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6.20.2012

Alice Walker Boycotts Israel


Pultizer Prize winning author Alice Walker is fighting apartheid in Israel. How? She is refusing to allow an Israeli company to publish a new Hebrew version of her novel The Color Purple. "Israel is guilty of apartheid and persecution of the Palestinian people, both inside Israel and also in the Occupied Territories," she writes in a letter to Yediot Books. The entire letter is here, where she cites her nonviolent protest strategy of boycotting, divestment, and sanction. BDS. "I believe deeply in non-violent methods of social change though they sometimes seem to take forever," she writes, pointing to a similar situation in South Africa, where she and Steven Spielberg refused to play the movie until apartheid ended.

The LA Times reports, "Israel supporters slammed the move as senseless and discriminatory. Middle East commentator Tom Gross called it 'a shocking new low,' saying Walker was essentially boycotting the Hebrew language."

While I love Walker and I'm all for making the world a better place (I'm quite anti-zionism,I feel that the idea of Jewish nationalism and a Jewish state is ancient, unnecessary, and racist), I kinda question the utility of this. I mean, isn't art suppose to heal? Yet here is an artist refusing to have her work circulate. Nonviolence is more than just boycotts and divestments and sanctions. Art is a type of nonviolence protest. The act of creation is a gun, as Saeed Jones mentions in his recent column for Lambda Literary. He writes:
Because that’s who we are, witnesses, the ones who refuse sleep, the ones who dive into the wreck and go as deep as they can until finally, there is nothing left to do but testify on the page. I heard the shot. I saw the mob. I was there. I was there. I was there. Here, I hope, art as witness is the beginning of the answer to the question that concludes June Jordan’s essay, “When will we seize the world around us with our freedom?”
Not that I'm saying that The Color Purple can heal the problem, but artists and writers have very imporant work that shouldn't be withheld. Many people--organization and writers for example-- are working against censorship, yet here (technically) Walker is censoring herself. Perhaps a better project would be fore Walker to write about it. An even better project would let the artists in Israel speak for themselves.

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