In her 1983 novel, “The Color Purple,” Alice Walker took readers on a literary journey of a lifetime and now the Pulitzer Prize-winning author is making news setting out on a journey of her own.
Walker, along with a group of 34 other Americans, is planning to sail to Gaza despite the Israeli blockade surrounding the Palestinian territory. The group will be sailing in a boat named “The Audacity of Hope.” Clearly lifted from the title of the book by President Obama, the group hopes to make a political statement. Many within the group heading to Gaza have likened their journey to that of the 1950s Freedom Riders, whose bus rides to the southern parts of the United States to challenge segregation.
In a letter to CNN International today, the 67-year-old Walker explained why she is choosing to sailing to Gaza as part of the flotilla. She writes:
Our boat, The Audacity of Hope, will be carrying letters to the people of Gaza. Letters expressing solidarity and love. That is all its cargo will consist of. If the Israeli military attacks us, it will be as if they attacked the mailman. This should go down hilariously in the annals of history.
And what of the children of Palestine, who were ignored in our President’s latest speech on Israel and Palestine, and whose impoverished, terrorized, segregated existence was mocked by the standing ovations recently given in the U.S. Congress to the prime minister of Israel?
As adults, we must affirm, constantly, that the Arab child, the Muslim child, the Palestinian child, the African child, the Jewish child, the Christian child, the American child, the Chinese child, the Israeli child, the Native American child, etc., is equal to all others on the planet. We must do everything in our power to cease the behavior that makes children everywhere feel afraid.
It is justice and respect that I want the world to dust off and put – without delay, and with tenderness – back on the head of the Palestinian child. It will be imperfect justice and respect because the injustice and disrespect have been so severe. But I believe we are right to try.
That is why I sail.
Walker and the group face a dangerous situation entering the diplomatically tense waters surrounding Gaza. A year ago, nine people were killed in a Turkish boat after Israeli commandos raided their ship in international waters of the Gaza coast. Israel first issued the blockade on the Palestinian territory after Hamas took control of it in 2007.
With Egypt’s help, Israel has maintained the blockade; only loosening the land blockade after international criticism ensued following the incident last spring. Last week, Israel agreed to allow the construction of 1200 new homes and 18 school in the territory. Still many in Gaza remain without access to critical resources and one the economic consequences is that nearly half of the population there is unemployed.
“We’re sending a message to our own government that we think it could play a much more positive role in not only ending the siege of Gaza, but also ending the whole occupation” of Palestinian land, she said. “The phrase does capture what we believe, which is that it is possible to make change in a positive way, and that’s a very hopeful stance.”
News of the flotilla was first reported in the Times on June 1st when organizers were still readying the details of the trip. While they spoke to the paper about their voyage, organizers refused to identify the port they would be embarking from only disclosing that passengers from Span, Canada, Ireland and Switzerland would be traveling with the group as well.
The international flotilla will be carrying 1,000 passengers in 10 boats in all when it approaches the Gaza’s shores.