Forward Thinking

What Does 192-to-1 Death Toll Say About Gaza War?

By Uriel Heilman

(JTA) — The ratio of Palestinian deaths to Israeli deaths is one of the most important measurements of the Gaza war.

The toll clearly disproportionate — as of this writing, about 192:1. There are a few different ways to look at this rate.

Critics of Israel herald the lopsided figure as evidence of Israeli barbarism. But such a simplistic view misses several important points. One, the Israeli death toll is low because Iron Dome, Israel’s missile defense system, is successfully intercepting incoming rockets. The Palestinians have no defense against Israeli missiles.

Second, the ratio would be more lopsided if Israel were trying to kill Palestinian civilians. But by most accounts it’s trying not to do that. This is the most important element in interpreting the death toll: While Hamas measures its success by how many Israelis it is able to kill, Israel measures its success in part by how few Palestinian civilians it kills.

So how is Israel doing compared to previous Israel-Hamas battles? The Palestinian death toll is much lower than it was in 2008-’09, when a ground invasion preceded by an air campaign resulted in some 1,150 Palestinian deaths over three weeks. But the Palestinian casualty count now isn’t too different from November 2012, when an eight-day air campaign resulted in an estimated 158-177 Palestinian deaths.

The Israeli death rate, meanwhile, is down significantly — from 13 in 2008-’09 and six in 2012 to one so far in nine days of fighting.

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Taxed to Death in Israel

By Nathan Jeffay

haaretz

Israelis are about to be taxed to death — literally.

Israelis are furious at the austerity budget, and thousands took to the streets last night to demonstrate.

You may have read about the planned spending cuts or the planned tax increases, but you probably haven’t heard about the cemeteries plan.

The government wants to impose property taxes on graves. According to the plan, grave owners will be liable for the tax while they are living, which if they bought young and go on to live a long life would end up costing far more than the value of the plot itself.

Once people are interred their families will be expected to pick up the cost. It is unclear how long the liability will continue, and whether it will be applies on existing graves.

Property taxes in Israel are paid to the local municipality, and help to meet the cost of a range of services that — at least according to information currently available to us — are enjoyed exclusively by the living, such as parks, cultural services, refuse collection etc.

The new plan raises an intriguing possibility. Over the years many Diaspora Jews have chosen to be buried in Israel for what they perceive as its spiritual value. Could we start to see some casket traffic in the other direction — Israelis going to be buried in the Diaspora to avoid an eternal tax burden?

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Dinner with Ed Koch

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

When Ed Koch died this morning, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo released a statement. “I will miss his friendship,” the 55-year-old governor said.

Former Mayor, Ed Koch

Ed Koch thought that Andrew Cuomo was a schmuck.

He said so on election night in 2010, in a conversation preserved in a new documentary about Koch’s life.

Koch said what he meant. That’s not to say he always meant what he said.

Back in July, Koch said he had plans to organize a rally of 50,000 people against the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk tactics.

“We’re going to turn City Hall Park into Tiananmen Square, Tahrir Square, and Moscow Square,” the 88-year-old former mayor told me, citing three iconic uprisings.

That didn’t quite happen.

Photo: Karen Leon

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My Early Days with Ed Koch

By Jane Eisner

The first thing I learned about Ed Koch is how unusually accessible he was.

It was September, 1977, and I was a new, eager student at the Columbia School of Journalism, passionate about city news and interested in learning photography. The school published a weekly newspaper at the time, and I wanted to be the one to photograph Ed Koch during his mayoral campaign. He seemed to be the most interesting candidate, and the one most likely to win.

Wikicommons
Ed Koch, circa 1989

I figured the best way to get the assignment was to prove that I already had an established relationship with the Koch campaign. Which I didn’t. So I needed to create one, quick.

Koch was a member of Congress then, and his phone number was listed in the phone book (an ancient precursor to online directories, for those who weren’t alive then.) So I called him. He picked up after a few rings, and with only a little irritation in his voice told me the address of his campaign office. No handlers or press representatives. And he was in line to run the biggest city in America? Who was this guy?

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