“It isn’t possible for me to permit [publication] 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.” -- Alice Walker
With these words, world renowned, best-selling author Alice Walker set a new moral standard for international authors and cultural figures. By refusing to allow her famous work, The Color Purple, to be published in Israel due to its apartheid system, Walker told Israel and the world that she takes seriously her moral obligation not to be complicit in Israel’s occupation, colonization and apartheid. By reiterating her support for BDS in a concrete manner, she sent Palestinians a lucid message of love and true solidarity. Walker knows more than many that love towards the oppressed without supporting their struggle to end oppression amounts to futile charity when what they need is solidarity.
Alice Walker’s moral courage and inspiring solidarity was greeted by Palestinians with deep appreciation. The most prominent Palestinian message of gratitude came from the General Union of Palestinian Writers, which issued a warm salute to Walker in a statement that said :
The General Union of Palestinian Writers, while saluting this free intellectual and expressing its profound appreciation for her struggles against regimes of oppression and apartheid, from the darkest chapters of US modern history to South Africa of yesterday and Palestine today, confirms that human dignity is one and the same in all corners of the earth; it resists fragmentation, and it is the negation of color hierarchy.
The courageous message sent by the activist novelist Walker to one of the arms of Zionist propaganda … removes any uncertainty regarding the kinship between Palestinian, South African, and African American grievances. The similarity between the systems of apartheid in these afflicted geographies is no longer an intellectual seduction or an academic exercise. Unifying local and global struggles against these regimes, with their Euro-American center, is no longer the obsession of dreamers ... The global BDS movement against Israel … has become a reality and a space for resistance that has cost the colonial and apartheid regime in Israel its toughest losses. The positions of conscientious intellectuals worldwide, their effective contributions to this movement, and their noble defense of its achievement, form the virtue that separates the wheat of intellectuals from their chaff.
The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), which was honored to have received and posted Alice Walker’s letter, and indeed Palestinians everywhere, view international support for BDS from prominent international cultural figures of the weight of Alice Walker, Naomi Klein, John Berger, Judith Butler, Etienne Balibar, Ken Loach, Roger Waters, Arundhati Roy, Angela Davis, among many others, as a strong indicator of world revulsion at Israel’s intensifying colonization and apartheid as well as its ongoing deadly siege of the Gaza Strip.
Israel’s loss of the hearts and minds battle around the world, despite investing many millions of dollars in its largely abortive “Brand Israel” campaign is now recognized by leading voices within the Israeli establishment. In an article interestingly titled, Losing the Fight, A Jerusalem Post editor criticized Israeli propaganda’s resort to “doctoring” images and presenting unreliable information, arguing that “traditional hasbara no longer works” in an era of digital social media. Alon Liel, a former director of the Israeli Foreign Ministry and a former Israeli ambassador to South Africa, has recently expressed support for Alice Walker’s cultural boycott of Israel as well as for South Africa’s measure towards boycotting Israeli colonies’ products.
Alice Walker once wrote, “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any.” Israel has for many years dwelled on an image of invincibility and unparalleled ruthlessness in dealing with its critics, particularly in the west. With its well-oiled, orchestrated campaigns of bullying and intimidation against critical voices in western colleges, arts communities, faith-based groups, trade unions and civil society at large, Israel and its lobby groups have succeeded in the past to instill fear of even debating Israel’s policies, and making these groups feel as if they don’t have any power. Today, thanks not only to the widely spreading BDS movement but also to Israel’s far-right fanaticism, war mongering and grave, persistent violations of international law, Israel’s shield of impunity is being shattered at a stunning rate, and people are reclaiming their power. It is gestures like Walker’s cultural boycott of Israel that are acting as valuable catalysts for countering Israel’s exceptionalism and questioning blind loyalty to it among western elites.
We salute Alice Walker!
Posted on 02-07-2012