Letters: Israel

Israel dangerously deaf to criticism

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The Independent Online

I must be allowed to correct the allegation made about me by Andy McSmith ("0ops, the Baroness did it again", 29 February). When I was asked 18 months ago by the Jewish Chronicle to comment on YouTube postings that the IDF were stealing body parts from victims of the earthquake in Haiti, I congratulated the IDF for their swift and generous response to that disaster and said that to stop any such rumours spreading, they should have a swift inquiry into the allegations. Nothing more.

This was interpreted by the Israel Lobby as an accusation of "blood libel" which, in turn, was believed by Nick Clegg. He then sacked me from the Party's front bench without waiting to speak to me or hear the truth.

My remarks last week were at a meeting at Middlesex University which was constantly disrupted by abuse, mouthed obscenities and heckling from Zionists against all the speakers.

The Israeli government breaks International Law and the Geneva Convention and abuses the human rights of Palestinians in a brutal and humiliating way. The US supports them and despite words of condemnation our government and my party does nothing.

In this context, I noted that Israel was losing allies all over the Middle East following the Arab Spring and it is therefore appropriate to warn that country that its actions against the Palestinians threaten its survival in the long-term, especially when the influence of the US dwindles and the American people begin to get fed up with funding Israel's activities.

Many people agree with me and have said so publicly. It is sad that Israel and its supporters do not listen.

Jenny Tonge

Independent Liberal Democrat

House of Lords


If anything, and I hope nothing, could qualify me as being anti-Semitic it would be in reaction to Howard Jacobson's confused and angry polemic on anyone who dares question the actions and influence of Israel (3 March). His ridiculous and ugly attack on Jenny Tonge could support the view that people like Jacobson are more interested in the welfare of Israel than that of the UK, a dangerous and counter-productive image to project.

Daniel Mcdowell

Ludlow, Shropshire


I was astonished to read Howard Jacobson's vitriolic attack on Baroness Jenny Tonge. What she said at Middlesex University was: "Israel is not going to be there for ever in its present form."

Does he really think that Israel is going to be there for ever in its present form? Treating the Palestinians as it does? Destroying their houses, humiliating them, and taking away more of their land? South Africa was an armed camp until it gave up apartheid, and Israel will be an armed camp until it gives up Zionism – an ideology which is all about taking away someone else's country.

Jacobson predictably accuses Tonge of anti-Semitism. Would he say the same of the many righteous Jews who criticise Israel's treatment of the Palestinians?

Mikael Grut London SW19


Our complacent tax system is open to corporate abuse

Five hundred CEOs of SMEs believe that the current 50 per cent income tax rate is the central threat to economic growth; but why is the marginal tax rate as high as 50 per cent? Only last week Barclays Bank was blocked from using an "aggressive" tax-avoidance scheme. Even without the benefit of this scheme a more penetrating question for the CEOs to ask would be; what is Barclays Bank's actual Corporation Tax rate? It is in business, and especially the City-based financial sector, that reform is required if we wish to lower general tax rates.

Over time the City of London is becoming essentially a European banking offshore tax haven, with corporations domiciled in the UK principally to benefit from a long-established soft-on-tax regime and casual, laissez-faire regulatory system, combined with the unique corporate benefits offered by the UK taxpayer and the Bank of England: standing as lender of last resort when a major UK-domiciled financial corporation without sufficient liquidity requires urgently to "make positions by selling out positions", through bad or irresponsible investment decisions.

If global corporations instead paid an equitable UK tax rate on their profits, the marginal tax rate would be much lower for all taxpayers, average tax rates would be lower, and taxpayer risk exposure would fall. The business complaint of too high taxation is not a function of "big government" or "socialism" but of a highly effective, legal, and abusive use of tax avoidance, abetted by a complacent tax system.

John S Warren

Callander, Perthshire


The "business leaders" you quote in your leading article (2 March) are generally the sort of jobbing managers who have scaled the slippery corporate pole by standing on the heads of others.

True entrepreneurs who turn ideas into businesses do not focus on tax rates. In most cases it will be years before they are able to take enough out of the business to be liable for the highest tax rates. Sadly, too many of our best and brightest who might become these entrepreneurs are seduced by the easy money of the finance industry into becoming leeches instead.

Peter English

Ruthin, Denbighshire


Congratulations for campaigning to abolish the 50 pence tax rate for high earners but, please, why not go the whole hog?

