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Letters to the editor

June 7, 2002 | Page 4

Socialists fight all forms of oppression
They say racism is free speech

Sharon and Hitler aren't the same

Dear Socialist Worker,

Eric Ruder's article on the distinction between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism (SW, May 10) was absolutely correct to point out that no one should fear being labeled an anti-Semite for opposing Israel's barbarous occupation. But I disagree with using the chant "Sharon and Hitler are the same, the only difference is the name."

Concern about being labeled anti-Semitic is not a good reason to oppose this slogan. A better reason is that it's not true.

Ruder says that we shouldn't let the differences between Sharon and Hitler overshadow their similarities. But the slogan doesn't merely point out these similarities, it equates the two. Sharon is not a fascist. He's a mainstream Zionist politician (and a war criminal).

On one level, the slogan seems to be an effort to avoid anti-Semitism. After all, what better way than to denounce both Nazis and Zionists in one chant?

Ultimately, however, the chant fails because it proposes a false comparison. Let's face it--if we really felt that Zionists and Sharon supporters were fascists, we'd be organizing pickets of most synagogues in the U.S.

This is not to say that SW has been wrong to draw parallels between the oppression and resistance of Jews in Nazi Germany and of Palestinians today--even Israeli soldiers are making the same comparisons!

The brutality and racism of the Israeli state should not be downplayed. But that doesn't mean we should start confusing Nazis with Zionists.

Socialists need to fight oppression wherever it exists, but we also need to be clear about the causes of that oppression and how best to fight them.

Dave Courtenay-Quirk, Atlanta

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Socialists fight all forms of oppression

Dear Socialist Worker,

I was both heartened and disturbed by the opinion expressed by Bruce Reilly's recent letter (SW, May 10).

He rightfully points out that one of the things that determines the quality of health care is class. This is absolutely true. But Reilly goes on to say that the "idea of a minority struggle is a trick."

I believe that in the kind of world that socialists are trying to create, race would not be an issue--everyone would be treated with dignity, and recognition of peoples' worth would be automatic.

But to think that we can say that there is no "minority struggle" in the present world is naïve.

It is true that there are people of color who are part of the ruling class, but this doesn't mean that racism doesn't affect most minorities. In fact, most minorities face a double burden of racism and class discrimination on a daily basis.

Proof of this can be seen every day in the disproportionate percentage of young Black men in our injustice system, the military guardianship of the U.S.-Mexico border, the high poverty rate among minorities, and the racist attacks that are committed just because of the color of someone's skin.

Race is not the biggest factor in the oppression of working people, but as a movement, we must be sensitive to the effect that it has on people. We must strive to eliminate racism and fight for a world where workers will be treated fairly, regardless of their race.

Maritza Marquina, Los Angeles

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They say racism is free speech

Dear Socialist Worker,

The U.S. Supreme Court has decided to take up a case that may strike down a 50-year-old law banning cross burning in Virginia.

The law was originally passed as a result of racist violence and intimidation by the Ku Klux Klan. As Virginia Attorney General Jerry Kilgore said, "Burning a cross to intimidate someone is nothing short of domestic terrorism."

Meanwhile, such racist attacks are being defended by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which calls the case "a classic free speech case." They argue that cross burning, like flag burning, is an action with political meaning and should therefore be protected.

Unlike flag burning, however, cross burning is historically connected to incidences of targeted violence, intimidation and fear.

We cannot rely on "liberal" groups like the ACLU to combat the growing arrogance and confidence of racists. Like the hundreds of thousands of French citizens who took to the streets in protest against the racist Le Pen and his supporters, we must take direct action to combat racism and fascism.

Eric Pelkey, Caribou, Maine

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