Alice Walker Doesn’t Mince Words in Challenging Israeli Blockade of Gaza

The Pulitzer Prize-winning author is set to sail to Gaza, and compares the treatment of Palestinians to her own childhood in the American South.

By Asraa Mustufa Jun 28, 2011

Celebrated poet and novelist Alice Walker is sailing on the Freedom Flotilla II to Gaza, as part of a humanitarian mission meant to bring aid and awareness to the plight of those affected by Israel’s maritime blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The author, who penned the best-selling book "The Color Purple," wrote a special piece for CNN outlining her intention. She will be sailing on a boat called "The Audacity of Hope", which will be carrying letters expressing solidarity with the people of Gaza.

Walker said she is participating in the mission after seeing the devastation in Gaza following Israel’s "Operation Cast Lead" military offense in 2009.

"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," she said in an interview.

The Pulitzer Prize winner joins several other prominent figures, including Nobel Peace Prize winners Rigoberta Menchú from Guatemala, Mairead Maguire of Northern Ireland, American Jody Williams, and Shirin Ebadi of Iran, as backers of the mission to bring humanitarian aid — including medical, school, and construction materials — to the beleaguered territory. About ten ships carrying over 1,000 activists from 20 countries will depart this month in an attempt to break the blockade. The first Freedom Flotilla was stormed by Israeli troops last year in an ambush that left nine Turkish activists dead and more than 50 on board injured.

On Monday, Israel rescinded its warning to foreign journalists aboard the flotilla after receiving widespread criticism for saying that media who travel with the activists will face the same punishment as other participants in the convoy. However, the Israeli Navy said they are planning to prevent the flotilla from reaching Gaza, after the country’s diplomatic efforts to do so have failed. Meanwhile, the State Department is urging Americans to not participate, and although the United Nations has condemned Israel’s siege, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has asked for international cooperation in stopping the flotilla.

When asked about Israel’s accusation that groups participating in the mission have ties with extremist and terrorist organizations like Hamas, whose 2006 election in part led to the blockade, Walker stated that she believes Israel and the United States are great terrorist organizations. "If you go to Gaza and see some of the bombs — what’s left of the bombs that were dropped — and the general destruction, you would have to say, yeah, it’s terrorism. When you terrorize people, when you make them so afraid of you that they are just mentally and psychologically wounded for life — that’s terrorism," she said, adding that she knows the feeling from growing up in the segregated South.

Like rapper Lupe Fiasco, she went on to cite U.S. interventionist policies and the use of drones in the War on Terror as examples, but also stated that she did not endorse the firing of rockets by Hamas.

"But it’s extremely unequal. If people just acknowledge how absurdly unequal this is. This is David and Goliath, but Goliath is not the Palestinians. They are David. They are the ones with the slingshot. They are the ones with the rocks and relatively not-so-powerful rockets. Whereas the Israelis have these incredibly damaging missiles and rockets. When do you as a person of conscience speak and say enough is enough?"