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.

38 Comments

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  • “Ms. Walker endorsed “And The Truth Shall Set You Free,” by David Icke”

    …..Seriously?

    Is she a self hater?

  • DUDE, what “Jewish problem”, ‘yo?! Here’s the replay, so point out the “Jewish problem” in what follows:

    NEW YORK TIMES asks, “What books are on your nightstand?”

    ALICE WALKER then replies, “‘The Road of Lost Innocence,’ by Somaly Mam … ‘And the Truth Shall Set You Free,’ by David Icke … ‘Perfect Peace,’ by Daniel Black … ‘Mom & Me & Mom,’ by Maya Angelou.”

    JEFFREY SALKIN then spins, “Ms. Walker endorsed ‘And The Truth Shall Set You Free,’ by David Icke”.

    HpO concludes, “That means, in Jeff’s case, to which he must now confess, that all the books that ‘are on [his] nightstand’ are always ‘endorsed’ by him. So now I want NEW YORK TIMES to check him out, ‘What books are on your nightstand?’ I do have a Quran, see, on my ‘nightstand’ but does that mean I ‘endorse’ Islam? What’s your spin on that, Rabbi Thoughtpolice

  • EXPLAIN YOURSELF. “‘The Road of Lost Innocence,’ by Somaly Mam … ‘And the Truth Shall Set You Free,’ by David Icke … ‘Perfect Peace,’ by Daniel Black … ‘Mom & Me & Mom,’ by Maya Angelou” – were all on “[her] nightstand” at the time of the NYT interview. How in your Planet Snowflake would that make Alice Walker “a self hater? … Seriously”!

  • “She is someone whom we would normally want to like and admire — the literati.”

    There’s your problem.

  • She refused to allow “The Color Purple” to be translated into Hebrew because of her involvement in the pro-Palestinian BDS movement.

    So yes, it WAS “the typical anti-Israel stuff”, Mr. Salkin.

  • Since Wikipedia (and Webster, et al) define “literati” as “well-educated people who are interested in literature” I can see why you, of all people, would view that as a problem. I, myself, have no such problem with literature.

  • It all depends. You have to narrow that down.

    If by “bot” your reference is to Ryan Farley & Xinyuan Wang, “The goals of IRC [Internet Relay Chat] bots vary widely, such as automatically kicking other users off or more nefarious things like spamming other IRC users. [To Farley & Wang] a free standing IRC bot … monitors an IRC channel for commands from a particular user and responds accordingly.”

    To Richard K. Neumann, however, “a bot is software that searches for certain kinds of websites and then automatically does something — good or bad — on each site. Google uses bots to search and index websites.”

    On the other hand, Dusty Reagan is of the opinion that “Twitter bots can leverage Twitter′s text message support to allow users to accomplish tasks from their cell phones. You could consider Twitter accounts that are simply an automated import of blog′s RSS feed a Twitter bot.”

    SO WHICH IS IT, INTERNEDSNAKE?!

  • As in the “problem” with Jeffrey Sulking I mean Salkin is … Ah I see what you’re getting at. Carry on.

  • Which reminds me, thanks. My turn to take out the garbage tonight. Oof too heavy. What’s going on … Oh hello you must be Monsieur Messpit. Since you’re already in it, mind taking it out for me? Gotta ketchup I mean catch up on my Alice Walker Book Club reading for Christmas Eve.

  • The cited article says that she refused to have her book translated into Hebrew in protest of the treatment of Palestinians, in direct contradiction to what the article’s author claims. I can’t see the NY times article, but if I am going off that one bald faced lie, this is sadly poor journalism.

  • I have never fully understood why after all these centuries Jews are still people’s favorite scapegoat? Sure they were literate when most of the rest of the population including rulers weren’t so they were placed in positions of authority (tax collectors and scribes). Is that why people still have a grudge against them?

    Sure their book has some pretty “odd” passages. What book of the period didn’t? Don’t we need to look at all books in light of the history of the times? Or is that being too intellectual? To look at something from the perspective of time and history?

    The critics of the Book, Old and New Testaments, seem to give more moral authority to the texts than they deserve in my opinion. The books contain the wisdom of people trying to make their way in the world, trying to make sense of their life and times, nothing more nor less.

    Einstein once said that the Old and New Testaments can be seen as the transition of a people from the Authoritarian, Vengeful, God of the Old Testament to the compassionate forgiving God of the New. If he can see the broad picture of transformation why can’t others? The New Testament God of Christianity is a Jewish God. People forget Jesus was a Jew. Jesus wouldn’t have been the man that he was if it wasn’t for his Jewish upbringing/heritage. So why all the hate after all of these years?

  • “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.”
    – The Christ Jesus.

    THAT’S ALL THERE IS TO HATRED, which you’ll never understand.

  • Sorry but there is much more to hatred than that. It is because some folks accept simplistic answers that we still haven’t solved this problem.

  • Extreme Christians, like radical Muslims, hate the Jews because their great envy on the Jews. They ask, why did God choose the Jews to be his people? Why did God gave the Jews the Torah? People are unable to grasp the universal meaning of the role of the Jewish people in human history. And extremists of all faiths envy and hate the Jews because of the extremists own uncivilized mental flaws.

