The partnership between Himnuta (a shady proxy of the JNF/ KKL) and ELAD (the right wing settler organisation leading the City of David archaeological park development) had seemed so stable: like-minded Zionists, collaborating happily on their project to Judaize East Jerusalem.
All was going well, until a powerful international coalition began to form around preventing the Sumarin family’s eviction from their home, which sits in close proximity to the City of David – for some, an inconvenient reminder of the Palestinian presence and claim on the land.
This international coalition has gained momentum around the family and has shaken the union of JNF and ELAD. It’s a story with much to relish for the principled onlooker.
The Chair of the board of Himnuta, Matityahu Sperber, sent the Head of the JNF KKL, Daniel Atar, a message: “ In recent months a broad public cry has arisen on the subject at hand (eviction of the Sumarin family), in an unprecedented way concerning the KKL-JNF’s activities.” Sperber added that he was concerned about the campaign’s impact, potentially harming relations with the leaders of many Jewish organisations, including the Reform movement – maybe even reducing the JNF’s fundraising abilities.
The reader will notice that the illegality of the eviction, the violation of basic human rights and the simple issue of humanity didn’t impinge on Mr. Sperber’s thinking.
Troubled by the campaign’s strength, Himnuta’s board, with the support of JNF KKL leader Daniel Atar, decided to call a halt to the eviction. Himnuta, we are told, will now consider a freeze on the legal proceedings and will also replace the lawyer who has represented both Himnuta and Elad to date.
It was this decision that made the sparks fly. Elad objects to any halt in the removal of the Sumarin family. Elad’s director and founder, David Be’eri, has gone so far as to threaten legal action against named individuals in Himnuta if it chooses to operate against Elad’s interests. He argues that Himnuta handed over the Sumarin family home to Elad, fully and completely, including the authority to handle all the legal proceedings – “irrevocably”.
And Elad is in a strong position. In the 90’s it was given the contract to develop the City of David archaeological park, now a major tourist attraction. It has the backing of the State of Israel, not to mention multi-millionaires like Roman Abramovich who have poured millions into the Elad ethnic cleansing project.
Elad is excavating the site relentlessly, casting aside evidence of layers of history and Palestinian residence in the city, chasing the dream of a glorious Kingdom of David to justify the Judaization of this richly mixed city.
Emek Shaveh is a group of archaeologists who oppose the politicisation of their academic discipline. Its director, Yonathan Mizrachi, said, “Elad realised long ago that archaeology is the strongest ticket they have to justifying Jewish settlement.”
Now that Himnuta seems to be weakening in the face of international opposition, a real tussle lies ahead. It’s tempting to sit back and enjoy the fireworks, but campaigners recognise that the Sumarin family’s eviction is not a one-off and now is the time to redouble the pressure on JNF and Elad.
After all we know for sure that hundreds of other Palestinian families in East Jerusalem are threatened with the same fate as the Sumarins. So too are thousands of Palestinians across the entire West Bank, as Israel relentlessly drives forward its scheme to annex (de facto, if not de jure) the whole of historic Palestine.