click here to jump to start of article
Join Our Newsletter

Get latest articles and videos with Jewish inspiration and insights​

Alice Walker Scapegoating Israel

Alice Walker Scapegoating Israel

An open letter by Israel's Consul General in New York.


20 June 2013

The following open letter was originally published by the New York Post.

Dear Ms. Walker,

I am writing this letter to you with great pain, after encountering your name in the news, again, calling for a boycott on my home and country.

Recently, you urged a popular American artist to boycott Israel. In your statement you claimed that “under a campaign named ‘Brand Israel,’ Israeli officials use culture and arts to showcase Israel as a modern, welcoming place.”

As it happens, I’m the founding head of Israel’s brand-management team and the originator of the Brand Israel movement you refer to. Let me tell you the real story of Brand Israel:

For decades, dozens of countries, cities and regions all over the world have engaged in a “branding” process – a comprehensive attempt to present an attractive image of a place, which should lead to increased tourism, foreign investment and export. 'I Love New York' is part of one such campaign.

No other country has ever been criticized for engaging in this common practice of courting tourists and businesses. Only in Israel’s case is it – for some reason – deemed a demonic exercise of the “Israeli propaganda machine.”

Why is it considered a ploy in our case, when it is a worthy and normal endeavor when everyone else does the same?

This is even more ridiculous, when the Israeli government sponsors award-winning films with self-critical viewpoints that often deal with the conflict that the critics claim we are trying to hide. An odd “propaganda machine” indeed.

So why is it that in your view, the Jewish state has no right to promote itself, dress up for its tourists and appeal to millions, while entities like Iran and North Korea, not to mention Gaza under Hamas, avoid your harsh words and condemnations?

Why is it considered a ploy in our case, when it is a worthy and normal endeavor when everyone else does the same?

Here’s a strange twist: A well-known American author, who prides herself of the protection of freedom and pluralism, is trying to deprive millions of Israeli music fans of their right to enjoy music.

Let’s admit: You do not think Israel has the right to be presented positively. You displayed your own inability to relate to Israel other than through the prism of the conflict with its neighbors.

Have you done anything about Syria? Ninety thousand dead, 1.5 million refugees. Full-blown civil war.

Israel, like many other places on Earth, experiences a variety of issues and challenges – some related to our society, others to the geopolitics of a changing region. Israel should not be viewed solely through the prism of its problems, nor should any other country.

Israel is a vibrant nation, with hard-working people who make the world a better place on a daily basis. Our legendary foreign minister, the late Golda Meir, was one of the first leaders to reach out to the “newly decolonized” nations of Africa immediately after their independence, to join hands in sharing our respective experiences as young nations.

Meir’s work and legacy still thrive all over the developing world, spreading the light that is Israel, and for the benefit of making people’s lives better.

Israel is a country of history and wonder, surprises and values. It is a source of light. Let it shine.

This legacy was manifested not too long ago when Israelis from all walks of life received word of the earthquake in Haiti. In just a few hours, planes were packed with supplies and manpower to help in the relief efforts.Israel was one of the first countries to arrive in Haiti after the earthquake, and we immediately got to work in order to set up entire field hospitals, complete with pre-natal units, in the hardest hit areas.

While Israeli search-and-rescue teams went to the wreckage to look for survivors, our doctors were delivering new life and providing a new hope for survival. After the wreckage was cleared, teams of doctors and engineers traveled once again to Haiti to help with the efforts to rebuild.

We all know that there is a dire need in the world today for greater understanding and mutual respect between peoples and nations. Once we start excluding others unjustly and immorally, it can only serve to harm the greater good.

Let’s use our words carefully, to build bridges, not destroy them. To bring healing, not pain. Ms. Walker, Israel is a country of history and wonder, surprises and values. It is a source of light. Let it – and us all – shine.

June 22, 2013

Give Tzedakah! Help create inspiring
articles, videos and blogs featuring timeless Jewish wisdom.
The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 56

(45) William, June 29, 2013 2:47 AM

Life in Israel

Israel, and her people, will always suffer for who they are: Jews!! FULL STOP! No matter what we may say, the haters will always have the loudest voice because that's what today's public want to hear! Public does not care that Israelis were first to give help to Haiti or Turkey (after an earthquake), public does not know, or care, that in Israeli hospitals there are, today, many Palestinian children, and adults, seeking medical help that they can not get in their territories. Public does not know, nor care, that there are many Syrian wounded, fighters and civilians and children, being cared for in Israeli hospitals, as a result of the civil war, in their own country! Should we go on!? The world does not want to know any of this, because it is not controversial enough. BUT FASLEHOOD IS AND ALWAYS WILL BE! Israel is the only democratic country in the Middle East and yet, the world does not want to acknowledge this fact! Here all religions have the freedom to worship, unlike in all other, neighbouring countries. What does that say about her people, vis-à-vis her neighbours? People like Alice Walker, and her ilk, should visit Israel and see for themselves how people live there, the freedom they enjoy, before making stupid statements. Thank you for listening; it pains me to write this. But no one will EVER listen to us!
Because we are JEWS!!.

