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Alice Walker refuses to publish ‘The Color Purple’ in Israel due to ‘apartheid and persecution of the Palestinian people’

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Alice Walker

Shining light human rights activist Alice Walker has refused to have her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Color Purple published in Israel. In a letter to the prospective publisher she writes:

“Israel is guilty of apartheid and persecution of the Palestinian people, both inside Israel and also in the Occupied Territories.”

The ripple effect of Walker’s decision is yet to be determined, but that didn’t stop neocon reporter James Kirchick from shooting off a hysterical critique of her award winning fiction via twitter:

Walker authorized the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) to republish her letter to publishers Yediot Books.

This letter is published with author’s permission.

June 9, 2012
Dear Publishers at Yediot Books,

Thank you so much for wishing to publish my novel THE COLOR PURPLE. It isn’t possible for me to permit this at this time for the following reason: As you may know, last Fall in South Africa the Russell Tribunal on Palestine met and determined that Israel is guilty of apartheid and persecution of the Palestinian people, both inside Israel and also in the Occupied Territories. The testimony we heard, both from Israelis and Palestinians (I was a jurist) was devastating. I grew up under American apartheid and this was far worse. Indeed, many South Africans who attended, including Desmond Tutu, felt the Israeli version of these crimes is worse even than what they suffered under the white supremacist regimes that dominated South Africa for so long.

It is my hope that the non-violent BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement, of which I am part, will have enough of an impact on Israeli civilian society to change the situation.

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.

We decided to wait. How happy we all were when the apartheid regime was dismantled and Nelson Mandela became the first president of color of South Africa.

Only then did we send our beautiful movie! And to this day, when I am in South Africa, I can hold my head high and nothing obstructs the love that flows between me and the people of that country.

Which is to say, 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.

We must continue to work on the issue, and to wait.

In faith that a just future can be fashioned from small acts,
Alice Walker

Alice Walker is a moral giant, an American treasure, a human treasure. As a  witness and scribe her wisdom inspires us and will continue to inspire generations of people leading to a more humane future for mankind.

The whole south was in an uproar because we were trying to change the very system that my parents had suffered under. I went to Mississippi and rejoined the Civil Rights movement. I think it is important to have faith in ones gift. The movement was so much about legal things, it was a huge act of faith that clearly if I had been prepared as a writer to be here, to witness this, there’s a meaning and eventually it will be clear.

Eventually it will be clear to even her most stalwart critics.

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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19 Responses

  1. Kathleen
    June 19, 2012, 1:08 pm

    Whoa…Alice Walker walking the talk again and again and again! Thanks Annie

  2. radii
    June 19, 2012, 1:39 pm

    hey zionists, Alice won’t have here written works living in israel anymore

  3. Citizen
    June 19, 2012, 3:07 pm

    No great shakes as a writer, but Walker’s a top caliber humanist.

  4. justicewillprevail
    June 19, 2012, 3:11 pm

    Great statement, clear, level-headed and irrefutable. She links the common causes of civil rights, apartheid and israeli abuse of native peoples in a way which will surely resonate with a majority of decent minded folk. I hope other writers will inform themselves of the situation and act with similar integrity.

  5. FreddyV
    June 19, 2012, 3:11 pm

    I’m kind of sad really. The Color Purple is so beautiful, and I’m sure it has the power to shake some people from their prejudices, but I’ll trust that Alice Walker knows best and I respect her stand and I’m glad her position will help with the I/P conflict hitting the mainstream.

  6. The Hasbara Buster
    The Hasbara Buster
    June 19, 2012, 3:16 pm

    Alice Walker unwittingly spares the Israeli populace from having to read her shitty books

    It is always amusing to see how Zionists forfeit the right to all independent thinking, and judge human creations, be it a book, an invention or a recipee for a cake, not on their intrinsic merit, but on their author’s attitude towards Israel.

    The world must be wrong and Walker’s long-lasting success must be the result of antisemitic lobbying. No writer can be good that calls for a boycott of Israel.

    • pabelmont
      June 19, 2012, 5:16 pm

      If it was such a lousy book, why did the publisher want to publish it in Israel?

