Irish author Sally Rooney said she will not sell the Hebrew language rights for her new book to Israeli publishing house Modan, citing her support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
Modan had previously published Hebrew translations of her novels Normal People and Conversations With Friends.
Her decision has drawn criticism from supporters of Israel, who are calling the choice anti-Semitic.
In a statement sent to CNN on Tuesday, she said that she was “proud” that her previous novels have been translated to Hebrew, and that she would be “honored” to have her latest work, Beautiful World, Where Are You available in the language, that “for the moment” she has decided “not to sell these translation rights to an Israeli-based publishing house.”
The author said her decision was made in support of BDS, a movement that seeks to “end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law,” according to its website.
“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,” the author told CNN.
“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,” she argued.
The Israeli government has previously rejected that report as “preposterous and false” and claimed that Human Rights Watch has “a long-standing anti-Israeli agenda.”
Critics are very upset about Rooney’s decision. Her “refusal to let an Israeli publisher translate her new novel into Hebrew unless it is ‘BDS-compliant’ is blatantly anti-Semitic,” Tweeted representatives of B’nai B’rith International, a service organization that describes itself as “the global voice of the Jewish community.“
“The goal of BDS is to destroy Israel,” B’nai B’rith argued.
Nachman Shai, an Israeli government minister, also took to Twitter to voice his opposition.
If “a writer, does not want to be translated into Hebrew, why read it at all?” Shai wrote in Hebrew. “The cultural boycott of Israel, anti-Semitism in a new guise, is a certificate of poverty for her and others who behave like her.”
“In the 20th Century, it was Nazi Germany, Communist Russia and Maoist China whose gatekeepers decided what ideas could be read,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, an organization that describes itself as dedicated to “fighting anti-Semitism, defending Israel’s legitimacy.”
“In the 21st century, Ireland’s Sally Rooney follows the orthodoxy of antisemitic BDS by boycotting Hebrew, the official language of Jewish people,” he added.
Others voiced support. “Palestinians warmly welcome acclaimed Irish author Sally Rooney’s decision to refuse a deal with Modan Publishing House, an Israeli publisher complicit in Israel’s regime of apartheid, occupation & settler-colonialism that killed more than 240 Palestinians in May this year alone,” asserted the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel on Twitter.
The Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign said that it supported her “principled decision not to publish with a complicit Israeli publisher,” and said that she was “right to support cultural boycott of Apartheid Israel.”
Others still urged clarity in the discourse surrounding the author’s choice. MSNBC’s Medhi Hassan wrote that “[w]hatever your views on Sally Rooney or on BDS,” it “simply isn’t true” that the author is boycotting the Hebrew language. “She says she *does* want her book translated into Hebrew, as her last two were, but no longer wants to do so with an Israel-based publishing house.”
Do you agree or disagree with Sally Rooney’s decision to stop work with her Israeli publisher? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.