It's quite simple; high taxes disincentivise high earners. Accordingly the taxation system needs to adopt a sliding scale of taxes to reflect this undeniable truth. High earners, let's say those earning £100,000 pa or more, pay no tax whatsoever, and those earning less than, say £20,000 pa, will pay 80 pence in the pound, or more if they earn less.

Of course, when these low earners start to pay the higher tax rates they will start to whinge about it but eventually they will realise that if they want to pay less tax, or even no tax at all, they must be incentivised to get off their idle non-wealth creating bums and earn more.

Dr Ron Dawson

Winterborne Stickland, Dorset


All of your reasons for scrapping the 50p tax band are at best unconvincing (leading article, 2 March). But perhaps the most ridiculous is that it "only" generates less than two per cent of the total income-tax take.

So what? Shall we scrap every cost-cutting measure of the past two years that has saved less money than this then? One group of very rich people is fond of reminding us that "Every little helps." I concur.

David Woods

Hull, East Yorkshire


Carry on booing at the opera

I could not agree more with David Lister ("Carry on booing..." 3 March). I corresponded with the Royal Opera House some time ago after having seen a ridiculously staged performance of Götterdämmerung, featuring large dolls and naked Rhine Maidens. The response I received seemed to imply that, because there was a clique of international stage designers who had made their names by touring the opera houses and mucking up loved productions, the ROH would be foolish and left out if it, too, did not subscribe to this trend.

Not to follow the composer's detailed instructions for a performance of his opera shows, to me, breathtaking arrogance on the part of these "artistic" individuals and of the ROH management. The reason that concert-goers do not feel the need to boo performances is because orchestra conductors take very great care to reproduce what the composer wrote, and do not impose their own ethos upon the music.

It is possible to see traditionally presented productions at the ROH, but when booking you have to ask what kind of production it is and insist on being given proper information. I have berated the ROH for being very coy about revealing the nature of their extreme productions to the opera-going public: I can't help feeling that the reason they do not want to divulge this information is because they would not find anyone who wanted to go to them.

Sandra Simkin

Woking, Surrey


Irrational fear of organ donation

Your leader makes a strong, rational case for the introduction of an opt-out system of organ donation (23 February). In principle, I agree wholeheartedly with such a move. However, in practice this might do more harm than good, because many people (quite understandably) find it hard to think rationally about such an emotional matter. Many will be unsettled by the notion that there is a presumed "right" to their organs, and this would result in a rush to opt-out.

Currently, we are on track for the 60 per cent donor-registration target. One can take pride in carrying a donor's card. Would people feel the same if others would "help themselves" unless they expressly said no? I don't think so. Not yet. In several countries, similar premature changes have actually resulted in a decline in organ donations. A move to "opt-out" donation is to be welcomed, but Britain is not quite ready.

Jack HG Darrant

London SW2


Liverpool maligned

Why did your report on problems in Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester include only Liverpool in the headline? (29 February.) Further – could I point out that there is no evidence in the UN drugs report to say that there are Brazilian-style no-go areas in Liverpool (or Birmingham or Manchester for that matter). The only thing it says is that like Brazil, the British police use community engagement as well as law enforcement in those cities to deal with gangs. This is one sentence in 200 pages. Shame on you.

Bob Langley

Formby, Merseyside


Pitiful rise in pension

I had a letter from the pension service this week telling me that as I will be 80 soon I will, from my birthday, get another 25p per week. I don't want to seem ungrateful, and I am very far from rich, but this amount is so negligible as to make no difference whatsoever to my life; I can't even buy a second-class stamp once a week with it. Why doesn't the Government scrap it? Although worthless to individual 80-year-olds, the amount saved would be considerable and could be diverted to some deserving cause.

Eddie Johnson

Long Melford, Suffolk


Dolphin deaths

"Murder is the deliberate, unlawful killing of another human being" (Letters, 3 March). Indeed, the dictionary would so define it. But dictionaries, being compiled by humans, reflect the opinion that only human death is significant. To say that murder "is" the unlawful killing of a human being, while the killing of animals "is" something else, is to confuse an opinion with a fact. Nowadays, some of us hold a different opinion, which we hope will prevail in the long run.

Katherine Perlo



Crossword clues

I nearly choked on my "rolled oat breakfast cereal" (German, 6 letters) at the attitude of Michael Godwin at finding Americanisms such as "Graham crackers" in the Concise Crossword (Letters, 3 March). Foreign phrases are the "without which not" (Latin 4, 3, 3) of such word games, and to lose them would rob our speech of its "exultation of life" (French 4, 2, 5).

Stan Broadwell