Walker's Rejection Of Israeli's Request To Publish "The Color Purple" Misguided Decision
The renowned author may be losing out on some extra overseas fame and fortune, but she has something else on the agenda: by refusing the request, Walker is protesting what she believes to be Israel's gross violation of human rights. However, might she be working against her very cause?
Walker's actions might come as a shock to a lot of us. Most Americans over the age of twelve have heard of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but we tend to think of Palestine as the bad guys. They're the satanic, land-hungry terrorists who've been attacking innocent Israeli citizens, right? And don't they have ties with al-Qaeda?
Not quite. The Israeli-Palestinian clash is one of the most complicated and long-running conflicts the world has ever seen, and it certainly isn't as one-sided as the United States has historically treated it. It's no secret that United States has consistently acted favorably towards Israel's policies. While this in itself isn't a bad thing, Israel is set up to get away with a whole lot in its fight with the Palestinians when the State Department of a nation as powerful of America recognizes its legitimacy, but not the legitimacy of its opponent.
According to a citizen's tribunal that investigated Israel's activities last year, it would seem that its been doing just that. The tribunal, consisting of human rights activists from around the world, Walker among them, met last fall in South Africa. They determined that Israel was guilty of apartheid, as well as persecution of the Palestinian people, both in Israel and outside - namely, in the Occupied Territories the peace-seeking members of the international community hope to one day see become an independent Palestinian state.
Walker's refusal to allow Yediot Books to publish "The Color Purple" thus comes from a legitimate grievance she has with the nation of Israel. In her official letter to the publisher, which was posted with her permission on the website for the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel (PCABI), Walker cited another instance in which she acted similarly - when she lobbied against the distribution of the film adaptation of her book in South Africa, which at the time was still practicing apartheid.
Walker's action is in fact directly consistent with PCABI mission, which is to cut Israel off from the gems of international academia and culture, as part of a wider sanctions movement designed to prompt them to treat Palestinians more fairly. And Walker has every right, as creator, to dictate where her art does - and does not - go.
But might this act also be working against her very purposes with the errant state? Obviously Walker's ultimate goal is not to punish Israel; it's to get them to behave in a way that best serves equality and international justice. But by keeping her book out of Israel, Walker is denying them one of the very tools that could help them to understand why these ends are so important.
"The Color Purple" tells the story of an impoverished and mistreated black girl in the American South. The novel preaches tolerance, diversity and racial equality, and it does so through narrative, often the most effective means of imparting a lesson to a human being.
Art like Walker's is often the first step toward making people realize that their own practices may be just as oppressive as the practices they see in the work of art. "The Color Purple" challenges the unjust status quo, just as the music of the Beatles championed personal freedom in the sixties and as Picasso's "Guernica" protested the bombing of Basque Country during the Spanish Civil War. If Walker truly believes Israel is an intolerant and inhumane nation, keeping "The Color Purple" from them will only hinder, not help her cause.
In an interview with Foreign Policy last year, Walker stated that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was "David and Goliath, but Goliath is not the Palestinians." David defeated Goliath with his slingshot, but the staunchly non-violent Walker wouldn't approve of such a solution. The logical conclusion? Someone needs to teach Goliath that bullying is not the solution. Goliath needs to read "The Color Purple."
Reach Contributor Francesca Bessey here.