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Irish Author Won’t Sell Hebrew Translational Rights to Israeli Publisher

Millennial literary sensation Sally Rooney has chosen not to sell the Hebrew translation rights of her latest novel to an Israel-based publishing house, sparking renewed debate around the Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions movement.

In a statement provided by her agent, the Irish writer said she was proud to have had her previous two novels — “Conversations With Friends” and “Normal People” — translated into Hebrew, and said it would be an honor to have her latest book — “Beautiful World, Where Are You” — made available to Hebrew-language readers as well. 

However, Rooney said she did not feel it would be right to accept a new contract with an Israeli company that does not “publicly distance itself from apartheid and support the U.N.-stipulated rights of the Palestinian people.”

“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,” she said in the statement. “In the meantime I would like to express once again my solidarity with the Palestinian people in their struggle for freedom, justice and equality.”

The BDS movement has called for boycotts against Israeli businesses, universities and cultural institutions in what it says is a nonviolent campaign against Israeli abuses against Palestinians. It says it aims to economically and politically pressure Israel to comply with international law and works to end international support for Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians.

But Israeli officials say the movement is antisemitic and seeks to delegitimize or even destroy the Jewish state. Under Israeli law, supporters of the movement can be denied entry to Israel

Rooney, 30, noted that Human Rights Watch said this year that Israel was guilty of the international crimes of apartheid and persecution because of discriminatory policies toward Palestinians within its borders and in the occupied territories. That report, she said, came on the heels of a similarly damning publication by the leading Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, which for the first time labeled Israel an “apartheid regime.”

Rooney’s statement clarifying her position came after the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that the Israeli publisher Modan told the paper last month that Rooney won’t allow her new book to be published in Hebrew because she supports an Israel boycott. 

Tali Tchelet, a spokeswoman for the publisher, said Modan had published Rooney’s previous books and that when they asked about her third novel, the answer came back that she was not interested in publishing it in Israel.