Sally Rooney’s recent book, Beautiful World, Where Are You is in the middle of a crisis. Her previous Hebrew translation, dealing with Modan Publishing House, an Israel-based publication company, was not renewed for her new book. Rooney explained that she made the decision, keeping in mind the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement, which is to show support to the Palestine community and to work towards the end of Israel’s oppression.
Some misunderstood the decision to be an anti-Semitic move by the author. She wrote in a statement, “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.”
A bold move like Rooney’s decision is not one that goes without consequences. Her books have been banned in two of the largest Israel bookstores, both in-person and online. Steimatzky and Tzomet Sefarim have taken the step to remove all of her books from their branches and sites.
Many appreciated the decision and over seventy writers and publishers have also signed an open letter. This letter states that Rooney’s decision was “an exemplary response to the mounting injustices inflicted on Palestinians.” Writers and publishers include Caryl Churchill, Rachel Kushner, Niamh Campbell, Monica Ali, and Eileen Myles.
The Open Letter For Rooney
“As fellow writers, we wish to express our support for the novelist Sally Rooney.
Palestinian artists have asked their international colleagues to end complicity in Israel’s violations of their human rights, and this for many of us is a clear ethical obligation. Sally Rooney’s refusal to sign a contract with a mainstream Israeli publisher—which markets the work of the Israeli Ministry of Defense—is, therefore, an exemplary response to the mounting injustices inflicted on Palestinians.
It is less than a year since Human Rights Watch concluded that Israel had ‘dispossessed, confined, forcibly separated, and subjugated Palestinians’, amounting to the ‘crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution’. It is only a few months since the last bombing of Gaza, since the most recent incursion into the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and the new round of expulsion orders in occupied East Jerusalem.
This is the context of Sally Rooney’s decision. In making it, she is not alone. In May, she was one of more than 1600 artists who condemned Israel’s crimes in ‘A Letter Against Apartheid’. Israeli apartheid, they said, is ‘sustained by international complicity; it is our collective responsibility to redress this harm’.
In supporting Sally Rooney, we reassert that responsibility. Like her, we will continue to respond to the Palestinian call for effective solidarity, just as millions supported the campaign against apartheid in South Africa. We will continue to support the nonviolent Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice, and equality.”
Featured Image Via The Bookseller