Letters to the Editor, September 30, 2020: The $750 question

The readers of The Jerusalem Post have their say.

Letters (photo credit: PIXABAY)
(photo credit: PIXABAY)
The $750 question
Regarding “‘Trump paid just $750 in taxes in 2016 and 2017’” (September 29), the time appointed by God for the messianic redemption is a closely guarded secret. Nonetheless, we are offered hints to recognize its proximity: increase in insolence and impudence; unbridled irresponsibility on the part of authorities; centers of learning will turn into bawdy houses; wars; many destitute people begging with none to pity them; the pious shall be despised; truth will be abandoned; the young will insult the old and more (Sotah: 49).
The condition of truth being abandoned is certainly relevant in the story on your front page about US President Donald Trump’s taxes.
Every taxpayer in America knows you pay your taxes in advance and then just pay the balance with your tax return. Contrary to the false impression in The New York Times story, Donald Trump did not avoid taxes; the $750 was just what he paid with his return over and above his prepayments.
Dick Morris, American political author and former presidential adviser, reports that in 2016 and 2017, Trump requested and got an extension to file his returns. As required, he made an estimated tax payment of $1 million in 2016 and $4.2 million in 2017. Then, when it turned out that he did not owe that much in taxes, rather than demand the money back, he let the IRS keep it and apply it to any future tax he would owe.
So when he seemingly paid only $750 in taxes for the first two years of his presidency, it was because he had already overpaid during the two previous years with $5.2 million. He left the money with the IRS and took the refund over several years. A government strapped for cash should reward such conduct, not vilify it.
Bottom line: Donald Trump did not avoid paying taxes, he prepaid them.
What’s wrong with that? Certainly not the headline that says he paid $750 when he actually paid $5.2 million. In this election year, watch your news sources carefully. Can the moshiach be far away?
COVID: A crisis worse than ISIS?
Regarding “Health Ministry concerned over coronavirus spike ahead of Yom Kippur” (September 27), it would be useful post-Yom Kippur for head of the police investigation division Deputy Superintendent Ziv Sagiv to re-examine his words.
Aside from the absurd analogy of fighting a war when we are dealing with a virus, to say, “The public needs to understand that leaving the house unnecessarily is life-threatening” has to be the most ridiculous statements of all time – as if it is any less dangerous or life-threatening if one leaves one’s house necessarily.
Surely Sagiv must by now have realized that large sectors of the public have no trust whatsoever in what governments and their chosen enforcers have to say when it comes to lockdowns/ excessive restrictions instead of learning to live with this virus. As it is clear to everybody that everything in conducting one’s life has an element of risk from the virus, it should be equally clear by now that everybody is perfectly able to decide for him/herself the element of risk that he/she is prepared to undertake in leading life with the rest of society as normally as possible.
Sagiv’s pearls of wisdom against attending perfectly safe synagogue services with masks and social distancing for Yom Kippur are ill-judged fear-mongering. Authoritarianism in seeking to micro-manage a person’s life is not the way to try to control this virus; in fact, it is the very opposite. Governments and the police should know that bad laws are always unenforceable.
The disgraceful August 19 decision of the Supreme Court, the attorney general and the government to uphold the sacred right to hold demonstrations at Kikar Paris, Jerusalem, irrespective of the cost of the loss of life vis a vis the COVID-19 virus, bodes ill for the country.
These quasi-quangos have lost sight of the blatant denial of the human rights of the residents of the area in the last 15 weeks to exercise their basic freedom of rights without harassment from the demonstrations, including but not restricted to excessive noise, many times outside permitted hours according to the environmental laws. Most cannot even enjoy a summer’s evening sitting on their balconies, let alone a night’s peaceful sleep – even those who live as far away as a kilometer are subject to this minority’s excessive noise levels!
It has to stop now. Many in the country see the reports on the TV but have no idea what the residents are being subjected to – I bet they would raise hell if it were in their backyard!.
In “Religious leadership in a time of plague” (September 29), Yitz Greenberg is spot on.
In 1848, Rabbi Israel Salanter instructed Jews not to fast on Yom Kippur because of the cholera epidemic. Today during the coronavirus pandemic all rabbis should have followed his example that pikuah nefesh is paramount.
What does 8,000 new infections per day in Israel mean? It means 80 infections per 100,000 population per day and that is 80 times, i.e. two orders of magnitude (!!) more than it is possible to control using a combination of testing, contact tracing, case isolation and extensive monitoring of positive tests. This is insanity!
But the religious are not the only ones. You have people who in the middle of a near total lockdown protest in thousands in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. They expose themselves and everyone else to a deadly virus. The key of their behavior is either absolute ignorance of the threat the virus represents or the maxim that the end justifies the means.
Some on the Left view these demonstrators not as the problem but the cure, yet in a democracy, you topple elected leaders at the polls – or you end up with another French Revolution of 1789 and The Rein of Terror that followed it, or the October Revolution of 1917 and 100 million dead in Communist regimes since.
The root cause of all this is ignorance of science and forgetting that preserving human lives takes precedence over everything else.
Herb Keinon’s commentary is called “Prayers vs protest, Jewish vs democratic” (September 24), but it seems to me that Judaism and democracy both prioritize public health.
On the Jewish side, laws for isolating infected people from the community until they have returned to health take up many verses of Leviticus. And on the democratic side, the egalitarian adage that “Your right to swing your arms ends where the other person’s nose begins” surely applies to your right to ignore a health risk.
Under current conditions, the crowded protests don’t serve democratic values and the crowding of synagogues doesn’t serve Jewish values.
