Alice Walker to Alicia Keys: Boycott, because Palestinian conditions are worse than they were in US South

ActivismIsrael/PalestineUS Politics
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Alice Walker Photo by Scott Campbell

Dear Alicia Keys,

I have learned today that you are due to perform in Israel very soon. We have never met, though I believe we are mutually respectful of each other’s path and work. It would grieve me to know you are putting yourself in danger (soul danger) by performing in an apartheid country that is being boycotted by many global conscious artists. You were not born when we, your elders who love you, boycotted institutions in the US South to end an American apartheid less lethal than Israel’s against the Palestinian people. Google Montgomery Bus Boycott, if you don’t know about this civil rights history already. We changed our country fundamentally, and the various boycotts of Israeli institutions and products will do the same there. It is our only nonviolent option and, as we learned from our own struggle in America, nonviolence is the only path to a peaceful future.

If you go to my website and blog alicewalkersgarden.com you can quickly find many articles I have written over the years that explain why a cultural boycott of Israel and Israeli institutions (not individuals) is the only option left to artists who cannot bear the unconscionable harm Israel inflicts every day on the people of Palestine, whose major “crime” is that they exist in their own land, land that Israel wants to control as its own. Under a campaign named ‘Brand Israel’, Israeli officials have stated specifically their intent to downplay the Palestinian conflict by using culture and arts to showcase Israel as a modern, welcoming place.

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Alicia Keys (photo: fanpop.com)

This is actually a wonderful opportunity for you to learn about something sorrowful, and amazing: that our government (Obama in particular) supports a system that is cruel, unjust, and unbelievably evil. You can spend months, and years, as I have, pondering this situation. Layer upon layer of lies, misinformation, fear, cowardice and complicity. Greed. It is a vast eye-opener into the causes of much of the affliction in our suffering world.

I have kept you in my awareness as someone of conscience and caring, especially about the children of the world. Please, if you can manage it, go to visit the children in Gaza, and sing to them of our mutual love of all children, and of their right not to be harmed simply because they exist.

With love, younger sister, beloved daughter and friend,
Alice Walker

About Annie Robbins

Annie Robbins is Editor at Large for Mondoweiss, a mother, a human rights activist and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area. Follow her on Twitter @anniefofani

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48 Responses

  1. American
    May 29, 2013, 1:30 pm

    Wow! great letter…hope it hits home wth Keys.

    • Krauss
      May 30, 2013, 9:48 am

      Alice Walker is a beautiful human being. Her love of justice is uncompromising.

      • seafoid
        May 30, 2013, 10:05 am

        “You can spend months, and years, as I have, pondering this situation. Layer upon layer of lies, misinformation, fear, cowardice and complicity. Greed. It is a vast eye-opener into the causes of much of the affliction in our suffering world.”

        Powerful words. And so true

  2. W.Jones
    May 29, 2013, 3:05 pm

    What a beautiful poem.

  3. just
    May 29, 2013, 4:20 pm

    Bless you Alice Walker. The conscience of many.

    Not only do I wish that Ms. Keys comes to understand, I also wish that President Obama, his wife, and VP Biden would lead our country out of the immoral morass we have occupied for too long.

  4. ritzl
    May 29, 2013, 5:50 pm

    I saw Alicia Keys on Tavis Smiley. She’s a deeply thoughtful person, with a business head.* I hope the former informs her actions on this.

    link to pbs.org

    Also, Smiley is a great interviewer. When he gets past the infotainment aspect of his job, he really asks probing questions that get illuminating answers. Good and really under appreciated stuff.

    And thanks, Ms. Walker. Great letter.

    * That is NOT code for “Jews.” It’s a reflection, based on this one interview that she seems self-aware enough to be in control of her own destiny.

  5. Ramzi Jaber
    May 29, 2013, 6:46 pm

    Simply beautiful. Hope Alicia hears the message. Thank you Alice!

  6. marc b.
    May 29, 2013, 7:07 pm

    this should be interesting.

