Roman Abramovich is a Russian billionaire who owns the Chelsea premier league soccer team. His dealings often make it onto the UK papers which love to gossip about the ultra-wealthy, especially those entangled with their favourite sport.
The British media went after Abramovich this week as he completed the trifecta of British obsession: his support of the Jewish State.
The BBC posted a video on September 21, 2020 called “FinCEN Files: The Israeli settlers Chelsea boss Arbramovich helped fund.” The inverted English title was a pretty good indication of the inversion of facts presented in the ten minute video including never stating that it was Yemenite Jews who founded the Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan in the 19th century (not Arabs the way BBC presented) and that the archaeological findings in the City of David are historical treasures for the entire world, not booty for the Jewish people.
The Guardian loved the story and published a piece “Leaks show Chelsea owner Abramovich funded Israeli settler group.” The article wrote that
“four companies he [Abramovich] either owns or controls in the British Virgin Islands have contributed more than $100m (£74m) to Elad, a group that supports settlements in the Palestinian neighbourhood of occupied East Jerusalem called Silwan, BBC News Arabic reported.”
This “Palestinian neighborhood” was never contemplated to be part of a Palestinian state, and the Oslo Accords which the Palestinian Authority signed in 1995 acknowledge that Israel rules Jerusalem.
The article continued:
“The group, which also receives backing from the Israeli government, has sought to strengthen the Jewish presence in the neighbourhood of Silwan at the expense of its Arab residents.
Elad runs an archaeological site in Silwan called the City of David that has become a huge tourist attraction. The dig has been criticised by European Union diplomats as seeking to ignore the ancient city’s diverse history in favour of “an exclusively Jewish narrative, while detaching the place from its Palestinian surroundings”.”
The statement is ridiculous on many fronts. Arabs dwarf the number of Jews in the neighborhood today. Before the Yemenite Jews settled this area outside the Old City of Jerusalem’s walls in the 1880’s, no one lived in that land for centuries; the Arab history on the site is only 100 years old.
Outside of the British press, the biased story was repeated almost verbatim by Arab media outlets:
- Al Jazeera “Chelsea owner Abramovich ‘donated $100m’ to Israeli settler group“
- Middle East Eye “Chelsea owner donated over $100m to Israeli settler group“
- Arab News “Chelsea FC owner funded Israeli settler organization: BBC“
- Middle East Monitor “Chelsea football club owner donated millions to Israeli settler group“
The left-wing Israeli press ran their own stories:
- Haaretz “Companies Linked to Roman Abramovich Donated $100 Million to E. Jerusalem Right-wing Group“
- The Times of Israel “Leaks show Chelsea owner Abramovich donated $100m to Israeli right-wing group“
The TOI piece included this doozy:
“Elad also purchases homes in the surrounding Arab village of Silwan — sometimes via Muslim middlemen — and rents them to Jews, a move that has led to charges that it is fueling tensions in the city.”
The use of “Muslim middlemen” to procure property stems from the fact that the Palestinian Authority considers selling land to Jews a capital crime. Rather than denounce the sick anti-Semitic Palestinian law which kills Arabs for a natural human right of selling property to another person in the spirit of coexistence and commerce, the article inverted the charge against the group, Elad, claiming that it caused the tensions.
It is a sad commentary on the world today that a non-profit group which helps uncover the beauty of Jewish history and facilitates Jews buying homes in their holiest city in an area founded by Jews is controversial. That the British and Arab press held common cause in vilifying support for such “settler group” while the Israeli news called out the “right-wing group” says quite a bit about the racial and nationalistic lens shared by the UK and Arab world, as well as the partisan political orientation in Israel today.
First posted on FirstOneThrough