The Ir David Foundation (Amutat Elad) is an organization based in the tourist site City of David/Ir David in Occupied East Jerusalem, known for its selective use of archaeological claims to evict Palestinians from their homes in order to Judaize Palestinian residential spaces. “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,” said Elad’s CEO and founder, David Be’eri, in one of the lawsuits filed by Elad against a Palestinian resident of Silwan.
Be’eri is infamous for his work establishing a political theme park in Silwan, in which execuvations led to the damage of Palestinian homes. Concerns for the Palestinian families and their homes have long been part of the public discussion, particularly as damage to many homes has become increasingly clear the longer excavations below them go on. In response to public outcry, Be’eri was quoted in the New Yorker as saying, “The judge asked me, ‘How can you dig underneath their homes?’ I told him, ‘I’m digging underneath their homes? King David dug underneath their homes! I’m just cleaning.’”
Elad arranges and processes the purchase of Palestinian-owned land in East Jerusalem for Jewish Israeli settlers. It has filed multiple lawsuits against Palestinian families in order to evict them from their homes in Silwan, backed by Israel`s domestic and discriminatory Absentee Property Law and Law of Administration of 1970. Elad exploits discriminatory laws and political power to push Palestinians out of their homes. For example, because the transfer of family assets are passed down to multiple members, homes can have several owners. As a predatory tactic, the organization’s real estate arm will intentionally find vulnerable owners to exploit. These can be Palestinians who are facing financial hardship, who live abroad, or any number of situations that make them a target. Elad will then send, at times, a third party who misrepresents Elad’s intentions to sell the property for a high sum of money.
After it has secured the signature from one of the family members — not even full property rights — Elad then begins to exploit Israel’s kangaroo courts to pressure the remaining Palestinians living in their homes out. Elad will ensure that the Custodian of Absentee Property will join the case. While all this legal pressure mounts and expenses soar for these Palestinian families who are already facing hardship, Elad ramps up the pressure. They will charge “usage fees” to the Palestinians who are staying in their rightful home. As one human rights organization points out, “When the family, facing a loss in court, has exhausted their funds, Elad increases the pressure and makes tempting offers: “You’re going to lose anyway, you’ll have to pay tens of thousands of shekels in legal fees and hundreds of thousands more in usage fees — make a deal with us instead.” For further reading, you can follow the harrowing events of the Siyman family.
Elad has run the archaeological and tourist site of the City of David since 2005, and manages the excavations on behalf of Israeli authorities. Through this, it promotes a narrative of Jerusalem’s history that relies on controversial excavations in order to solely celebrate the Jewish history of the area, erasing much of the site’s history. Elad also earns income through tourism at the City of David/Ir David.
Elad receives donations from individual donors, as well as from its New York-based fundraiser the Friends of Ir David Foundation, which holds a 501(c)(3) charitable status. According to the 990 tax form, total revenue in 2019 was almost $30 million.
In addition, Roman Abramovich, the owner of Chelsea Football Club funnels money into the settler organization. According to an investigation by the BBC, companies under his control donated around $100 million to Elad, making him the largest single donor.
In addition, the organization received $247,000 from the Segal Family foundation between 2007 and 2017.
An investigation by Ilan Sheizaf from 2015 discovered that Elad received around 426.98 million NIS in donations between 2006‒2013. The donations weren’t fully transparent, and the donors could not be identified from the tax documents.
The Campaign to Defund Racism calls on the New York Attorney General to immediately investigate and revoke the charitable license of Friends of Ir David” (Tax ID #: 11-346-6176) for breaking US charitable laws.