Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

Alice Walker at the 92Y: Mild Program, Tight Security, and a Squelched Interview

June 5, 2013 12:53 am 3 comments

Caption: Author Alice Walker and playwright Eve Ensler clasp hands at the 92nd Street Y in New York City on the night they appeared together in dialogue, May 30. Photo: Maxine Dovere.

JNS.0rg – The day before music star Alicia Keys rebuffed the appeals of author Alice Walker and Pink Floyd band member Rogers Waters to cancel her upcoming performance in Israel, Walker herself benefited from the Jewish community, which gave her a platform to promote her work.

On May 30, the 92nd Street Y in New York City hosted Walker—an activist for the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement—for a book-signing for her new collection of poetry, The World Will Follow Joy, and her new book of meditations, The Cushion in the Road.

Before the book signing, the 92Y stage was the setting for a dialogue between Walker and The Vagina Monologues playwright Eve Ensler for a dialogue that was adoring—each singing the other’s praises.

Outside the event on Lexington Avenue in Manhattan, the response of the Jewish community to the use of the 92Y as a venue for an anti-Zionist proved pale. A small, noisy group of perhaps 20 people—mostly elderly—demonstrated against the appearance of Walker.

Lannie Grauman, one of the few younger protesters, told JNS.orgshe was raising her voice to make clear that a Jewish organization should not provide a venue for an avowed hater of Israel. “Walker spreads lies about Israel,” she said.

A police presence would arrive when a confrontation between a screaming protestor and a Walker supporter threatened to erupt into physical conflict. Security was not only tight—it was adamant. Even people coming into the 92Y lobby were interrogated.

Della Johnson awaited a friend on the landing outside the entry doors. Johnson told JNS.org she “simply wanted to see [Walker] in person,” and was not keeping up with Walker’s political opinions.

Those opinions—including Walker’s positions concerning Israel, her support of the BDS movement, or her participation in the attempts to break Israel’s legal blockage of Gaza— found no expression during her time on stage. The love-fest began with Ensler’s pronouncement that “it feels right,” as the two clasped hands. “I honor this woman,” Ensler said.

Walker and Ensler conducted a polite, philosophical dialogue about “humanity,” with frequent expressions of high regard for each other’s work.

Lannie Grauman protested the appearance of Alice Walker outside the 92nd Street Y in New York City on May 30. Photo: Maxine Dovere.

The few questions allowed from the audience were submitted in writing, on cards supplied and collected by ushers. The questions were thoroughly filtered—any possibility of Walker being challenged on Israel was eliminated.

When the staged segment was finished, the two authors sat together. “This is a book signing,” announced the 92Y’s director of security.

“If you don’t have a book you have to leave,” he added.

There were no exceptions. Lorri Schwartz, who had been invited to attend by an Ensler associate, is a therapist who spends her professional life treating victims of rape, abuse and suffering.  She was summarily escorted out of the book-signing line—forced to purchase a book in order to have a moment of conversation with Ensler.

After each purchaser of an Ensler or Walker book had received a signature, Walker agreed to answer several questions from JNS.org. Asked why she refused to allow Israeli publisher Yediot Books to translate The Color Purple into Hebrew last year, Walker responded, “It was translated [into Hebrew] before there was a boycott [of Israel]. So it’s already there.”

Explaining her rationale behind boycotting Israel, Walker told JNS.org that in her experience, “boycotts are ideal for such situations in which you refuse to employ violence.”

“You know, we went through this in the [American] South,” she said. “We went through this in South Africa and it’s the only option… because Israel has been very brutal in occupying Palestinian land and its mistreatment of Palestinian people. Have you been to Gaza? You see what has been done to the people?”

Before Walker could respond to the point that Gaza City is highly developed and residents there enjoy a comfortable lifestyle, Beverly Greenfield, director of public and media relations for the 92Y, attempted to interrupt the conversation.

But Walker continued.

“I would stop my government from giving the Israeli government so much money,” she said. “We need the money here. Our schools are a mess—they’re closing them down. Our hospitals are terrible. You know, the poor communities are in such suffering. We need the money that we have been giving to Israel all these years. It’s not right. There’s no way you can make it right.”