  7. yourstruly
    May 29, 2013, 8:26 pm

    “using culture and arts to showcase Israel as a modern, welcoming place.”

    same as Nazi Germany did, at least during the pre-WW II Nazi period (1933-9), for the purpose of convincing not only visitors, but Germans themselves that once again their country was safe, normal and stable. All this & more in Kristen Semmen’s “Seeing Hitler’s Germany: Tourism in the Third Reich”, Macmillan, 2005.
    Which raises the question as to whether Israel’s all out effort to promote its culture and scientific achievements (at the same time hiding its dark side as per the Third Reich) is deliberate and studied, or merely the consequences of a “natural” impulse to improve its image by showcasing its positives, hide or at least deny its negatives.

  8. Blownaway
    May 29, 2013, 8:40 pm

    Maybe she should see the headline in today’s Haaretz “Segregation at Superland: Separate days for Arab and Jewish students at amusement park

  9. Blownaway
    May 29, 2013, 8:43 pm

    Another headline from Haaretz today…maybe the SF Supes should read Israeli newspapers “Basic Law: Apartheid in Israel
    The proposal put forth by Coalition Chairman Yariv Levin is nothing short of an apartheid law, aiming to provide a solid legal basis for the exclusion of Israel’s Arab minority.
    Haaretz Editorial | 03:01 30.05.13 | 0

  10. Yasmeen
    May 29, 2013, 10:06 pm

    What a kind and caring woman. I admire her work and I just fell in love with her letter, specifically (soul danger). I wonder if Alicia’s aware of the in justice. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. I came across an article about this on FB today. I was scrolling through the comment thread and the Israeli apologists are at it again(As usual) . Character assassinations and vile comparisons. For example “Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East , we respect our LBGT community and they have full rights” unlike Abu Dhabi.(No mention of Palestinians rights)Another vile example where someone posts a link to the blaze where they claim Gaza is not suffering its all a big hoax! Turns out Gaza has been receiving (shit loads) of aid from Israel all these years, as a matter of fact they’re living it up in Gaza better than we are in the states. They have the best luxury hotels, Mercedes Benz shipments , jacuzzi tubs, whirl pool washers and dryers, and even high end stainless steel refrigerators. Wanna know the best part? All this caring and kindness is coming from an Israeli source. If it wasn’t so cruel and demented, it would be funny. Maybe not.

  11. Dutch
    May 30, 2013, 12:47 am

    @ Yasmeen
    “I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.”

    Would it be worth it to send Ms. Keys a thoughtful message?

  12. Sumud
    May 30, 2013, 2:12 am

    Just, wow! Eloquent doesn’t even to begin to describe it.

    Alicia Keys has always struck me as a very grounded, intelligent person – I hope she hears the message here, and learns about Palestine. I can see her becoming outspoken in support of BDS, in time.

  13. Cliff
    May 30, 2013, 7:01 am

    I really doubt it.

    Celebrities generally choose safe issues to get involved in. The environment, poverty, etc.

    If you’re truly going to challenge the Establishment (Zionist Jews and their hate/war-mongering and lies as a sub-category of American imperialism) – then you have to actually care.

    Caring means being above the loss of political capital and the ‘game’ of having your reputation dragged through the mud by institutions that are a part of the problem in the first place (the NYT).

    She is an entertainer. I wouldn’t put much stock in her. Israel and Zionism thrives on ignorance and fear of offending. That’s why the Israel/Jewish Lobby is ALWAYS on the offensive – because even if they ‘lose’ a battle, they are still being rabid to make sure no one else thinks they’re soft or giving way ground/legitimacy to the dissent.

    Hence, ‘everything’ is effectively antisemitic because antisemitic to Zionist Jews means that Zionism is wrong in part or in whole or that the Palestinians are human beings and are victims of Jewish nationalism.

    • Citizen
      May 30, 2013, 8:39 am

      Mandona recently told the public the world would be a better place if only Israeli and Palestinian women were allowed to chat with each other. Somebody should send her this video, inter alia: link to youtube.com

      • seafoid
        May 30, 2013, 9:58 am

        That is the “sharmouta video”-

        I did a search on google for “”sharmouta video” and got a load of porn. Sharmouta means “whore” in arabic.
        So I had to add “Hebron” to the search to find it .

