The Case of Alice Walker Shows That Anti-Semitism Is One Prejudice That Doesn’t Lead to Cancellation

Last week, the New Yorker published a long and fawning profile of Alice Walker, who established her literary reputation in 1982 with her novel The Color Purple. Although focused on Walker’s most recent activities, it makes only oblique mention of her anti-Semitism, which has manifested itself not only in routine denunciations of Israel but in numerous statements, blog posts, and other writings, including a poem about the Talmud that could have appeared in Der Stürmer. Caitlin Flanagan contrasts this ginger treatment to the sort of hand-wringing and denunciations with which publications like the New Yorker treat artists and writers with records of racism, bigotry against homosexuals, or other prejudices:

[S]ince 2012 Walker has promoted the ideas of . . . David Icke, the author of a book called And the Truth Shall Set You Free. . . . Icke suggests that the Jewish people helped pay for the Holocaust themselves (if it even happened; he thinks schoolchildren should be encouraged to debate this). He says that the KKK is secretly Jewish, and he seems to be a big fan of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

Walker . . . has rejected charges of anti-Semitism as attempts to silence her support for the Palestinians, but the argument that Walker’s issue is only with the Israeli government, not with the Jewish people, is specious. In that poem, she describes the Palestinians as just the latest examples of the victims of an “ancient” evil perpetrated “with impunity, and without conscience,/ By a Chosen people.” This is hate.

Of all the forms of hatred in the world, why is anti-Semitism so often presented as somehow less evil than the others? Alice Walker’s beliefs are . . . repugnant. . . . Yet even The New Yorker is willing to dismiss them as the consequence of [her age], of the sorrow and oppression of her youth, of YouTube—as a late-in-life aberration. It is willing to print an assessment of And the Truth Shall Set You Free that describes it as promoting “anti-Semitic crackpottery.” Crackpottery? That’s one way of putting it. I realize now that this phrase includes the only appearance of the term anti-Semitic in the essay. If you didn’t come to this essay with a preexisting understanding of Walker’s hateful ideas, I expect it would be very easy to read these sentences about her beliefs and not really know what they are.

Read more at Atlantic

More about: Alice Walker, Anti-Semitism, Cancel culture, New Yorker

Israel’s Friendship with Iraqi Kurds, and Why Iran Opposes It

In May 2022, the Iraqi parliament passed a law “criminalizing normalization and establishment of relations with the Zionist entity,” banning even public discussion of ending the country’s 76-year state of war with Israel. The bill was a response to a conference, held a few months prior, addressing just that subject. Although the gathering attracted members of various religious and ethnic groups, it is no coincidence, writes Suzan Quitaz, that it took place in Erbil, capital of Iraqi Kurdistan:

Himdad Mustafa, an independent researcher based in Erbil, to whom the law would be applied, noted: “When 300 people gathered in Erbil calling for peace and normalization with Israel, the Iraqi government immediately passed a law criminalizing ties with Israel and Israelis. The law is clearly aimed at Kurds.” . . . Qais al-Khazali, secretary-general of Asaib Ahl al-Haq (Coordination Framework), a powerful Iranian-backed Shiite militia, slammed the conference as “disgraceful.”

Himdad explains that the criminalization of Israeli-Kurdish ties is primarily driven by “Kurd-phobia,” and that Kurd-hatred and anti-Semitism go hand-in-hand.

One reason for that is the long history of cooperation Israel and the Kurds of Iraq; another is the conflict between the Kurdish local government and the Iran-backed militias who increasingly control the rest of the country. Quitaz elaborates:

Israel also maintains economic ties with Kurdistan, purchasing Kurdish oil despite objections from Iraq’s central government in Baghdad. A report in the Financial Times discusses investments by many Israeli companies in energy, development sectors, and communications projects in Iraqi Kurdistan, in addition to providing security training and purchasing oil. Moreover, in a poll conducted in 2009 in Iraqi Kurdistan, 71 percent of Kurds supported normalization with Israel. The results are unsurprising since, historically, Israel has had cordial ties with the Kurds in a generally hostile region where Jews and Kurds have fought against the odds with the same Arab enemy in their struggles for a homeland.

The Iranian regime, through its proxies in the Iraqi government, is the most significant source of Kurd-phobia in Iraq and the driving factor fueling tensions. In addition to their explicit threat to Israel, Iranian officials frequently threaten the Kurdish region, and repeatedly accuse the Kurds of working with Israel.

Read more at Jersualem Center for Public Affairs

More about: Iran, Iraq, Israel-Arab relations, Kurds