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The Threats Against Christian Churches in Israel

Italian left-wing Eurodeputy Mrs. Luisa Morgantini tabled a question to the European Commission on the threats against religious diversity in Israel and the future of all the religious institutions in this country, including the Orthodox and Roman Catholic ones. The full text of her parliamentary question is the following:   

"In May 2001, the Israeli armed forces forced their way into the property of the Armenian Apostolic Monastery of Baron Der, near Beith Jala, damaging the monastery's ecological, historical and archaeological heritage, to an estimated cost of over 300 000. They have been occupying the property ever since.

Reiterated attempts on the part of the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem to negotiate the position, and appeals launched by leading moral and political authorities including Pope John-Paul II and the UN special rapporteur for religious freedoms, Mr Amor, have gone unheeded.

When the Armenian Patriarchate appealed, the Israeli military and political authorities responded by ordering the property to be seized. In April 2002, Israel launched its scheme to build a wall separating its territory from the Left Bank. To this effect, the Israeli armed forces have laid a paved road right through the property, and plan to run the dividing wall down this road, thus cutting the monastic property into two mutually inaccessible halves.

The Patriarchate's last legal resort was an appeal to the Israeli High Court of Justice, which has gone unanswered.

Javier Solana, approached by Europe's Armenian community, has failed to react in any way at all. (OCC editor's emphasis)

It appears that this matter is a testing of the international community by the State of Israel. If Israel succeeds, we can start worrying about the danger that the Orthodox and Roman Catholic institutions, and indeed every other minority living in Israel, will see their culture smothered and their heritage confiscated.

Does the Council intend to take up the case of the Baron Der Armenian monastic property, and remind Israel of its human rights undertakings, and ask the country to respect the cultural and religious diversity of the various elements which constitute Israeli society?

Does the Council believe that the behaviour described above violates the Association Agreement (OJ L 147 - June 2000) between the European Union and Israel, specifically in respect of the recitals and Article 2 thereof? If so, does the Council not intend to terminate this Agreement?"

[From Brussels, Costas Kydoniatis for Ecclesia Report] 21 April 2003

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