Lost in Translation: Haaretz English Edition Provides Selective Coverage of Jerusalem Church Dispute

Haaretz‘s English edition prioritizes the story about the closing of Jerusalem’s Church of Holy Sepulchre with a page-one, above-the-fold article today (“Jerusalem’s Church of Holy Sepulchre closes to protest ‘discriminatory’ bill“), but then, in comparison to the Hebrew edition (which published a parallel article on page nine today), provides remarkably less information key to understanding the issues.

Strikingly, the English edition repeatedly omits the authorities’ responses to the church officials’ accusations charging Israel of implementing measures akin to Nazi-era Nuremberg laws against Jews. The controversy surrounds a bill which would enable the state to expropriate land that the churches sold to private investors since 2010, as well as the municipality’s stated intention to collect tax on church-owned property not used for worship. Thus, the English edition notes that the church heads released a statement blasting what they call a

“systematic campaign against the Churches and the Christian community in the Holy Land.

“The systematic campaign … reaches now its peak as a discriminatory and racist bill that targets solely the properties of the Christian community in the Holy Land. . . This reminds us all laws of a similar nature which were enacted against the Jews during dark periods in Europe.”

Further on, the English article provides more details about the church’s position, stating:

Church leaders have made it clear a number of times that they consider this a serious violation of their property rights and the status quo. Leaders have also announced they will fight the law both legally and diplomatically.

The Hebrew edition, but not the English edition, included the following response from Kulanu MK Rachel Azaria, a former deputy mayor of Jerusalem who initiated the bill with the support of the Justice Ministry (CAMERA’s translation):

I understand that the church is stressed, but their lands remain their lands, no one has any interest to touch them at any time. My bill deals with what happens once the rights to the land are sold to a third party — it cannot be that developers go door to door threatening residents that they will have to pay between 200,000 and 500,000 shekels. The low amounts for which entire neighborhoods were sold makes clear the speculative nature of the deal. In this situation the Patriarch is not relevant to the matter because it involves lands sold to private developers.

Similarly, when it comes to the municipality’s plan to collect taxes on properties owned by the church, but not used for purposes of worship, Haaretz‘s English edition includes the church accusation, and omits the city’s response. Thus, the English article reports:

Meanwhile, church representatives have accused Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat of breaching international treaties after the municipality said it planned to collect 650 million shekels ($186 million) in back taxes owned by churches and international bodies with property in the city.

Included in the Hebrew edition, but not the English, is the municipality’s response, along with the fact that the tax does not apply to houses of worship, but only church-owned property used for other purposes. Thus, Haaretz‘s Hebrew edition provides the following information, left out from its English counterpart (CAMERA’s translation):

Until now all church assets were granted exemptions from paying the arnona property tax, but last month the municipality announced that it begun collecting arnona from offices, schools and buildings owned by the churches and used for different purposes. At the same time, the municipality clarified that it will not collect arnona on houses of worship, which are exempt from tax.

In addition, the Hebrew edition, but not the English edition, cites Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat in response to the church officials’ accusations that the imposition of tax is a violation of international treaties:

“The Municipality of Jerusalem maintains a good and respectful relationship with all of the churches in the city, and will continue to look after their needs and protect their full religious freedom. Nevertheless, we will not be able to abide a situation in which only in Jerusalem hotels, banquet halls and commercial businesses are exempt from arnona only because they are church owned, and this is in contrast to Haifa and Tel Aviv, which do collect arnona from the churches’ commercial assets.”

By promoting this story to page one, and at the same time providing readers with less, not more, information, Haaretz‘s English edition sensationalizes for its international readers, instead of informing.


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