Lutheran Office for Governmental Affairs
(LOGA)

122 C Street N.W., Suite 125
Washington, D.C. 20001
Tel: 202-783-7507     
loga@elca.org     www.loga.org

Updated March 25, 2004                                                

Urgent Action Alert

Augusta Victoria Hospital
Jerusalem

The December 22, 2002 decision of the Israeli District Court in Jerusalem to revoke a tax exemption agreement between the State of Israel and the Lutheran World Federation seriously jeopardizes the LWF-operated Augusta Victoria Hospital (AVH) and other essential health care and vocational training activities in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.

Revocation of this agreement, originally established with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in 1966, and adopted by the State of Israel after the war of 1967, is likely to diminish substantially the LWF's capacity to provide humanitarian services to large sections of the population of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The Lutheran World Federation 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 Augusta Victoria Hospital, 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. (Lutheran World Information, 19 Feb 2003)  (photo: Mike DuBose, United Methodist News Service)
Your help is urgently needed in order to persuade Israeli officials that revoking the tax exemption for LWF activities at this time threatens more than the Augusta Victoria Hospital and the humanitarian services it provides to the Palestinian population.

Israel's action fosters more desperation among Palestinians and undermines those Palestinians who seek a negotiated resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Please contact your Representative and Senators and ask them to raise this issue with
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell.

House and Senate contact information

U.S. Capitol Switchboard: 
202-224-3121

The Honorable (Name)
U.S. Senate
Washington, DC  20510

The Honorable (Name)
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC  20515

TALKING POINTS:

1.  I am concerned about the tax claims that the Government of Israel has placed on the humanitarian projects of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) in Jerusalem.  I ask your assistance in communicating my concern to the U.S. State Department and, through the State Department, to the Government of Israel.  It is extremely important that Israel reaffirms the rights and privileges accorded the LWF under previous agreements with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

2.  The Lutheran World Federation, a nonprofit organization supported by its member churches, provides material aid, medical care, and rehabilitation services, such as vocational training and self-help projects, primarily to Palestinian refugees.  For more than fifty years the LWF has offered these services.  The LWF has had a tax exemption agreement with Israel for more than thirty years.  Unfortunately, the taxes now claimed by the Israeli Tax Department put the LWF programs and all the services they provide Palestinians in East Jerusalem and the West Bank at great risk.

3.  It cannot be emphasized enough that the Augusta Victoria Hospital (AVH) and the other LWF programs are essential humanitarian programs serving the Palestinian population of East Jerusalem and the West Bank.  Further cuts of basic services to the Palestinian population will only foster more desperation and a more fertile environment for violent reactions to the Israeli occupation.  The continuation by Israel of the tax case against the LWF may mean that the LWF's services, particularly those basic medical services provided by the AVH, will be closed or severely curtailed.  Alternatives for relocating are very limited given that the Augusta Victoria Hospital and the Vocational Training Center are operated in buildings located on church property in Jerusalem.  The humanitarian situation in the West Bank and Gaza is already at crisis levels. 

4.  The Lutheran World Federation and four other international non-governmental organizations (Catholic Relief Services - CRS, the Mennonite Central Committee - MCC, the International Christian Committee - ICC, and the Swedish Organization for Individual Relief - SOIR) have been tax exempt through written agreements since 1966.  These five organizations had been working in areas controlled by Jordan prior to 1967 and had treaties with that nation which detailed their rights and privileges, including the privilege of tax exemption.  The Government of Israel asked these five organizations to continue their work in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza, and by late 1967, Israel (through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) had affirmed the prior Jordanian agreements of these non-governmental organizations (NGOs).  All five of these international NGOs provide Christian supported humanitarian services to Palestinian constituencies and are located in disputed East Jerusalem.

5.  This case may seem to be a small matter in the overall effort to break the cycle of violence between Palestinians and Israelis and to rebuild confidence so that peace talks may resume, but I believe the just resolution of cases such as this one involving the Lutheran World Federation opens doors for further dialogue between Palestinians and Israelis and bolsters those among them who are willing to take risks for peace.

BACKGROUND: 

ELCA Delegations to Jerusalem: 
May 2003 Stories and Photos and January 2004 Stories and Photos 

ELCA Actions and Statements on the Middle East

February 21, 2003:  East Jerusalem: 'How Can I Run a Hospital in These Conditions?'  Statistics Only Tell Part of the Story of LWF-run Augusta Victoria Hospital

February 19, 2003:  LWF Appeals Against Jerusalem Court Ruling; Decision to Revoke Tax Exemption Agreement Could Jeopardize Critical Health Services, People's Lives and Livelihoods

October 25, 2002:  FEATURE: East Jerusalem - Getting Medical Assistance through the Checkpoints; LWF-Run Hospital Takes Clinics to West Bank Villages

June 2002:  The Lutheran:  Looking Death in the Face

August 1997:  The Lutheran: Revival at Augusta Victoria Hospital
 

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