Israeli attempts to tax churches opposed

A photo taken on February 2, 2018 shows Israeli border guards walking after Friday prayers at the entrance of Issawiya, a Palestinian Arab neighbourhood in East Jerusalem, following days of clashes and arrests. (AFP)
Updated 04 February 2018

Israeli attempts to tax churches opposed

AMMAN: Church leaders and lawyers have reacted angrily to news of Israeli attempts to charge municipal taxes on church properties in Jerusalem.
According to a report from Agence France-Presse (AFP), Mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barkat has decided to change a policy applied to churches in Jerusalem since 1967.
The AFP report says the Jerusalem Municipality informed the Ministry of Finance and the Prime Minister’s Office that it is demanding that church and international institutions pay municipal taxes on properties owned by them.
It is estimated that the municipality is demanding 650 million shekels ($191 million) from the new policy from churches and international agencies that have previously been exempt from paying such taxes.
Rif’at Bader, director of the Catholic Center for Studies and Media in Amman, told Arab News that the issue is not new, but that the timing is curious and seems linked to political, rather than economic, reasoning.
“It comes after the churches in Jerusalem took a strong stand against the US president’s declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and after they refused to meet with the visiting vice president Mike Pence,” he said.
Wadia Abu Nassar, adviser to the Assembly of Catholic Bishops in the Holy Land, told Arab News that the municipality had not discussed the issue with church leaders.
“No one has been contacted on it,” he said. “This is an idea from some of the Jerusalem municipality council members.”
Nassar said that the Vatican and Israel have been discussing various municipal issues since 1993, and claimed there is an agreement between the two parties that no changes would be made to the status quo until those talks were concluded.
The Eastern Orthodox Archbishop of Sebastia, Atallah Hanna, told reporters in Jerusalem that the tax initiative is part of a campaign to empty Jerusalem of its remaining Christians.
“At a time when Israel is targeting our endowments in various illegal and crooked ways, now they are using the lever of high taxes against our churches, convents and institutions in Jerusalem with the aim of emptying the old city of Jerusalem of its Christians and to marginalize the Christian presence in Jerusalem,” he said.
Atallah pointed out that churches existed in Jerusalem long before the creation of the state of Israel.
“Some of our churches go back to the fourth and fifth century AD,” he said. “The tradition has always been to exempt the churches and their properties from taxes. This was the case during the British mandate, during the Jordanian rule, and even as far back as the Ottoman period.”
Botrus Mansour, a Nazareth-based lawyer and general director of an evangelical school, told Arab News that Israel must treat all faiths equally if they wish to begin imposing taxes.
“The ultra-orthodox Jewish organizations enjoy a wide range of privileges and tax exemptions,” he said. “The minute they treat all religious institutions of all faiths equally then they are entitled to implement this law on Christians.”

Former Egyptian president Morsi buried in Cairo: lawyer

Updated 18 June 2019

Former Egyptian president Morsi buried in Cairo: lawyer

  • Morsi, was suffering from a benign tumor, had continuous medical attention, says state TV
  • The former president died aged 67

CAIRO: Egypt’s first democratically elected president Mohammed Morsi was buried on Tuesday in eastern Cairo, one of his lawyers said, a day after he collapsed in court and died.

“He was buried in Medinat Nasr, in eastern Cairo, with his family present. The funeral prayer was said in Tora prison hospital” where he was declared dead on Monday, his lawyer Abdel Moneim Abdel Maksoud said.

Egyptian state television announced that Morsi, 67, who was ousted by the military on July 3, 2013, had been attending a court session at his trial on charges of espionage and links with the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

It was reported that he collapsed in the courtroom inside a glass cage he and others had been sharing, before his body was transferred to a local hospital.

Morsi died from a sudden heart attack, state television reported early on Tuesday, citing a medical source. The source said the former president, who was suffering from a benign tumor, had continuous medical attention.

Attorney-General Nabil Sadiq issued a statement saying: “The accused, Mohammed Morsi, in the presence of the other defendants inside the cage, fell unconscious, where he was immediately transferred to the hospital.

“The preliminary medical report stated that by external medical examination they found no pulse, no breathing, and his eyes were unresponsive to light. He died at 4:50 p.m. and no apparent injuries to the body were found.”

Sadiq added he had ordered the transfer of teams from the Supreme State Security Prosecution Office and the Southern Cairo Prosecution Office to conduct an investigation into Morsi’s death, and to examine surveillance footage from the courtroom and collect witness testimonies.

He also ordered that a senior forensic committee headed by the chief medical officer and the director of forensic medicine to prepare a forensic report on the cause of death.

Various outlets say that a state of high alert has been issued by the military and the Ministry of the Interior throughout the country following the news, for fear of riots or activity by the Muslim Brotherhood, in which Morsi was a prominent figure.

Morsi became president in June 2012 after the first democratic elections in the country following the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak on Jan. 25, 2011. He was Egypt’s fifth president.

He was born to a family of farmers on Aug. 20, 1951, in the village of Al-Adwa in Sharkia province. He married in 1978 and leaves behind his wife, five children and three grandchildren.

Following his deposition and arrest, Morsi was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment on Oct. 22, 2016, over bloody clashes that took place on Dec. 5, 2012 in front of the presidential palace in Cairo, between supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and opponents of Morsi rejecting a constitutional declaration issued in November of that year.

Other sentences meant his total incarceration could have been up to 48 years, with the ongoing espionage case potentially carrying a further maximum sentence of 25 years.

In Istanbul on Tuesday, hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood supporters took to the streets, mourning former Egyptian president Mohamed Mursi and some chanting slogans blaming Cairo authorities for his death.

* With AFP