February 25: Kudos on the Nakba bill

But where are the MKs?

Kudos on the Nakba bill...
Sir, – At long last, the government and its institutions will not be giving money to organizations in Israel that help fund or support Nakba Day (“Panel approves draconian ‘Nakba’ bill for first reading but will moderate it before final vote,” February 24). We know that this is the day on which the Arab community mourns Israel’s independence. It is the height of idiocy to give Israeli money to organizations that mourn the country’s independence and seek to actively create a situation where there will be no Israel.
Kol hakavod to the members of Knesset, from any party, who see the fallacy in giving much needed money to causes proclaiming that the State of Israel’s creation should be mourned by citizens residing in that state. Can we imagine that American Indians forced to leave their tribal homelands and live on reservations would be granted American funds for organizations that would further America’s destruction?
    TOBY WILLIG     Jerusalem
... but where are the MKs?
Sir, – Although I agree with the law that was passed last Monday, it is how it was passed that bothers me (“Legislation allows refuge status for Jews who fled Arab countries,” February 24).
In the Israeli democracy, the Knesset was formed by the election of 120 members. It is well known, and constantly laughed at, that the vast majority of Knesset members do not regularly attend the plenum sessions. Last Monday, the new law was approved in a vote of 34 in favor and 1 against, or 29 percent of the Knesset membership. Did we vote for a prime minister’s cabinet or a Knesset?
Although I am sure it will never happen, legislation must be passed that the Knesset cannot pass a law with under 61 members voting in     favor; Knesset members’ salaries and perks must be paid according to the percentage of that member’s attendance during the parliamentary season; recesses must be limited to only one 45-day recession; and the prime minister and his cabinet members must also be required to attend sessions, or have their income and perks subjected to a percentage-based reduction.
Where are the human right organizations? Don’t we Israeli citizens also have a need for full human and democratic rights?
    SEYMOUR BRODSKY     Jerusalem
A reply to ‘Spectacle’
Sir, – In her column about Iran’s recent appearance before the UN Human Rights Council as part of the Universal Periodic review process, Anne Bayefsky is largely dismissive of my intervention on behalf of the United States government (“What a spectacle,” February 17). To set the record straight, here is some of what I actually said.
“The United States strongly condemns the recent violence and unjust suppression of innocent Iranian citizens, which resulted in detentions, injuries and deaths. Since last June, millions of Iranian people have sought to raise legitimate concerns about the 2009 electoral process and to exercise their universal rights. The United States also strongly condemns the growing restrictions on freedom of expression… News organizations have been shut down and Iranian and foreign journalists arrested, detained, or prevented from doing their job. Access to the Internet also has been curtailed…
“We are deeply concerned about the status of detainees in Iran, including foreign nations and American citizens, and the lack of due process accorded them… There are credible reports of torture and cruel inhuman or degrading treatment… We also are deeply concerned about the systematic government violations of religious freedom… more than 200 Baha’i leaders have been executed since 1979.”
The full text of my remarks is available at http://geneva.usmission.gov/2010/02/15/iran-upr/.
Our comments were reinforced by dozens of speakers, including delegations from Latin America, Asia, and Western and Eastern Europe. While the UPR process by itself is clearly not sufficient to respond to the grave human rights situation in Iran, as Prof. Bayefsky rightly says, Monday’s hearing publicly raised serious human right abuses that we and other governments are committed to challenge. The human rights crisis in Iran demands our focused attention, and we must use every opportunity to raise our voices publicly as we did Monday in Geneva.
    MICHAEL H. POSNER    Assistant US Secretary of State     Bureau of Democracy,    Human Rights and Labor    Washington
Porush and Teddy Stadium
Sir, – Your editorial “Porush’s legacy” (February 24) states that Rabbi Menahem Porush “torpedoed plans to build Teddy Stadium on a hill in northern Jerusalem that today is the site of a haredi neighborhood.” This statement is incorrect.
In 1977, I was an active member of a northern neighborhood committee opposing the construction of the stadium on the Shuafat ridge on environmental grounds, and as such cooperated with haredi elements who opposed it on cultural-religious grounds. In 1978-1979, I learned of a secret study commissioned by the municipal corporation established to promote the construction of the stadium, addressing the issues of climate and how the weather would affect a 50,000-seat stadium. This study involved placing automatic weather-monitoring stations along the crest of the hill and measuring wind direction, intensity, temperature and precipitation.
The results testified to the impossibility of building an open stadium on the site. For example, during winter soccer games, a significant percentage of kicked balls would not return to the playing field, but would sail away in the wind. The only way to construct a stadium there was to build a roofed structure – like the Astrodome in Texas, for example – and this was impossible, since it would have tripled the cost of a project already short of funds. As a result of this study, the company canceled the plans to build the stadium there. It was eventually constructed in Malha, at a location relatively shielded from the prevailing winds.
I personally reported these findings to Rabbi Porush at the time, as we were in regular contact on this matter. He could not use this information and suggested that I bring it instead to the attention of the sporting interests in Jerusalem. About six months later, he was involved in organizing a massive demonstration against the stadium at Kikar Shabbat in Mea She’arim. The project, at that point, was already in the process of cancellation, but for the reasons stated above, which were kept secret.
Rabbi Porush of blessed memory had many accomplishments in his illustrious career. Torpedoing plans to build the Teddy Stadium on a hill in northern Jerusalem was not one of them.
    YACOV M. TABAK     Jerusalem
Wanted: Zionistic philanthropist
Sir, – I read Gish Truman Robbins’s letter wishing for Jewish philanthropists to help save the IBA – particularly the news in English (“Save the IBA,” Letters, February 24). I, too, rely on the IBA’s English news. However, if I were a philanthropist, the last place I would put money would be a bureaucratic government agency staffed with people willing to bring it down rather than to innovate.
Instead, let’s wish for a Zionistic philanthropist who will fund a commercial English-language station to broadcast hasbara. While there’s little likelihood that such an endeavor would be profitable, it is long past due for our high-tech but beleaguered country.
    STEVE KRAMER    Alfei Menashe