December 7: Nasty Swedes

These are all measures of the type for which Israel has been criticized over the years.

Letters (photo credit: REUTERS)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Absurd argument
Your article “Bill approved to double property tax on capital’s ‘ghost apartments’” (January 5) says the municipality sees this as a way of “encouraging absentee owners to rent out their property, and thus increase the supply of apartments for young people and families.”
This argument is absurd. The majority of absentee owners have flats that are far more expensive than any student or group of students can afford.
This is simply a less-than-transparent attempt to raise funds for a municipality that is hundreds of millions of shekels in deficit at the expense of people who do not vote in local elections.
I was once one of those absentees.
We bought our apartment and starting using it twice a year for six weeks at a time to see what it was like. Had we rented it out, we could not have used it on our visits. At least two other friends in our complex did the same.
When someone buys an apartment here, an important link to Israel is created that enables and encourages the possibility of aliya. We came permanently three years later and have been happily enjoying Jerusalem for the past seven years.
This tax will, among other things, discourage aliya by the most affluent Jews of the Diaspora.
These are potential olim who will not need government assistance when they get here, and have money to spend in stimulating the local economy.
The possible short-term revenue gain is not worth the potential long-term loss.
Does the mayor of Jerusalem think that doubling the property tax will solve the problem? Rich foreign visitors will hardly be deterred by paying another NIS 10,000 or NIS 20,000.
If they were to rent out the apartments, what would they do with the furnishings? And when they came for a stay, where would they stay? Would they have to kick out the renters? Any penalty significantly high enough to deter the visitors would just cause the apartments to be sold, but this would hardly help young people looking for a place to live, as these are expensive apartments.

Language in letters
I always turn to the letters section of your paper with a sense of anticipation, but the contributions you saw fit to print under the heading “Readers react to developments in fatal Duma arson” (January 5) were not simply shocking, they were abhorrent if they represent either the views of Israeli society or your own standards of editing.
A statement such as “the idiotic murderer Amiram Ben-Uliel” and “the monsters who pitilessly torched innocent people to death” is offensive on many levels, from the use of a demeaning description of a person to the failure to acknowledge a basic principal of our legal system, which presumes innocence until a verdict of guilt is rendered.
Similarly, you allow a line saying “there is not a shred of evidence” to justify accusations against the people who have been indicted or questioned for this heinous crime. Are you saying we do not need a system of justice and should be relying on you and your readers to decide? Next, a statement asserting that people have been “held under coercive questioning and torture by the Shin Bet” is mind-boggling in its ignorance and stupidity.
The basic question is not whether your readers are entitled to their own opinions, no matter how dumb or biased they may be, but whether you have a duty to weed out opinions such as these and perform an intelligent, responsible job. If you think that simply presenting two opposite views of the same issue represents the task expected of you, then in my opinion you have failed miserably.
Proper qualifications
With regard to “Deri appointment expected ‘soon’” (January 4), why, oh why, is Arye Deri being appointed to anything? This man has been convicted of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, and now he might be appointed interior minister? Has our prime minister gone completely bonkers? Why not just give all the key posts to fraudsters, bribe-takers and anyone else with a background of dishonesty? This seems like the only qualification needed!
Herzliya Pituah

A bit troubling
Shmuley Boteach’s sketch of MK Amir Ohana (“Israel-haters pinkwash Likud’s first gay MK,” No Holds Barred, January 1) convinces one that the new lawmaker will be a serious and productive element in Knessets to come.
However, Ohana’s apologia pro vita sua is for me a bit troubling.
Boteach quotes Ohana as saying: “When people shout Itbach al-Yahud... I am a Jew. When they shoot, boycott, label and expel, I am a settler.... When soldiers are defamed, I am a soldier.
When a girl is stabbed at the Pride Parade, I am a proud gay man.”
In view of the fact that the rights of LGBTs have been anchored in law, and doors have been opened to them to the very corridors of power, one might say that the Pride Parade – which to many, unfortunately, is an obscene provocation – has become obsolete, and that the money and time spent on it might be better spent on, for example, bridge building with the straight community or furthering the needs of their own.
Perhaps the pride should be leavened with a bit of humility.
In Ohana’s final statement, the statesman-like attitude might be expressed by saying: “When a girl is stabbed at the Pride Parade, I am a humble, remorseful gay man.” After all, had there been no parade, there would have been no stabbing.
Boycott them

The latest gambit to prevent sellers of food and other basic necessities from opening on Saturdays (“Ministers back bill setting prison term for business open on Shabbat,” December 21) will allow owners of businesses who don’t like the competition to file a complaint against the store that provides the service. This is another way for the government to step in and disrupt the workings of the marketplace.
Of course, the owner of a small store who doesn’t want to open on Saturdays could maintain his market share by offering better deals and service on weekdays.
But hey, it’s a lot easier to give lousy service and have the government get rid of the competition for you.
Consumers can easily ensure that it isn’t worthwhile to file this sort of complaint by simply deciding to boycott the complaining businesses.
Nasty Swedes
Well, well. So much for freedom of movement within the European Union – I have read reports that Sweden has now introduced strict border controls.
Stockholm has caused extra-territorial fencing to be erected around one of the platforms of the railway station at Copenhagen’s Kastrup Airport (reminder: Copenhagen is not in Sweden). Direct journeys to Sweden from Copenhagen’s main railway station are no longer available, and other journeys are subject to significant delays, nearly doubling travel time, with photo ID checks to be carried out.
Interestingly, these are all measures of the type for which Israel has been criticized over the years. In fact, in 2004, Sweden’s current education minister, Gustav Fridolin, was arrested and deported from Israel for encouraging demonstrations against the security barrier between Israel and the West Bank.
The biter bit?
Kfar Saba