Lebanese President Michel Aoun on Monday described Israel’s plan to impose property taxes on Jerusalem’s churches as “the systematic targeting of the Christian presence in the occupied Palestinian territories”.
In a statement carried by Lebanon’s National News Agency, Aoun condemned the Israeli plan, which, he said, “contravenes international law, customs and conventions regarding Jerusalem’s places of worship”.
Israeli tax plan 'targets Christians': Lebanon's Aoun
— ANADOLU AGENCY (ENG) (@anadoluagency) February 26, 2018
The move, he went on to assert, was tantamount to “the systematic targeting of the remaining Christian presence in the Israeli-occupied territories in an effort to cleanse [the area] of everything that is non-Jewish”.
On Sunday, Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre closed its doors to protest the new tax policy, which, if implemented, would subject the city’s churches to a property tax.
“The church will remain closed until further notice,” Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III told reporters on Sunday.
In protest of Israel’s systematic campaign of abuse against Churches and Christians in the Holy Land, the Heads of Churches decided “to take this unprecedented step of closure of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.” #Jerusalem #Palestine ?? pic.twitter.com/0igS0P1o0E
— Palestine PLO-NAD (@nadplo) February 25, 2018
According to Palestinian Christian leaders, the move is also intended to protest a bill – now being debated in the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) – that would make it harder for churches to sell property.
If passed, the bill would allow Israel’s Finance Ministry to expropriate land sold since 2010 in exchange for compensation paid out to the companies that bought the land.
Critics say that such legislation would infringe on the rights of both the churches who sold the land and the private firms that purchased it.
"It is an attempt to weaken the Christian presence in Jerusalem" — Church leaders in Jerusalem are protesting against an Israeli tax policy pic.twitter.com/zZoJ1hWFct
— TRT World (@trtworld) February 26, 2018
Jointly administered by several major Christian denominations, Jerusalem’s iconic Church of the Holy Sepulchre is considered one of Christianity’s holiest sites.
Roughly 300,000 Palestinians live in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem, between 10,000 and 12,000 of whom are Christians.
Jerusalem has remained in the international media spotlight since early December, when US President Donald Trump recognized it as Israel’s capital, drawing condemnation and protest from across the Arab and Muslim world.
(MEMO, PC, Social Media)