Columns Jeffrey Salkin: Martini Judaism Opinion

Does Alice Walker have a Jewish problem?

Is author Alice Walker a Jew-hater?

Here is what we know.

Exhibit A: This past Sunday, in the pages of the New York Times Book Review, Ms. Walker endorsed “And The Truth Shall Set You Free,” by David Icke: “In Icke’s books there is the whole of existence, on this planet and several others, to think about. A curious person’s dream come true.”

The problem? David Icke is notoriously anti-semitic. In fact, his publisher judged “And The Truth Shall Set You Free” too anti-semitic to release, and so Icke did it on his own.

Icke’s book blames a Jew for the Holocaust, and refers to the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, one of the greatest anti-semitic forgeries in history — a document that asserts that there is an international Jewish cabal that controls the world.

Exhibit B: Six years ago, Alice Walker refused to allow her classic book “The Color Purple” to be translated into Hebrew.

This had nothing to do with the typical anti-Israel stuff.

This had everything to do with Hebrew, i.e., the language of the Jews.

This is a curious variant of what it means to be anti-semitic; it is someone who is anti-a particular semitic language.

Exhibit C: On her website, Alice Walker offers a poem titled, “It Is Our (Frightful) Duty To Study The Talmud.”

And, no — this wasn’t an advertisement for a yeshiva.

The poem engages in your usual anti-Israel screed.

But, then it takes an alarming turn.

We must go back
As grown ups, now,
Not as the gullible children we once were,
And study our programming,
From the beginning.
All of it: The Christian, the Jewish,
The Muslim; even the Buddhist. All of it, without exception,
At the root.

For the study of Israel, of Gaza, of Palestine,
Of the bombed out cities of the Middle East,
Of the creeping Palestination
Of our police, streets, and prisons
In America,
Of war in general,
It is our duty, I believe, to study The Talmud.
It is within this book that,
I believe, we will find answers
To some of the questions
That most perplex us.

She then names every crackpot, out of context, admittedly offensive but ahistoricized reference in the Talmud that she can find:

Are Goyim (us) meant to be slaves of Jews, and not only
That, but to enjoy it?
Are three year old (and a day) girls eligible for marriage and intercourse?
Are young boys fair game for rape?
Must even the best of the Goyim (us, again) be killed?
Pause a moment and think what this could mean
Or already has meant
In our own lifetime.

Jews are no stranger to these words, and to these accusations.

There is a long history of anti-Talmud rhetoric in Jewish history. Such rhetoric dates back to the 1200s, when Inquisition officials in Spain put the Talmud on trial.

Over the following centuries, the Talmud was often burnt in public — often with Jews accompanying the volumes into the flames.

Let me tell you the last time that I encountered this vile line of conversation.

It was when I was living in the South. A white supremacist and neo-Nazi sent me hate mail. He started by sending me a list of problematic quotes from the Talmud and rabbinical literature. He had simply copied and pasted them from a hate website.

So, let’s get our minds around this.

When it comes to the Jews, Alice Walker is echoing neo-Nazis.

So, yes. Alice Walker has a problem with the Jews. And, with Judaism. And, of course, with Israel. Her hatred of the Jews illustrates a despicable Venn diagram — in which you find a circle for the left, and a circle for the right — and the overlap is in Jew-hatred.

Ironic, then: just a few days ago, right-wing pundit Anne Coulter let loose — also about the Jews.

On Laura Ingraham’s show on Fox, Coulter said:

“I mean you have the Muslims and the Jews and the various exotic sexual groups and the black church ladies with the college queers …you must hate white men. It’s the one thing they have in common.”

When it comes to the Jews, Alice Walker = Anne Coulter. Pure and simple.

This is not easy for us to say, and it is not easy for us to accept.

Because we tend to ignore, excuse, rationalize, and contextualize the anti-semitism that emerges from our own side of the political spectrum.

In particular, people who are center-left often have difficulty recognizing and naming leftist Jew-hatred when they see it.

Why?

Take Alice Walker. She’s an intellectual, an author, a poet, a person who is a member of a minority group that has itself been disempowered. She is our imagined social, intellectual, and cultural peer. She is someone whom we would normally want to like and admire — the literati.

But, Anne Coulter? Please. Who would sympathize with this overly-privileged right wing bigot?

You have to call out the anti-semitism of those who would otherwise be your allies. If you don’t, then you have allowed your politics to outweigh and out speak your morals.

Not good. Not good for the Jews. Not good for America. Not good for the world.

 

 

 

About the author

Jeffrey Salkin

Rabbi Jeffrey K. Salkin is the spiritual leader of Temple Solel in Hollywood, Fla., and the author of numerous books on Jewish spirituality and ethics, published by Jewish Lights Publishing and Jewish Publication Society.