Sally Rooney novels pulled from major Israeli bookstores after her boycott

Steimatzky and Tzomet Sefarim, which have more than 200 shops nationwide, pull books from shelves, websites after writer refuses to have latest work translated by Israeli publisher

Sally Rooney takes part in a panel during the Winter 2020 Television Critics Association Press Tour on January 17, 2020, in Pasadena, California. (Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)
Sally Rooney takes part in a panel during the Winter 2020 Television Critics Association Press Tour on January 17, 2020, in Pasadena, California. (Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

Two major bookstore chains in Israel said Thursday that they would no longer sell books by Sally Rooney after the Irish author announced last month that she would not allow her latest work to be translated into Hebrew by an Israeli publisher.

Bookstores Steimatzky and Tzomet Sefarim, which together have more than 200 shops nationwide, confirmed separately that they will pull her books from their shelves after her comments. The chains also said her books would be removed from their websites and stores by the end of Thursday.

Last month, the bestselling author said she decided not to publish her latest novel, “Beautiful World, Where Are You,” with an Israeli publishing house because she supports a boycott of Israel, but added that a non-Israeli press could still publish the book in Hebrew.

Rooney said she was holding off on finding a Hebrew publisher until she can find one that distances itself from what she calls the alleged “apartheid against Palestinians.”

In a statement issued through her literary representatives, the Wylie Agency, the Irish novelist said she hoped to eventually find a Hebrew-language translator for “Beautiful World, Where Are You?” which came out last month.

“It would be an honor for me to have my latest novel translated into Hebrew and available to Hebrew-language readers,” the statement said. “But for the moment, I have chosen not to sell these translation rights to an Israeli-based publishing house.”

Illustrative: Israeli tourists look at a BDS stand with photos and Palestinian flags, calling to ‘Free Palestine,’ at Dam Square in central Amsterdam, the Netherlands, on June 24, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

However, critics noted that the chances of finding a Hebrew publishing house outside of Israel, the only Hebrew-speaking country in the world, were highly unlikely.

Her previous novels, the best sellers “Normal People” and “Conversations With Friends,” were released in Hebrew through Modan Publishing House.

Modan, which said it had been informed the author did not want to publish her latest book in Israel, said Rooney’s previous works had sold “very well” in Israel. It declined to provide statistics.

“I understand that not everyone will agree with my decision, but I simply do not feel it would be right for me under the present circumstances to accept a new contract with an Israeli company that does not publicly distance itself from apartheid and support the UN-stipulated rights of the Palestinian people,” said Rooney, 30, one of the world’s most popular and acclaimed young writers and a supporter of the Palestinians in the past.

In her statement, Rooney cited a pair of reports — by Israeli human rights groups B’Tselem and New York-based Human Rights Watch — that claimed Israel is guilty of the international crime of apartheid because of alleged discriminatory policies toward Arab Israelis within its own borders and toward Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

These reports, she said, “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.”

Rooney praised the BDS movement, which calls for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israeli businesses, cultural institutions and universities. BDS 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 the “right of return” for millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to homes their ancestors 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.

Rooney is the latest prominent public figure to embrace the boycott movement, whose supporters have included musicians Roger Waters and Brian Eno, filmmakers Mike Leigh and Ken Loach, and “The Color Purple” author Alice Walker.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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