In Joy Press's review of Christopher Hitchens's Letters to a Young Contrarian ["The Belligerati," November 6], she bemoans Hitchens's "stridency and certainty," implying that these are male attributes. She also posits that negotiation and compromise are "traditionally considered female" approaches to politics, "ones that Hitchens rejects." Not so. They are integral to any working politician's skill set. FDR was famous for using his charm to soften differences and bring about compromise. Yet no one thought of him as feminine.
As a journalist, Hitchens's job is to expose the truth, comment on the events of the day, and try to shape the context in which politicians do their work. Why not judge him on that basis, rather than on his political skills? Or his testosterone level?
In Jill Nelson's analysis of the September 25 New York City primary ["Race Counts," October 30], she asks, "Are we really to believe this vote is the result of meritocracy, that in a field of four Democratic candidates only the three white candidates took positions palatable to 93 percent of white Democrats?"
But by the same logic, isn't it also unlikely that minority voters were voting only on the basis of merit, when 72 percent of the Hispanic vote and 52 percent of the black vote went to Ferrer? Why do these figures show the "racism" of "white folks," but not of Hispanic and black voters?
Kudos for Jill Nelson's article "Race Counts." She is 100 percent correct. Whites in this town play the race card all the time, but are the first ones to accuse blacks of doing so. I am also glad that Nelson mentioned the fact that Mark Green sought Al Sharpton's backing. I remember it very well. The problem is, people have very short memories.
Regarding Benjamin Kunkel's review of The New Intifada ["Dove Tales," October 30]: Any book or article on this subject that does not address the post-Camp David negotiations culminating at Taba, Egypt, in January 2001, is seriously flawed. All major "revisionist" studies of these recent events, most prominently those by Robert Malley and Deborah Sontag, relate the difference in tone and content at Taba versus Camp David. The near success at Taba proves that a negotiated compromise between Israel and Palestine was possible. One major difference was that the reported offer of 80 to 90 percent of the West Bank suggested by Barak at Camp David evolved into 95 to 98 percent at Taba, plus a transfer of the equivalent of 1 percent from Israel to Gaza.
By the way, an independent Palestinian state has long been the policy of the United Statesat least during the Clinton administration, if not before. It is therefore incorrect to refer to "U.S. support for the Israeli occupation." But the considerable progress made by the two sides at Taba came too late. The horrible tit-for-tat violence of this new intifada had already destroyed the majority support within Israel's electorate for substantial concessions to the Palestinians and made it possible for arch-hawk Ariel Sharon to win in a walk over Ehud Barak on February 6 of this year.
"The Peace of the Brave" (Arafat's slogan, not Barak's, as Kunkel claims) foundered on the rock of the intifada.
Ralph Seliger, Co-Editor
Benjamin Kunkel replies: It's easy to discover that the U.S. has supported the occupation in many ways and that Barak heavily employed the "Peace of the Brave" slogan. But Seliger is right about the discussions at Taba. They approached a decent settlement, and any next round should begin where they left off. The trouble, however, was their air of unreality. Barak was about to lose the election and the incoming Sharon administration would have voided any agreement. In any case, it was Barak who called off the talks.
Wayne Barrett ["Is the Peace Real?" October 30] reports that Reverend Al Sharpton claims I appealed to him to endorse Mark Green for mayor. As I told Barrett, I never sought or asked for such an endorsement.
Wayne Barrett replies: Sharpton says Roskoff made "continual appeals" for him to endorse Green and "arranged the famous double date" to Broadway for Green, Sharpton, and their spouses, as well as breakfast at Green's apartment. All I reported was Sharpton's allusion to these Roskoff "appeals" at the post-election meeting, not whether or not these "appeals" actually occurred.
Thank you for Toni Schlesinger's article "Terrors of a Subway Rider" [November 6]. Schlesinger may be writing about the most terrifying prospects, yet you feel better after reading what she writes because she is so clear and sensible, like an open, honest friend.
I am studying the meanings and philosophies of space, and how it can be used as a grounding for social analysis. And for all the academic discourse I read on the subject, nobody does it better than Schlesinger, right down to the list of places to make love in the last Valentine's special. No doubt we are both heavily influenced by the amazing experience of living in New York.
Department of Urban Studies and Planning
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
NAT HENTOFF READER
I have been reading Nat Hentoff's work since he was writing for Down Beat magazine in the '50s. His views on music and human rights have been a model for me in standing up for my beliefs, and in my 30-year career as a musician and producer, and I consider it a privilege to finally thank Hentoff for his intelligence and his writings. He made a difference in my life such a long time ago, and in a way that has helped me be proud of the capabilities of human beings.
Richard Goldstein's "Anthrax as AIDS" [October 30] was so fitting and touching. Although I am an expat, my family lives in New Jerseyand there have been a number of times I have called home crying, worried about them. Goldstein's article reminded me that it's OK to be scared, but we can't live in fear.
Seoul, South Korea
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