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.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture Theater US & Canada New Play Explores the ‘Arrogance’ of American Jews Critical of Israel, Playwright Says

    New Play Explores the ‘Arrogance’ of American Jews Critical of Israel, Playwright Says

    In his new play Mr. Goldberg Goes to Tel Aviv, playwright Oren Safdie tackles an issue that he has a major concern with: the relationship between Israelis and left-leaning Diaspora Jews with their “I know better” critical views. At the heart of the one-act play is Tony, a Jewish and gay Palestinian sympathizer who expresses strong anti-Israel sentiments when the play begins and at one point even sides with a Palestinian terrorist who holds his captive. Tony, who is also an [...]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Hassidic Parody of Taylor Swift Song Apes Long Jewish Holidays (VIDEO)

    Hassidic Parody of Taylor Swift Song Apes Long Jewish Holidays (VIDEO)

    A Jewish comedy troupe released a parody video on Wednesday of Taylor Swift’s hit song Shake It Off in which they joke about taking extensive time off from work for Jewish holidays. “And the goyim gonna stay, stay, stay, stay, stay. And the Jews are gonna pray, pray pray, pray, pray. I’m just gonna take, take, take, take, take. I’m taking off,” goes the chorus for I’m Taking Off. Menachem Weinstein, the video’s lead singer, is the creative director at [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Literature On 75th Anniversary, Looking at the Jewish Influence on Gone With the Wind

    On 75th Anniversary, Looking at the Jewish Influence on Gone With the Wind

    JNS.org – The 75th anniversary of the premiere of “Gone with the Wind” on Dec. 15 presents an opportunity to examine the Jewish influence on one of the most popular films of all time. That influence starts with the American Civil War epic’s famed producer, David O. Selznick. Adjusted for inflation, “Gone with the Wind” remains the highest-grossing movie ever made. It earned the 1939 Academy Award for Best Picture, the same honor another Selznick film, “Rebecca,” garnered in 1940. Selznick [...]

    Read more →
  • Featured Music US & Canada EXCLUSIVE: Matisyahu Provides Most Extensive Analysis Yet of His Religious, Musical Evolution (INTERVIEW)

    EXCLUSIVE: Matisyahu Provides Most Extensive Analysis Yet of His Religious, Musical Evolution (INTERVIEW)

    Matisyahu got candid in an exclusive interview with The Algemeiner on Monday about his religious and musical journey – after shedding his Chassidic skin, yarmulke, long beard and all – from the start of his career in 2005 when he became a reggae superstar with hits King Without a Crown and Jerusalem. The singer-songwriter embarks on his Festival of Light tour this month, an annual Hanukkah event that stops in Montreal, New York, and other cities before ending in San Juan, [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Personalities ‘Sheriff of Mars’ Unveils Endearing Life of Jewish Music Star Hidden in the Fields of France

    ‘Sheriff of Mars’ Unveils Endearing Life of Jewish Music Star Hidden in the Fields of France

    JNS.org – It was an era of steel strings, guitar heroes, and storytellers—high on heroin, rebellious. Outlaw country music, the hallmark of Nashville’s powerful and angry music scene of the 1970s, was the brew of greats such as Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and Townes Van Zandt. But there is another, little-known music hero of that era: Daniel Antopolsky. A Jewish lad from Augusta, Ga.—the son of immigrants who settled in the south and ran a hardware store on Main Street—the [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Iranian Actress Replaces Israel’s Gal Gadot for ‘Ben-Hur’ Remake

    Iranian Actress Replaces Israel’s Gal Gadot for ‘Ben-Hur’ Remake

    Iranian actress Nazanin Boniadi replaced Israeli star Gal Gadot as the female lead in the new Ben-Hur remake, Hollywood.com reported on Tuesday. The Homeland actress will play Esther, a slave that Ben-Hur sets free and falls in love with. Gadot quit the movie when it became clear that filming conflicted with her schedule for the Man of Steel sequel. The Israeli actress plays Wonder Woman in the superhero film Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Actor Jack Huston takes on the [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Personalities Biography Sheds New Light on David Ben-Gurion’s Place in Jewish History

    Biography Sheds New Light on David Ben-Gurion’s Place in Jewish History

    JNS.org – There is one sentence in “Ben-Gurion: Father of Modern Israel” that made me sit up in surprise. I thought that I knew the basic facts about how Israel came into being, but while describing what it was like in the days and hours before the state was declared, author Anita Shapira provides one important anecdote I was not aware of. On the 12th of May, the Zionist Executive met to decide what to do. Moshe Sharrett had just returned [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada ‘Death of Klinghoffer’ Actress Compares Met Opera to ‘Schindler’s List’

    ‘Death of Klinghoffer’ Actress Compares Met Opera to ‘Schindler’s List’

    An actress starring in the controversial Met Opera The Death of Klinghoffer defended the show on Tuesday by comparing it to the 1993 Holocaust film Schindler’s List, New York Post reported. “To me, this was like [the movie] Schindler’s List. We make art so people won’t forget,’’ said the actress, who plays a captured passenger in the show and asked not to be identified. The Met Opera focuses on the infamous murder of Lower East Side Jewish resident Leon Klinghoffer, 69. The wheelchair-bound father of [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.