UKMW prompts Guardian correction to false claim Israeli bill would confiscate church land

A Guardian article (Jerusalem’s Holy Sepulchre church closes in tax protest, Feb. 25) by Oliver Holmes began with the following mischaracterization of a proposed Knesset bill at the center of row between the Israeli government and church leaders.

The heads of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, considered the holiest site in Christianity, have shuttered its doors to protest against a new tax and a piece of Israeli legislation that will allow the government to confiscate church land.

However, as we pointed out in a complaint to editors, the bill in question, sponsored by MK Rachel Azaria, would confiscate land that was already sold by the church, and presently owned by Jewish investors.  The legislation, which also includes compensation for the new owners, was inspired by the desire to protect hundreds of Jerusalem residents from possible eviction by their new landlords.  

The error is an important one, because the suggestion that Israel is ‘confiscating church land’ serves to legitimise an outrageous statement by church leaders (quoted in the report), which you can see in this tweet, outrageously comparing the government’s behavior to “laws enacted against the Jews during dark periods in Europe”.

We also alerted editors to the erroneous claim that this is the first time the Church of the Holy Sepulchres has been closed for political reasons since 1900.  It’s actually the first time since 1990.

Editors quickly upheld our complaints, corrected the date and amended the sentence to make it clear that the land in question was “sold by the church”.

The following addendum was added:

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4 replies »

  1. Poor poor Oliver Holmes.

    What happens in Israel is so very confusing that he often gets it wrong.

  2. So they closed the church ‘for political reasons’ in 1990. They didn’t close it in 2002 in solidarity with the Bethlehem Church of the Nativity when terrorists invaded it, taking clergy and other people hostage, and desecrated it. Priorities obvious. Never mind you don’t close the house of God for a fit of political pique.