Jesse Rosenfeld interviewed American author, Alice Walker, as she waits to depart as a passenger on The Audacity of Hope heading for Gaza.
Reflecting on her years of activism, it is clear that Walker sees a connection between civil rights in America, liberation from apartheid in South Africa and the Palestinian cause.
“Without the international community coming to the aid of the South African people they may very well still be under apartheid, and [without the support of progressive white people] we might still be under segregation in the United States.”
The comparison doesn’t end there: “settlers are the Klan,” she says definitively, referring to the notorious white supremacist terror organization. “They don’t have their white sheets because I guess they don’t need them.”
I mention to her that the leaders of the Palestine’s Arab Spring are discussing a campaign of attempted freedom rides on settler busses in the West Bank.
“I’m very pleased to hear that,” she says breaking into a big smile.
She then returns to the freedom ride conversation from the previous day. “I think the tactic on the Palestinian side is to draw attention to the Klanishness. It’s been so difficult for the world to understand who the settlers are and the problem with them taking more and more of the land,” she says, arguing that it’s a modus systemically rooted in the way Israel was founded.
“That’s the history of the settlement of Palestine; it started in 1948 and is continuing,” she adds connecting Israel’s creation of 750,000 Palestinian refugees in the founding of the state and current settler evictions of Palestinian families in Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Although blunt and unequivocal in her analysis, Walker switches gears, once again displaying her optimism. In a recent article, she details commitments and sacrifices made by white Jewish Americans in the civil rights movement. She says she detailed these to send a message directly to Israelis.
“It’s a way to remind them that their Jewishness can stand for something else, it doesn’t have to stand for beating up people, taking their land and destroying their culture,” she says. “[Israeli’s Jewish identity] could actually be about something very fabulous.’’