June 5, 2017: License to kill

It is time for government officials to be brave and practice justice

Letters (photo credit: REUTERS)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
License to kill
Regarding “‘Kill women soldiers, IDF commanders,’ declare ultra-Orthodox extremists” (June 2), what is it going to take for us to stop bragging about being a democracy and tell it like it is: We live in a theocracy wherein one is subject to control over so many aspects of living. If only we could separate religion from state, but we are forced to function with our current status.
Those who choose a haredi lifestyle certainly have received many benefits – not the least of which are financial. It is time for government officials to be brave and practice justice: Weed out those men whose behavior is criminal and punish them to the fullest extent possible. Maybe even close the purse.
It is also time for the haredi leadership that is against such extreme actions to work very hard to prevent this incitement and destructive behavior.
How obscene that haredi extremists should debase Judaism and exhort their fellows to kill, all in fit of unbridled hatred over the recruitment of young men into the army. Their timing was ironic on two counts.
On the previous Shabbat, we read Bemidbar, detailing how God told Moses to count the children of Israel: “every male... from 20 years old and upward, all that are able to go forth to war.” The Torah recognizes, regrettably, that war will occasionally have to be faced and that all the Israelites have to be prepared to do their national service. There is no mention of conscientious objectors, but if there were, we can be sure that they would have been required to undertake some equivalent form of service in support of the army and their fellow Israelites. No one has the right to invoke God to be “let out” from their duty.
Just days later, we celebrated Shavuot, recalling the Ten Commandments. “Thou shalt not murder” is clear and unambiguous. To incite others to break this commandment is nothing short of criminal and merits the harshest punishment.
The haredi community gains no sympathy for this treacherous and un-Jewish behavior.
I was very upset to see your irresponsible front-page headline accompanied by a photo of a mass haredi demonstration. We do not know the identity of the authors of the flyer, nor are we told who supported such a notion, as the police investigation has not been completed.
This juxtaposition was a case of inflammatory, hateful journalism. It can stir up a large amount of antisemitism abroad, not to mention to fomenting hatred and increasing divisiveness among the Jewish citizens of the country.
Many years ago, in Montreux, I had the honor of meeting the great sage, Rabbi J.J. Weinberg OBM. The rabbi considered partisan religious extremism dangerous.
Such ideology is flawed and offensive to positive religious development in the State of Israel, for which many Jewish religious extremists have little, if any, regard. They are reluctant to confront new realities, dressing and thinking as if they are still living in medieval eastern Europe.
You cannot turn back the wheels of history. The hour has passed and will not return. There has been enough hatred. It is now “a time to love” (Ecclesiastes 3:8).
The writer is a rabbi.
Clearing the smoke
As International No-Smoking Day fell on May 31, the Shavuot holiday, Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman had the opportunity to do something positive about reducing deaths from smoking.
Wherever food is served, whether indoors or out, smoking should be prohibited. Just because one is on a covered terrace doesn’t stop others’ smoke from being ingested.
Moreover, imagine how much more pleasant the summer would be if we could eat outdoors smoke-free! The full-page ad taken out by Phillip Morris Ltd. on Page 11 of your June 2 newspaper adds weight to my sentiments.
Herzliya Pituah
Swedish program
With regard to “Swedish program fights Holocaust denial, antisemitism” (June 1), the first step of any serious government program to fight antisemitism should be the government’s official acceptance of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of the word.
It is not by chance that the third-largest Swedish city, Malmö, is widely considered the capital of European antisemitism. Its perpetrators are Muslims, while former Social Democratic mayor Ilmar Reepalu made antisemitic remarks.
Lumping together the planned government fight focusing on both antisemitism and islamophobia makes no sense without stressing that many extreme antisemitic incidents are caused by individuals from the local Muslim population. At the same time, key figures of Sweden’s ruling Social Democratic Party have supported terrorists and continue to do so. For instance, the leading Swedish daily, Aftonbladet, published a picture on May 8 of Euro Parliamentarian and former minister Marita Ulvskog holding a portrait of Palestinian terrorist mastermind Marwan Barghouti out of solidarity.
The writer is emeritus chairman of the Jerusalem Center For Public Affairs.
A ‘Deri law’?
Interior Minister Arye Deri is reportedly at it again: robbing the rich and paying the poor – and himself (“Deri questioned, 14 detained in corruption investigation,” May 30).
Most modern countries have taxes on the net value of a decedent’s estate exceeding a certain amount. The percentage increases as the excess increases. In South Africa, where I practiced as an attorney for almost 20 years before making aliya, the maximum estate tax rate was onethird.
With large estates, the relevant authority sends a copy of the liquidation and distribution account to the tax authorities, who will assess whether, in the light of the decedent’s tax returns, the value of the estate is reasonable. If not, the tax authorities will make an additional assessment. I have seen this happen.
If such a system were in place in Israel, the authorities would be able to look at the size of Mr. Deri’s estate (may he live to 120), consider that he started with next to nothing and that his sole income should have been that of a cabinet minister or member of Knesset (excluding the time he spent in prison), and then ponder the question as to how he made his fortune and whether some of it should go the state’s coffers.
With so many fat cats sitting in the Knesset, however, Mr. Deri can rest peacefully, knowing that such a law will never come to fruition in this country.
Fighting the fight
In “Pragmatism and the presidential messenger” (My Word, May 26), Liat Collins made reference to terrorists who consider themselves freedom fighters. That was when the proverbial asimon (phone token) fell inside my head.
I have often joked that if firefighters fight fires and crime fighters fight crime, what do freedom fighters fight? I realized in reading this piece that terrorists indeed are freedom fighters: They fight freedom – yours and mine.
• US President Donald Trump is “maintaining” the nuclear deal with Iran, to which the US is a party, and not as stated in “Bolton: Trump missed moment to kill Iran deal” (June 4).
• Miami Herald/TNS provided an erroneous photo to accompany “On this luxury South American sleeper train, a unique ride and amazing views” (Travel Trends, June 4). We apologize for overlooking this.