Cape Town - Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker has refused an Israeli company, Yediot Books, from publishing a new Hebrew translation of her acclaimed novel The Color Purple, citing Israel's "apartheid policies".
The Color Purple was first translated into Hebrew in 1984.
In a letter to the publishers of Yediot Books, dated 9 June 2012, and first published by The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott on Israel, Walker writes:
"It isn't possible for me to permit this at this time for the following reason: As you may know, last Fall in South Africa the Russell Tribunal on Palestine met and determined that Israel is guilty of apartheid and persecution of the Palestinian people, both inside Israel and also in the Occupied Territories."
She adds: "I grew up under American apartheid and this was far worse. Indeed, many South Africans who attended, including Desmond Tutu, felt the Israeli version of these crimes is worse even than what they suffered under the white supremacist regimes that dominated South Africa for so long. It is my hope that the non-violent BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement, of which I am part, will have enough of an impact on Israeli civilian society to change the situation."
The Color Purple, which won the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, was adapted into a movie by Steven Spielberg in 1985, starring Whoopi Goldberg, Danny Glover and Oprah Winfrey, and was nominated for 11 Oscars. Both the book and film deal with racism in the American South in the first part of the 20th century.
Walker's decision echoes that of international tabla player Zakir Hussein, who is considered one of the world's most influential Indian artists who announced that he was cancelling his upcoming performances in Israel.
In the 1980s, during apartheid, Walker also refused apartheid South Africa permission to screen the movie adaptation of her book, she writes in her letter:
"How happy we all were when the apartheid regime was dismantled and Nelson Mandela became the first president of colour of South Africa.
"Only then did we send our beautiful movie! And to this day, when I am in South Africa, I can hold my head high and nothing obstructs the love that flows between me and the people of that country.
"Which is to say, I would so like knowing my books are read by the people of your country, especially by the young, and by the brave Israeli activists (Jewish and Palestinian) for justice and peace I have had the joy of working beside. I am hopeful that one day, maybe soon, this may happen. But now is not the time.
"We must continue to work on the issue, and to wait," she concludes in her letter.
Walker has been vocal against Israel in recent years, and was a participant in one of the flotillas to Gaza, in her support of the Palestinian cause.