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.