Nylah Burton’s Moving Commentary on Alice Walker’s Antisemitism

I recently commented on the controversy over acclaimed writer Alice Walker’s vicious and deranged antisemitism, previously little known but brought to light in a “By the Book” author interview in The New York Times. Walker, it turns out, has a history of antisemitism, revealed both by her admiration of a bizarre antisemitic conspiracy tract by David Icke, and by a poem she wrote titled “It Is Our Frightful Duty to Study the Talmud.”

Jewish Amulet by David Elias Krieger (Wikimedia Commons)

While the NYT author interview was widely criticized, the most poignant critique was written by Nylah Burton in New York Magazine on December 28, titled “Alice Walker’s Terrible Antisemitic Poem Felt Personal–to Her and to Me.” The NYT also wrote a followup on December 21 noting that in her blog, Walker subsequently doubled-down on her praise for Icke, calling the author “brave” and asserting that the book was not antisemitic.

In the followup the Times cited readers who saw Walker’s recommendation as a “dangerous endorsement of bigotry and hatred,” and who contended that in the current environment, where conspiracy theories have led to antisemitic crimes and violence, publishing the book recommendation without context or explanation was irresponsible.

On the other hand, in a recent email conversation, my nephew Ben made a spirited defense of the Times decision to publish the Walker interview without comment or context–and I will let Ben have the last word: “The Times is right: inserting editorialization into their interviews would achieve nothing but the gradual erosion of their reader’s trust [that the Times will] portray the world without ideological filtering or distortion.”

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