This week, The New York Times Review of Books printed an interview with Alice Walker, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Color Purple. The interviewer asked Walker to list the books on her nightstand. Most were unobjectionable. One was not: a book titled And the Truth Shall Set You Free, by David Icke. Walker described the book thusly: “In Icke’s books there is the whole of existence, on this planet and several others, to think about. A curious person’s dream come true.”
As Yair Rosenberg of Tablet noted, this is a bit of problem. As it turns out, Icke is a rabid anti-Semite, and And the Truth Shall Set You Free is a tome of vitriolic Jew-hating garbage. Rosenberg explains that in the book, “The word ‘Jewish’ appears 241 times, and the name ‘Rothschild’ is mentioned 374 times. These references are not compliments.” The book itself suggests that the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion, an anti-Semitic hoax tract written in the late 1800s, was indeed genuine.
The Times itself has received the lion’s share of the blame for Walker’s reference. But the more interesting question is why Walker herself has been able to escape censure. As Rosenberg points out, Walker has repeatedly praised Icke’s work, has written openly anti-Semitic poetry (“Simply follow the trail of ‘The / Talmud’ as its poison belatedly winds its way / Into our collective consciousness”), and has personally refused to allow The Color Purple to be translated into Hebrew. Yet she is still a well-respected member of the leftist intelligentsia.
And Walker isn’t alone. In fact, anti-Semitism is often accepted by prominent black intellectuals on the left. Marc Lamont Hill trafficked in anti-Semitism for years before losing his CNN contributorship over preaching a Hamas slogan before the United Nations. Cornel West suggested that Israel was born because “Jews jumped out of the burning buildings of Europe in a Jew-hating Europe led by a gangster named Hitler, right? They landed on the backs of some Arabs in the 1940s.” Toni Morrison explained that “a lot of black people . . . believe that Jews in this country, by and large, have become white. They behave like white people rather than Jewish people.” James Baldwin suggested the same thing, explaining, “The Jew profits from his status in America, and he must expect Negroes to distrust him for it. The Jew does not realize that the credential he offers, the fact that he has been despised and slaughtered, does not increase the Negro’s understanding. It increases the Negro’s rage.”
And these are the intellectuals. A bevy of black “community leaders” have been similarly anti-Semitic, and survived and thrived. Rabid anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan was still welcome at Aretha Franklin’s funeral, where he hobnobbed with Bill Clinton. Al Sharpton, whose anti-Semitic record includes helping to incite a riot against Jews in Crown Heights in 1991 and an arson in 1995, has a show on MSNBC, and Democratic presidential candidates come to pay him homage. And while we tend to downplay it now, it’s rather telling that Barack Obama sat in the pews of anti-Semitic pastor Jeremiah Wright for two decades.
It’s a mark of the Left’s intersectional priorities that anti-Semitism from minority groups has been so widely ignored. It is a simple fact that anti-Semitism in the United States does not break down evenly by race. An Anti-Defamation League survey in 2016 found that 23 percent of black Americans had “anti-Semitic propensities,” as measured by an eleven-factor survey, compared with 10 percent of white Americans. That disproportion has been the norm since the ADL began the survey in 2007. Similar disproportionate anti-Semitism exists in the Hispanic community as well. But none of that draws any media coverage. As the New York Times admitted in its survey of anti-Semitic violence in New York City, “bias stemming from longstanding ethnic tensions in the city presents complexities that many liberals have chosen simply to ignore.”
Ignoring anti-Semitism depending on the perpetrator’s ethnicity or background is simply lending cover to anti-Semitism. Alice Walker should be just as toxic for her anti-Semitism as David Duke is for his. After all, they push the same message when it comes to Jews. Failing to acknowledge as much lends credence to the anti-Semitic idea that Jews have somehow earned their hatred from certain groups.