The Anti-Defamation League blasted Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker’s decision not to translate her novel “The Color Purple” into Hebrew, saying Wednesday that she exposed her own bias and bigotry.
ADL national director Abraham H. Foxman categorized his reaction to Walker’s announcement as more sad than angry, lamenting that “people who inspire to fight bigotry and prejudice continue to have a biased and bigoted side.”
“For some time Walker has been blinded by her anti-Israel animus,” Foxman said in a statement. “Unfortunately, this willful ignorance and bias against Israel has led her to exercise poor judgment in her publishing endeavors.”
In a June 9 letter to Yedioth Books, Walker said she would not allow the publication of the book in Hebrew because “Israel is guilty of apartheid and persecution of the Palestinian people, both inside Israel and also in the Occupied Territories.”
It was not clear when Yedioth Books, an imprint of the daily Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, made the request, or whether Walker could in fact stop translation of the book. At least one version of the book has already appeared in Hebrew translation, in the 1980s.
Walker said Israel’s policies were “worse” than the segregation she suffered as an American youth and said South Africans had told her it was worse than apartheid.
“The Color Purple,” which won the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, was adapted into a movie in 1985 directed by Jewish filmmaker Steven Spielberg.
The novel and the film, which was nominated for 11 Oscars, treat racism in the American South in the first part of the 20th century and sexism among blacks.
Walker has intensified her anti-Israel activism in recent years, traveling to the Gaza Strip to advocate on behalf of the Palestinians.
The ADL accused Walker of squandering “an opportunity to make her work more widely available to an important audience, not only in Israel but around the world, in the biblical and modern language of the Jewish people.”
Acknowledging that Walker is seen as a “leader in the fight against racism and discrimination,” the ADL expressed the hope that she “will make the effort to truly understand Israel’s fight for its survival and reconsider her unfortunate and discriminatory decision.”