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 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 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 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 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.


  • 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


    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

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 *


  • Arts and Culture Features Opinion Playwrite Iddo Netanyahu: ‘Hitler Always Talked About Peace’ (INTERVIEW)

    Playwrite Iddo Netanyahu: ‘Hitler Always Talked About Peace’ (INTERVIEW)

    Late Friday night, on November 13, I was headed for bed when an ominous news bulletin flashed across my computer screen – something about a shooting in Paris. It wasn’t long before the “small number” of shootings and casualties began to double and triple and quadruple. The locations of attacks seemed crazily disorganized, and the tweets and videos became more and more horrifying. It was a long night for many stunned observers. We tried to understand what was happening, and […]

    Read more →
  • Israel Theater BDS Gives Belgian-Jewish Actress New Lease on Life in Tel Aviv

    BDS Gives Belgian-Jewish Actress New Lease on Life in Tel Aviv

    In an interview with the Israeli site nrg on Wednesday, Belgian-Jewish stage actress Noemi Schlosser recounted immigrating to Israel after her career in Europe was destroyed by BDS. Schlosser said she had enjoyed success in Belgium and international acclaim until she was targeted by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement for her pro-Israel stance during Operation Protective Edge — last summer’s war against Hamas in Gaza. She described watching the theaters where she performed go from packed to nearly empty over a short period of […]

    Read more →
  • Israel Sports In Israel for Champions League Soccer Match, Chelsea Manager Says Team Not Worried About Security Situation

    In Israel for Champions League Soccer Match, Chelsea Manager Says Team Not Worried About Security Situation

    The manager of the Chelsea Football Club said on Monday that he is looking forward to playing in Israel this week against Maccabi Tel Aviv, in spite of the security situation, Israeli news site nrg reported. Jose Murinho, who is already in Israel with his team to compete against Maccabi in the Champions League soccer match, was  asked whether he was worried about the current wave of Palestinian violence sweeping the country. “I have no worries at all regarding the security situation, and neither do […]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Opinion In the Middle East, ‘The Tail Wags the Dog’ (REVIEW)

    In the Middle East, ‘The Tail Wags the Dog’ (REVIEW)

    Blaming the West has become the most pervasive method of teaching for many Middle East studies departments, which are becoming the heart of pop-culture academia. Efraim Karsh, a distinguished professor of Middle Eastern studies at Bar-Ilan University and professor emeritus at King’s College London, in his latest book The Tail Wags the Dog: International Politics and the Middle East, dispels this myth. “Britain’s ‘original sin,’ if such was indeed committed, lay not in the breaking up of Middle Eastern unity but […]

    Read more →
  • Features Spirituality/Tradition With Popularity and Sales up, ‘Mensch on a Bench’ Has Much to Smile About

    With Popularity and Sales up, ‘Mensch on a Bench’ Has Much to Smile About – The Mensch on a Bench is so much happier now than he was a year ago. Look carefully and you will notice that, whereas the previous Mensch had a decidedly worried look, this latest version of the popular Hanukkah toy is flashing an exuberant grin. Is the erstwhile Mensch smiling because he expects to be in some 100,000 homes by year’s end? In truth, the change in visage was suggested last year by the “sharks” on ABC’s Shark Tank […]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Adam Sandler Updates Famous ‘Chanukah Song,’ Includes Hulk Hogan, David Beckham and Scarlett Johansson in Latest Version

    Adam Sandler Updates Famous ‘Chanukah Song,’ Includes Hulk Hogan, David Beckham and Scarlett Johansson in Latest Version

    Actor Adam Sandler unveiled a new version of his famous “Chanukah Song” on Saturday, adding a slew of Jewish celebrities to the ditty’s updated lyrics. The comedian — who released the original song about being Jewish during Christmas in 1996 — performed the latest version of the comedic track during the New York Comedy Festival at Carnegie Hall. Marvel Comics creator Stan Lee, actor Jake Gyllenhaal and “the two guys who founded Google” are among the famous Jewish celebrities now in the line up. Sandler also included lyrics about Star Wars‘ Princess […]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Famed Israeli Violinist Itzhak Perlman to Receive Presidential Medal of Freedom

    Famed Israeli Violinist Itzhak Perlman to Receive Presidential Medal of Freedom – Famed Israeli violinist Itzhak Perlman will be among the 17 recipients of America’s Presidential Medal of Freedom next week. He is the fourth Israeli to receive the highest civilian honor in the US. “A native of Israel, he came to the United States at a young age and was introduced to Americans broadly when he appeared on the ‘Ed Sullivan Show’ in 1958. Mr. Perlman made his Carnegie Hall debut in 1963 when he was 18,” a White House […]

    Read more →
  • Features Spirituality/Tradition Don’t Think Israel is a Luxury Destination? Check Out These 6 Spots

    Don’t Think Israel is a Luxury Destination? Check Out These 6 Spots – While Israel is a common destination for cultural and religious pilgrimages, travelers seeking the best hotels, fine dining, and upscale relaxation less often find themselves in the Holy Land. Yet in recent years, the country’s burgeoning tech scene has attracted a business crowd accustomed to ritzy accommodation. Besides, the permanent summer of Tel Aviv and Eilat makes them prime destinations for European vacationers. Israel’s populace managed to tame the swamps and irrigate the desert — so going luxury should […]

    Read more →