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'The Color Purple' Author Claims She Won’t Allow Translation of Book into Hebrew Because of Israel's 'Apartheid\


“I grew up under American apartheid and this was far worse.”

This story has been updated to incorporate new statement from Yediot Books (See italics below).

Was this move anti-Semitic or just merely anti-Israel? Many critics of Israel contend the two motivations are different. Continue reading and decide.

Alice Walker, author of the Pulitzer-prize winning novel “The Color Purple,” says she is refusing to allow an Israeli publisher to release her book in Hebrew, because she believes Israel is an “apartheid” state. In a letter she wrote to the Israeli publisher Yediot Books and posted Sunday on the website “Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel,” Walker leveled strident accusations, characterizing Israeli policies as being “far worse” than the U.S. before civil rights. She wrote:

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.

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.

Adding a strange twist to the story, The Blaze spoke to a staffer in the production department of Yediot Books in Tel Aviv who said the publishing house had no plans to translate the book, and no earlier versions of the book appear in its catalogue. According to the newspaper Globes, the book was translated into Hebrew in 1984. The catalogue of the Israeli book website “Simania” writes the Ladori Publishing house released the book previously in Hebrew. "The Color Purple" was adapted for the big screen in 1985 in a film directed by Steven Spielberg starring Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey.

UPDATE: A day after we ran this story, a spokeswoman for Yediot Books updated the company’s public position and told The Blaze that the publishing house did wish to release Walker’s book in Hebrew. It issued a statement that the AP reported:

The chief editor of Yediot Books, Netta Gurevich, said in a statement Wednesday she regretted Walker's decision to bar the release of a new Hebrew-language edition of her book, a tale about black women's struggle against their miserable status in the American South in the 1930s.

The arts, and literature in particular, "are so important to bridging differences, presenting 'the other' and generating a climate of tolerance and compassion," Gurevich said. "That's all the more so when talking about 'The Color Purple,' a book that addresses discrimination, otherness and the importance of the individual's struggle against injustice in general."

Gurevich said Walker is not the first author to refuse to have works published in Israel.

What the venerated author artfully omits from her letter are examples of civil rights afforded to Israel’s Arab citizens, both Christians and Muslims. Earlier this month, the Israeli foreign ministry tapped Naim Araidi, a Druze Arab professor, and George Deek, a Christian Arab as its ambassador and deputy ambassador to Norway, both of them of Arab ethnicity. Upon his appointment, Araidi said:

“It would be a great privilege for me to represent Israel and show its beautiful side, as well as the coexistence that despite all the hardships can only be maintained in a true democracy.”

Walker also cites the Russell Tribunal in her letter, an anti-Israel fest that took place in South Africa in November under the guise of human rights promotion. Israeli Professor Gerald Steinberg, who documents the anti-Israel activities of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) said the so-called tribunal “correctly is definitely a kangaroo court – [characterized by] distortion and misinformation.”

Those supporting a boycott of Israel would presumably want to recruit like-minded activists, winning the proverbial hearts and minds; therefore, why would Alice Walker not wish to spread her ideas in as many languages as possible? Apparently, not all languages are created equal.

If Walker truly wanted to change Israel, wouldn’t she want to communicate with its people? Even she writes in her letter:

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.

Is Walker’s translation boycott posture creating a group of second-class readers, the nearly 8 million Israelis plus Jewish Hebrew speakers overseas apparently not worthy of accessing her award-winning prose? Is this a sort of apartheid in and of itself?

This is not the first time Walker has been politically outspoken or the first time she’s written an open letter.

She had planned to sail with the 2011 Gaza flotilla aboard a boat named after President Obama’s book “The Audacity of Hope” aiming to break through Israel’s blockade of Gaza whose purpose is to keep weapons out of the hands of terror groups like Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza.  Due to technical difficulties, the flotilla never sailed to Gaza.

In 2008, she published pieces in support of Barack Obama’s candidacy and wrote him an open letter advising him, “you alone are not responsible for bringing the world back to balance. A primary responsibility that you do have, however, is to cultivate happiness in your own life.” In that letter she also revealed her outlook on geopolitical conflicts, writing: “We must learn actually not to have enemies, but only confused adversaries who are ourselves in disguise.”

Setting aside her morally equivalent take on international relations, perhaps one way to release “confused adversaries” from their confusion would be to communicate in their language. For Ms. Walker, apparently not if that language is Hebrew.

(H/T: JTA)

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