Rule of law
Sir: A few days ago former Prime Minister of Israel, Ehud Olmert, was sentenced to an 18 month jail term for corruption. Five years ago Moshe Katsav, a former President of Israel, was convicted of rape – these convictions reflect badly on Katsav and Olmert as individuals. The fact that men in such high positions – indeed the highest positions in the land – were convicted of such serious offences is indeed shocking. That Katsav and Olmert were charged, tried and ultimately convicted however speaks very well of the Israeli justice system. Similarly the fact that Israeli prosecutors have pressed charges against four Israeli Jews for their alleged involvement in the killing of a Palestinian child and his parents reflects very well on Israel’s police and legal system. Israel, a multicultural democracy, enjoys and celebrates all of the freedoms – and justice – which such a political system implies. Some people wrongly believe that it is only Israel’s military forces which protects Israel and enables it to survive in a region where its ‘enemies’ are legion – in fact Israel’s real strength and best defence lies in its commitment to democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Katsav’s and Olmert’s downfall and the charges laid against the four Israelis, rather than being a sign of weakness and disfunction at the heart of Israel’s political life, is in fact an example of Israel’s great strength as a just and effective democracy.
Dr Bill Anderson
Surrey Hills, Victoria
Paradox of citizenship
Sir: David Martin Jones (‘The paradox of tolerance’, The Spectator Australia Jan 2) has convinced me that we underestimate Isis at our peril. Throughout the Western world there are plenty of alienated Muslim youth who in their search for value are ready to embrace the certitude of Salafism. The Islamists with their politicised religion do not have a monopoly on turning the contingent into an absolute or on advocating a totalitarian state in which those who are different have to be eliminated. What makes these Islamists more dangerous is that they hide behind the façade of religious tolerance whilst propagating their ideology of destroying secular liberal democracy. In our stupidity or our inability to understand paradox we defend the right of these savages to hold citizenship in the very democracy they want to destroy. By allowing these people to hold citizenship we devalue democracy based on the equality of every person. It is a contradiction to let people live in the tent when their only non-negotiable aim is to destroy the tent.
New Lambton, NSW
A tax on empty dwellings
Sir: Both the Conservative and Labour candidates (‘Battle for London’, 2 January) rightly see housing as the big issue in London’s mayoral election this year: Ukip and the Greens would probably say the same. But if one travels along the river at night and observes the large blocks of flats that appear to be almost empty, one wonders if there really is a problem. Anecdotal evidence says that the owners are mostly Chinese (but they could be Arabs, Russians, or others based abroad), who occupy these properties for little more than a week or a month in the year. We who live in London all the time would benefit enormously if these tax-dodgers who contribute little to our society were made to pay an annual levy of five, ten or 20 times what they presumably now pay in council tax. I have even heard voters on the right argue for these properties to be compulsorily purchased. I suggest that all mayoral candidates should make their position clear on this matter.
More on Kids Company
Sir: I am sure that health professionals and social workers will have read Harriet Sergeant’s piece on Kids Company with something close to despair (‘How to spot a charity snake’, 2 January). It seems to me, as a retired NHS GP, that no one in government bothered to ask the state sector about the difficulties involved in helping this challenging part of the community. Two things in particular stand out: the need to have boundaries, especially in regard to unacceptable behaviour, and the danger of creating dependency. Above all, as the state sector has found to its cost, you need to provide a consistent service, both in terms of competence and longevity. I blame the government for not accessing the experience which is available in our NHS surgeries and social care institutions, which would have averted a drain of public money into a service which was attempting the impossible.
From gym to chapel
Sir: Jan Morris, and your readers, might be interested to know that the ‘enchanting modern chapel’ at Kylemore Abbey in Connemara (‘From Celtic tiger to pussycat’, 2 January) was formerly a drab school gymnasium. The magical transformation was carried out by my architect husband, Frank Foley, in 2012–13. It is a wonderful place in a picture-perfect setting.
Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin
The highest festival
Sir: No, Easter is not the highest festival in the Christian year (Letters, 2 January). Christmas is — for the Resurrection could not have happened without first the Incarnation. But don’t, however, forget Pentecost. We could never have begun to apprehend these mysteries of faith had it not been for the coming of the Holy Ghost.
Revd Dr Peter Mullen
Eastbourne, East Sussex