Sally Rooney, the acclaimed Irish author, has defended her decision to block the publishing of her new novel in Hebrew citing human rights issues surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The disclosure was made in a recent newspaper interview which said that Rooney had turned down a translation bid from Modan, an Israeli publisher, as she supports a boycott of Israel.
Rooney’s new novel, Beautiful World, Where Are You, was released in September and quickly topped book charts in the UK and Ireland.
In a statement, she said: “Firstly, I was very proud to have my previous two novels translated into Hebrew by Katyah Benovits. I would like to thank everyone involved in the publication of those books for supporting my work.
“Likewise, it would be an honour for me to have my latest novel translated into Hebrew and available to Hebrew-language readers. But for the moment, I have chosen not to sell these translation rights to an Israeli-based publishing house.
“Earlier this year, the international campaign group Human Rights Watch published a report entitled ‘A Threshold Crossed: Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution’.
“That report, coming on the heels of a similarly damning report by Israel’s most prominent human rights organization B’Tselem, confirmed what Palestinian human rights groups have long been saying: Israel’s system of racial domination and segregation against Palestinians meets the definition of apartheid under international law.
“The Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) movement is a Palestinian-led, anti-racist and nonviolent grassroots campaign calling for an economic and cultural boycott of complicit Israeli companies and institutions in response to the apartheid system and other grave human rights violations. It is modelled on the economic and cultural boycott that helped to end apartheid in South Africa.
“Of course, many states other than Israel are guilty of grievous human rights abuses. This was also true of South Africa during the campaign against apartheid there. In this particular case, I am responding to the call from Palestinian civil society, including all major Palestinian trade unions and writers’ unions.
“I understand that not everyone will agree with my decision, but I simply do not feel it would be right for me under the present circumstances to accept a new contract with an Israeli company that does not publicly distance itself from apartheid and support the UN-stipulated rights of the Palestinian people.
“The Hebrew-language translation rights to my new novel are still available, and if I can find a way to sell these rights that is compliant with the BDS movement’s institutional boycott guidelines, I will be very pleased and proud to do so. In the meantime I would like to express once again my solidarity with the Palestinian people in their struggle for freedom, justice and equality. Thank you.”
The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (Pacbi), a founding member of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) National Committee, said it “warmly welcome acclaimed Irish author Sally Rooney’s decision to refuse a deal with Modan Publishing House”.
It added: “Rooney joins countless international authors in supporting the institutional cultural boycott of Israel’s complicit publishing sector, just as progressive artists once supported the boycott of apartheid South Africa.
“We note with pride the historic solidarity expressed by Irish cultural figures with the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality. More than 1,300 artists have now signed Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s pledge to uphold the cultural boycott of apartheid Israel.”
It said “an exponentially growing number of artists – including Hollywood A-listers, musicians and visual artists – recognise their profound moral duty to do no harm to our liberation struggle”.