As Walker continued to express her views, the 92Y’s Greenfeld, who monitored the entire interview, again interrupted. “This is not the place for this,” she said, before shutting down the interview.

If the 92Y believed in an open dialogue on stage, why should its communications officer forbid the continuation of that dialogue off stage? Alice Walker is a public figure, and she has made her anti-Israel position clear. Why, then, was she stopped while stating her views in a one-on-one interview at a premier institution of the Jewish community like the 92Y? Why is the 92Y afraid to have her state her position?

Jonathon Tobin wrote for Commentary that by “inviting Walker, whose opinions and actions about Israel are not exactly a secret, the Y is signaling that it and its members do not consider advocacy for the anti-Israel BDS movement to be a disqualifying factor when it comes to the people they invite to their hall.”

Concerning Walker’s comments before the interview with JNS.org was shut down, one might wonder whether her knowledge of foreign military aid spending policy is so minimal that she does not know that the majority of such funds are, by mandate, spent in the U.S., providing jobs and revenue for Americans. Walker should also be aware that school funding generally comes from local or state sources.

When an assumed intellectual, a so-called humanistic thinker like Walker, eliminates facts as a basis for her positions, a dangerous precedent is set.

Alicia Keys, upon rejecting Walker’s calls to cancel her July 4 concert in Israel, told the New York Times, “I look forward to my first visit to Israel. Music is a universal language that is meant to unify audiences in peace and love, and that is the spirit of our show.”

Walker herself said on stage at the 92Y, “You have to want to be free—it’s hard work. You have to love people.”

Heed your own advice, Ms. Walker.

3 Comments

  • E Pluribus Beagle

    She is a hate filled insane bigot and if NY Jews want to give her a platform then the same goes for them too. Sorry but it’s just that clear. The people who run the 92Y are no better than Chaim Rumkowsky.

  • Is the 92Y so desperate for income that they agreed to host this book signing or is the board and administration full of “Jewish Voices for Peace” loons who are willing to turn a blind eye to Walker’s enthusiastic endorsement of anti-Semetic conspiracy theories?

  • Richard Allen

    CLOSE YOUR WALLETS

    First Israel boycott leader Roger Waters was invited to speak by the 92St Y and now they give Israel Hater Alice Walker a big welcome.

    It is time the Jewish Community “Close Your Wallets” to the 92StY until they stop using Jewish Communal Money to promote and host anti-Israel programming.

    The UJA-Federation has funded these anti-Israel events with large support payments annually to the 92St Y. The Jewish community must insist that these charity dollars given by the UJA-Fed to the 92St Y stop.

    Sadly, there is a long history within the NY UJA-Federation of support for groups that advocate the boycott of Israeli companies such as Ahava cosmetics, SodaStream and Israeli Wine Vinyards. In fact, the UJA-Federation invites these boycott groups such as Partners For a Progressive Israel to march in the Celebrate Israel Parade each year.

    There is but one answer to this failure: Close Your Wallet !

    Richard Allen
    JCCWatch.org.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Blogs Sports Olympic Gold Medalist to Wear Leotard With Hebrew Letters in US National Championship Competition

    Olympic Gold Medalist to Wear Leotard With Hebrew Letters in US National Championship Competition

    Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas will wear a leotard that has Hebrew lettering on it when she competes at the P&G Gymnastics Championships over the weekend. Douglas’ Swarovski-outlined outfit will feature the Hebrew word “Elohim,” which means God, on its left sleeve. The Hebrew detailing honors the athlete’s “rich heritage of faith,” according to apparel manufacturer GK Elite, which produced the leotard and released a preview of it on Wednesday. The company said Douglas’ sister, Joyelle “Joy” Douglas, created the Hebrew design. The P&G Championships will […]

    Read more →
  • Europe Sports British World Heavyweight Champion Should Be Banned From Boxing for Sounding Like Hitler, Says Ukrainian Competitor

    British World Heavyweight Champion Should Be Banned From Boxing for Sounding Like Hitler, Says Ukrainian Competitor

    Britain’s world heavyweight champion, Taylor Fury, should be banned from boxing for making Nazi-like comments, a former world champion from the Ukraine said on Thursday, ahead of their upcoming match. “I was in shock at his statements about women, the gay community, and when he got to the Jewish people, he sounded like Hitler,” Wladimir Klitschko told British media, according to Reuters. “We cannot have a champion like that. Either he needs to be shut up or shut down in the ring, or […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Rabbi Shows Cooking Skills and Humor on Chopped

