Walker, 78, was scheduled to interview writer Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, at the latter’s request, at the headlining event of the annual Bay Area Book Festival, which will take place May 7-8 in downtown Berkeley and is set to feature over 250 authors. The festival is the main project of the Foundation for the Future of Literature and Literacy, a California non-profit organization.
Organizers cancelled Walker’s participation in the festival on Thursday after being informed about her past hateful comments, according to The Jewish News of Northern California. Jeffers subsequently pulled out of the festival in response, the festival’s publicist Julia Drake told the outlet.
“We were aware of the fact that Alice Walker had made some controversial statements in the past, but we weren’t aware of the extent of it,” Drake said. “One of the big missions of the festival is we won’t tolerate any hate speech or antisemitic statements, so we realized that this was not something that we could do.”
Drake added that organizers are now searching for “another headlining event that is worthy of the festival.”
Walker, who was the first Black woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for fiction for “The Color Purple” in 1983, has repeatedly compared Israel to Nazi Germany and is an avid supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. In 2011, she claimed, “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.” That same year she said Israel is “as frightening to many of us as Germany used to be.” Walker has also made antisemitic claims about Jews and Israel in her poetry.
She told an Israeli publisher in 2012 that she does not allow “The Color Purple” to be translated into Hebrew because “Israel is guilty of apartheid and persecution of the Palestinian people, both inside Israel and also in the Occupied Territories.”
In a 2018 interview with The New York Times, the author and human rights activist promoted the book “And the Truth Shall Set You Free,” by British conspiracy theorist David Icke, which claims Jews control the world and includes quotes from notorious “Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” In the book, Icke describes the Talmud as “among the most appallingly racist documents on the planet,” and argues that Jews are secretly responsible for various racist groups, including the Ku Klux Klan.