From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
LWF Appeals Against Jerusalem Court Ruling
"Frank Imhoff" <FRANKI@elca.org>
Wed, 19 Feb 2003 12:36:56 -0600
Decision to Revoke Tax Exemption Agreement Could Jeopardize
Critical Health Services, People's Lives and Livelihoods
JERUSALEM/GENEVA, 19 February 2003 (LWI) - The Lutheran World
Federation (LWF) has challenged a Jerusalem court ruling on the
tax status of its activities in Israel-Palestine, saying the
decision, if executed, could jeopardize the LWF's humanitarian
work in the region.
In an appeal filed on February 12, the LWF argues that the 22
December 2002 decision by the District Court in Jerusalem to
revoke a tax exemption agreement between the State of Israel and
the LWF-operated Augusta Victoria Hospital (AVH) was incorrect.
The LWF appeal is based on the lack of any lawful notice or
decision by the competent authorities to cancel the agreement, and
failure to give the LWF the opportunity to argue its case. In the
petition, the LWF notes it was not availed the chance to explain
the substantive implications of the cancellation for itself, the
population it serves, and for the State of Israel.
As the appeal document states, the result of the cancellation of
the tax exemption agreement will be "the discontinuation or
reduction to an absolute minimum of the activity of the Augusta
Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem, including all the clinics,"
discontinuation of the LWF's health services to "tens of thousands
of patients," laying off of numerous workers "in areas in which
the unemployment rate is in any case unbearably high," termination
of contracts with suppliers, and a substantial loss to the State
of Israel resulting from the loss of income taxes paid by LWF's
The LWF has been serving the needs of Palestinian refugees in East
Jerusalem and the West Bank for over 50 years, and through its
humanitarian work continues to be an important expression of the
Christian presence in the Holy Land. The LWF's main activity, the
AVH, situated on the Mount of Olives, was established as a
hospital after the war of 1948, initially under the control of the
Red Cross and since 1950 under LWF ownership and management.
The LWF's capacity to provide humanitarian services in the region
has been greatly enhanced by a tax exemption agreement originally
established with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in 1966, and
adopted by the State of Israel after the war of 1967. More
recently, the Government of Israel has sought to revoke this
agreement. Last December the Jerusalem court ruled that the tax
exemption agreement had been cancelled with effect from the end of
Reacting to the court's ruling, AVH chief executive officer, Dr
Tawfiq Nasser said any additional tax imposed by the State of
Israel "will greatly hamper the hospital's ability to provide the
much-needed health care to the refugee and disadvantaged segments
of the community." The development of the AVH as a model
institution assisting in building a civil society in the
Palestinian areas will be seriously undermined by the decision,
according to Nasser.
AVH health services are available to all, but its particular role
is to provide health care to the Palestinian refugee population.
Around 65 percent of the hospital's patients come from the refugee
camps. A growing number of patients turn to the AVH for medical
services that are not available elsewhere in the West Bank or
Gaza. The hospital plans to open soon the only radiation oncology
center for cancer treatment dedicated to the West Bank and Gaza
Jafar Al Faqeeh, father of 10-year-old Nena, receiving kidney
dialysis at the AVH for the last four years, summarized his
experience with the LWF-run hospital. "If it were not for the AVH
dialysis services, my child would have died. We had nowhere else
The LWF also operates a network of Village Health Clinics (VHCs)
in five villages near Ramallah, which, together with their
satellite communities, represent some 40,000 people. The
Palestinian Health Authority (PHA) relies on the LWF-run VHCs to
provide basic medical care to the area residents, since the PHA
lacks sufficient resources, especially in the current
circumstances, to take full responsibility for such services.
In addition, the LWF has been engaged in vocational training in
Palestine since 1948, and founded a Vocational Training Center
(VTC) at Beit Hanina in 1952, which has benefitted thousands of
people. Skills acquired in auto mechanics, carpentry, electronics
and telecommunications among other fields, help to equip
beneficiaries to become productive members in society, and give
Bishop Munib A. Younan, head of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in
Jordan, [serving in Israel, Jordan and Palestine] said the effect
of the imposition of tax liability upon the LWF's not-for-profit
activities in Israel-Palestine would be to seriously jeopardize
its capacity to continue to provide these humanitarian services,
and to deprive large sections of the population of the West Bank
and Gaza strip of essential health care and vocational training
Younan emphasized the growing importance of Christian witness in
Israel-Palestine, saying the LWF's activities in the region,
including the AVH itself, stand out as an example of the services
that the church renders to community members irrespective of their
religion, gender, racial or political affiliation. "This is what
we are called to do as church. It is our duty to serve humankind,"
the ELCJ bishop stressed. He called on churches worldwide to
actively lobby for the continued presence of Christian witness in
the Holy Land, "which may be threatened in the region today."
(The LWF is a global communion of Christian churches in the
Lutheran tradition. Founded in 1947 in Lund (Sweden), the LWF now
has 136 member churches in 76 countries representing over 61.7
million of the 65.4 million Lutherans worldwide. The LWF acts on
behalf of its member churches in areas of common interest such as
ecumenical relations, theology, humanitarian assistance, human
rights, communication, and the various aspects of mission and
development work. Its secretariat is located in Geneva,
[Lutheran World Information (LWI) is LWF's information service.
Unless specifically noted, material presented does not represent
positions or opinions of the LWF or of its various units. Where
the dateline of an article contains the notation (LWI), the
material may be freely reproduced with acknowledgment.]
* * *
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