    Is it any wonder that radical Christians and Muslims are not only persecuting Jews but also honest and decent Christians and Muslims? That’s how it was in the many wars that have taken place in Europe and Midle East over the past thousand years, and that is how Muslims are the greatest killers in human history. And most of their victims, of Muslims and Christians, were also Muslims and Christians.

    So, does hatred is worthwhile?

    In the Talmud of the Jews, a very wise book of debates and arguments, it is said: “Hatred is blinded the eyes of wise people.”
    “What you hate, do not do to your friends.”

    And in order to be a honorable Jewish, it is said “Love thy neighbor as thyself”.

  • A comparison between Anne Coulter and Alice Walker is an unfair violation of Colter and a misguided protection of Walker.

    There is, however, a difference between the gruesome, abhorrent, Nazi hatred of Jews for being Jews and for their very existence as being expressed by Alice Walker, and of the foolish general slur claimed by Coulter.

  • Not a Messianic Jew, are you? Too bad, and I don’t care.

    Just an Anti-Messianic Jew Jew, then, are you, babybirdie? NOW THAT I CARE ABOUT.

  • It’s very sad and unfortunate, but she is still a brilliant writer and I for one will continue to read and admire her as a writer though not as an intellectual in general. Certainly there have been many brilliant and talented people who have committed the sin of racism or who believed in eugenics. The white Northern women who lead the most well-known suffrage organizations “compromised” with their Southern sisters by rallying around votes for women but not for black people. They were still important activists, who did good, but they were also flawed and human and racist. There are many Jewish writers and intellectuals I admire who have also said and done racist and sexist things (Ovadya Yosef, Carlebach and some ChaBaD leaders come to mind). We have to credit people for the good that they do and the beautiful ideas they advance. We also have to hold them accountable in the areas where they fall short. It is a mistake to take an “all or nothing” approach with creative leaders any more than with political leaders. We have to acknowledge that people are human and sometimes wrong. It does, however, make me very, very sad, that so brilliant and thoughtful a woman could fall prey to such distorted thinking and that she could so easily accept so many vicious lies about my people. I was sorry to hear it and I certainly won’t apologize for it or try to defend her. That said, anti-Semitism within the black community does not relieve Jews of our obligation to fight racism both within our own community, within our country, and in the world. We have our obligations, regardless of how any individual black leader or person might behave or believe. Fighting bigotry is not a trade, not a tit-for-tat, not a deal where I will care about your rights if you care about mine. We fight bigotry because it is a stain on the human race and an affront to God’s vision of a world in which “no man can say my father is better than yours” (THE TALMUD). As Jews, who have suffered bigotry and racism and discrimination for most of our history, that fight is our fight and we should never allow one person’s failure to uphold their own obligation to defend us to prevent us from defending our values.

  • The primary obligation of a Jew is monotheism and we do not consider the Trinity or the elevation of someone we consider a human being to be monotheism. This is the reason that Messianic Jews are not accepted in the Jewish community. Theologically they are Christians who simply choose to engage in some Jewish practices. I can buy some feathers and burn some sage but that does not make me a Navajo. To become Navajo, I would need to move to their land and follow their rules for becoming accepted into their community. I cannot unilaterally decide that I am a member of any Native American tribe. Likewise with Jews, who are fundamentally a tribe. The tribe is open and accepting to anyone who chooses to join — ON OUR TERMS. We are the tribe and we set the terms for acceptance. If you don’t like the terms and want to make up your own hybrid religion, that’s fine, Protestants regularly make up religions in the United States every 20-30 years. However, you are not free to call yourself “Jews” any more than I am free to call myself “Indian” or “Native American”. Those words have definitions and meaning. So please — do what you will and practice however you like, but use another word. We are using this one.

  • Please show me numerically that Muslims have killed more people in religious wars than Christians. When you consider the millions and millions of native americans killed by the Spanish and the millions of people who died in European religious wars, the effects of colonialism which were partially driven by a belief in religious and moral superiority — I really think that Christians have killed far more people in the name of religion. I agree with you — all extremists are bad. But you are making a factual claim above, not an argument, and I don’t think you have the numbers to back that up.

  • You don’t know your Judaism; that there was this benediction in the shabbat liturgy known as Palestinian #12 (Genizah) calling for a curse & destruction upon Messianic Jews:

    “May nazarim … instantly perish; may they be blotted from the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous. Blessed are you, Lord, humbler of the arrogant.”

    How can you, of all people, while overcoming anti-semitism, end up practicing reversed anti-semitism upon these “nazarim” – “the reference … to the early sect of Jewish Christians known as the Nazarenes” then, and to Messianic Jews nowadays?!

    Source: David Instone-Brewer, Traditions of the Rabbis from the Era of the New Testament, Volume I: Prayer and Agriculture, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2004. And L Chat, “Messianic Jews: A Brief History”, Jews for Jesus, July 10, 2018.