Antisemitism With a Literary Glow: Alice Walker’s Ugly Caricature of Israeli Jews
by Adam Levick
“Jesus, a Palestinian – is still being crucified.” (Alice Walker’s blog, per CAMERA.)
“[Israeli] settlers are the [Ku Klux] Klan” (Alice Walker, during interview with Jesse Rosenfeld.)
“I think Israel is the greatest terrorist in that part of the world. And I think in general, the United States and Israel are great terrorist organizations themselves.” (Alice Walker, Foreign Policy, in June, 2011.)
“I feel that the Israel that many Jews dreamed of having – that one is gone. That’s demolished. I think it’s time for people to accept that. Because what you have now is something that is so frightening. Israel is as frightening to many of us as Germany used to be.” (Alice Walker: Why I’m joining the Freedom Flotilla to Gaza, Guardian, June 25, 2011.)
The literary foot-stomping which is Alice Walker’s recent refusal to permit her book ‘The Colour Purple’ to be translated into Hebrew – bizarre as it is – can hardly have come as much of a surprise to anyone familiar with the writer’s history of anti-Israel activism. Neither does the Guardian’s decision to showcase extensive sections of Walker’s letter of refusal to the would-be publisher exactly come as a shock.
Walker is a long-standing activist in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS), and indeed allowed her letter to the Israeli publisher which requested permission to translate the book to be posted on the website of PACBI – the Palestinian Campaign for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel – which leads and sets the tone for the BDS campaign.
PACBI does not aspire to a two-state solution – it promotes the ‘return’ of millions of descendants of Palestinian refugees, thereby rejecting the existence of Israel within any borders. PACBI opposes ‘normalisation’ and has produced a document which defines that term as:
“participating in any project, initiative or activity whether locally or internationally, that is designed to bring together-whether directly or indirectly Palestinian and/or Arab youth with Israelis (whether individuals or institutions) and is not explicitly designed to resist or expose the occupation and all forms of discrimination and oppression inflicted upon the Palestinian people.”
PACBI founding member and steering committee member Omar Barghouti believes (mistakenly) that:
“International law does give people under occupation the right to resist in any way, including armed resistance”.
In other words, Alice Walker chose to make her statement on the platform of an organization which aspires, by any means, to oppose co-existence in the Middle East and bring about an end to the Jewish state.
That too should not be surprising, for another of Alice Walker’s pet hobbies is supporting an additional Palestinian organization which opposes dialogue, seeks to bring about the end of Israel and openly calls for the murder of Jews – Hamas.
In 2011 Walker joined the (failed) flotilla to Gaza, engaging in self-promotion on the pages of the Guardian (where else?) along the way. Walker’s flowery prose was full of buzz-words such as ‘justice’ and ‘respect’, but any concern for the people of Israel’s south – battered and traumatized for over a decade by the terror organizations involved in organizing that flotilla – was remarkably absent, as Howard Jacobson pointed out to her at the time.
And then of course there is Alice Walker’s involvement in that self-appointed kangaroo court-cum-echo chamber known as the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, which flits from venue to venue in order to reach the foregone conclusion of Israeli’s immutable guilt based on carefully pre-selected ‘evidence’.
Walker claims that her decision not to allow her book to be translated into Hebrew is part of her ongoing attempt to “rid humanity of its self-destructive habit of dehumanizing whole populations”, yet it has obviously never occurred to her that she is supremely guilty of that fault herself.
A woman who would liken Israelis who live on “the “wrong” side of the green line” to the KKK is an unserious political poser – an extremist engaged in incendiary, hateful, and dehumanizing rhetoric about hundreds of thousands of Jews.
A once celebrated literary figure who holds steady with the sophomoric belief that the United States and Israel are the “great terrorist organizations” of our time is someone who has become a 60″²s political anachronism: an embarrassment to those who may have succumbed to the temptation of imputing to Walker true wisdom by virtue of her literary achievements.
A person who excuses terror and murder by claiming that “[t]his is David and Goliath, but Goliath is not the Palestinians. They are David. They are the ones with the slingshot. They are the ones with the rocks and relatively not-so-powerful rockets. Whereas the Israelis have these incredibly damaging missiles and rockets” is severely lacking in even basic human empathy.
Much of Walker’s self-allocated expertise and supreme authority on the subjects of terrorism, discrimination and apartheid is, by her own account, based upon her experiences growing up in the south of the United States.
But by choosing to support a plethora of organisations which seek to deny Jews the right to self-determination like any other nation in the world and in promoting her own radical-chic credentials by deeming a language – and the nation which speaks it – beyond the pale, Walker shows herself to be no better than the Deep South racists of her youth.
Walker, schooled in the art of compassion, liberalism (and the theology of liberation) evidently fails to note the succor she is providing for the most illiberal, reactionary Islamist movements: forces of antisemitic intolerance which resemble – indeed, wildly exceed – the fervor of hardcore racism arduously defended during the 1950s and 1960s in places like Jackson, Mississippi and Birmingham, Alabama.
In an essay which Walker wrote in 2009, she described giving a gift to a Palestinian woman:
“I gave her a gift I had brought, and she thanked me. Looking into my eyes she said: May God Protect You From the Jews. When the young Palestinian interpreter told me what she’d said, I responded: It’s too late, I already married one.” [emphasis added]
It may be too later for her, but Alice Walker seems intent on at least protecting others from the perfidy of the Jewish people.