Reader: Yeger controversy about semantics

To the Editor,

Councilman Kalman Yeger spoke truth to power, and power in turn spoke its concept of truth to Kalman Yeger.

The saga of Kalman Yeger opened with his March 20 tweet: “Palestine does not exist.” At this writing, Yeger’s bosses — the leadership team of New York City Council — are in the process of removing Yeger as a member of its immigration committee.

Yeger, who represents Borough Park’s enclave of Orthodox Jews, was undermined by the manipulation of oblique language — what amounts to theater of the absurd. The
Councilman was merely responding to use of the word “Palestine,” often espoused by advocates for the Arabs in Israel’s territories. Supporters of Israel have applied similar tactics to their arguments, but it does not
appear to be quite as much.

None of NYC’s three dailies bothered to define “Palestine” when they reported on the controversy. That word — Palestine — has confounded me over the years when supporters of the Palestinians have uttered it.

There is a Palestine, Ill., and a Palestine, Texas, and I am not familiar with any other sovereign nation, state, county, or city called Palestine. In other words, Yeger stated what is true.

It is challenging enough to debate the Israel–Palestinian conflict when speaking in plain, understandable language, yet, how can we possibly get serious when one or both sides
exploit words of dubious meaning?

Both sides have utilized skewed language, such as: “From the river to the sea,” “apartheid state,” “Greater Israel” and “the evil doings of Israel.” The “river/sea” remark is seen as Arab code for the land where Israel and its territories are located (from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea). Israel is frequently referred to as an “apartheid state.” “Greater Israel” is viewed, at the least, as Israeli control of the West Bank and Gaza.

Then there is U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar’s 2012 comment: “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.” While she did not hold elective office at the time, Omar had advanced far into adulthood by then. What sane person talks like that?

We can reasonably fear that disingenuous semantics will ignite future clashes among powerful people. As semantic skirmishes persist,
millions of lives hang in the balance.

In the city known for its estimated Jewish population of 1 million, it took only about 10 days — on April Fools’ Day — before the Council leadership decided to remove Yeger from City Council’s immigration committee. They were not fooling, while
fooling themselves.

Mayor de Blasio and Council Speaker Corey Johnson must know what us lowly American citizens and mere members of Council like Yeger do not know, since both of New York’s esteemed leaders swiftly pounced
on Yeger.

“I very vigorously condemn his comments…they have no place in New York City,” said Johnson, as quoted in The New York Times. “The best thing about our city is our diversity, and includes our Jewish community and…our amazing Palestinian community.” Note: NYC’s Council speaker regards only one of the communities “amazing.”

“There has to be a Palestinian homeland,” the mayor chimed in during a radio program. “People in public life should be about unifying people and finding ways to work together. What he is doing is the opposite.” De Blasio added in a tweet, “A two-state solution is the best hope for peace. I challenge anyone who thinks the state of Israel shouldn’t exist. But the same goes for anyone who would deny Palestinians a home.”

Who is denying Palestinians a home? Palestinians lack a sovereign home right now, and fabricating a name for an entity that does not exist yet will not make it happen. If Israel and Palestinians reach agreement on a two-state solution, then they will have an independent state which, presumably, its inhabitants will name “Palestine.”

Yeger was left with the choice of apologizing or losing his place on the immigration committee. He has so far refused to apologize. The Times reported that Council’s Committee on Rules, Privileges and Elections must vote to drop Yeger from the committee to be followed by a two-thirds vote of all Council members.

Maybe Council will not follow through on this, maybe they will reverse themselves later if they ever recognize how silly they are behaving. It seems obvious that de Blasio and Johnson are sincerely trying to be sensitive to a minority group, and in so doing they are abusing their power. Sounds like they need an interpreter.Bruce S. Ticker

Philadelphia, Pa.

Congestion concerns

To the Editor,

According to the Daily News, billions of dollars have been pilfered from MTA funds collected from NYC residents’ utility bills, phone bills, and other NYC revenue sources. Every governor, with the possible exception of Elliot Spitzer (because he quit too soon), has taken money out from this MTA fund for more than 30 years — Mario Cuomo included — and then used this money for upstate (NY) priorities only.

Return the billions of dollars back to the MTA now, and we won’t need congestion pricing! I don’t drive — never have, never will. Congestion pricing is nothing but a tax and it will be increased over the years — hurting the middle and lower classes, as usual.

It is wrong, as wrong as all these governors stealing the MTA funds was wrong!Evan Stone

Brighton Beach

To the Editor,

The devil is in the missing details yet to be worked out concerning passage of Congestion Pricing. The MTA receives $1.4 billion in annual assistance from various Federal Transit Administration formula funding grant programs. For decades, the MTA has distributed these dollars from Washington via a formula to operating agencies. They have been split between NYC Transit (75 percent) Long Island Rail Road (12.5 percent) and Metro North Rail Road (12.5 percent). It is interesting that this formula for federal assistance has been accepted as fair. A similar formula of 80 percent for NYC Transit, 10 percent LIRR and 10 percent MNRR was adopted for distribution of future Congestion Pricing Revenue. Remember a legal challenge to the non resident commuter tax resulted in its demise. Don’t be surprised when legal challenges are submitted against congestion pricing. Who knows if it will actually be implemented by 2021.

Is MTA Bus included under the 80 percent for NYC Transit? In 2005, NYC transferred management of the seven private franchised bus operators (Command Bus, Green Lines, Jamaica Bus, Triboro Coach, Queens Surface, NY Bus and Liberty Lines Bronx Express) to the MTA. The MTA subsequently created MTA Bus, which is a separate from NYC Transit Bus.

Promised savings by consolidation of Civil Rights, Engineering, Legal, Procurement and other LIRR/Metro North departments have been periodically discussed and promised for decades by different generations of MTA management and elected officials. This will never happen due to work rules, seniority and contracts between different labor unions representing employees at LIRR and Metro North. The same applies to anticipated savings by contracting out more work to the private sector.

Project cost containment along with fast tracking procurements and contract change orders for the MTA has been periodically discussed and promised for decades by different generations of MTA management and elected officials. It is easier said than done due to significant obstacles.

MTA union work rules sometimes prevent contracting out work to the private sector. Third-party private contractors require MTA NYC Transit, Long Island and Metro North Rail Roads agency Force Account (their own employees) to provide both supervision and protection. when they work on or adjacent to active right of way track. There sometimes are excessive numbers of MTA supervisory or employees assigned, adding to costs.

Will Cuomo and the State Legislature use congestion pricing revenue as a back door method to reduce previously planned anticipated future contributions to the upcoming MTA 2020–2024 Five Year?

Promised “forensic audit” of the MTA is a waste of time and money. How many internal MTA, MTA Office of Inspector General, State Comptroller, City Comptroller, NYC Office of Management and Budget, Federal Transit Administration OIG and other audits have come and gone? What about numerous newspaper investigative reports on waste, fraud, or abuse? Another audit will not result in any significant changes.

No one will know the cost of congestion pricing until it is implemented starting in 2021. Coincidence that members of the State Assembly and Senate will first be reelected in 2020 before the price becomes public? What happened to promised open transparent government?

Is this what MTA customers have to look forward to? Taxpayers and riders deserve better.Larry Penner

Great Neck

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