Sally Rooney won't sell translation rights to Israeli publisher, reigniting boycott debate

Millennial literary sensation Sally Rooney has decided not to sell the Hebrew translation rights of her latest novel to an Israeli publisher, which sparked renewed debate about the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.

In a statement from her agent, the Irish writer said she was proud to have translated her two previous novels – Conversations with Friends and “Ordinary People” – into Hebrew and said it would be an honor to receive her latest book – “Beautiful world, where are you” – also accessible to Hebrew-speaking readers.

However, Rooney said she did not see fit to accept a new contract with an Israeli company that “does not publicly distance itself from apartheid and support the rights of the Palestinian people established by the UN”.

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

“If I can find a way to sell these rights that is in line with the institutional boycott guidelines of the BDS movement, I will be very happy and proud to do so,” she said in the statement. “In the meantime, I would like to express my opinion.” once again my solidarity with the Palestinian people in their struggle for freedom, justice and equality. “

The BDS movement has called for a boycott of Israeli companies, universities and cultural institutions in an allegedly non-violent campaign against Israeli attacks against Palestinians. It said it aims to press Israel economically and politically to comply with international law and is working to end international support for Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians.

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But Israeli officials say the movement is anti-Semitic and is trying to delegitimize or even destroy the Jewish state. Under Israeli law, supporters of the movement can be refused entry to Israel.

Rooney, 30, noted that Human Rights Watch stated earlier that year that Israel was guilty of the international crimes of apartheid and persecution for its discriminatory policies against Palestinians within its borders and in the Occupied Territories. That report, she said, followed a similarly damning publication by Israel’s leading human rights group, B’Tselem, which first referred to Israel as an “apartheid regime”.

Rooney’s testimony to clarify her position came after the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Israeli publisher Modan told the newspaper last month that Rooney would not allow her new book to be published in Hebrew because she was in favor of a boycott of Israel.

Tali Tchelet, a spokeswoman for the publisher, said Modan had published Rooney’s previous books, and when they asked about her third novel, the answer came that she wasn’t interested in publishing it in Israel.

“We have received no explanation for their refusal,” Tchelet wrote in an email. “We think Sally Rooney is one of our best translation writers, and she definitely had a solid readership in Israel.”

The Haaretz report prompted Gitit Levy-Paz, a fellow at the Jewish People Policy Institute, to review Rooney’s decision in an article for. to critisize the website of Forward on Monday, in which she argued that Rooney had chosen a path that was “anathema to the artistic nature of literature”.

Others, however came to their defense. Ronan Burtenshaw, editor of UK socialist magazine Tribune, said Forward cynically chose to do this through language.

Burtenshaw, who attended Trinity College in Dublin around the same time as Rooney, said that while there are “no simple cultural boycotts”, the “moral urgency of solidarity with the Palestinians” is not complicated.

It is not the first time that Rooney, who says she views the world primarily through a Marxist framework, has used her literary platform to support the Palestinian cause.

After the brief war between Israel and Hamas in May, Rooney signed an open letter written by Palestinian writers, artists and “allies” calling on “consciences” to help dismantle Israel’s “apartheid regime”.

“Of course, many states other than Israel are guilty of serious human rights violations,” Rooney said in a statement on Tuesday. “In this particular case, I am responding to the appeal from Palestinian civil society, including all major Palestinian unions and writers’ unions.”

There has long been strong support for Palestinians living in perceived parallels between the Palestinian struggle and the Irish national experience. In May the Irish Parliament passed a motion calling Israeli settlements and other policies in the West Bank “de facto annexation”. Israel’s Foreign Ministry rejected what she called Ireland’s “egregious and unfounded” position on Israeli settlements.

The Associated Press and Paul Goldman contributed.

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