I’m not disputing anybody’s right to publish their books, not publish them or eat them for breakfast, of course. However, I have to say that I find the following declaration by writer Alice Walker to be nothing but a clumsy attempt at self-promotion:
Shining light human rights activist Alice Walker has refused to have her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Color Purple published in Israel. In a letter to the prospective publisher she writes:
“Israel is guilty of apartheid and persecution of the Palestinian people, both inside Israel and also in the Occupied Territories.”
If Walker were really interested in battling the alleged racist tendencies among the Israelis, one would think that she’d want her anti-racist book to become as widely known among the people of Israel as possible. I have to wonder how barring access to an anti-racist piece of fiction is supposed to stop people from racist practices.
The comparison between Israeli policies in Palestine with the Apartheid is a favorite toy of lazy minds. Instead of analyzing the complex phenomenon of Israeli-Palestinian relations, lazy people think they are being progressive by dismissing both Israel and South Africa through claiming that they are essentially the same. Who needs to look into the particularities of these boring conflicts between tedious foreign folks? It is so much easier to declare that they are all the same and the best way to deal with them is by boycotting them until they resolve their boring conflicts.
Walker claims that her novel is part of “the world-wide effort to rid humanity of its self-destructive habit of dehumanizing whole populations.” I believe, however, that dehumanization starts when you experience the need to conflate the problems of completely different societies (such as South Africa and Israel, for example) in an attempt to spare yourself time and effort by dismissing the complex and painful realities of others. I encounter this attitude only too often when people react to my polite reminder that I’m not from Russia with an impatient gesture aimed at waving off my insignificant belief in my own difference.
“Oh, it’s the same thing,” they always say, jerking their heads impatiently, annoyed that I dare to expect a more nuanced approach to my reality than they are willing to provide.
Walker’s statement reminded me a lot of the attitude exhibited by these “you-people-are-all-the-same” folks.