In a short report published Tuesday in Ha’aretz, and circled widely in the media, the Israeli daily claims that Alice Walker, the 1983 Pulitzer Prize winning author, “refused to authorize a Hebrew translation of her prize-winning work, citing what she called Israel's 'apartheid state'.” The Ha'aretz article was based on a report published Monday by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
However, the letter sent by the author of The Color Purple addressed to the publishers at the Yediot Books on June 9 and posted on the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) website on June 17 does not make any mention of a refusal that the book be published in Hebrew. The book, in fact, was already translated into Hebrew in the early 1980s.
Rather, she explicitly states that she will not permit Yediot Books to publish her novel because it is an Israeli firm.
“As you may know, last Fall in South Africa the Russell Tribunal on Palestine met and determined that Israel is guilty of apartheid and the 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,” Walker explained to the publishing company.
“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.”
Walker is known to be a major supporter of Palestinian rights, notably participating in an attempt to break Israel's maritime blockade of Gaza in July 2011. The attempt was sabotaged and blocked by the Greek and Israeli navies.
As the BDS movement grows, Israel and supporters of its government's policies have relentlessly tried, unsuccessfully, to discredit the movement with charges of anti-Semitism. This latest attack on the prominent American author and activist seems to be a continuation of this desperate effort.
“Israeli media has purposefully and unsurprisingly spun the news. In supporting the BDS call, Alice Walker refused to publish a Hebrew version of her book with an Israeli publisher, this has absolutely nothing to do with the Hebrew language. It has everything to do with a refusal to engage Israeli institutions complicit in Israel's ongoing occupation, colonialism and apartheid,” a spokesperson for PACBI told Al-Akhbar via email.
The Color Purple, published in 1982, focuses on female black life in the southern United States during the 1930s. It addresses issues of racism, sexism, and other social difficulties.