Friday, June 22, 2012

Boycotting a whole language...

Pulitzer winning writer Alice Walker sets shocking new low for anti-Israel boycotters

Tom Gross..
The Commentator..
20 June '12..

American writer Alice Walker has set a new low, refusing permission for her prize-winning book “The Color Purple” to be translated into a foreign language.

Can you guess which one? Hebrew, of course. The language spoken by Israelis and Jews, the favourite target of misguided bigots of both far right and far left.

For a writer to boycott an entire language is virtually unprecedented.

In justifying her bizarre decision, Walker cited what she incorrectly called Israel’s “apartheid state”. This is, of course, nonsense.

Arabs play a full role in Israeli society. Indeed Israel’s new ambassador to Norway – a fellow writer like Walker – is a Druze, and his deputy is an Arab from Tel Aviv.

Arabs were elected to Israel’s parliament, the Knesset when Walker’s Deep American South was still plagued by brutal segregation, long before Rosa Parks took that bus.

In a letter sent last week to Yediot Books in Tel Aviv (which is owned by Israel’s Yediot Ahronot newspaper), Walker said she would not allow the publication of the book in Hebrew. On Monday, the letter was placed on the website of the “Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel”.

In 1985, “The Color Purple,” which won the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, was turned into a feature film directed by famed Jewish film director Steven Spielberg. The film was nominated for 11 Oscars.

In recent years, Walker travelled to Gaza where she was warmly welcomed by the zealots of Hamas but reportedly had nothing to say about their subjugation of Gazans in general, and of Palestinian women in particular, nor about their mistreatment of minorities.

Last year, Walker called Israel “a terrorist organization.”

By contrast, whereas the likes of writer Walker and actress Emma Thomson don’t think Israelis should be allowed to read books or perform plays in Hebrew, the European football (soccer) federation UEFA is refusing calls for Israel to be boycotted.

Instead it has just announced that Israel will host the 2013 under-21 football championships.

UEFA President Michel Platini wrote to Israel Football Association President Avi Luzon on Monday to confirm that Israel will stage the 2013 tournament from June 15-28 despite “a certain amount of pressure being put on us.”

“UEFA is an apolitical organization and your association earned the right to host this competition through a fair, democratic vote,” Platini wrote. “I am sure that it will be a beautiful celebration of football that, once again, will bring people together.”

To the dismay of many, a number of high-profile former footballers backed calls to disallow Israel to host the competition. These included former Manchester United and France star Eric Cantona and former West Ham and Seville striker Frederic Kanoute.

Platini said he thought those advocating a boycott of Israel were “ill advised”.

UEFA should also announce that any nation or player that refuses to go to Israel 2013, on grounds of prejudice against Israeli Jews, should be banned from international football.

In the past, unlike UEFA, the world footballing body FIFA has had a history of condemning Israel while turning a blind eye to the abuse of soccer players around the world, including the torture of the Iraqi national team by Saddam Hussein’s son Uday, and the use of terrorist activities or mass executions at football stadiums in Afghanistan, Chile, Russia and Gaza. (For more, see here.)

(Incidentally, so much for the claims by Cantona and others of “Apartheid Israel”. Only last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu unfortunately injured his leg – which had to then be put in a cast – when he slipped while playing in a Jewish and Arab children’s football match in Israel.)

In any case, those advocating boycotts and sanctions against the democratic state of Israel seem to be fighting a losing battle. Both Israel and the West Bank – and even now Gaza – are enjoying fast improving economies while much of the rest of the world is experiencing economic turbulence.

Tourism to Israel reached record levels last month and the annual MasterCard Global Destination Cities Index, which charts visitor traffic and tourist spending in 132 cities around the world, has just announced that Tel Aviv now ranks as the fifth most visited city in the Middle East and Africa.

An estimated 2.5 million tourists will visit Tel Aviv this year, spending approximately $3.5 billion dollars there.

On Monday, the chairman of Google, Eric Schmidt, speaking at a major tech conference in Tel Aviv, said that Google’s development centres in Israel are among the company’s most efficient in the world. “We love Israel,” Schmidt said, “The decision to invest in Israel was one of the best that Google has ever made.”

Also on Monday, another technology giant, Facebook, announced that it was buying, a tiny 11-person Israeli company that provides facial-recognition technology that helps Facebook users identify and tag photos, for an estimated $100 million.

I do hope Alice Walker wasn’t using a computer, smart phone or voice mail to carry out her boycott calls – practically every advanced computer and phone in the world is now dependent on Israeli technology. She shouldn’t be using Google or Facebook either, of course. Nor Microsoft, Apple and Yahoo, all of which have key R&D facilities in Israel.

And she better be careful should she need to go to the doctor. Life-saving drugs to help treat heart problems, breast cancer, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s and many other medical conditions were all developed in Israel.

For a writer to boycott an entire language is a shameful act.


Tom Gross is the former Middle East correspondent for the Sunday Telegraph. For more by him, please see

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