In the last several years, Alice Walker has virtually abandoned fiction as she’s devoted more of her time to political activism, but she’s still probably best known as the author of The Color Purple. Walker brought her two worlds together with a bang on Sunday, when a letter bearing her signature and addressed to Yediot Books was published at the website of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel. In the letter, which quickly caught fire in the Israeli press, Walker announced that she would not be allowing the publisher to go ahead with plans for a Hebrew translation of The Color Purple, because “Israel is guilty of apartheid and persecution of the Palestinian people, both inside Israel and also in the Occupied Territories.” Walker, who last year referred to Israel as “the greatest terrorist in that part of the world,” added that she “grew up under American apartheid and this”—the situation in Israel—is “far worse.”
Netta Gurevish, the chief editor of Yediot Books, has now released a statement lamenting the decision, saying that books “are so important to bridging difference, presenting ‘the other’ and generating a climate of tolerance and compassion. That’s all the more so when talking about The Color Purple, a book that addresses discrimination, otherness, and the importance of the individual’s struggle against injustice in general.” In her letter, Walker wrote that she “would so like knowing my books are read by the people of our country,” but that “now is not the time.” She also drew a parallel to her refusal to allow the 1985 movie version of The Color Purple to be shown in South Africa until the end of its apartheid system.