Funds Donated to Palestinian Family May Go to Settlers Trying to Evict It

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Jawad Siyam in his Silwan home, October 22, 2017.
Jawad Siyam in his Silwan home, October 22, 2017.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

Nearly 250 left-wing activists who donated money to help a Palestinian family in East Jerusalem’s Silwan neighborhood may discover that their money has ended up with the right-wing group Elad, which seeks to evict the family.

Elad has obtained a lien on tens of thousands of shekels that the 241 activists donated for the Siyam family, on the grounds that the family owes it money. The lien requires an Israeli crowdfunding site, IsraelGives, to freeze the bank account where the money raised to help the Siyam family is deposited.

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The Siyams have been fighting Elad’s efforts to evict them for 25 years. During this time, Elad managed to buy parts of the Siyams’ apartment building from family members who left Jerusalem. It also bought parts of the building that were seized by Israel’s Custodian of Absentee Property, after two heirs to the building were deemed absentees.

The Jerusalem District Court rejected the family’s final appeal last month and ordered it to vacate most of the building in favor of Elad, which plans to settle Jews there.

Before the hearing on the family’s appeal, activist Uri Erlich launched a crowdfunding campaign asking for donations to finance the Siyams’ legal battle. Seeking to raise 50,000 shekels ($14,000), he has so far raised 38,559 shekels from 241 donors.

Most of the donors are left-wing activists who are personally acquainted with one member of the family, Jawad Siyam. He is considered a leader in the battle by Silwan’s Palestinian residents against Elad’s settlement efforts.

After the court rejected the Siyams’ appeal, Elad asked it to put a lien on the money Erlich had raised. It based this request on the court’s ruling that the family owes Elad hundreds of thousands of shekels in court and attorney fees.

IsraelGives opposed the lien in court, arguing that the money does not belong to the Siyam family but to Erlich. “Our policy is to obey any court order, but to vehemently (and apolitically) oppose any lien on money donated in social campaigns launched on our platform,” the website’s CEO, Jonathan Ben-Dor, told Haaretz.

Elad responded that it is trying to realize its legal rights, in line with the court’s ruling. It also noted that the district court judges unanimously rejected the Siyams’ appeal.

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