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    » 02/25/2011, 00.00

    ISRAEL

    Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem’s visa revoked

    Arieh Cohen

    Sheil Dawani is considered a foreigner, having been born in Nablus, while the Anglican cathedral and offices are in East Jerusalem. Without a visa, in theory he can be arrested and deported at any time. Appeal already submitted to an administrative tribunal could have the negative effect of giving reason to the government.
     Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - Israel’s Interior Ministry has revoked the permit for the Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem, The Rt Revd Suheil Dawani, to live in Jerusalem, and has refused requests to reinstate it, in spite of protests by Anglican authorities in the West specifically the United States.

    The Bishop is a native of the Holy Land and has spent most of his life and ministry here, but cannot obtain either citizenship or legal residence in Israel, since he was born in Nablus, i.e. in the West Bank, which has been under Israeli occupation since 1967, but has not been annexed to Israel. East Jerusalem, on the other hand, where the Anglican Cathedral and Diocesan offices are situated, was also occupied at the same time, but Israel annexed it and considers it part of its national territory (although no other  country in the world recognizes this annexation). Therefore, Bishop Dawani is considered by Israel to be a foreigner who can only visit – let alone live in – East Jerusalem with a special permit, which the Israeli authorities can either grant or deny at their sole discretion. In fact, even the original Palestinian inhabitants of East Jerusalem, and their descendants, are considered by Israel to be foreigners who are no more than  possessors of a residence permit, which Israel can revoke.

    Since the Bishop has of course remained at his post, in Jerusalem, without the permit, he could be arrested at any moment, be put on trial for being in Israel illegally, be sentenced to a prison term – or simply be forcibly removed from Jerusalem.

    This situation is causing deep worry to all the Churches in the Holy Land. Because of the representative function of the Churches in the Holy Land, on behalf of the world-wide Christian communities, and because of various personnel needs, a large portion of the bishops, clergy and religious serving in Jerusalem and elsewhere, come from other countries. Israel does not allow them to acquire citizenship or even legal residence, and they can only remain in Israeli territory in virtue of visas that need to be renewed every year or two years – at the Government’s sole discretion. Indeed, as has been made public by news reports over the years, the issue of entry visas and residence for Catholic clergy and religious is a priority item on the agenda of the negotiations between the Holy See and the State of Israel, right from their beginning in 1992 – with no agreement yet. So the predicament of the Anglican Bishop is being watched closely by all the Churches here.

    The Bishop has now applied for an Israeli administrative court to intervene, but the prospects for his lawsuit are far from certain. As a matter of general principle, the Government is free to issue or to withhold the kind of permit he needs, without giving detailed reasons, except essentially raisons d’état. There is an opinion, too, that turning to the court is a mistake, since an unfavourable decision by the court (the likelier outcome perhaps) would give the Government the cover of law. It might have been better for him, some say, to rely instead on rousing Western public opinion, in the name of religious freedom and natural justice. Time will tell.

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    See also

    09/01/2012 PALESTINE - ISRAEL
    Catholics in Gaza welcome 8 bishops from Europe and North America
    The visit took place before the annual meeting of the Coordination of Episcopal Conferences in Support the Church of the Holy Land. Auxiliary bishop in Birmingham says: “You’re not alone, no one has given up, have hope and faith in God and the Church”.

    03/11/2006 VATICAN - ISRAEL - PALESTINE
    Vatican: Negotiations "without pre-conditions" for "two state solution" in Holy Land

    Addressing the UN, the Holy See representative drew attention to the need for international guarantees for Jerusalem that would guarantee religious freedom for all and allow free access to Holy Places.



    12/01/2011 ISRAEL-PALESTINE
    Patriarch of Jerusalem: we fear Muslim and Israeli extremists
    Archbishop Fouad Twal is concerned about attacks on churches and Christians by Islamic radicals, and the increasing Judaization of the city, which wants to "exclude other faiths." The historic Mamilla Muslim cemetery in West Jerusalem vandalized.

    29/12/2010 ISRAEL – PALESTINE
    Build bridges of peace, not walls, Jerusalem Churches say
    Christian religious leaders in the Holy Land release a statement for Christmas in which they call on the international community to work for peace because “Too many people live under the threat of violence and political persecution.” Religion’s role is to bring hope and peace. Christians, Jews and Muslims work together in the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land.

    24/03/2005 ISRAEL – PALESTINE – HOLY LAND
    Jerusalem: the Cross breaks down the wall of fear
    A talk with Fr Pierbattista Pizzaballa, OFM, Custodian of the Holy Land.



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