If Alice Walker objects to Israeli treatment of the Palestinian people, not permitting the publication of the ‘The Color Purple’ in Hebrew will not alter anything. There is much to be said about making a statement, and I agree that it is valid in certain cases, but not in this one:
“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,” she wrote. “I am hopeful that one day, maybe soon, this may happen. But now is not the time.”
As a pro-Palestinian activist, she has every right to her political views. However, I do not see this as a particularly strong message. Most Israelis can read English. Regarding her stand against apartheid, isn’t it practised in many parts of the world to different degrees and in different ways? Whether it is India or Pakistan, White or Black, China or parts of Europe, and right inside the US, of which she is a citizen, bigotry and racism are prevalent. How much has really changed for blacks since she wrote the book? What about prejudices against outsiders based on clothes, eating habits, lifestyle, beliefs – religious or otherwise?
The young are forced to follow such inherited hatred. Now is the time. Withholding a work that is already in the public domain may give the impression of a writer’s commitment to her political activism; unfortunately, for this it will be the Palestinians who will be demonised further as a group that is intolerant when they have no say in this matter. Alternatively, a few intellectuals and activists will applaud the move:
The Jerusalem Post reported that letter was then “posted Sunday by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel on its website [saying] Walker supported the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement and offered her hope that the BDS movement 'will have enough of an impact on Israeli civilian society to change the situation.'”
It honestly means little and has nothing to do with her book. Palestinian rights have not been protected according to international law by the nation states and they will not be given on a platter because of literary intervention. These are personal opinions, even if publicly aired.
It has resulted in a counter-reaction, which is what the Palestinians should not look forward to. Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz spoke, typically, to the Jewish Press and said that Walker "has now resorted to bigotry and censorship against Hebrew-speaking readers".
Everyone seems to be wearing blinkers, and comparisons are made at random. This does not qualify as censorship.
‘The Color Purple’ brings out with such passion the suffering at the hands of just such attitudes she finds deplorable, so given her opinion on Israel she ought to let it be accessible in the language the Israelis perhaps ‘connect’ with. The problem is we all seem to lead ostrich lives, heads in the sand, from where we wish to bring about or hope to see change.
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Image: The Independent