Alice Walker has refused to allow a new Hebrew translation of her Pulitzer-winning novel, “The Color Purple” to be published in Israel, which she says is “guilty of apartheid and persecution of the Palestinian people.”
Walker, 68, has long been a member of the boycott, divest and sanction movement, which wants Israel ostracized economically and culturally on the international stage until it changes its policies toward the Palestinian residents of Gaza and the West Bank.
She compared Israel to the South Africa of yesteryear — as well as American segregation.
“I grew up under American apartheid and this was far worse,” Walker says in an open letter to Israeli publisher Yediot books, which is affiliated with the daily newspaper Yediot Ahronoth and was planning a new translation.
That letter appeared on the website for the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel on Sunday.
Describing how she years ago refused to have the film version of “The Color Purple” shown in apartheid South Africa, she writes: “I would so like knowing my books are read by the people of your country, especially by the young, and by the brave Israeli activists (Jewish and Palestinian) for justice and peace I have had the joy of working beside. I am hopeful that one day, maybe soon, this may happen. But now is not the time.”
Israel’s supporters lashed out at the author.
The right-leaning Commentary magazine called Walker’s letter “among the most egregious acts of discrimination against Israel by leftist intellectuals.”
And Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, a City University trustee and a vocal supporter of Israel, called Walker a “lunatic” and suggested she and her ilk “need serious counseling.”
Incidentally, Walker’s ex-husband is Jewish civil rights lawyer Mel Leventhal. They had one daughter together, 42-year-old Rebecca Walker, whose books include “Black White and Jewish.”
Her mom’s criticism of Israel has been even more strident in the past.
Asked last year by Foreign Policy magazine if Hamas was a terrorist group, she replied: “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 interview was given as Walker attempted to board “Freedom Flotilla II,” which was to pass through the Israeli maritime blockade of Gaza. A previous flotilla had left nine activists dead after they were confronted with Israeli forces seeking to stop their ships. The second flotilla was ultimately thwarted without violence.
Walker published “The Color Purple,” based on her own childhood in Jim Crow Georgia, in 1982 to great acclaim. The following year, she became the first woman of color to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.
In recent years, she has devoted an increasing amount of time to political activism.
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