Irish novelist Sally Rooney is looking for a new Hebrew publisher, having decided she can no longer work with an Israeli publishing house.
Rooney is entitled to her views, however skewed they may be. And she is not the first foreign author to boycott Israel. Alice Walker and Kamila Shamsie preceded her. But Rooney should realize that her short-sighted decision likely will have almost immediate consequences. Her readership in Israel will probably decline, and she most certainly will be hit in the pocketbook.
Two of Israel’s leading book store chains, Steinmatzky and Tzomet Sefarim, have pulled two of her Hebrew-translated novels, Conversations with Friends and Normal People, from their shelves and websites. This will cost her dearly, one suspects.
These books were published by Modan, an Israeli publisher which is continuing to sell her titles. “We do not support a cultural boycott and therefore will continue to sell Sally Rooney’s works as usual,” Modan’s spokesperson said on November 7. Modan is clearly more tolerant than Rooney, a Marxist whose opinions on Israel are less than surprising.
“It would be an honor for me to have my latest novel translated into Hebrew and available to Hebrew-language readers,” said Rooney in a statement recently, referring to Beautiful World, Where Are You?, which was released last month. “But for the moment, I have chosen not to sell these translation rights to an Israeli-based publishing house.”
She is seeking a publisher that supports the “rights of the Palestinian people” and distances itself from Israel, which, she claims, is an apartheid state oppressing Palestinians.
Like all Marxists, she endorses the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which, among other goals, calls for the right of return of Palestinian refugees to their homes and properties in what is now Israel.
This objective, of course, is a veiled prescription for Israel’s dismantlement as a Jewish and Zionist state. It is endorsed by people who would not shed a tear in the event that Israel vanished from the pantheon of nations.
There may well be publishers in Israel who would accept her draconian terms, but Rooney is not interested in signing a new contract with an Israeli publisher. As she says, she is boycotting Israel as a country altogether.
Yet, as critics have correctly pointed out, her chances of finding a Hebrew publisher outside of Israel are extremely remote. Which means that she is intellectually prepared to shed her Hebrew-speaking Israeli readers.
At the end of the day, Rooney’s position is not only unfortunate, but inconsistent.
One of her previous novels, Normal People, was published in China. But has she issued a condemnation of China’s mistreatment of the Uyghur people? Or is she cancelling her contract with her Chinese publisher?
Judging by the available evidence, the answer is a resounding no.
And has she stopped doing business with publishers in other countries whose governments are serial violators of human rights?
Whatever her motives may be, Rooney has unfairly singled out Israeli for opprobrium and cancellation. Does she not realize that many Israelis yearn for peace with the Palestinians and support an equitable two-state solution?
This is probably an irrelevant question, given her unflagging support of the BDS movement, whose ultimate aim is to replace Israel with a binational state. In all likelihood, it would eventually morph into a Palestinian Arab state.
Having ruthlessly ditched Israel, Rooney now has a moral responsibility to clearly enunciate her view of its future. She cannot mince words, nor can she play with politics with impunity.
Whether she rises to the challenge is debatable, but there is little doubt she will have to pay a price for abandoning Israel and completely siding with the Palestinians.