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    Sally Rooney continues to speak out about Gaza.

    Dan Sheehan

    March 18, 2024, 1:06pm

    Sally Rooney continues to be one of the literary world’s most vocal and eloquent advocates for Palestinian rights, as well as a trenchant critic of Israeli brutality and US complicity in the war on Gaza.

    In a controlled-but-blistering op-ed published in the The Irish Times on Saturday, ahead of Irish Taoiseach (“Prime Minister,” if I must…) Leo Varadkar’s St. Patrick’s Day visit to the White House, the Normal People author takes the Irish government to task for “bask[ing] in the moral glow of condemning the bombers, while preserving a cosy relationship with those supplying the bombs.”:

    …on Sunday, to cap off his US visit, Varadkar will visit the White House for a St Patrick’s Day photo opportunity with president Joe Biden. At their meeting on Friday, some concerned words were no doubt exchanged about the plight of Palestinian civilians, but Varadkar was clear in advance about the purpose of the conversation: “I’m not here to tell him off or tick him off … Let’s never forget that he’s been a very good friend to Ireland.”

    This illustrates neatly the Irish Government’s approach to the war on Gaza. Strong straightforward criticism is reserved for the relatively small (and increasingly globally isolated) state of Israel. The US, on the other hand—which supplies about 80% of Israel’s weapons imports, as well as billions of dollars in aid—is treated as a kind of neutral third party, and of course as a “very good friend.” This way, our Government can bask in the moral glow of condemning the bombers, while preserving a cosy relationship with those supplying the bombs.

    But what is happening in Gaza is not only Israel’s war: it is a US war, and it is most particularly Biden’s war. Israel simply could not afford to carry out this prolonged and resource-intensive assault on the Palestinian people without US money and weaponry. Polling shows that a majority of Americans want a permanent ceasefire; Biden’s support for Israel even appears to be damaging his chances in the upcoming presidential race. And yet he’s refusing to listen to his voters, and has repeatedly bypassed Congress, in order to keep supplying Israel with the resources on which it relies.

    Rooney goes on to describe some of the horrendous particulars of Israel’s genocide in Gaza, as well as the degree to which the United States—Ireland’s “very good friend”—has been essential to its continuation:

    What we do know is that each one of these killings has been financed and supported by our “very good friend” in the White House. In the short time I have spent preparing this piece, I have seen images of one of Gaza’s few remaining UN aid facilities hit by an airstrike, just one day after the centre’s co-ordinates were shared with Israeli security forces; images of the protruding bones of an emaciated Palestinian child; of the rubble of the majestic 14th-century Barqouq castle irreparably demolished by bombs; and of Israeli soldiers posing cheerfully with the underwear of displaced or massacred Palestinian women. To this collage of moral depravity, we may soon be able to add a photograph of Biden and Varadkar smiling together over the customary bowl of shamrock. If so, it is an image that—to use Varadkar’s own words—”will haunt us forever.”


    As I alluded to earlier, this isn’t the first time Rooney has taken a public stand on the Israel-Palestine issue. The Irish author made headlines back in 2021 when she decided not to grant Israeli publisher Modan the right to translate her novel Beautiful World, Where Are You?, because to do so would have violated the cultural boycott of Israel. She was also a central part of a December fundraiser which raised over €30,000 for Medical Aid for Palestinians.

    As so many (but by no means all) high profile American writers continue to be silent on Gaza (and I mean not even a “please stop bombing kids” retweet after five months of US-taxpayer funder horror), having one of our community’s most famous authors speak out like this is quite meaningful.

    Late in the game as it is, I continue to hope that more of Rooney’s peers will follow her lead.

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