Defining Antisemitism and Anti-Zionism

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  • Just Keeping Trump From the White House Won’t Save Democracy
  • Policies on Curbing Drug Addiction
  • Lights Dim Off Broadway
  • Asia’s Disappearing Sea

Partidarios de Israel en Los Ángeles, el mes pasadoCredit…Lauren Justice para The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Is Anti-Zionism Antisemitism, by Definition?” (front page, Dec. 12):

What is Zionism? To me, being a Zionist in 2023 means that I accept the right and the necessity of the survival of the Jewish people and the existence of a Jewish state that ensures their survival.

Anything that undermines or threatens Israel’s survival also undermines or threatens the existence of the Jewish people and is, ipso facto, antisemitic.

Philip B. Berger

To the Editor:

I am a Jew by culture and ancestry, albeit a secular one. I abhor contemporary violence by both Hamas and Israel. Historically, however, I have found that in recent years, Israel’s aggressive behavior has been the more objectionable, and Israel seems more determined to demoralize and destroy the Gaza population than to surgically remove Hamas.

In the 1950s, when I was a young child and Israel a struggling young state, I paid small sums to buy leaves that I pasted on a picture of a tree until I had bought enough for a tree to be planted in Israel in honor of my grandmother. My father bought Israel bonds — hardly the best monetary investment — in my name and those of my siblings. In the late 1960s and early ’70s, when I had my own children and when Israel had become an expansionist power, I asked him to stop.

Although a Jew, I am emphatically not a Zionist, and I resent and fear the conflation of the two.

Mark Cohen
Plattsburgh, N.Y.
The writer is distinguished emeritus professor of anthropology at the State University of New York.

To the Editor:

Jonathan Weisman describes radically different interpretations of Zionism as, alternately, a movement ensuring Jewish sovereignty and safety, or an oppressive colonialism. What is often lost in the debate is the historic diversity among many Zionisms (plural), which continue to struggle with one another for primacy today.

One version of Zionism is expansionist, deeply nationalistic and largely unconcerned about the human rights of non-Jews, while another version on the Zionist spectrum is profoundly humanist at its core and envisions an equitable coexistence between Jews and Palestinians.

Supporting a Zionism that promotes pluralism and shared society is the only vision for a better future for these two peoples whose fates are intertwined.

Andrew Vogel
Newton, Mass.
The writer is the senior rabbi at Temple Sinai in Brookline, Mass.

Just Keeping Trump From the White House Won’t Save Democracy

Credit…Mark Peterson/Redux, for The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “The Resolute Liz Cheney,” by Katherine Miller (Opinion, Dec. 10):

While I appreciate former Representative Liz Cheney’s relentless opposition to Donald Trump because of the danger he poses to the nation, keeping him out of the White House won’t alone save democracy. We also desperately need to stop Ms. Cheney’s fellow Republicans from undermining elections in their pursuit of permanent political power.

Republicans have used extreme means to draw House districts in their favor and refused to join Democrats to stop those gerrymanders even though they deprive voters of fair representation and promote polarization by increasing the number of safe seats.

Almost all Republicans voted against restoring provisions of the Voting Rights Act that would help assure protection against racial discrimination. They opposed measures to enact basic ballot access standards, instead allowing states to impose restrictive rules and locate polling places to make it harder for groups they don’t favor to vote.

And they refused to support bills to stop the pernicious influence of big donors, opposing even basic disclosure rules to stop secret “dark” money from warping our political priorities.

Standing up to Mr. Trump does little good if we allow Republicans to destroy our democracy by other means. Voters need to elect people to protect free and fair elections before Republicans succeed in rigging them in their favor. Otherwise, we will have rule by a party instead of rule by the people, and our experiment in self-governance will be at an end.

Daniel A. Simon
New York

Policies on Curbing Drug Addiction

Police respond to a man who died of a suspected overdose in downtown Portland in July.Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Rethinking Drug Policies in an Ailing Portland” (front page, Dec. 12):

As a law enforcement veteran, I believe that the police have an important role in supporting community safety. But policymakers can’t keep relying on the police as a Band-Aid to every problem. We cannot arrest our way out of addiction. And increasing criminalization to solve public drug use, as some suggest in the article, won’t work.

I worked and supervised police narcotics and gang units. Eventually, I saw that the laws I was charged with enforcing didn’t make my neighbors safer. No matter how much we ramped up enforcement or how many people we arrested, it didn’t stop the flow of drugs into our community or prevent people from dying.

For over 50 years, the United States has prioritized criminalization as a response to drug use, yet stronger drugs like fentanyl have emerged, and our country is facing a health crisis with record-setting overdose deaths.

To make any progress toward curbing addiction, we need to increase access to the addiction services and support people need: treatment, overdose prevention centers, outreach teams to connect people to care, and housing. More criminalization is a false promise of change.

Diane M. Goldstein
Las Vegas
The writer, a retired police lieutenant, is the executive director of the Law Enforcement Action Partnership.

Lights Dim Off Broadway

Signature Theater, an important Off Broadway institution, had no shows this fall.Credit…Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Off Broadway, Vital to Theater Scene, Struggles” (front page, Dec. 8):

It saddens me to read about the struggles and closures of our city’s intimate theaters. These are the institutions that nurture new work. Losing them darkens our future.

During this crisis, I hope artistic directors will remember that it doesn’t have to cost a fortune to put on a play. Even a bare-bones staging gives us something Netflix never can: a story shared by strangers in person in real time.

Rob Ackerman
New York
The author is a playwright.

Asia’s Disappearing Sea

Rusting boats in the sand in Muynak, Uzbekistan. Muynak was once a thriving port on the Aral Sea but is now a desert town since the sea disappeared.Credit…Carolyn Drake/Magnum

To the Editor:

Re “A Giant Inland Sea Is Now a Desert, and a Warning for Humanity,” by Jacob Dreyer (Opinion guest essay,, Nov. 28), about the shrinking Aral Sea in Uzbekistan:

Together, we — an archaeologist, a geographer and a historian — have extensive experience in the Aral Sea region. We take exception to Mr. Dreyer’s description of this place as resembling “hell.” Rather than stereotyping the region as a wasteland that people should flee from (Mr. Dreyer stresses his desire to leave the region as quickly as possible), we must recognize the meaning and value that the Aral Sea and its environs still hold for its residents today, and we should center those residents’ desired futures.

We also need to consider the Aral Sea region a vital knowledge zone. As we confront shrinking bodies of water in many other regions around the globe, we can learn from the perseverance of Aral Sea residents. If we listen, what lessons can we learn from them as we prepare for future ecological disasters?

Elizabeth Brite
Kate Shields
Sarah Cameron
Dr. Brite is a clinical associate professor at Purdue University, Dr. Shields is an assistant professor at Rhodes College, and Dr. Cameron is an associate professor at the University of Maryland, College Park.

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