May 18, 2017: Facts on the ground

With regard to “Israel, America clash over Western Wall, embassy” (May 16), has the world gone mad? Is anyone interested in the facts on the ground?

Letters (photo credit: REUTERS)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Facts on the ground
With regard to “Israel, America clash over Western Wall, embassy” (May 16), has the world gone mad? Is anyone interested in the facts on the ground?
The Western Wall is the retaining wall of Herod’s Second Temple, built over Solomon’s First Temple. It was built almost 1,500 years before Islam was even a religion. There were no Arab Muslims until Mohammed in 638 CE, and certainly no West Bank.
The Middle East as we know it today was drawn up by the Sykes-Picot Agreement. (Interestingly, it was ratified on May 16, 1916.) These were haphazard borders drawn in the sand by two diplomats.
There you have it – nothing but the truth.
Neve Ilan
The writer is a licensed tour guide.
Smotrich’s proposal
Bayit Yehudi MK Bezalel Smotrich’s proposal to revoke tax benefits for NGOs that work “against the state” (“Knesset members debate tax breaks for non-governmental organizations,” May 16) is, in principle, correct. He would remove both their exemption from paying tax on the income they receive, and the Sec. 46 privilege, which allows their donors to deduct contributions from their personal income tax.
But some of the proposal’s critics also have a point, so I’d like to offer an alternative approach.
The bill is drafted as an amendment to Sec 219B of the Income Tax Ordinance, which sets forth the criteria for public organizations entitled to tax breaks. It would exclude those NGOs that work against the state or engage in delegitimization. Since these criteria are ideological, it opens the proposal to charges of subjectivity and restrictions on freedom of speech. Even professionals from the Tax Authority are concerned. However, these charges can be overcome with ease.
Virtually all of the organizations that fit Smotrich’s criteria are funded by foreign governments and are therefore defined as “foreign agents” under several of our laws, the latest one adopted in 2016. These laws impose various sanctions on foreign agents, including the obligations of transparency and disclosure. It would be easier to amend Sec 219B to simply disqualify “foreign agents” from receiving any tax breaks, either on their own income or for the benefit of their donors.
No foreign-funded NGO is entitled to tax breaks funded by Israel citizens, regardless of its ideology.
I am puzzled as to why the BDS Movement does not stop the people of the Gaza Strip from using water, electricity and cement from Israel, and furthermore, from receiving medical treatment in Israel.
By their ears
Caroline B. Glick’s “American greatness and the PLO” (Our World, May 16) was, as usual, very interesting but, as usual, so far from the truth.
I once wrote a letter to the editor saying that US President Donald Trump should pull the two stubborn students Netanyahu and Abbas by their ears and close them in the teachers room until they reach an agreement. See for yourself how it is materializing.
Lingua franca
Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Avi Dichter is to be I congratulated on his achievement (“Jewish nation-state bill clears hurdle in Knesset,” May 11). However, I am perturbed with respect to the status of Arabic, which is to be changed from an official language to one with “special status,” giving its speakers the right to language-accessible state services.
Since 1948, Israel’s Arab citizens were afforded the status of Arabic as an official second language; as such, there was no obligation for them to learn Hebrew, as if they were a state within a state. In 1967 when Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip were returned to the Jewish people, those Arabs who resided there continued to carry out their affairs in Arabic because it was an official second language. They cast aside Hebrew, thus exacerbating the state-within-a-state status.
At one time, English was afforded official status as a second language, but this has disappeared, the emphasis being on Arabic, with an unofficial status given to Russian (just check food product labeling).
English is the world’s foremost international language. It is a common language in all international forums, media, scientific and technical conferences and publications. It is the lingua franca, adopted as a common language between speakers whose native languages are different.
Given the proposed legislation, it appears that the bill needs urgent rewording to modify it to incorporate special status to English and ensure that it has specific radio and TV channels to counteract the global media assault on Israel.
Public broadcasting
If a show about famous singers riding around in their cars singing to their own hits on the radio is “one of its most exciting original programs” that the new Kan (“Here”) broadcasting corporation has to offer (“Finally, live and on air,” May 16), I’d rather be sham (there), or anywhere else, for that matter.
After all these months, that’s the best they could come up with?
In your May 15 editorial “A new and free IBC,” you make a connection between public broadcasting and freedom of the press.
Having grown up in the United States, I remember many radio stations and television stations, many with talk and call-in shows. I remember the one public broadcasting channel – and it was pretty boring.
I do not think anything was wrong with American democracy. We were taught that by hearing different viewpoints we would be able to develop our own opinions. That is the core of democracy.
Unfortunately, the public broadcasting in Israel became very one-sided, and there was very little room for varied opinions. If someone would study the various programs on Reshet Bet under the Israel Broadcasting Authority, they would see that many of them had a clear left-wing agenda.
Two really blatant examples were the legal program and the morning program. Until the Arutz Sheva station opened, anyone with right-wing views felt isolated in his opinions. Then the so-called “keepers of democracy” quickly acted to disband the station.
You write that the 2016 Media Intelligence Service study report found that “where there is more public broadcasting on television, right-wing extremism tends to be less popular....” Are you saying that the media’s job is to educate the public and tell us what to think and feel? I, for one, do not need the media to brainwash me.
Yisrael Medad and Eli Pollack do a much better job than I in their Media Comment columns. I would just like to hope that with the opening of the new channels, some new blood will join the ranks, and perhaps with that a more varied display of opinions.
What a pleasure it was in the few days after the IBA ceased its broadcasts and before its successor, the IBC, started its own. I could listen to beautiful music on Reshet Bet, and not the usual programming that had politicians bad-mouthing each other left and right every two minutes.
Too bad the IBC couldn’t postpone going live... like, forever?
Zichron Ya’acov
CORRECTION The name of the presenter shown in the photo accompanying “Finally, live and on air” (May 16) is Ghadir Kamal Meriah, and not as stated in the caption.