NYU Professor Defends Alice Walker From Antisemitism Accusations by Citing Poem on ‘Zionist Nazis’
A faculty member at New York University has defended renowned author Alice Walker as she faces accusations of antisemitism for promoting a conspiracy theorist and denouncing the Talmud, a book of Jewish law.
Robert Cohen, a professor of social studies and history, asserted in an essay published on History News Network on Sunday that many critics of Walker have “ignored evidence from both her life history and her writings that contradicts the charge of anti-Semitism.”
Walker — who won a Pulitzer Prize for her seminal 1982 novel, “The Color Purple” — drew scrutiny earlier this month after she promoted David Icke’s book “And the Truth Shall Set You Free” during an interview with The New York Times. In the book, Icke describes The Talmud as “among the most appallingly racist documents on the planet,” and claimed that Jewish organizations are secretly behind various racist groups, including the Ku Klux Klan, according to Tablet Magazine.
The controversy drew renewed attention to Walker’s past statements on Jews and Judaism — including a 2017 poem in which she called Israeli rule “demonic to the core,” and suggested that to understand “the inspiration for so much evil,” one must “study The Talmud” and “its poison.”
Walker has dismissed charges of antisemitism as attacks against her work “in support of the people of Palestine” — charges that Cohen addressed by sharing a recent poem published by the novelist, which he said “offers fierce criticism of Israel yet conveys warmth towards Jewish friends.”
In the poem, titled “Conscious Earthlings,” Walker wrote that “Jews have always been involved / In my awakening,” and added: “It is this I will remember / Whatever worsening plans / The Zionist Nazis make.”
The poem claimed that “Zionist Nazis are not the Jews,” and described the former as “terrorists who would and do / Kill anyone and anything / To get what they want: / Control over everyone.”
“I will never be divided from my friends,” Walker continued, “No matter how bad Zionist Nazis are making / Jews look.”
The poem then appeared to praise Jews who support “the dream of one humanity,” which is “born each day / In every one of us / Who leave race and culture and religion / Handed to us at birth behind.”
Cohen — whose defense attracted some criticism on social media after it was highlighted by writer John-Paul Pagano — has previously backed Walker amid charges of antisemitism. In another essay published on History News Network a week after her Times interview, the NYU professor said that he saw “no trace of anti-Semitism” in Walker’s history of political activism, but instead found “a humane identification with the oppressed, including Palestinians, and a dedication to battling war, poverty, and hatred.”
Gil Troy, a professor of history at McGill University, wrote in response that Cohen’s “stunning” stance on Walker “fails to respect the seriousness of the charge or the many dimensions of Walker’s and Icke’s historically-based, deeply-rooted, Jew hatred.”