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The San Diego Community College District on Tuesday defended its decision to invite author Alice Walker to speak at an upcoming event, angering some who cite her support for a fellow writer who has made false, demeaning remarks about Jewish people.
Walker, who is best known for her book “The Color Purple,” is scheduled to give the keynote address on May 31 when the district formally confers power on its new chancellor, Carlos Cortez, during a celebration known as investiture.
“(She) is a Pulitzer prize-winning author and her participation is consistent with the District’s support of the free exchange of ideas and opinions,” the district said in a statement to the Union-Tribune.
“This does not mean the District agrees with every statement made by her now or in the past. Walker is a source of inspiration for many in the community. This includes chancellor Carlos Cortez who says Walker played a key role in his decision to focus his academic studies on African American feminist political history.”
Cortez declined to discuss the issue with the Union-Tribune.
“Our decision was based solely on our determination, shared by numerous other cultural organizations and news outlets, that Ms. Walker’s promotion of the conspiracy theories and disinformation of David Icke is dangerous,” organizers said in a statement. “A quick online search reveals his profound antisemitism, as well as his arguments that COVID-19 is a hoax.”
Icke is the author of “And the Truth Shall Set You Free” a 1995 book that says, in one passage, “I strongly believe that a small Jewish clique which has contempt for the mass of Jewish people worked with non-Jews to create the First World War, the Russian Revolution, and the Second World War …
“They then dominated the Versailles Peace Conference and created the circumstances which made the Second World War inevitable. They financed Hitler to power in 1933 and made the funds available for his rearmament.”
In 2018, the New York Times asked Walker what books were on her night stand. She cited Icke’s “Truth” and said, “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.”
Some people also say there is antisemitic sentiment in her 2017 poem, “To Study the Talmud”.
Walker, who could not be reached Tuesday by the Union-Tribune for comment, has said she is not antisemitic. She addressed the topic last month online in an essay, saying that the allegation “is a ploy to shut down my webpage blog: alicewalkersgarden.com.
“I believe the pretext will be that I am endorsing David Icke, considered an antisemite for espousing theories of human evolution and control that appear unacceptable; and for describing some of our ancestors as descendants of reptilians from another galaxy.
“Why would my webpage be shut down? Because I regularly post disturbing photos and videos from an Israeli peace activist friend, Nurit Peled-Elhanan, that graphically expose what is being done to the people and especially to the children of Palestine by the Israeli government and its soldiers.”
The community college district’s decision to stand by Walker drew criticism Tuesday from Rabbi Jason Nevarez of Congregation Beth Israel in San Diego.
“Painfully absent in their statement is any awareness of the community’s concerns or, perhaps, any upset her words may cause the College District’s Jewish community,” Nevarez told the Union-Tribune.
“The College District has every right to honor the free exchange of opinions and ideas. Yet, when an individual (especially their keynote) labels me and my community with such disdain (someone I have never even met by the way), goes beyond the pale.”
Tammy Gillies, regional director ADL San Diego, said, “It is incredibly disappointing that Cortez or someone from his office would invite Alice Walker, who really, as we know, has been using anti-Semitic rhetoric for years. And it’s very hurtful to the Jewish community.
“To be clear, we do not call for Ms. Walker’s invitation to be rescinded. We at ADL empower free speech and exchange of ideas. But we are disappointed that the district made this decision.”
Source: This post first appeared on sandiegouniontribune.com