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70 writers back Sally Rooney’s ‘exemplary’ boycott of Israel publishers

US and British authors, including Rachel Kushner, Francisco Goldman and Eileen Myles, sign letter likening campaign for Palestinian rights to battle against apartheid

Sally Rooney speaks onstage during the Hulu Panel at Winter TCA 2020 at The Langham Huntington, Pasadena on January 17, 2020 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Erik Voake/Getty Images for Hulu via JTA)
Sally Rooney speaks onstage during the Hulu Panel at Winter TCA 2020 at The Langham Huntington, Pasadena on January 17, 2020 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Erik Voake/Getty Images for Hulu via JTA)

Seventy notable writers and publishers including Rachel Kushner, Francisco Goldman and Eileen Myles have signed a letter supporting Irish novelist Sally Rooney in her refusal to have her third novel translated into Hebrew by an Israeli publisher.

The letter calls Rooney’s boycott of Israeli publishers “an exemplary response to the mounting injustices inflicted on Palestinians.”

Rooney published her newest novel, “Beautiful World, Where Are You,” in September, but wouldn’t accept an offer to sell the Hebrew translation rights to Modan, the Israeli publisher responsible for putting out her first two novels in Israel. She said she was refusing to do further business with Modan out of support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, a Palestinian initiative against Israeli rule.

In response, Israel’s largest booksellers decided to remove Rooney’s earlier novels from their shelves. The two books, which were popular in Israel, will no longer be available in the 200 retail locations of bookstores chains Steimatzky and Tzomet Sefarim nor on the chains’ websites.

On November 22, a pro-Palestinian group called Artists for Palestine UK announced it had organized a letter of support for Rooney with a list of signatories from the United States and Great Britain.

“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,” the letter said. “We will continue to support the nonviolent Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality.”

In defending Rooney, the letter said that Modan markets texts published by Israel’s Defense Ministry  and cited a Human Rights Watch report from April that Israel is guilty of instituting a regime of “apartheid.”

The BDS movement says it seeks to end Israel’s control of lands captured in the 1967 Six Day War and what it describes as discrimination against Israel’s Arab minority. It also calls for a “right of return” for millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to ancestral lands that they fled or were expelled from in the 1948 war during Israel’s creation.

Israeli officials vehemently reject the apartheid accusations, and Israel and other BDS opponents say that the BDS campaign encourages antisemitism and aims to delegitimize or even destroy Israel.

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