        You live and learn.
        Hebron Jews are mass insane I think

      • Citizen
        May 30, 2013, 1:21 pm

        Hollywood could do a good job of capturing the pure hate in that Israeli settler woman’s spewing of “sharmouta.” But Hollywood won’t, of course. It’s really unsettling. I’m deeply troubled that I, as an American taxpayer, fund this sheer hate. And that people like Madonna are so naive.

      • Citizen
        May 30, 2013, 1:32 pm

        If one googles sharmoota, or sharmota, one gets Arab porn sites. Here’s some comments about the video: link to youtube.com

        What is inescapable is the zeething sheer hatred in that Israeli settler woman.
        She keeps coming back to inject her verbal venom. The caged Palestinian and her daughters keep pleading for the IDF to stop her.

      • seafoid
        May 30, 2013, 3:44 pm

        I wonder where that woman will live when Hebron is evacuated. Those skills she has learnt there are only valid for that time and place.

    • seafoid
      May 30, 2013, 12:01 pm

      Great comment, Cliff

  14. hophmi
    May 30, 2013, 9:52 am

    Since Walker has referred to both the US and Israel as terrorist states, why isn’t she urging Keys to boycott the US?

    • Cliff
      May 30, 2013, 3:28 pm

      Because that is a stupid and superficial comparison.

      The US should be boycotted too but the US economy is the world economy. America has a population of 300 million plus. Your racist apartheid State has a total population of what? 5 million inside Israel proper? 5 millon non-Jews altogether encompassing Israel proper and the OT.

      Israel is relatively more susceptible to boycott pressure. So BDS works ‘better’ in the sense that because Israel is a small country, the impact of a world-wide boycott will be felt sooner.

      You don’t have to boycott every human rights violating, terrorist State on the planet, to have the moral ‘authority’ to boycott Israel.

      Its unrealistic. One person on their own doing everything is impractical. That is why people form organizations around causes. This is Alice Walker’s cause.

      Just as raping and murdering Palestinian civilians was the Irgun’s and other Jewish terrorist groups. I’m sure you understand hoppie.

      • hophmi
        May 30, 2013, 5:20 pm

        “The US should be boycotted too but the US economy is the world economy. ”

        All the more reason to boycott it.

        “America has a population of 300 million plus. Your racist apartheid State has a total population of what? 5 million inside Israel proper?”

        So you confirm my theory that Israel is boycotting simply because it’s easier to pick on the smaller nation. That’s not a principled stand. That’s a stand for comfortable clients of Western hegemony.

        “You don’t have to boycott every human rights violating, terrorist State on the planet, to have the moral ‘authority’ to boycott Israel.”

        Yes, you do, when the states you are not boycotting have much more extensive records. A criminal justice system that imprisons the jaywalkers and marihuana smokers and frees the murders is not a moral system.

      • Annie Robbins
        May 30, 2013, 8:08 pm

        So you confirm my theory that Israel is boycotting simply because it’s easier to pick on the smaller nation. That’s not a principled stand.

        confirmation, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. alice walker explains perfectly why israel is being boycotted:

        It is our only nonviolent option and, as we learned from our own struggle in America, nonviolence is the only path to a peaceful future.

        if you think there’s a better path, organize it. BDS is a call from palestinian civil society. i am not boycotting israel ” simply” because it is easy to pick on. i’m boycotting it because of the sustained inhumane apartheid rule. furthermore i do have a real problem with US foreign policy and if someone organized an effective means to non violently pressure the US government to change our ME foreign policy , i would partake if i thought the plan had any feasible chance of working.

        other tactics have been tried and were not effective.

        one difference between boycotting israel and boycotting other places is that civilians in those places have not called for a boycott. let me know otherwise and i’ll check it out.

      • Cliff
        May 30, 2013, 8:21 pm

        Israel’s crimes are colonialism, ethnic cleansing, massacres, etc.

