Author, activist, and womanist Alice Walker; whose famous novel, “The Color Purple” won the 1983 Pulitzer prize for fiction, has made it clear to Israeli publishers that she refuses to authorize the Hebrew translation of her acclaimed work; in a letter to the Israeli publisher Yediot books (an off-shoot of the daily Yediot Achronot newspaper), Walker charges that Israel is “guilty of apartheid and persecution of the Palestinian people.” The missive (dated June 9th) appeared on the website, Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.
Walker, who is a long-time member of the boycott, divest, and sanction movement pointed out her own coming of age under American segregation and said Israeli policies were far worse. The writer expressed hope that her boycott would “have enough of an impact on Israeli civilian society to change the situation.”
Walker further writes…
In that regard, I offer an earlier example of THE COLOR PURPLE’s engagement in the world-wide effort to rid humanity of its self-destructive habit of dehumanizing whole populations. When the film of The Color Purple was finished, and all of us who made it decided we loved it, Steven Spielberg, the director, was faced with the decision of whether it should be permitted to travel to and be offered to the South African public. I lobbied against this idea because, as with Israel today, there was a civil society movement of BDS aimed at changing South Africa’s apartheid policies and, in fact, transforming the government.
It was not a particularly difficult position to hold on my part: I believe deeply in non-violent methods of social change though they sometimes seem to take forever, but I did regret not being able to share our movie, immediately, with (for instance) Winnie and Nelson Mandela and their children, and also with the widow and children of the brutally murdered, while in police custody, Steven Biko, the visionary journalist and defender of African integrity and freedom — (read the letter in its entirety).
Walker has been increasingly steadfast in her activism against Israel’s policies against Palestinians and has traveled to the Gaza strip on a couple occasions. In 2011 she joined a flotilla of ships to help bring supplies and raise awareness– (source).
The violent conflict between Israelis and Palestinians has been a major source of contention for decades for the myriad of reasons and has prompted strong opinions from and about both sides. Attempts have been made to mediate a resolution that would placate both parties, to no avail. Tuesday, an unknown militant group claimed responsibility for a cross-border attack in Israel on Monday, prompting airstrikes by Israeli military forces on “militant targets in Gaza”. Monday’s and Tuesday’s violence resulted in several casualties, including a two-year old Palestinian child, due to a misfired rocket launch.
As predicted, Alice Walker’s position on the conflict didn’t bode well with commenters on various news platforms that picked up the story. Some readers unleashed racist tirades against the writer, accusing her of anti-Semitism and “reverse racism”.