Anglican bishop fights Israel deportation

Accused of illegal land deals: Dawani

Accused of illegal land deals: Dawani

The head of the Anglican church in Israel, Palestine, Lebanon and Jordan, Bishop Suheil Dawani, is fighting the Israeli Interior Ministry's decision not to renew his residency visa with a petition to the Supreme Court.

Interior Minister Eli Yishai announced six months ago that Bishop Dawani's visa would not be renewed but he has been allowed to remain in Israel pending a review of his case.

Mr Yishai took the decision after allegations emerged that the bishop had been involved in illegal land
transactions.

While the Christian congregations in the region continue to dwindle - there are only a few thousand Anglicans in Israel and the West Bank - the churches remain major landowners of prime real estate in Jerusalem and other cities. The dealings surrounding church lands are often murky, with political and ownership disputes further muddying the waters.

The current Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem did not receive a residence visa for two years due to internal disputes within the Greek church over land deals.

Bishop Dawani originally received a visa upon his appointment in 2008 and it was renewed in 2009 but, last August, after allegations of his involvement in land deals were made to the ministry, Mr Yishai refused to renew the visa. In his petition to the Supreme Court, Bishop Dawani claims that he has been shown no details of the allegations against him and that without a visa he will not be able to carry out his ecumenical duties. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the head of the Episcopalian Church in the United States and the Foreign Office in London have all tried to influence the Israeli government to change its decision, so far to no avail.

If previous cases are anything to go by though, the bishop will not be required to leave Israel and will eventually receive a new visa.

Bishop Nigel McCulloch, Chairman of the Council of Christians and Jews in the UK, said: "We are both shocked and disappointed that Bishop Suheil's pastoral work in his diocese of Jerusalem and the East is hindered, and
his responsibilities seriously hampered, by this refusal."

    Last updated: 12:52pm, March 10 2011