Alice Walker, the Pulitzer Prize winner for “The Color Purple“, and one of the most important contemporary African-American authors, has notified Israeli publisher Yediot Books, an affiliate of the Hebrew daily “Yediot Ahronot” that she will not allow to publish a new translation of the book. “The Color Purple” was first translated into Hebrew in 1984.
The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott on Israel published Walker’s letter of June 9, and was first reported by the “Jewish Telegraph Agency” (JTA).
In her letter of notification, Walker explains, “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.”
She adds, “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.”
The “JTA” says, “It was not clear when Yediot Books… made the request, or whether Walker could in fact stop translation of the book. At least one version of the book has already appeared in Hebrew translation, in the 1980s.”
“The Color Purple”, the story of an Black girl growing up in the segregated South, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1983. Steven Spielberg made a movie based on the book, starring, among others, Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey.
Walker said that her decision, “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… 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.”
Walker, who was once married to a Jew, has heightened her attacks against Israel in recent years, and was a participant in one of the flotillas to Gaza, and trumpets the Palestinian cause.
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