        That is not jay-walking and no, no one has to first boycott country X, Y, Z first.

        Yes, boycotting is a tactic and not a fashion statement. Because it is a tactic and not a rhetorical stunt to please pro-apartheid Zionist activists, BDS and boycotting should target countries and institutions that are susceptible to pressure.

        There are plenty of issues in the world and with 6 billion people, I’m sure a Zionist can gather someone to care more about Syria or Darfur or blah blah.

      • Woody Tanaka
        May 31, 2013, 8:49 am

        ” A criminal justice system that imprisons the jaywalkers and marihuana smokers and frees the murders is not a moral system.”

        It’s a hell of a lot more moral a system than the “Jewish state” has, a system that doles out privileges under the law based on religion and ethnicity.

    • seafoid
      May 30, 2013, 3:46 pm

      Hophmi

      Because the US is still feasible whereas Israel isn’t and the world is cruel and you have to run your Jewish state properly if you want to keep it.
      We don’t have to buy anything from eretz ha apartheid.

      • hophmi
        May 30, 2013, 5:22 pm

        “Because the US is still feasible whereas Israel isn’t”

        Really? I thought it was about human rights. The US has a long record of war and has been responsible for exponentially more death than Israel has.

        ” you have to run your Jewish state properly if you want to keep it.”

        What a patronizing thing to say. You don’t get the make the decisions, chump. And thank G-d. That’s what self-determination is all about.

      • Annie Robbins
        May 30, 2013, 8:17 pm

        Really? I thought it was about human rights. The US has a long record of war and has been responsible for exponentially more death than Israel has

        do you think diverting to topic to why the US should be boycotted changes anything wrt israel? or are you trying to make this about the people who would boycott? do you think challenging our integrity will enhance israel’s image? what more effective way do you think would work, that has not been tried?

        one way you can tell bds is an effective way to target israel is by the way the idea is so resisted by the gov of israel, the think tanks, the supporters of the apartheid state. it reminds me of what barghouti said ..

        link to mondoweiss.net

        Resistance to oppression always alienates the oppressors. It’s a rule in any resistance to colonial oppression throughout history and the colonial community is never fond of it, of this resistance. They would like us to be complacent slaves who just take injustice as fate and just live with it, move on. Well we won’t move on. We’ll continue resisting and it will continue bothering them because it promises to deprive them of their colonial privilege and no one is happy to give up, simply, their colonial privilege as you know very well in Britain. It has to be pulled out from the colonial masters that you can no longer be our colonial masters. We want to live in full equality and have full rights. So yes, the great majority of Israelis are alienated by BDS of course and they ban together as some journalist call ‘they circle the wagons’ so to speak and this tribalism has become really extreme and fascism is growing in Israel as many many leading acedemics and artists in Israel are saying. So yes we know but this happens at the beginning, this feeling that everyone is banning together and the minority is dissenting.

        (clip)

        This suppression reflects that they’re really scarred and when people feel scared they do ban together until the price becomes much higher and then you’ll see cracks in this wall of silence in Israel and wall of complicity in Israel where almost all Israelis are complicit. Almost all, all cultural institutions, all academic institutions, all economic institutions, everyone is complicit with very few exceptions. But we’ve seen it before. We’ve seen it in South Africa, we’ve seen it with the British colonial rule, French colonial rule. We’ve seen it before when the public do not pay a price they say ‘well we’re enjoying the fruits of colonialism and apartheid and oppression why can’t we continue?’……. enjoying the benefits of billions and billions of dollars of your (British) tax money, American tax money, German tax money that’s subsidizing it’s occupation and apartheid so why should it stop oppressing us? Why should it question? Why should people question ending occupation and the oppression? Only when the price goes higher as we’re doing and that’s why BDS is truly alarming to the establishment, to the colonial establishment in Israel. It promises to threaten their hegemony and their privilege and once that happens we’ll see the dissent. That’s what happened in South Africa and we’ve studied South Africa experience very closely, very very closely…..from that experience we’ve learned if we keep at it with moral consistency with continuous pressure the system will start cracking and then we’ll see a lot of dissent.

