Born in Georgia during World War II to a sharecropper family, Alice Walker knew first-hand growing up the sting of segregation and racism. This is why the Pulitzer Prize winner for The Color Purple should know better than to equate Israel with the Jim Crow South or Apartheid South Africa.
Rather than use her global celebrity status to campaign against human rights abuses like China’s occupation of Tibet, North Korea’s Gulag, Iran’s suppression of Baha’is and other minorities, the growing suppression of ten million Egyptian Coptic Christians or the Mugabe regime’s reign of terror in Zimbabwe, Walker focuses exclusively on marshaling support for the Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions (BDS) onslaught against democratic Israel.
Interestingly, after 9/11 Ms. Walker refused to call for taking action against Osama bin Laden because “love is better than punishment.” Apparently, that love doesn't extend to the Jewish state. So deep does her animus run, that she refused to have her book translated into Hebrew. In a class by itself Israel seems worthy only of sadistic “tough love” in the form of a three-pronged campaign to subject the Jewish state to double standards no other country grappling with terrorism is expected to follow, while delegitimizing and demonizing Israel with the ultimate goal that it should cease to exist.
Fortunately, Walker failed in her latest gambit to intimidate R&B star Alicia Keys from performing in Israel to avoid the “soul danger” of visiting “an apartheid country”, allegedly practicing discrimination worse even than “American apartheid.”
That apartheid charge is one of the 'Big Lies' of the twenty-first century and is deployed hand-in-hand with the hypocritical boycott campaign.
No one less than Omar Barghouti of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), openly admits that the BDS campaign seeks, not to better the lives of Palestinians or to create a Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace with a Jewish state, but to destroy Israel: “If the refugees were to return, you would not have a two state solution, you’d have a Palestine next to a Palestine. . . . If you don’t leash the mad dog, it will bite everyone.”
There is a historic tradition of “freedom boycotts”—from the American colonists’ against the monopolistic British East India Tea Company, to the anti-Nazi boycotts and Gandhian campaign against imperial Britain of the 1930s, to the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott, to the global anti-Apartheid boycotts of South Africa during the 1980s.
Despite its lip service to Gandhian rhetoric, the BDS campaign evokes images very different from Rosa Parks. The last time Jewish businesses were subject to formal boycotts, it was lead by Nazi brown shirts. It began in the 1920s and culminated with the Nazi seizure of power in 1933 when Storm troopers shouting Deutsche! Wehrt Euch! Kauft nicht bei Juden! —“Germans! Defend yourselves! Do not buy from Jews!” -- attacked Jewish storekeepers.
Back then they chanted “Jews to Palestine!” Today, it’s “Jews out of Palestine!”
As for Apartheid South Africa, The equation of Apartheid South Africa to Israel is a false and odious analogy. In some ways, the South African regime was a racist throwback to Nazi Germany whose victory in World War II was hoped for by many Afrikaner leaders.
As early as 1934, David Ben Gurion—later Israel’s first prime minister—wrote to Palestinian nationalist Musa Alami: “We do not want to create a situation like that which exits in South Africa, where the whites are the owners and rulers, and the blacks are the workers.” Today, most Israelis still hope for a final peace with two states—one Palestinian and one Jewish with full rights to non-Jewish minorities.
No country in the Middle East is less segregated and more inclusive than Israel. Nowhere else in the Middle East is freedom of religion for all a value so cherished and protected as in Israel. Israel’s Christian community is the only one in the Middle East to have grown in number since 1948. Muslim and Christian citizens particpate in all professions, serve in the Knesset, and the Supreme Court and play roles in the country’s diverse culture. Israel gave haven to Vietnamese “boat people” and Cambodian refugees, absorbed thousands of Ethiopian Jews, and protects the very freedoms of gays absent throughout the rest of the region.
Unfortunately, Alice Walker’s political color these days is hypocritical. While Israel is damned for “racism” and “genocide,” the likes of Alice Walker seem tongue-tied when it came to condemning Sudan’s genocide in Darfur and Assad’s ongoing bloodbath in Syria.
Rather than lecture Alicia Keys, she ought to remember the words of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., who just ten days before his assassination in Memphis declared: “I see Israel, and never mind saying it, as one of the great outposts of democracy in the world, and a marvelous example of what can be done, how desert land can almost be transformed into an oasis of brotherhood and democracy. Peace for Israel means security and that security must be a reality.”
Rabbi Abraham Cooper is associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center
Dr. Harold Brackman, a historian is a consultant to the Simon Wiesenthal Center