American writer Alice Walker won’t let an Israeli publisher release a new Hebrew edition of her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “The Color Purple,’’ saying she objects to Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people.There was something sweet in that last paragraph from Ms. Walker. I don't believe she's really a hater of Jews, especially considering that she married one; they divorced "amicably," ten years later, according to Wikipedia. But her obsession with Israel and Jewish issues is more than a little annoying.
Walker, an ardent pro-Palestinian activist, said in a letter to Yediot Books that Israel practices “apartheid’’ and must change its policies before her works can be published there.
“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 in the letter, obtained by The Associated Press. “I am hopeful that one day, maybe soon, this may happen. But now is not the time.’’
Keep in mind that she doesn't recognize the right of Israel to define itself as a Jewish state. She was listed as one of numerous prominent signers of a statement published in The NY Times on March 13, 1988, demanding an end to US support for "apartheid Israel" and hailing a future of Israelis and Palestinians living together in one country (I heard her essentially restate this position a few months ago on WNYC's Leonard Lopate interview show). Later that year, by way of contrast, the PLO indicated an acceptance of the UN's 1947 vote to partition the Palestinian Mandate into separate majority Jewish and Arab states.
Walker is also a crusader against Brit Milah, the Jewish rite of circumcising male babies as a symbol of the Covenant. These are both extreme, uncompromising positions. One is against a principle that most Jews consider sacrosanct: the right of the Jewish people to national self-determination. The other is against a sacred ritual of the Jewish religion.
Yet I believe that Walker is moved to both positions out of compassion. On Israel and the Palestinians, I take it at face value that she cares about Palestinian suffering in Gaza. And I see Walker and others having humanitarian concerns about male circumcision, albeit misplaced in my view, as she undoubtedly conflates this practice with female genital mutilation and ignores the growing scientific consensus on the former's health benefits.
I am a stickler for precision in the use of one particular word---antisemitism. Walker's choice of a husband and the last paragraph of her quote above are both indications that she's not antisemitic, i.e., not a hater of Jews. However, whether she realizes it or not, she is establishing a track record for being anti-Jewish. Even if the English language has not yet derived the right term for such complexity, we should be able to distinguish between someone whom we would condemn as a hater of our people (an antisemite) and someone whom most of us would strenuously disagree with on principled grounds as an opponent of our people's values and interests. Walker falls into the latter category.