      • Cliff
        May 30, 2013, 8:24 pm

        It is about human rights. Targeting Israel is about holding Israel accountable.

        We don’t have to be one-man Amnesty Internationals.

        And BDS is a Palestinian initiative. Why don’t you get on a plane and go to Hebron and tell the Palestinian slaves your fellow Jewish KKK cultists are lording over, that their entire existence and problems do not matter cuz somewhere else someone has it worse.

        Coupled with your false dichotomy between the Nakba and the Holocaust (wherein you attempted to explain away your Nakba denial and settler mentality), you should be banned.

      • Annie Robbins
        May 30, 2013, 8:45 pm

        You don’t get the make the decisions, chump. And thank G-d. That’s what self-determination is all about.

        au contraire, each one of us does get to make the decision whether to boycott israel or not. it’s irrelevant whether you think that’s a ‘patronizing’ stance to take, which is rather ironic because you’re sounding rather patronizing yourself referencing seafoid as a ‘chump’.

        but you’re wrong, we do get to make the decision, just like alicia keys can make her own mind up too.

        speaking of alicia keys, i’ve been an admirer of hers for years. she’s a very impressive artist. one of the best of her generation. i really hope she doesn’t go thru with her performance(s) in the apartheid state of israel, it will be a poor reflection of her political maturity. and she is a politically aware person. i already know that about her. she’s opinionated. it would be a real disappointment to many of her fans, myself included.

        she cannot feign shallowness, because she isn’t.

      • Woody Tanaka
        May 31, 2013, 8:45 am

        “What a patronizing thing to say. You don’t get the make the decisions, chump. And thank G-d. That’s what self-determination is all about.”

        And when the overwhelming number of Jews in the world, (not all, thankfully) support a state that has spent six decades denying self-determination to the Palestinians, then perhaps it’s time to deny self-determination to the Jews. (or maybe, just maybe, we can give rights and equality to all…)

      • jonah
        June 1, 2013, 4:15 am

        And after Woody Tanaka and the BDS movement will have obtained “rights and equality to all” in Israel, they will then finally be free to focus their attention on the violated civil rights and the discrimination of the Palestinians (but … only of them?) in surrounding Arab countries, included the PA territories, right?

        BTW: Some refreshing reality check for Mrs Walker and the BDS movement:
        link to haaretz.com
        link to israellawcenter.wordpress.com

      • Citizen
        June 2, 2013, 11:12 am

        @ jonah
        Why sure, same as BDS participants re Apartheid S Africa did after the demise of that regime. We need to dissent more re how the US government is discriminating against Muslim Americans too–many of us are doing that now too, for example protesting against Barb Boxer’s visa waiver bill.

        And, PS: American taxpayers don’t give much foreign aid to Arab countries at taxpayers’ expense–arms deals are at arms length, and so is oil transactions, while in contrast, Israel, the size of NJ, and not a strategic asset or oil exporter, is the biggest recipient of US foreign aid (with interest) in all of US history.

    • Sumud
      May 31, 2013, 1:18 am

      …why isn’t she urging Keys to boycott the US?

      HAHA this is an all-time classic from The Hophmi School Of Hasbara Misdirection, AKA the ‘Look-Over-There Institute’.

      According to hophmi, of all the people in the world even Alice Walker isn’t allowed to participate in BDS, because she hasn’t yet done enough activism in the US.

      Hilarious!!!

      • hophmi
        May 31, 2013, 9:27 am

        No misdirection. Just pointing out the hypocrisy of your campaign.

      • Dutch
        June 1, 2013, 10:49 pm

        So we have this daily confirmed Israel Only special relation, right? And now that people exercise that special relation, you don’t want it to be special anymore. Suddenly there is a wide array of nations, peoples or conflicts that need our attention just as much or even more.

        The US taxpayers are gonna love you, Hophmi, for killing off the special relation.

