Over the weekend, the New York Times Book Review published a full-length interview with Alice Walker, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Color Purple. The very first question: “What books are on your nightstand?” Walker replied with four, the second of which was:
“And the Truth Shall Set You Free,” by David Icke. 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.
This passed without comment from the New York Times interviewer, and the publication passed it on to readers without qualification. This is rather remarkable because the book is an unhinged anti-Semitic conspiracy tract written by one of Britain’s most notorious anti-Semites.
A former soccer player turned professional hate peddler, Icke is one of the most influential conspiracy theorists in Europe, and certainly in Britain. Today, he has over 777,000 followers on Facebook, and speaks to audiences around the world. Like many conspiracy theorists, Icke claims that a secret conspiracy controls the world. And like many conspiracy theorists, Icke claims that this secret conspiracy happens to be Jewish. In And the Truth Shall Set You Free, the word “Jewish” appears 241 times, and the name “Rothschild” is mentioned 374 times. These references are not compliments. Indeed, the book was so obviously anti-Semitic that Icke’s publisher refused to publish it, and he had to print it himself.
In the book and elsewhere, Icke draws liberally upon the infamous anti-Semitic pamphlet, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion—a Russian forgery about an alleged global Jewish cabal that is widely considered one of the most influential anti-Semitic works in history. Magnanimously, Icke calls the hate tract by a different name. As he writes in the book promoted by Alice Walker:
In the very late 1800s, a controversial document came to light called the Protocols Of The Elders Of Zion. I call them the Illuminati Protocols and I quote many extracts from them in The Robots’ Rebellion. Some say they were a forgery made public only to discredit Jews, and I use the term ‘Illuminati Protocols’ to get away from the Jewish emphasis. If they were a forgery, something that is quite possible, what were they a forgery of, and by whom? The authors of the best-selling book, Holy Blood, Holy Grail, conclude that the original Protocols were indeed authentic.
Realizing that this may not convince readers of his good intentions, Icke attempts to head off charges of anti-Semitism by casting himself as a moderate in the reasonable debate over whether a Jewish conspiracy does in fact control the world:
I believe that researchers over the years who have blamed the entire conspiracy on the Jewish people as a whole are seriously misguided; similarly, for Jewish organisations to deny that any Jewish person is working for the New World Order conspiracy is equally naive and allowing dogma or worse to blind them to reality.
So, is Icke anti-Semitic? Well, here are some other things that he says in the book:
• The Talmud is “among the most appallingly racist documents on the planet.”
• B’nai Brith, the world’s oldest Jewish service organization, was behind the slave trade (an anti-Semitic canard popularized by Louis Farrakhan) and controls the Ku Klux Klan: “B’nai B’rith means ‘Sons of the Alliance’ (Ed: Actually, ‘Children of the Covenant’) and was established in 1843. Many of its speakers openly supported slavery during the American Civil War and it covertly supports and controls the Ku Klux Klan.”
• Racist far-right groups are actually Jewish fronts. “In Britain,” he writes, “I am told by an extremely reliable source very close to the intelligence organisations that the ‘far Right’ group, Combat 18, is a front for the sinister Anti-Defamation League, the United States and of the ‘Israeli’/Rothschild secret service, Mossad. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has been operating in Britain and Europe since at least 1991 and its role is to brand as anti-Semitic anyone who is getting close to the truth of what is going on. What better way to discredit an investigator than to have a ‘far Right’ group like Combat 18 to praise them?” (The “18” in “Combat 18” refers to the first and eighth letters of the alphabet: A and H, for Adolf Hitler.)
• Jews are behind anti-Semitic attacks: “If you really want to discredit someone, you arrange for anti-Jewish or anti-whatever events such as the smashing of graves, assaults on people, even a terrorist bomb in the extreme. You then point the finger at your target person or group. You say they are either directly responsible or ‘incited’ the actions by what they are writing and saying.”
