Debates Over Words Amid War: ‘Antisemitism,’ ‘Anti-Zionism,’ ‘Apartheid’

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  • Expanding Advanced Placement Classes: Harmful or More Equitable?
  • Election Lessons
  • Americans’ Love of Outlaws

Credit…Stefani Reynolds/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

To the Editor:

Re “The Question of Anti-Zionism and Antisemitism,” by Charles M. Blow (column, Nov. 16):

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism, adopted by dozens of countries around the world, indeed does define anti-Zionism as antisemitism. It cites as an example of antisemitism: “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.”

That the Jewish people deserve the right of self-determination, after the Holocaust and the persecution throughout Arab lands for centuries, was resolved in 1948. To debate Zionism is precisely the problem facing the Jews today and most especially Israelis who live in an absurd world in which the nature of their birthright is called into question, as every single Israeli is born of Zionism.

How ironic that in this day and age in the United States, where every minority is protected and words matter more than ever, it is somehow acceptable to define oneself as anti-Zionist, even if Jewish. It is offensive, absurd and deeply antisemitic.

As an American Israeli, I cannot stress enough how toxic this concept is to Israelis and how it does nothing to help the cause of peace today.

Rebecca Rose
Saugerties, N.Y.
The writer is the director of North American affairs for the Combat Antisemitism Movement.

To the Editor:

Charles Blow quoted the chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, Jonathan Greenblatt, as saying, “Zionism is fundamental to Judaism.” Respectfully, I must disagree.

Judaism’s core strength is its portability, which has allowed it to survive, against punishing odds, for more than 2,500 years. It is tied to faith and peoplehood, not real estate.

That belief doesn’t make me an anti-Zionist, but it does make me a non-Zionist. My faith may have been created on land within the borders of the state of Israel, but it has been shaped by many forces and people around the globe over the years. And my cultural roots as a Jew lie in Eastern Europe, where all my great-grandparents were born.

(Rabbi) Ellen Jaffe-Gill
Virginia Beach

To the Editor:

Charles Blow mentions that Amnesty International calls Israel’s government an “apartheid regime.” Under South African apartheid, Black people were not citizens of South Africa and, as such, could not vote in elections or serve in its Parliament, could not be treated in hospitals that were reserved for white people, and could not attend the same schools and universities as white people. These are just a few of the indignities suffered by Black people in apartheid South Africa.

None of these harsh discriminatory practices apply to Palestinian Arabs in Israel, where Palestinians make up about 20 percent of Israel’s citizens. They can vote in the country’s elections and have representatives they have elected to the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, can attend Israel’s fine universities, and can work in or be treated in Israel’s hospitals.

Mr. Blow owes it to his readers to correct Amnesty International’s false labeling of Israel as an apartheid state instead of spreading its calumny.

Steven L. Weiss
Princeton, N.J.

Expanding Advanced Placement Classes: Harmful or More Equitable?

The College Board says expanding A.P. to low-income students is about equity.Credit…Sophie Park for The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “College Board Pushes Its Tests Many Will Fail” (front page, Nov. 19):

In the discussion of whether or not taking Advanced Placement tests helps students succeed in college, there was no discussion of how the act of taking these courses harms students who are not prepared for them.

Just as we would not arbitrarily move a fourth grader working at grade level into a sixth-grade class, we should not place students who are not ready for college-level work into A.P. classes.

In my A.P. U.S. history course last year, I had students enrolled who did not have the basic foundations in U.S. history they should have learned in eighth grade (understandable, given that in March of that year in-person school shut down for Covid).

The A.P. curriculum is quite broad, so we raced through the history I had to assume they already knew. As a result, these students will be headed off to college less prepared than their classmates who took the appropriate non-A.P. course, where I moved at a more reasonable pace and had time to make sure all students were clear on foundational concepts.

Francie Salle
Fairfax, Calif.

To the Editor:

The College Board provides first-year college-level courses (Advanced Placement) to high schools across the country. Over the last few decades, it pushed to ensure that all students, regardless of economic status or urban versus rural location, had access to A.P. courses. This promotes equity in education, a desired outcome.

Many students do not have access to the international baccalaureate program that my sons completed, or to a local community college, which charges for its courses.

It is not the College Board’s fault that economically marginalized students do not pass the A.P. tests in greater numbers. This is an education system problem that begins well before these ambitious young people even enter high school. That is what needs to be fixed, not the A.P. program.

Anita Lampel
Bethesda, Md.

To the Editor:

This is an interesting article, but it misses what I think is one of the greatest benefits of A.P. courses: A.P. courses can change a student’s view of what they are capable of doing.

I had a number of students during my 34-year career who didn’t consider themselves “college material” until they took an A.P. course. Some of them did earn a 3 (out of 5) or above on the exam, others did not, but all of them were more motivated and self-confident in their decision to pursue college. That is a benefit of A.P. that cannot be ignored.

Mary Wuerth
San Rafael, Calif.

Election Lessons

Credit…Landon Nordeman/Trunk Archive

To the Editor:

Re “Democrats, You Can Chill Out Now,” by David Brooks (column, Nov. 10):

As usual Mr. Brooks is the voice of reason in his column, in which he argues that there is a stabilizing middle in the American electorate.

I would add that with all the clamor arising from the MAGA right, including overt insurrection, it is easy to forget that Donald Trump has won a grand total of one election, and then many saw him only as a protest candidate. Further, while his cult remains it is not growing, and his pending criminal proceedings will keep a lid on it.

It is not time to chill (if that implies complacency), but certainly to take heart from the recent election returns.

Pat Fleming

Americans’ Love of Outlaws

Credit…Damon Winter/The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “What Voters Want That Trump Seems to Have,” by Michelle Cottle (Opinion, Nov. 9):

To Ms. Cottle’s exhaustive list of factors working in favor of Donald Trump’s being elected once again, I would add that Americans have always had an abiding love of outlaws, whether they be real, like Jesse James, Billy the Kid, Bonnie and Clyde, and Al Capone, or fictional, like Tony Soprano and Walter White.

Even though we know by now that being a right-wing populist means never having to say you’re sorry, the degree to which Mr. Trump is able to thumb his nose at any and all culpability must inspire the latent outlaw in us all.

Ron Charach

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