      • Citizen
        June 2, 2013, 11:16 am

        @ hophmi
        The biggest hypocrisy is that, as insiders have told us, if we can’t see it for ourselves, the US is “Israel’s lawyer,” not an honst broker. Thus has AIPAC-Israel wasted the former relatively high reputation of America, until now, we’ve sunk down to being known as as the enabler of Israel’s rogue policies and conduct around the world.

    • Woody Tanaka
      May 31, 2013, 8:53 am

      “Since Walker has referred to both the US and Israel as terrorist states, why isn’t she urging Keys to boycott the US?”

      Has the victims of the US called for boycott?? The victims of the zionsts have, and she’s respecting it. She also may believe there’s hope for the US through education of its voters. BDS against the israelis was called when it became clear that the voting majority in the zionist state were so unchanging bigoted in their enjoyment of oppressing another people that there was no alternative. If only the Jewish community were as open to justice, even as the US public is (which is not really so much) then maybe BDS wouldn’t be necessary. They brought it upon themselves because of their evil ways. If you want to lecture anyone, lecture them for their unceasing evil acts.

      • MHughes976
        May 31, 2013, 9:43 am

        She does in fact praise boycotts operated within the United States by citizens of the United States to the detriment of others, much more painful for all concerned than boycotts operated from distant countries, when in all the circumstances it was the most effective method.

  15. seafoid
    May 30, 2013, 12:24 pm

    “You can spend months, and years, as I have, pondering this situation. Layer upon layer of lies, misinformation, fear, cowardice and complicity”

    Here is one example

    link to newseum.org

    “Terrorism has altered the landscape in many areas, including the rules of war and engagement, law, investigative and interrogation techniques, and the detention of enemy combatants. Journalism is no exception”

  16. Qualtrough
    May 31, 2013, 10:32 pm

    Alice Walker is a US citizen. Her tax dollars and her government’s policies, as I am sure she is well aware, go a long way to support Israel and its apartheid activities. She therefore has every right to focus a small part of her efforts on rectifying that situation. As she lives in the USA, I am not sure how she would boycott the country in any case. Using your standard, even Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, etc. & etc. could never have accomplished what they did.

  17. homingpigeon
    June 2, 2013, 12:29 am

    Hey Hophmi has point. We should do our best to boycott the Washington regime. I live my life in a way to avoid paying taxes to it. I encourage young people not to serve in its terrorist armed forces. I do not whine for it to provide bread and circuses. I vote Libertarian and encourage others to do the same.

  18. homingpigeon
    June 2, 2013, 12:59 am

    And meanwhile, my aHbaab (Habibis), just when there is an interesting discussion and someone raises the useful idea of encouraging Alicia to follow Alice’s advice, a hasbarist throws in a few irrelevant words that took a few seconds to write. The whole conversation is distracted into time wasting rebuttals – which inappropriately honor his sophistry – and we are no longer talking about how to influence Alicia Keys.

    I’m not against engaging Zionists in real debate, but too many are not catching on to what is going on. It does not matter to the skilled hasbarist whether the interjection is logical or germane or even true. The technique is to tie us up and distract us from useful work and creative action with time consuming arguments about whether bones might be from ’36 or ’48, if the Balfour declaration included Trans Jordan, how many times Jerusalem is mentioned in the Talmud, if the name Palestine was invented by the Romans or in fact appears in the writings of Herodotus, or whether a chip in Hawking’s computer was invented in Israel or Oregon. I’m waiting for the long debate on who domesticated donkeys first.

    Hey hasbarists, Palestinian kids make a kite in which the framework is a six pointed star. Learn how to make one and go fly it.

    • kalithea
      June 3, 2013, 12:15 am

      One of the best posts I’ve read here. Here’s the attitude I take with Zionist hasbarists: KMA! (Kiss my…!) I agree, it’s undignified to even dignify; their bull doesn’t even deserve the time of day. But when they pull the victim or the hubris card I dish back; can’t help myself.

      • hophmi
        June 3, 2013, 12:38 am

        “Here’s the attitude I take with Zionist hasbarists: KMA! ”

        You must be confident, because acting like a small child is totally something confident people do.

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