Anti-Zionism and The Color Purple

by Emma Teitel

In 1903, black civil rights activist and author W.E.B. Du Bois wrote in his most famous book, The Souls of Black Folk“I sit with Shakespeare and he winces not”. Du Bois figured that unlike your average early 20th century American racist, Shakespeare wouldn’t give a damn that he (Du Bois) was black. Because intellect and art transcend racial boundaries. Or so they should.

Alice Walker–also a black civil rights activist and author of The Color Purple (the book you read in Grade 9 English if your class wasn’t reading The Catcher in the Rye) doesn’t care if her readers are black. She does, however, care if they are Israeli Jews.

The Pulitzer Prize winning author and supporter of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, recently wrote a letter to an Israeli publisher, Yediot Books, confirming she can’t in good conscience allow The Color Purple to be published in Hebrew and sold in Israel, where an apartheid regime brutally oppresses the Palestinian people.

Sit with Alice Walker and she winces a lot.

I don’t share Walker’s world view. But if I did–if I believed Israel embodied the very opposite of equality and dignity–I would probably want The Colour Purple, a book about the profound importance of equality and dignity–to be translated into Hebrew and read in every single grade school classroom across Israel.

But what can you expect from someone who thinks an “Academic and Cultural Boycott” is a viable solution to any problem. That’s right: refuse a place you think is void of human rights a book about the importance of human rights–out of spite.

Thank you Alice Walker for proving my point:  anti-Zionist activists hate Israel more than they hate oppression–and worse, more than they love peace.




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Anti-Zionism and The Color Purple

  1. You are so unbelievably wrong about this, it’s astounding. What a pretentious, lazy, spiteful, transparently partisan post.

    • Can you do better than name-calling? Can you offer some facts or counter-argument?

      • Sorry, I didn’t realize I wasn’t allowed to voice a short, passionate opinion.

        One historical argument that I would offer though (and feel free to refute me, if necessary), is that saying “Academic and Cultural Boycotts” don’t work is an affront to the victories of civil rights activists in the U.S in the 60s and (ironically enough) the boycott of the South African apartheid regime in the 80s.

        • Academic and cultural boycotts are not what cause the victories of the Civil Rights movement in the US and Apartheid South Africa– the ECONOMIC boycotts were.
          Academic & Cultural boycotts are more along the lines of self-punishment, depriving one from learning about and interacting with the object of his/her discrimination–and thereby making a REAL difference.

          • The boycott of South Africa was cultural too, I know that

    • Never mind

    • Because???

  2. Brilliant. My thoughts exactly.

  3. Remember, the more we comment the more this kind of stuff is written and published. Let’s just keep it to a minimum and move on, people.

    (I am aware this is a comment).

    • Well of course _you_ should comment. It’s the rest of us that need to keep our ignorant comments to ourselves.

  4. I’m sorry, there are still many in the world who are anti-Semites, and I am aware of how awful that must be, but Ms. Walker’s choice to not have her book published may not have anything to do with her sentiments towards the Jewish people. To extract the idea that Alice Walker is anti-Semitic, which the author most definitely has (“She does, however, care if they are Israeli Jews”) is incorrect and unprofessional. If Teitel has more evidence of Walker’s anti-Semitism, I would like to see it. Yet her decision to not publish in Israel, based on POLITICAL considerations, should not see her labelled as a bigot. I’m sorry, but this is just ludicrous. If I boycotted a product from North Korea, am I now racist towards Koreans?

  5. although it is illogical, and I really really do not like the whole Israel boycotting business, I think it’s fair to argue that Alice feels that the book as part of her is something different than its story or message – so that withdrawing the book is withdrawing herself from the Israel she perceives to be.

    I have no doubt that anti-zionism as a new antisemitism is real but this particular action doesn’t go there.

  6. Israel creates anti-Semites in order to provide it with an excuse for land grabs. That creates more anti-Semites… creating more excuses for more land grabs… etc.

  7. My other post was a little flippant and exaggerated. (Only exaggerated).

    More seriously, in this article, Emma proves the opposite of what she intends. She basically admits she stands with the opponents of Alice Walker’s basic goal of changing Israeli policy (as she doesn’t share Walker’s “world view” about the apartheid.) Therefore, Emma will naturally support whatever actions she thinks will LEAST likely help Walker achieve her goal. So of course, that is exactly what she does.

    Emma naturally (and correctly) believes that non-boycott will least help Walker achieve her goal, so she advocates this. Why is this belief correct? It’s obvious. Few people really read Alice Walker (I doubt I ever will); fewer still will let her writing change their lives on a practical level. Walker letting book be translated will be an utter non-event with zero bearing on Israeli policy. However, creating bad publicity for Israel might just have a chance make a difference. If not, why does Israel get so upset about it?

    It’s not pretty to put it in those terms… but on a basic gut level, Alice Walker knows this, I know it… and so does Emma. Just look at the publicity Alice Walker has gotten with this. Of course, that’s what upsets Emma and her Apartheid-enabling fellow travelers.

    It’s precisely thanks to Alice Walker’s choice that Emma has found herself obliged to put the words Apartheid and Israel in the same sentence.

    • You are too funny. There is not a single comment on her decision in the media that supports her. The publicity that she has garnered has only earned her the derision of knowledgeable people. Even those who may agree with her “worldview”(read anti-Israeli if not downright anti-semitic) feel she blew it. But really she has had a long free ride on the fluke success of her treacly book, and I suspect her lust for the spotlight has as much to do with her activities as anything else. Her personal life reflects a repugnant amorality which makes her a particularly unreliable narrator.

  8. Alice Walker’s view is wrong in my opinion. I think the core of your argument, that a book about human rights should be published, especially in oppressive Israel, is sound but your final conclusion is blatantly wrong. Just because Alice Walker got it wrong doesn’t really mean that “anti-Zionist activists hate Israel more than they hate oppression”. It doesn’t follow and in fact you use exactly the same logic as those activists you accuse. As wrong as Alice I am afraid.

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