status.