Alice Walker (pictured), one of the most-prolific writers of our time, is refusing to authorize a Hebrew translation of her 1983 Pulitzer prize-winning work “The Color Purple,” citing what she has often referred to as an “apartheid state,” reports The Jerusalem Post.
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Walker, who has been an activist all of her life and who has stated that it is organic to her very being, says she is not a supporter of Israel because of their treatment of the Palestinian people, whom she likens to the victims of South Africa’s apartheid system.
Consequently, she is refusing to grant an Israeli publishing house the rights to translate her book in Hebrew.
In a June 9th letter that she wrote to Yediot Books, Walker stated, “Israel is guilty of apartheid and persecution of the Palestinian people, both inside Israel and also in the Occupied Territories.”
In her letter, posted Sunday by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel on its website, Walker supported the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement and offered her hope that the movement “will have enough of an impact on Israeli civilian society to change the situation.”
As to whether or not Walker does in fact have the authority to stop the translation move is still not clear. There has already been one Hebrew translation of the novel, which was done back in the 80’s.
Here is Walker’s letter in its entirety:
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,
In recent years, Walker has become more fervent, politically vocal in her opinions regarding Israel, which came as a result of her humanitarian travel mission to the Gaza strip to advocate on behalf of the Palestinian people.
Ironically, the celebrated poet and novelist was in fact married to a Jewish man, Melvyn Roseman Leventhal, a civil rights lawyer. Walker and Leventhal, who relocated to Mississippi from New York City in 1967 a few months after their nuptials, became the first “the first legally married interracial couple in the state. The pair remained married for nine years and produced a daughter.
In an interview last year with Foreign Policy magazine, Walker passionately spoke about her stance surrounding her ideologies about Israel:
“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. If you go to Gaza and see some of the bombs – what’s left of the bombs that were dropped – and the general destruction, you would have to say, yeah, it’s terrorism. When you terrorize people, when you make them so afraid of you that they are just mentally and psychologically wounded for life — that’s terrorism. So these countries are terrorist countries.”
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