In October, Sally Rooney chose not to sign a translation deal for Beautiful World, Where Are You with her previous Hebrew publisher, the Israel-based Modan Publishing House, in compliance with the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement, which works to end international support for Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people. This move was met with backlash from readers who called her anti-Semitic, and others who mistakenly thought Rooney was “boycotting the Hebrew language.” Wrote Rooney 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.” In response, two of Israel’s largest bookstores banned Sally Rooney’s books from their in-person stores and online sites.
Now, seventy writers and publishers have signed an open letter in support of Rooney’s decision, calling it “an exemplary response to the mounting injustices inflicted on Palestinians.” The signatories of the open letter include Caryl Churchill, China Miéville, Eileen Myles, Geoff Dyer, Monica Ali, Niamh Campbell, and Rachel Kushner.
Reads the letter:
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.
Browse the full list of signatories here.