• Quotes and seconds the heinous assertion of Gary Allen—the John Birch Society spokesman and former George Wallace speechwriter—that Jews bankrolled their own extermination in the Holocaust:
The Jewish members of the conspiracy have used an organisation called The Anti-Defamation League as an instrument to try to convince everyone that any mention of the Rothschilds and their allies is an attack on all Jews. In this way they have stifled almost all honest scholarship on international bankers and made the subject taboo within universities. Any individual or book exploring this subject is immediately attacked by hundreds of ADL communities all over the country. The ADL has never let the truth or logic interfere with its highly professional smear jobs … Actually, nobody has a right to be more angry at the Rothschild clique than their fellow Jews. The Warburgs, part of the Rothschild empire, helped finance Adolf Hitler.
• Equates the anti-Semitic Nazi media of the Third Reich with a company that closed down a publication after it printed Holocaust denial: “What is the difference between the controlled anti-Jewish media under Hitler and the way the Japanese magazine, Marco Polo, was closed down by its parent company in 1995 because of a campaign by the global Jewish hierarchy to stop its advertising revenue after it published an article questioning some of the official stories of the Nazi concentration camps?”
• Calls on schools to teach the controversy about whether the Holocaust really happened: “Why do we play a part in suppressing alternative information to the official line of the Second World War? How is it right that while this fierce suppression goes on, free copies of the Spielberg film, Schindler’s List, are given to schools to indoctrinate children with the unchallenged version of events? And why do we, who say we oppose tyranny and demand freedom of speech, allow people to go to prison and be vilified, and magazines to be closed down on the spot, for suggesting another version of history?”
(Icke never does explain how Jews could have funded the Holocaust if the Holocaust didn’t actually happen.)
As can be seen from these extracts, and the chapter titles of the work (“Master Races,” “The Hidden Hand”), anti-Semitism is not incidental to Icke’s book, it is essential. It is impossible to miss it. (And we have not even touched on Icke’s climate change denial, 9/11 trutherism, and anti-vaccination misinformation.)
This is the book that Alice Walker recommended to New York Times readers.
That a celebrated cultural figure like Walker would promote such a self-evidently unhinged bigot might seem surprising at first glance. But this is only because the cultural establishment has spent years studiously looking away from Walker’s praise of Icke and his work, and her repeated expressions of anti-Semitism.
Back in June 2013, Walker wrote an effusive blog post showering accolades on Icke and his book Human Race Get off Your Knees. “It’s an amazing book, HUMAN RACE GET OFF YOUR KNEES,” she enthused, “and reading it was the ultimate reading adventure. I felt it was the first time I was able to observe, and mostly imagine and comprehend, the root of the incredible evil that has engulfed our planet.”
In May 2013, Walker told the BBC’s Desert Island Discs that if she could have only one book, it would be Icke’s Human Race.
In December 2013, Walker offered end-of-year thanks to an array of “beloved humans who’ve stuck their necks out for the collective.” One of them was David Icke, whose Human Race Get off Your Knees book also got its own entry.
In July 2015, Walker shared an interview between David Icke and Alex Jones, his American analogue. The account that posted the video has since been banned from YouTube.
In September 2016, Walker promoted a lecture of Icke’s to her readers, writing, “I decided to find, among Icke’s numerous videos, one lecture that might offer an introduction that wouldn’t be too scary for folks leery of being nudged in a direction of inquiry that might upset, destroy possibly, their worldview. I think this one might fit the bill.” YouTube has since taken down that lecture.
In November 2017, Walker posted an explicitly anti-Semitic “poem” on her blog titled, “It Is Our (Frightful) Duty to Study the Talmud.” The composition blames all the world’s ills, from Israel to America, on the ancient Aramaic compendium of Jewish law and lore, and checks nearly every anti-Semitic box, from attacking Jews as Christ-killers to claiming that Jews view gentiles as “sub-human.” A representative excerpt:
For the study of Israel, of Gaza, of Palestine,
Of the bombed out cities of the Middle East,
Of the creeping Palestination
Of our police, streets, and prisons
Of war in general,
It is our duty, I believe, to study The Talmud.