In “The Corona crisis: Who benefits?” (September 23), Shulamit Magnus states that the “overwhelming majority of participants in demonstrations have worn masks properly.” I am not sure which demonstrations she was talking about. The picture accompanying her article showed almost 50% of the participants wearing masks improperly. When I saw the demonstrators on the news, very many were not wearing masks properly.
I get it, you don’t like Netanyahu or the haredim, but we all have to accept responsibility – or lack of responsibility. It is time to unite as a country, as we always hear “we know what to do” in times of crisis. The attitude of “Why do I have to follow the rules if you don’t?” needs to stop.
We are all in this war together. Who benefits? We all do if we each worry about ourselves and others and do the right thing.
Ma’aleh Adumin
In “The Book of Ruth II” (September 25), Amotz Asa-El asserts, “In its feminist, social and religious spirit, the [life story of Ruth Bader Ginsburg] picks up from where the First Book of Ruth [in the Tanach] left off.”
When I was privileged to personally meet Ginsburg upon my admission to the United States Supreme Court bar, I could not (and still cannot) help but admire her many accomplishments that did in fact inure her to the benefits of American Jewry.
That said, I hasten to question how Ginsburg’s proactive championing, throughout her career as an attorney and a jurist, the supposed “right” of a woman to have an abortion can possibly be a continuation of the “social and religious spirit” of the Ruth who was the great-grandmother of King David.
Petah Tikva
Conference call
Regarding the Jerusalem Post Annual Conference (Online September 24), in these troublesome times one must seek out positives and on Thursday evening I was privileged to log into your paper’s annual conference.
As we are generally able only to catch highlights or read post-conference reviews, it was enlightening to hear the main players first-hand.
The overall message conveyed was that in its 72nd year, Israel is a vibrant forward-thinking nation and certain recent developments in seeking rapprochement with other Middle East nations gives a much-needed boost and something to expand on in more detail once this pandemic passes – hopefully sooner rather than later.
Israel is still an exciting work in progress and with the positivity that flowed from all participants there is much to look forward to. Finally, praise to moderator Yaakov Katz whose demeanor and relevant encouraging questioning coupled with smooth links gave the proceedings the gravitas it richly deserved and achieved.
Tel Aviv
Legacy and leadership?
Regarding “Shimon Peres: Legacy and leadership that led to the Abraham Accords” (September 23), I take issue with Ronald Lauder’s heaped praise upon Shimon Peres. I believe that Peres was the ultimate “fool dreamer” who really believed that if you gave economic prosperity to the Palestinians, without conditions, they would turn to you in brotherly love.
Peres was the man whose dog-and-pony show with his loyal sidekick Yossi Beilin brought us the mayhem of Oslo. These misguided accords ultimately led to the murder and slaughter of thousands of Jews by Palestinian terrorists. This is a major part of the legacy of Peres.
Peres’ vision was to let the Palestinian tail wag the dog. I certainly don’t believe he had the vision to accomplish what has recently been achieved.
Legacy and leadership? Peres’s legacy was to rescue arch-terrorist Yasser Arafat from Tunis where he would have died totally forgotten, bring him into our land as a statesman, hand him a Nobel Prize and provide him with guns and ammunition by both President Rabin and Peres whereupon he proceeded to murder and main over a thousand Israelis. That price is still being paid today.
Leadership? He did manage to persuade the weak Yitzhak Rabin to go along with his surrender to the terrorists and terrorism.
Unfortunately the same type of leadership is with us today, which continues the policy of concessions and surrender to our enemies resulting in the continued attacks and destruction of land and the continued subservience to our enemies on the Temple Mount.
If this is the kind of legacy and leadership the people want – which sadly they seem to – then the end of our story has already been written.
Going Hungary
The story of the Resistance Movement in Hungary” (September 26) was both tragic and illuminating. The efforts of the Jews in the Resistance are to be applauded – especially working with the knowledge that the penalties for exposure were drastic. So many people today owe their existence to the fact that their grandparents were saved by these brave people.
Reading this episode brought to mind the enormous efforts of Raoul Wallenberg, the non-Jewish Swedish diplomat who saved thousands of Jews in Hungary in much the same way. He, too, set up numerous offices in order to forge passports, create elaborate documents to impress the Germans to allow the bearers safe passage. He set up safe houses throughout Budapest and gave Swedish passports to as many Jews as he could.
When the Russians came he was arrested and has never been heard of since. Over the years his family has gone to great lengths in order to uncover news of his fate. They have not been successful.
Two sets of heroes. Did they never meet? Their lives were similar.
Herzliya Pituah
Rabin and Arafat bond?
When the Oslo Accords were signed, many of us considered, like Tamar Hermann (in The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict) that Yitzhak Rabin “was unable – and did not try – to hide his revulsion for the person who was recognized at the event as the official and definitive leader of the Palestinian people. It was obvious to everyone who watched the ceremony that Rabin retained a negative opinion of Arafat, or at best a very guarded one.”
It wasn’t the last time the two men met, but their meetings produced indifferent results. Less than a year before Rabin died, “Arafat met Rabin in Gaza City on 9 February in an attempt to have the closure of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank lifted, and to obtain assurances on the redeployment of troops in the West Bank. He achieved neither of his aims, leading one Palestinian negotiator to describe the peace process as having ‘reached a state beyond that of collapse’” (A Survey of Arab-Israeli Relations, edited by Cathy Hartley).
Nonetheless, your article “AOC slammed for withdrawing from Rabin event” (September 27) claims with a straight face that Rabin “formed a bond with Arafat,” citing Arafat’s apparent distress at Rabin’s murder. Dare I suggest that his distress, and his condolence visit to Rabin’s widow, were prompted less by the loss of Rabin as a personal pal and more by the loss of Rabin as a reliable legitimizer of Arafat’s own authority?