Last time Jewdar checked in on Alice Walker, she was saying very important thingsTM about Gaza. Now, the writer, who, when it came to Osama bin Laden, believed that “the only punishment that works is love,” apparently has had a change of heart, and believes that at least when it comes to Israel, the only punishment that works is denying Israelis the ability to read The Color Purple in Hebrew, having prohibited a translation of her work into that language. Jewdar will let others deal with the hypocrisy and self-righteousness of the matter. We’d simply like to point out that this is the sort of schtick that defines irrelevancy, and is the artistic equivalent of Mike Tyson attempting to bite off Evander Holyfield’s ear.
Let’s say that you’re an artist, with, supposedly, very important thingsTM to say about Israel. Like Tyson, you have an opportunity to land a punch if you want to. But let’s say that, like Tyson, you’ve got nothing left in you, nothing that’s actually important? What then? Well, then you’re left with trying to do something which can’t change the outcome, but at least gets your name in the paper.
Walker’s ban is about as meaningful as Tyson’s bite. When Jewdar thinks of real activists, with real things to say, what stands out is that they tried–often at great risk–to get their message to the people who needed to hear it, in the language that they understood. Soviet dissidents didn’t boycott Russian; they published Samizdat. Let’s say that Walker sincerely believes that Israel is a racist, segregationist state not unlike the one she grew up in, and which she depicted in The Color Purple. So what would be the more meaningful step–trying to show Israelis a mirror of that society, or keeping that mirror from them?
Ultimately, who cares? We don’t know to what extent there was a demand in Israel for a Hebrew translation of The Color Purple (nobody at the schwarma shops we went to seemed to be discussing it). But we suspect that Hebrew, in which some of the most enduring works in human history have been produced (see Bible, The), which experienced a miraculous rebirth in the modern world, and which functions as an important in-joke in the films of Sacha Baron (most recently in the must-see The Dictator), will do just fine without the words of Alice Walker.