Sankoré Connect

Finding Freedom through Communication

Alicia Keys declines Alice Walker’s request to boycott Israel: Are we surprised?

In case you haven’t heard…Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple, wrote a letter to musical artist Alicia Keys asking her to join the boycott of Israel by not performing there at her upcoming concert.  In her letter (found below) she describes Israel’s violence against the Palestinians and also the U.S. government’s complicity in this violence and thievery of Palestinian lands.  Sadly, Alicia Keys has chose to perform in Israel despite Ms. Walker’s request.   I don’t think anyone should be surprised by Key’s decision since her livelihood is heavily influenced by Jewish power brokers.  We really can’t expect much from black entertainers who are culturally produced by those who benefit both economically and politically from injustice towards people of color.

On the other side of this debate is a Wall Street Journal’s op-ed piece (June 10, 2013 issue) by Richard Friedman, executive director of the Jewish Federation in Birmingham, Alabama, who refutes Walker’s comparison of the U.S. civil rights boycotts to the boycott against Israel.  Friedman notes Martin Luther King’s admiration of Israel to suggest to the reader that members of the civil rights movement were actually pro-Israel – totally neglecting members of the movement who did not support Israel.  In sum, Friedman argues that Walker has distorted civil rights history and that his Federation are reaching out to the black community in Birmingham, Alabama to teach them about the true history of Israel.

Are you surprised about Alicia Key’s decision or Friedman’s response?


Dear Alicia Keys,

I have learned today that you are due to perform in Israel very soon. We have never met, though I believe we are mutually respectful of each other’s path and work. It would grieve me to know you are putting yourself in danger (soul danger) by performing in an apartheid country that is being boycotted by many global conscious artists. You were not born when we, your elders who love you, boycotted institutions in the US South to end an American apartheid less lethal than Israel’s against the Palestinian people. Google Montgomery Bus Boycott, if you don’t know about this civil rights history already. We changed our country fundamentally, and the various boycotts of Israeli institutions and products will do the same there. It is our only nonviolent option and, as we learned from our own struggle in America, nonviolence is the only path to a peaceful future.

If you go to my website and blog you can quickly find many articles I have written over the years that explain why a cultural boycott of Israel and Israeli institutions (not individuals) is the only option left to artists who cannot bear the unconscionable harm Israel inflicts every day on the people of Palestine, whose major “crime” is that they exist in their own land, land that Israel wants to control as its own. Under a campaign named ‘Brand Israel’, Israeli officials have stated specifically their intent to downplay the Palestinian conflict by using culture and arts to showcase Israel as a modern, welcoming place.

This is actually a wonderful opportunity for you to learn about something sorrowful, and amazing: that our government (Obama in particular) supports a system that is cruel, unjust, and unbelievably evil. You can spend months, and years, as I have, pondering this situation. Layer upon layer of lies, misinformation, fear, cowardice and complicity. Greed. It is a vast eye-opener into the causes of much of the affliction in our suffering world.

I have kept you in my awareness as someone of conscience and caring, especially about the children of the world. Please, if you can manage it, go to visit the children in Gaza, and sing to them of our mutual love of all children, and of their right not to be harmed simply because they exist.

With love, younger sister, beloved daughter and friend,
Alice Walker

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