Christian Leaders Accuse Israeli Officials Of ‘Coordinated Attack’ For Seeking Tax Payment

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Ilan Hulkower Contributor
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The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem and heads of churches issued a statement Tuesday reiterating their opposition against the city of Jerusalem’s decision to impose taxes on church property.

The heads of the Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Armenian Orthodox churches described the city’s decision to pursue legal action to impose the municipal taxes as “a coordinated attack on the Christian presence in the Holy Land” and a unilateral alteration to a sacred status quo, The Associated Press (AP) reported. The churches said that the legal proceedings betray a rising level of intolerance for the Christian minority in Jerusalem, the outlet noted.

Israeli officials maintain that this is a routine financial dispute, The AP reported. The churches are major landowners in Israel and they have not traditionally paid property taxes, the outlet reported. City officials told the outlet that the church did not submit the necessary paperwork for the past few years to be exempt from paying and stated that a dialogue was opened with the churches over the debt. (RELATED: Iran Threatens ‘Obliterating War’ With Israel If It Launches All-Out Assault Against Hezbollah)

Jerusalem officials announced back in 2018 that they planned to collect on debts from taxes owed to the city by the churches, The Jerusalem Post reported. This tax only applied to land owned by the churches but not used as a house of worship, the outlet reported. Church leaders previously closed the Church of the Holy Sepulchre out of protest to this decision which caused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to halt efforts to collect the tax and form a commission to resolve the dispute, The Jerusalem Post reported.

Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem and heads of churches confirmed this ongoing dialogue in a press release Tuesday. The churches said that the dialogue with Jerusalem’s Mayor Moshe Leon was conducted “[i]n a positive atmosphere” and “reiterated” their opposition to being taxed and “their concern” over the legal actions taken by the city.

“The Heads of Churches await the response of His Excellency the Prime Minister to their letter in this regard, and in the meantime look to His Excellency the Mayor and his positive reception of today to help push forward the dialogue mechanisms so that a favourable outcome can be reached for the benefit of all sides,” the press release read.