Chelsea FC owner funded Israeli settler organization: BBC

Chelsea FC owner funded Israeli settler organization: BBC
In this May 24, 2015 file photo Chelsea's Russian billionaire owner Roman Abramovich, center, applauds after Chelsea were presented with the Premier League trophy after the English Premier League soccer match between Chelsea and Sunderland at Stamford Bridge stadium in London. (AP)
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Updated 22 September 2020

Chelsea FC owner funded Israeli settler organization: BBC

Chelsea FC owner funded Israeli settler organization: BBC
  • Abramovich gave over $100m to Elad, which operates in illegally annexed East Jerusalem, over roughly 15 years
  • Russian oligrach’s money used to fund evictions of Palestinians from their homes

LONDON: Companies controlled by Roman Abramovich, the owner of Chelsea Football Club, have donated over $100 million to an Israeli settler organization carrying out activity illegal under international law in occupied East Jerusalem, according to a BBC News Arabic investigation.

The Russian oligarch donated the money to Elad, which also runs a tourism business in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, through offshore companies held in the British Virgin Islands.

Shahar Shilo, Elad’s former marketing director, said its strategy is using tourism “to create a different political reality” in the predominantly Palestinian neighborhood.

The information emerged as a result of Buzzfeed’s Fincen Files leak, which released a deluge of secret financial information held by banks about many companies.

The leaked documents show that donations from four companies held in the British Virgin Islands made up nearly half of Elad’s entire donations from 2005 to 2018.

Abramovich was listed as the owner of three of those companies, and had a controlling stake in the fourth. This makes him the largest donor to Elad in the last 15 years.

A spokesman for Abramovich told the BBC that the oligarch “is a committed and generous supporter of Israeli and Jewish civil society, and over the past 20 years he has donated over $500 million to support health care, science, education and Jewish communities in Israel and around the world.”

Abramovich’s funds were used by Elad to purchase Palestinian homes in Silwan and strengthen the presence of Jewish settlers there.

The BBC also found that his donations were used to fund and campaign for the eviction of Palestinian families in the neighborhood.

One such family is the Sumarins, who live in a home adjacent to Elad’s visitor center. They have been fighting a long-running legal battle with a Zionist group that is trying to take over their home.

Elad pays all the group’s legal costs associated with the case, which will go to Israel’s Supreme Court in April 2021.

Mohammed Dahle, the Sumarin family’s lawyer for 10 years, said: “The probability of the survival of a Palestinian property, after it’s been declared that it’s a Jewish or Israeli property ... is most likely zero.”


Trump grants Bahrain’s King Hamad top honor on last day in office

Outgoing US President Donald Trump awarded the King of Bahrain the Legion of Merit with the Degree of Chief Commander. (File/AP)
Outgoing US President Donald Trump awarded the King of Bahrain the Legion of Merit with the Degree of Chief Commander. (File/AP)
Updated 53 min 35 sec ago

Trump grants Bahrain’s King Hamad top honor on last day in office

Outgoing US President Donald Trump awarded the King of Bahrain the Legion of Merit with the Degree of Chief Commander. (File/AP)
  • King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa was given the US award after Bahrain normalised relations with Israel
  • The king was also recognized for his ‘prominent role in pushing bilateral cooperation’

LONDON: Bahrain’s King Hamad was awarded a rare medal by US President Donald Trump in recognition of his “remarkable efforts” to consolidate relations and the close partnership between the two countries, Bahrain News Agency (BNA) reported on Tuesday.
Trump decorated the monarch with the Legion of Merit, Degree Chief Commander, “a rarely-awarded, prestigious decoration that can only be bestowed by the president, typically to chiefs of state or heads of government of other countries,” the White House said.
The king was also recognized for his “prominent role in pushing bilateral cooperation to broader and more comprehensive horizons, which promoted the common interests of the two countries and its peoples,” BNA said.
The outgoing American leader said that he was “pleased to present this medal to the king, who over decades contributed to establishing Bahrain’s position as a steadfast strategic ally and partner working alongside the United States.”
Trump added that Manama’s support for the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, which is stationed in Bahrain, had a supportive role in enabling it to perform its multiple tasks and he praised the king’s courage and wise leadership vision for his support for peace and his decision to establish full diplomatic relations with Israel.
He described this decision as the start of a new era of economic and security cooperation among the most important US partners in the Middle East and made peace in the region a possible process that would reshape the region’s landscape in a positive way for future generations.
The American president said that the partnership between the two countries would become deeper in the Middle East.
“The king’s decorating of this prestigious medal is an indication of the high position that he enjoys in the US, and the great appreciation for the prominent roles and major contributions he has made in enhancing security, stability, and prosperity with the vision of spreading peace in the region,” the statement added.
In its final days in office, the Trump administration announced the designation of both Bahrain and the UAE as “major security partners” of the US, a status unique to both countries that demonstrated a “new level of partnership” and “represents an enduring commitment to economic and security cooperation.
“It also reflects their extraordinary courage, determination, and leadership in entering into the Abraham Accords,” the White House said on Friday.
Bahrain, the UAE, Morocco, and Sudan joined Egypt and Jordan to establish full diplomatic relations with Israel last year, in deals brokered by the US.
Also, on Friday, Trump decorated Morocco’s King Mohammed VI with the same accolade bestowed on King Hamad for “vision and personal courage,” especially his decision to resume ties with Israel, that “have positively reshaped the landscape of the Middle East and North Africa and ushered in a new era of security and prosperity for both our countries and the world.”
The Legion of Merit is a military award that was created to honor Allied leaders in World War II and had gone into obscurity until it was revived by Trump, who last month also presented it to the prime ministers of Australia, India, and Japan.

(With AFP)