(44) Ann, June 26, 2013 7:27 AM

What's Wrong...

Of 60K visitors go to Israel, and 51K have a similar experience- is it false or should it be investigated ?
I was always told if so many people do not like something I am doing or saying, or how I treat others... That means I need to take a look at what I am doing if the majority see something I cannot.

This is not hatred.

Dvirah, June 26, 2013 3:43 PM

What Experience?

Please specify the evidence that of 60K visitors to Israel, 51K had a bad experience there. Also, did each of these have the same bad experience (ie, same type if not identical in details), and was this bad experience the extent and total outcome of their visits (ie, no additional pleasant experiences while still in Israel)? (Of course, I am only assuming that the experience you refer to was "bad" from your use of the word "wrong.") I'd also like to point out that "bad" experiences can happen anywhere, even in one's own hometown. Usually they are out-numbered by other "good" experiences in the same place. I agree that it's particularly unfortunate if one has such an experience on vacation, because the chance of returing to that place and balancing the bad experience with other better ones is small.

Yehudith Shraga, June 27, 2013 6:31 AM

It Is hatred !

Out of all the States in the Asian region, ISRAEL is the SAFEST country for both Jews and Non-Jews, it is investigated, it experienced and it is the fact, which MAJORITY knows, and may be it is exactly what "many people" doesn't want to say out loud, because it hurts their Common Religious or National Ego, because there is no other country like Israel, who takes care of prisioners, refujees, citizents and outsider works in the same equal way! We treat them in the hospitals, we operate them, we take care of Arabs from Gaza and they say us THANK YOU, but they are too afraid of their leaders to say it loud, they study in our Universities and feel safe in our malls and public places. Dear Ann if you are a jew, then have a good trip to any of other,but Israel country in our region and we will hear the results of your investigation and exparience, if, of course, you dare to visit one on them!

Jeff, June 27, 2013 2:13 PM

The majority CAN be wrong...

Ann, I don't know to what 51K/60K or "similar experience" you refer. But tens of thousands of tourists, of many religions and races, visit Israel every year. Christian pilgrims visit Jerusalem, the Gallilee -- and even Bethlehem, in the Palestinian-controlled West Bank -- and freely "walk in the footsteps of Jesus"; and Muslims come to pray at their third-most holiest site, Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque. The Baha'is have their beautiful temple grounds and gardens in the port city of Haifa. Israel is also "visited" by thousands of African and Asian migrant and temporary workers and African (e.g. Sudanese) refugees. Ann, why do you think these people are bypassing Israel's larger neighbours, in favour of stopping in the Jewish state? It's not because of greater job opportunities or a milder climate! It's because they're not welcome anywhere else in the region. To be specific: Israel's Arab neighbours have near-zero tolerance for non-Arab and non-Muslim outsiders. So again I ask: What negative "similar experiences" are you talking about? It's not a lack of freedom of religion. Throughout Israel, you will see Arab men dropping to the ground, in public, to pray 7 times a day. Could a Jew or Christian similarly demonstrate such public prayer, in one of the middle-eastern Arab lands? No, in most you would be arrested -- or stoned -- for exhibiting non-Muslim prayer. In Saudi Arabia, during the Gulf War, Western soldiers were not even allowed to display religious jewellery (e.g. crosses, magen davids) in public, for fear of starting a riot and wearing out their welcome. But, like Ms. Walker, you single out little Israel for imagined offences that somehow distinguish that country from among the other nations. You align yourself with a fictive but vocal "majority" in order to malign and isolate the Jewish minority. Yet you say "this is not hatred". Sorry, Ann, but you're deluding yourself. It IS hatred. It is racism. It is antisemitism.

See All Comments

Submit Your Comment:

  • Display my name?

  • Your email address is kept private. Our editor needs it in case we have a question about your comment.

  • * required field 2000
Submit Comment