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I’m not colourless!

Wendy Harries, Bristol

ImageHello everyone at Peace News,

Sometimes when I read my copy, it inspires me (Look what’s been achieved! Amazing!!), sometimes it brings me down (so much still to do!), but several pieces in the current issue have left me feeling disgruntled. 

The ‘Holocaust deniers have a right to free speech’ article. What the fuck is all that about? Over my head.

Emily Johns’ linocut centre-spread feels unpleasantly like an incident I feel she should have kept to herself – too petty and private to air in public. Such an exchange where neither side showed respect and toleration to the other.

On page 23, astonished to see the wonderful film, Woman At War described as a comedy!! I watched it on mubi.com, where it was billed as an eco-thriller – I think that is a more accurate description.

Certainly no laughing matter, though it’s true there are touches of humour.

Some good stuff, too. I cried when I read Setsuko Thurlow’s account of her experience at Hiroshima.

Interested to see if next issue’s Peace News, dealing with ‘whiteness’, refers to ‘people of no colour’!

My beloved granddaughters and great-grandchildren are all dark-skinned, but I loathe the expression ‘people of colour’. It sounds grammatically wrong [‘of’?] and makes me feel ‘colourless’!

Best wishes for Winter Solstice, Christmas and New Year 2021. 

Editor Response: 

Hi Wendy, thanks for your letter. You’re right, the Finklestein article was too academic for PN – but I stand by its arguments. l Also, I did get the labelling of Woman at War wrong. l On Emily’s work, it is bound to divide opinion because it is real art – raw, powerful, honest. l On ‘people of colour’, I hope that you and other white people can find a way to set aside the discomfort you feel about how we name ourselves. ‘People of colour’ wasn’t invented as an insult to white people, but as a way of uniting many of us targeted by racism. People targeted by oppression must be able to name themselves. When some women choose the spellings ‘womyn’ or ‘womxn’, as I understand it, they aren’t attacking men, they’re affirming themselves. – ed

Finkelstein is wrong

Helen Porter (by email)

ImageNorman Finkelstein’s argument (PN 2648 – 2649) that we should give a full platform to Holocaust deniers is intellectually satisfying but I think misses an important dimension. 

Yes, in terms of academic rigour, it is vital that historians and other writers on the issue subject themselves to the full case of denial. 

And I too regret the patenting of the term ‘Holocaust’ for just one of many such, and I will, for example, happily (unhappily) use it to describe the continuing mass slaughter of animals to feed our appetite for meat, a slaughter that is horrific both in terms of numbers and methods. 

But does he think that deniers are going to afford the same courtesy to ‘the other side’? 

I absolutely agree that it is a suitable, indeed essential, topic for students.

But will those posting this stuff on social media be encouraging their readers to look at the countering facts? 

I’m aware that this sounds like an elitist argument – that it’s OK for academics to discuss it but not the general public. 

But it’s also about what a culture says about itself and what it regards as acceptable. 

We do attempt to police many forms of hate speech. 

The proponents of this murderous nonsense (yes, but) will be directly responsible for yet more hostility, and worse, towards Jews, Romanies, gays and others. 

If society regards that as OK then we are all partly responsible.

With good wishes,

Editor Response: 

Hi Helen, I don’t believe in censoring hate speech! Censorship gives the state (or tech companies) the right to judge what is acceptable speech and what isn’t.– ed