Alice Walker bans 'The Color Purple' from Israel

By Jessica Elgot, June 20, 2012
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Alice Walker refused to distribute the Oscar-nominated film version of her 1983 novel in apartheid South Africa

Alice Walker refused to distribute the Oscar-nominated film version of her 1983 novel in apartheid South Africa

The novelist Alice Walker has refused permission to an Israeli publishing firm to reprint her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Color Purple, citing a cultural boycott of the country’s “apartheid policies”.

In a letter to publishers Yediot Books, Ms Walker recalled that she and director Steven Spielberg had refused to distribute the Oscar-nominated film version of her 1983 novel in South Africa.

The film, starring Whoopi Goldberg, was released in 1985, but was not shown in the country until after the apartheid regime fell. Ms Walker wrote: “Only then did we send our beautiful movie! And to this day, when I am in South Africa, I can hold my head high and nothing obstructs the love that flows between me and the people of that country."

She wrote: “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.”

“I would so like knowing my books are read by the people of your country, especially by the young, and by the brave Israeli activists (Jewish and Palestinian) for justice and peace I have had the joy of working beside. I am hopeful that one day, maybe soon, this may happen. But now is not the time.”

At least one version of the book, translated into Hebrew, was published in the 1980s.

Ms Walker is a high-profile anti-Israel activist, having travelled to Gaza in 2009 and attempted to board the aborted Freedom Flotilla in 2011. When asked if she considered Hamas to be a terrorist organisation, she said: “I think Israel is the greatest terrorist in that part of the world. And I think, in general, the United States and Israel are great terrorist organisations themselves.”

Last updated: 12:55pm, June 20 2012