Sally Rooney Rejects Bid by Israeli Publisher To Translate New Novel Into Hebrew

'Beautiful World Where Are You?' won't be translated into Hebrew "for now" as the author supports a cultural boycott of Israel.
Simon Childs
London, GB
October 12, 2021, 4:29pm
Sally Rooney: Pako Mera/Alamy Live News

Sally Rooney has turned down an offer from an Israeli publishing house to translate her new novel, Beautiful World Where Are You?, into Hebrew, because she supports a cultural boycott of Israel.

In a statement released on Tuesday, the Normal People author said she was not selling the translation rights to an Israeli publishing house “for the moment,” in support of the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

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Rooney’s new novel was released in the UK and Ireland in September and became the top-selling novel of the year after being on sale for three days.

The 30-year-old’s previous novels, Conversations With Friends and Normal People, were translated into Hebrew by Israeli publisher Modan. However when the publisher made an approach for the translation rights to Beautiful World, Where Are You, Rooney turned the offer down.

In a statement, the Irish author said she was“responding to the call from Palestinian civil society, including all major Palestinian trade unions and writers’ unions” to stand against “Israel’s system of racial domination and segregation against Palestinians” which “meets the definition of apartheid under international law.”

She said she would be “very pleased and proud” to find a way to sell the Hebrew-language translation rights “if I can find a way to sell these rights that is compliant with the BDS movement’s institutional boycott guidelines”. BDS is a movement promoting an economic and cultural boycott of Israel because of its denial of the rights of Palestinians.

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In her statement the author said: “Earlier this year, the international campaign group Human Rights Watch published a report entitled A Threshold Crossed: Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution. 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.”

“Of course, many states other than Israel are guilty of grievous human rights abuses. This was also true of South Africa during the campaign against apartheid there. In this particular case, I am responding to the call from Palestinian civil society, including all major Palestinian trade unions and writers’ unions.”

It was initially reported that the Rooney had refused to have her book published into Hebrew at all, which some viewed as an antisemitic conflation of the Hebrew language and the Israeli state.

Rooney sought to clarify this in her statement, saying, “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. In the meantime I would like to express once again my solidarity with the Palestinian people in their struggle for freedom, justice and equality.”

She said, “I simply do not feel it would be right for me under 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.”

Rooney was one of numerous authors to sign a statement earlier this year calling for “an immediate and unconditional cessation of Israeli violence against Palestinians”, following Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza strip.