    Rabbi Shows Cooking Skills and Humor on Chopped

    Rabbi Hanoch Hecht just made television history; but, unfortunately, he couldn’t have his rugelach and eat it too. Hecht became the first rabbi to compete on the hit show “Chopped,” where contestants are forced to use four random ingredients in their recipes, and have 20-30 minutes to create an appetizer, a main course and a dessert. A contestant is eliminated after each round. Hecht, 32, said that while the dishes and utensils were new, the kitchen was not kosher, so he couldn’t taste […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Music Orthodox Entertainer Stars in Pepsi Max Commercial as New Face of Company’s Israel Campaign (VIDEO)

    Orthodox Entertainer Stars in Pepsi Max Commercial as New Face of Company’s Israel Campaign (VIDEO)

    Orthodox singer and entertainer Lipa Schmeltzer is starring in a new Pepsi Max commercial for the company’s campaign in Israel. The commercial begins with a bunch of Jewish men eating at a restaurant, when Schmeltzer walks in and tries to decide what to order. An employee at the obviously Israeli eatery offers him a variety of foods, but the entertainer in the end decides on a bottle of Pepsi. Everyone in the restaurant then joins him, drinking Pepsi Max and dancing to […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Book Reviews Jewish Author’s ‘Messy’ Draft Transforms Into Rock Star Novel on Amazon

    Jewish Author’s ‘Messy’ Draft Transforms Into Rock Star Novel on Amazon

    JNS.org – “Writing is a messy process,” says author Elizabeth Poliner. “People who don’t write fiction would be surprised to see what early drafts could look like.” But readers wouldn’t know “what a mess it was for the longest time,” as the Jewish author puts it, when reading Poliner’s critically acclaimed latest book, As Close to Us as Breathing. The volume garnered Amazon’s “Best Book” designation in March 2016 as well as rave reviews from the New York Times,W Magazine, NPR, […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Sundance Tour Features Short Film About Elderly Jewish Woman’s Decision to Eat Bacon for First Time

    Sundance Tour Features Short Film About Elderly Jewish Woman’s Decision to Eat Bacon for First Time

    The Sundance Film Festival Short Film Tour, which started on Friday in New York City, features a mini-documentary about an elderly Jewish woman whose journey away from Orthodoxy leads her to taste forbidden food for the first time in her life. In Canadian director Sol Friedman’s Bacon & God’s Wrath, Razie Brownstone talks about ending her lifelong observance of keeping kosher as her 90th birthday approaches. The recently declared atheist said the discovery of the search engine Google spurred a lapse in her Jewish faith and made her decide to […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Food Chabad Rabbi From New York Competes on Food Network’s ‘Chopped’ Cooking Competition

    Chabad Rabbi From New York Competes on Food Network’s ‘Chopped’ Cooking Competition

    A Chabad rabbi from Rhinebeck, NY, will face off a priest, a pastor and a nun-in-training in an upcoming episode of the Food Network‘s reality show, “Chopped,” Lubavitch.com reported. Rabbi Hanoch Hecht – who teaches up-and-coming chefs about the intricacies of kosher dietary laws at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) — was nominated for the show by a professional chef, and went through a rigorous interview process at the Food Network’s studios in Chelsea, NY. Months later, he was informed he had been accepted as a contestant in the popular TV cooking competition. “I thought […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Book Reviews Religion, Politics, and the Origins of Palestine Refugee Relief (BOOK REVIEW)

    Religion, Politics, and the Origins of Palestine Refugee Relief (BOOK REVIEW)

    Religion, Politics and the Origins of Palestine Refugee Relief by Asaf Romirowsky & Alexander H. Joffe (Palgrave Macmillan; 2013) Although this book came out several years ago, it remains pertinent. This is a meticulously researched book that concentrates on a very small bit of history: the time period from 1948-50 when the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker group, was organizing refugee relief in Gaza. Before UNRWA, the UN created the United Nations Relief for Palestine Refugees (UNRPR). It outsourced […]

    Read more →