In her most recent book, "The Cushion in the Road," Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker writes about how her “own work has been banned a lot.” She writes about book banning in the context of criticizing Israel and applauding an Israeli writer named Uri Avnery, whose criticisms of Israel, she implies, have also been banned: “He’s been kept away from most of the uncurtained windows of Israel into which curious outsiders might look.”
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This juxtaposition of her own experiences with those of Uri Avnery encapsulates Walker’s approach to writing about Israel. She tells half-truths, omits salient facts, finds fault with everything Israel does, suggests false comparisons and paints a cartoonishly absurd picture of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Worst of all, she opposes peace talks, the two-state solution and any rational approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Let’s begin with Alice Walker’s own work being banned. It is true that one cannot read "The Color Purple", Walker’s most famous book, in Hebrew. But that’s because Alice Walker herself has banned it.
She has adamantly refused to allow "The Color Purple" to be translated into Hebrew, because she advocates a cultural boycott of Israel, of Jewish Israeli artists, and of films made by Jewish Israelis. Half-truth number one.
Now let’s turn to Uri Avnery, whose writings are widely available both in Hebrew and in English and whose works have never to my knowledge been banned. Indeed it is fair to say that few countries in the world publish more self-critical books, magazines and newspapers than does Israel. Half-truth number two.
The half-truths and outright lies go on and on. Even the most strident critics of Israeli policies and/or actions do not believe many of the bizarre and counter-factual assertions made by Walker.
According to Walker in her new book, Israel routinely tortures innocent nine and ten year-old Palestinian children.
According to Walker, Rachel Corrie was “murdered,” just like three civil rights workers who were kidnapped, tortured and murdered in cold blood.
According to Walker, there are roads that are for “Jews only,” rather than for Israelis of all religions and ethnicities.
According to Walker, the big ugly security wall runs all through Israel and the Palestinian territories - “it is everywhere” - rather than through roughly 5% of those areas. Moreover, she suggests that the wall was put up solely to colonize the West Bank, and not to protect Israelis from terrorism.
According to Walker, the Turkish flotilla terrorists who attacked the Israeli sailors who had boarded their ship were “assassinated” and “massacre[d].”
According to Walker, no rockets were ever fired at Israeli civilians from Gaza and Israel’s attacks against Gaza were unprovoked and constitute “genocide.”
According to Walker, there has never been a more brutal occupation in the history of the world.
According to Walker, what Israel is doing to the Palestinians is the equivalent of what Hitler did to the Jews.
According to Walker (as quoted by the Wiesenthal Center) Israel may someday launch a nuclear attack against the United States, "because the United States and Israel, working together have done terrible things to others [and] it is the nature of thieves to eventually have a grand falling out."
According to Walker, anyone who is “not Jewish” suffers “dehumanizing treatment” when trying to cross the border into Israel.
According to Walker, the Jews learned how to rape, murder, pillory, steal and occupy from their Torah. (She learned this from her former husband, who is Jewish and whose family she hated, and she advocates black churches teaching this anti-Jewish version of Biblical and modern history.)
According to Walker, there is no Palestinian terrorism, only Israeli terrorism, and there is no threat to Israel’s survival—only “nonviolent” Palestinian protest in the spirit of Gandhi. She dedicates a poem to Palestinian suicide bombers who murdered innocent Israeli children.
According to Walker, Jews first came to Palestine after a “holocaust” (her quote marks), that “so many future disasters would resemble.” They were welcomed by the Palestinians, who then had their land stolen by their ungrateful guests.
According to Walker, Israel has no right to be the nation state of the Jewish people. Instead the Jews should live as a minority in a Muslim, Christian and Jewish Palestine from the river to the sea. She has never “believed in the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.”
According to Walker, there should be no Israel.
Putting aside the plausible claim made by Abe Foxman and others that Alice Walker has crossed the line from fervent anti-Zionist to rancid anti-Semitism (which she denies because Palestinians are Semites too), the question remains why anyone would take seriously her ignorant rants about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Critics who have any ability and willingness to think in a nuanced way, understand that there are rights and wrongs on both sides, and that comparisons between Nazi Germany and today’s Israel can be motivated only by crass bigotry. Nor will peace come to the area from those, like Walker, who don’t “believe…in the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.” Yet because she has written well received works of fiction about the American South, there are some who think she may have something worthwhile to say about the Middle East. They are wrong.
Reasoned debate about Israeli policies is essential to democratic governance and the peace process. That is why I dedicated my book, "The Case Against Israel’s Enemies," to:
“Israel’s constructive and nuanced critics, whose rational voices are too often drowned out by the exaggerations, demonizations, and hate-filled lies put forth by Israel’s enemies. Criticism is the lifeblood of democracy and a sure sign of admiration for an imperfect democracy seeking to improve itself.”
Unfortunately, for both Palestinians and Israelis, Alice Walker is part of the problem, not part of the solution.
Alan M. Dershowitz, the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard, is a practicing criminal and constitutional lawyer and the author, most recently, of The Trials of Zion. His autobiography, “Taking the Stand: My Life in the Law”, will be published in October 2013.