Interview: Alice Walker on the Mideast Conflict

The author and activist, who is setting sail for Gaza on a humanitarian mission, says Israel "is the greatest terrorist" in the Middle East.

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Alice Walker (Monica Morgan/WireImage)

Interview by Robert Zeliger

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker will join the flotilla of ships [this] week that will try to break Israel's maritime blockade of the Gaza Strip. She says the goal is to bring supplies and raise awareness of the situation there. Last May, during a similar attempt by activists, Israel raided six ships. On one, clashes broke out and Israeli commandos killed nine people.

Foreign Policy reached the author of The Color Purple in Greece, where she is preparing for her departure.

Foreign Policy: Why are you taking part in the flotilla mission?

Alice Walker: In 2009 I was in Gaza, just after Operation Cast Lead, and I saw the incredible damage and devastation. I have a good understanding of what's on the ground there and how the water system was destroyed and the sewage system. I saw that the ministries had been bombed, and the hospitals had been bombed, and the schools.

I sat for a good part of a morning in the rubble of the American school, and it just was so painful because we as Americans pay so much of our taxes for this kind of weaponry that was used. On a more sort of mature grandmotherly level, I feel that as an elder it is up to me and others like me -- other elders, other mature adults -- to look at situations like this and bring to them whatever understanding and wisdom we might have gained in our fairly long lifetimes, witnessing and being a part of struggles against oppression.

FP: How long have you been involved in Palestinian activism? What drew you to it?

AW: It started with the Six Day War in 1967. That happened shortly after my wedding to a Jewish law student. And we were very happy because we thought Israel was right to try to defend itself by pre-emptively striking against Egypt. We didn't realize any of the real history of that area. So that was my beginning of being interested in what was going on and watching what was happening.

Even at that time, I said to my young husband, well, they shouldn't take that land because it's actually not their land. This just seemed so unjust to me. It just seemed so wrong. It's really unjust because in America we think about Israel in mythical terms. And most of us have grown up with the Bible. So we think that we are sort of akin to these people and whatever they're saying must be true -- their God is giving them land and that is just the reality.

But actually the land had people living on it. The people were in their own homes, their own towns and cities. So the battle has been about them trying to reclaim what was taken from them. It's important, when we have some new understanding -- especially adults and mature adults -- we must, I think, take some action so that younger people will have a better understanding of what they are seeing in the world.

Read the rest of this interview at Foreign Policy.

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