Alice Walker Says She Was Censored Because She's Anti-Israel

Illustration for article titled Alice Walker Says She Was Censored Because She's Anti-Israel

Alice Walker, the author, poet and activist most famous for her 1983 novel The Color Purple, was uninvited from the University of Michigan's 50th Anniversary for the Center for Education of Women because she's so anti-Israel that she compares the country to Nazi Germany.


Walker posted the letter from her agent on her website:

I’m saddened to write this because I’m a proponent of free speech and have been brought up to allow everyone to have their say. But I also realize that there are other considerations that institutions are faced with. This afternoon I was contacted by the University of Michigan instructing me to withdraw their invitation due to the removal of funding from the donors, because of their interpretation of Ms. Walker’s comments regarding Israel. They are not willing to fund this program and the university/Women’s center do not have the resources to finance this on their own. They are deeply regretful but I wanted to let you know immediately either way. I hope you can appreciate the fact that I’m uncomfortable even having to send this email in the first place. Hopefully we can work together again down the road. Thanks for understanding. I wish things had turned out differently.

In response, she wrote in part:

I so appreciate the tone of the agent’s letter, alerting my assistant and me to this situation. It isn’t hard to imagine how he feels, having been so enthusiastic about getting me to come to help the women celebrate a major milestone in their many struggles for education and equality. But there is a bright side: Such behavior, as evidenced by the donors, teaches us our weakness, which should eventually (and soon) show us our strength: women must be in control of our own finances. Not just in the family, but in the schools, work force, and everywhere else. Until we control this part of our lives, our very choices, in any and every area, can be denied us.

The title of the blog post is "In Case You've Ever Wondered How It's Done: Censorship by Purse String." Burn.

Gloria D. Thomas, director of the Michigan Center for the Education of Women, posted an announcement in which she said money had nothing to do with it. "I want to apologize for how we handled our invitation to author Alice Walker," Thomas wrote. "Upon further research, I decided to withdraw our invitation because I did not think Ms. Walker would be the optimum choice for the celebratory nature of our 50th anniversary event. Donors had no bearing on this decision. Our 50th anniversary funding is completely assured. All donations, for this and other events, are accepted with no provisos or prohibitions regarding free speech."


"I do hope that we will be able to co-sponsor a lecture by Ms. Walker, where the forum would be focused on a more substantial discussion of human rights issues," she added.

[Inside Higher Ed]

Image via Wikipedia.



Alice Walker has repeatedly crossed the line between legitimate criticism of Israeli government policy and outright anti-semitism. The donors didn't forbid her from attending; they just weren't willing to pay for her to do so. I don't think they should be faulted for that. Additionally, if she felt so strongly about attending, she could surely waive her speaking fees. Instead she attempts to depict herself as the victim of censorship and make it a free speech issue, which it is not.

In the section "On Palestine" in Cushions in the Road, (…) she repeatedly refers to old stereotypes about Jewish greed, Jewish dishonesty, and Jewish desire for supremacy. She also repeatedly compares Israel to Nazi Germany, which is unproductively inflammatory and undeniably deeply hurtful to any Jew, even those of us who are ourselves highly critical of Israeli policy. I was also not amused by the anecdote (pg 337) she shares of a Palestinian woman who says "May G-d protect you from the Jews," to which she responded "It's too late, I already married one."

That being said, the CEW event would have been a great venue for a discussion of the conflict and of her views. It is definitely problematic that it is only possible through private donations and not as a public service (it is, after all, a public university that should NOT be so dependent on private donors). However, the way things currently stand, I think that donor does have the right to decide not to spend their money on someone whose views they find personally offensive. I just wish the donors didn't have the power to make the call on whether or not she attends.