The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem has protested against Israel’s demolition of a Church-owned property in East Jerusalem, saying it was a breach of international law and an act of vandalism that eroded chances for peace.
“This act is against the law, against justice and against humanity, against any ideology upon which peace can be built and increases segregation and hate,” Patriarch Fouad Twal told journalists at the site of the demolition Nov. 5.
Israeli security forces and bulldozers arrived at the house early Monday morning claiming it had been built without a permit, according to its residents, a Muslim family of 14. The family is now residing in a tent belonging to the Red Cross.
Patriarch Twal said the property, located on the south eastern edge of the city close to Bethlehem, was built before 1967 when Israel seized East Jerusalem from the Arabs in the Six-Day War.
Archbishop Twal said the patriarchate did not receive prior orders for the demolition. “This is holy land and always will be, and the interior ministry, the [Jerusalem] municipality and Israeli organisations knew it belonged to the patriarchate,” he said.
He added that the Church would now appeal to Israeli and international courts; he has already complained to the interior ministry and the municipality. “It is an act of vandalism that infringes international law,” the Patriarch said.
The lawyer of the Latin Patriarchate, Mr. Mazen Copti, confirmed the illegality of the demolition of this home and land. “We will take all legal measures against the municipality of Jerusalem and the Israeli Ministry of the Interior to rebuild the house as it was,” he said.
Copti said the destruction of the only house inhabited by an Arab family between Gilo and Har Homa (two of the new districts, or Jewish settlements, just built north of Bethlehem) does not “just happen.”
The lawyer admitted there had been court case against the inhabitants concerning the building in question in 2011. The Israeli court had concluded that it was an illegal construction and had ordered the demolition on 26 November 2011.
This is reported to be the first time the Israeli government had demolished property belonging to the Church.
Christians, Muslims and diplomats attended the Nov. 5th rally at the demolished house, organised by the Latin Patriarchate.