The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in occupied Jerusalem, built at the site where Christians believe Jesus was buried, has remained closed since Sunday in protest at Israel’s tax measures and a proposed property law. The church, a major pilgrimage site, will remain closed until further notice. The occupied city’s Israeli municipality says churches “owe” it more than $185 million (Dh680.43 million) on certain properties used for “commercial purposes”.

By taking this drastic measure, the Greek Orthodox, Armenian and Roman Catholic denominations that share custody of the church highlighted an issue that needs to be discussed more: The regime’s unceasing attempts to Judaise occupied Jerusalem, wiping out its Islamic and Christian heritage. Legislation being considered by the regime in Tel Aviv could be aimed at allowing church property to be expropriated.

And measures taken against the church could be followed by a similar approach against the Islamic Awqaf in occupied Jerusalem. Already, Palestinian and other Muslim worshippers often face all kinds of restrictions when it comes to their right to pray in Islam’s third holiest site, Al Haram Al Sharif.

For nearly five decades — since capturing the holy city, following the 1967 Arab-Israeli war — successive regimes in Tel Aviv have taken a raft of measures to alter the identity of Jerusalem. The regime has tried to change the ‘facts on the ground’ and torpedo Palestinian plans to regain the eastern part of the city as the capital of their future state. These steps involve confiscating Palestinian land in and around occupied East Jerusalem to build illegal colonies, annulling personal identity documents of Palestinian residents of the city, encouraging Jewish expansion by inviting extremist colonists to live in illegal colonies, and building a wall (on occupied Palestinian land) that cuts off the city from the rest of the occupied West Bank. As one analyst told Gulf News, “From zero in 1967, Israel today holds 87 per cent of the land in [occupied] East Jerusalem.”

Such is Israel’s determination to usurp Jerusalem that the country’s Knesset passed a law blocking the ceding of any part of the occupied city to a “foreign power”, without the consent of at least 81 of the 120 members. Hundreds of Palestinian families who have lived in the city for generations have had their homes demolished or their right to live in the city revoked on flimsy grounds. The actions against the church need to be seen in this context.