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“The church has too often been silent in addressing the abuses of power by the Israeli government”
Yet the ‘Christian’ zionists still remain silent.

Episcopal leaders dismayed at Israel’s denial of Jerusalem bishop’s residency permit

By Matthew Davies*

The Episcopal bishops of Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., have in separate statements decried the decision by Israel’s Ministry of the Interior to deny a residency permit for Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem Suheil Dawani and his family to live in Jerusalem.

Dawani’s episcopal ministry requires him to travel throughout the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, which includes parishes and institutions in Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinian Territories. Dawani, a Palestinian Christian, has held a residency permit for Jerusalem since 2007.

“The seizure of Bishop Dawani’s travel documents means not only that he cannot visit the Christian communities of Lebanon, Jordan and Syria. It also means he cannot minister to the Christian communities located minutes from St. George’s Cathedral: the brewmasters of Taybeh, the schoolchildren of Bethlehem, the unemployed and elderly of Jericho,” said Los Angeles Bishop Jon Bruno, whose diocese has shared a companion relationship with the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem for six years.

Bruno, who has led more than 50 pilgrimages to the Holy Land in the past 30 years, also noted in his March 9 statement that without a permit Dawani cannot deliver essential medical supplies “and alms, as well as hope” to the patients at Al Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza, an institution run by the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem that serves the 1.5 million residents of the Gaza Strip regardless of their faith.

“Make no mistake: The Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem is a peacemaker,” Bruno said. His “status and rights as a religious leader should mean he can travel freely throughout his diocese.”

Chane, whose diocese also shares a companion relationship with the Jerusalem diocese, said in a March 10 pastoral letter that he — along with Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem — has joined in the effort to reinstate the bishop’s visa and residency cards for his family.

“Almost four weeks have passed since our letters, expressing our deep concern and calling for the Israeli government to correct this indignity and injustice, were delivered to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,” he said. “Our efforts have been met with silence.”

Israel’s Ministry of the Interior denied the residency permit for Dawani, his wife and his youngest daughter on the grounds that Dawani had allegedly sold Israeli land illegally to Palestinians, according to the release. Dawani also was accused of forging documents.

The official letter denying the permit, which was written in Hebrew, said (in a translation provided by the Diocese of Jerusalem), “Bishop Suheil acted with the Palestinian Authority in transferring lands owned by Jewish people to the Palestinians and also helped to register lands of Jewish people in the name of the church.”

The letter also stated that Dawani and his family should leave the country immediately.

Dawani has denied the allegations, none of which have been substantiated by any documentary evidence, according to the release. The bishop has attempted to resolve the matter, sending letters to the Ministry of the Interior and the nation’s attorney general in which he asked to know the specific charges against him and requested reinstatement of the residency permit. According to the release, none of his inquiries have been answered.

“This is placing huge pressure on my role as Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem as I now have no right to live in the city of which I am the Anglican representative. It directly affects my ministry here as the future of my position remains uncertain,” Dawani said in a recent e-mail to ENS.

Jefferts Schori told ENS that she has been concerned about the matter since learning of it last August.

“Overtures through our own State Department, with the Israeli ambassador, and directly to Mr. Netanyahu, have thus far proved fruitless,” she said. “The situation Bishop Dawani and his family are in remains untenable. We seek an immediate regularization of the bishop’s residency status, and continue to express our concern about his treatment and the repeated failure to address this matter directly.”

Chane is urging Christians to e-mail Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren ( and President Barack Obama ( expressing their concerns about Israel’s decision concerning Dawani’s residency permit.

“Israel prides itself on being a democracy — the only one in the Middle East. Yet a true democracy adheres to the rule of law and defends the religious freedom of all persons,” he said. “This has not been the case for Bishop Dawani, a Palestinian Christian.”

“The church has too often been silent in addressing the abuses of power by the Israeli government,” Chane said. “I have spoken to many Christians who are fearful and believe if they speak out against human rights abuses by the government of Israel they will be labeled as anti-Semitic. But not to speak out when injustices are done to a Christian religious leader and a much respected bishop of the Anglican Communion is to be guilty of a greater crime; the crime of silence.

Chane was due to meet with U.S. Sen. John Kerry of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Deputy Assistant Secretary Kathleen Fitzpatrick at the Religious Freedoms Desk at the State Department to continue to press the issue.

Bruno recalled that in March 2010, there was a sudden announcement that 1,600 homes for settlers would be built on contested lands of East Jerusalem.

“This unexpected announcement that was horribly embarrassing to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came from the Ministry of Interior,” he said. It is this same Ministry of Interior that has offended the world’s 80 million Anglicans and Episcopalians by targeting our bishop … Someone needs to tell the Interior Ministry that in the new millennium, religious wars for control of Jerusalem are over. Let’s end this holy war before it starts.”

* Matthew Davies is editor and international correspondent of the Episcopal News Service.

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