  7. Avi_G.
    June 19, 2012, 4:25 pm

    Kudos and a thanks to Ms. Walker.

  8. Kathleen
    June 19, 2012, 8:46 pm

    Annie tomorrow (Wednesday) at 2 pm est Talk of the Nations Neil Conan will be discussing the situation with Iran. Or as he put it today “what can be done about Iran” (just a bit of an attitude) I have been begging that show as well as others to have Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett (there must be some kind of block up because Diane Rehm has had him on in the past four of five years ago) and no MSM outlet will touch these experts as of late. Generally Talk of the Nations team picks the neocons to come on and talk about Iran…John Bolton, Reuel Marc Gerecht. The new soft pedaling neo con is Aaron David Miller..they use him a great deal now. Hope folks turn it on and listen to the program. Take it apart.

    • Kathleen
      June 20, 2012, 8:13 am

      The Talk of the Nations program on Iran will be today (Wednesday) at 3 pm. In the past Neil and his team have had John Bolton(on several times) Reuel Marc Gerecht (let’s bomb Iran crowd) Aaron David Miller (negotiation have been exhausted pusher along with Anne Marie Slaughter, Yoghi Dreazen, Barbara Slavin). I have been begging the Talk of the Nation team to have Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett on for years now. Have been able to ask Neil when I have called in with questions so that others can hear “please have former Bush administration and Iranian experts Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett on your program” as well as sending listeners to their site Race for Iran. Hope folks call , email, facebook, put their questions/comments up at Talk of the Nations website. Phone number 1-800-989 Talk. Be aware of who the Talk of the Nation chooses to have on to discuss this critical issue They will have a blog and comment page up having to do with this topic at some point today

  9. DICKERSON3870
    June 19, 2012, 9:30 pm

    RE: “that didn’t stop neocon reporter James Kirchick from
    shooting off a hysterical critique of her [Alice Walker’s] award winning fiction” ~ Annie Robbins

    MY COMMENT: Jamie Kirchick is truly depraved, but that should come as no great surprise since he was one of Marty Peretz’s apparatchiks.

  10. thetumta
    June 19, 2012, 10:10 pm

    It is a wonderful American story. Jim Crow got a pass, somewhat, but who produced it? Oh my! Isn’t that a surprise?
    Hej! Tumta

  11. Daniel Rich
    Daniel Rich
    June 20, 2012, 4:32 am

    It takes Walker to show ’em clowns in DC what it means to have ‘balls.’

  12. Taxi
    June 20, 2012, 4:34 am

    Oh my this is huge huge huge! The first REAL USA MAINSTREAM RED ALERT – now 95% of African Americans will be in the real know: associating israel with Apartheid from here on, at least talking ’bout it – not forgetting the American bookworms out there AND Oprah!

    Must be very confusing for African American religious zionists. Must be very embarrassing for Barak and Michelle.

    Chapeax Alice!

    • annie
      June 21, 2012, 7:54 am

      taxi, reading her letter..biko

      You can blow out a candle
      But you can’t blow out a fire
      Once the flames begin to catch
      The wind will blow it higher

      embarrassing was thru this song i first learned about south africa and apartheid. i was so divorced from international politics..i didn’t know. my awakening was thru the record,and i still have it..peter gabriel..

      let that be a heads up to all the artists out wake people up in ways you cannot imagine.

      • seafoid
        June 21, 2012, 8:20 am

        That’s a powerful video.

        Business as usual in AIPAC office 619

        Palestine will get the mega concerts. It will come late in the day when the international singers join the movement but every little helps and by then the movement will be unstoppable. Because it is the same issue as South Africa. Justice for people who are being shafted by a racial system that is insane.

        peter Gabriel says 1988 that South Africa is the only country that has racism enshrined in its constitution. Israel didn’t have a constitution than and it doesn’t have one now

      • annie
        June 21, 2012, 10:27 am

        so cool..listening now..this song never gets old..the heartbeat..runs thru all of us

      • Taxi
        June 21, 2012, 9:20 am

        Love that song – it’s responsible for informing millions of people around the world. A huge and consequential pop hit!

  13. eljay
    June 21, 2012, 8:47 am

    Ms. Walker’s letter to Yediot Books is pure class.

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