It is within this book that,
I believe, we will find answers
To some of the questions
That most perplex us.
Where to start?
You will find some information,
By Googling. For a more in depth study
I recommend starting with YouTube. Simply follow the trail of “The Talmud” as its poison belatedly winds its way
Into our collective consciousness.
Some of what you find will sound
Too crazy to be true. Unfortunately those bits are likely
To be true. Some of the more evasive studies
Will exhibit unbelievable attempts
At sugar coating extremely disagreeable pills.
But hang in there, checking
And double checking, listening to everybody,
Even the teachers with the twisted pasts
That scare you the most,
And the taped rants of outraged citizens that sound
Like madcap characters on Car Talk
Except they are not laughing
But are righteously outraged.
Study hard, with an open
If deeply offended mind,
Until you can sift the false
From the true.
Is Jesus boiling eternally in hot excrement,
For his “crime” of throwing the bankers
Out of the Temple? For loving, standing with,
The poor? Was his mother, Mary,
Are Goyim (us) meant to be slaves of Jews, and not only
That, but to enjoy it?
Are three year old (and a day) girls eligible for marriage and intercourse?
Are young boys fair game for rape?
Must even the best of the Goyim (us, again) be killed?
Pause a moment and think what this could mean
Or already has meant
In our own lifetime.
Anti-Semitic slanders of the Talmud’s contents are almost as old as the Talmud itself, and are one reason why Albert Einstein advocated that it be translated into English, “in order to cut the ground from under certain malevolent attacks, of anti-Semitic origin, which borrow countenance from the obscurity and inaccessibility of certain passages in the Talmud.” Clearly, Einstein did not anticipate the likes of YouTube-educated Talmud scholars like Alice Walker.
And yet, despite all of this, Walker has never been held accountable by elite cultural critics for repeatedly promoting Icke and anti-Semitism. In fact, this is not even the first time the New York Times helped give her a coveted and uncritical platform: in 2015, New York Times theater reporter Michael Paulson interviewed Walker at the New School to mark the premiere of The Color Purple musical revival on Broadway. He did not ask her about anti-Semitism, despite collecting questions in advance on Twitter, several of which raised the issue, likely because it would have been too uncomfortable.
Normally, this is where I’d say that it was good that the Times published Walker’s Icke recommendation because it lets us know who she is. But we have known who she is for many years. It is rather the Times and other cultural elites who have opted to ignore this inconvenient fact. Thus, the only thing that is accomplished by uncritically disseminating Walker’s bigoted book bon mots is ensuring that the racism is disseminated to more people.
Why has Walker escaped accountability for so long? Perhaps it is due to her Israel politics, which have been used to confuse the issue. Walker is a prominent supporter of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, famously forbidding The Color Purple from being translated into the language of Hebrew. Because Walker—like Icke—is a strident critic of Israel, her defenders—like Icke’s—have dismissed allegations of anti-Semitism by claiming they are merely an attempt to quash her criticism of the Jewish state.
But it should not surprise anyone that the world’s only Jewish state, home to half its Jews, would attract the attention of anti-Semites, who would use the legitimate debate over its conduct to smuggle in their anti-Jewish bile. Anti-Zionism may not be anti-Semitism, but plenty of self-described anti-Zionists are anti-Semites. A progressive left that is serious about anti-Semitism will call it out not only when it comes from a white supremacist and is presented as “race realism,” but when it comes from their own camp and is presented in the righteous guise of “anti-Zionism.”
Not publishing anti-Semitic book recommendations unchallenged in the New York Times would be a good place to start.
Yair Rosenberg is a senior writer at Tablet. Subscribe to his newsletter, listen to his music, and follow him on Twitter and Facebook.