Best-selling author’s Israel boycott is hypocritical, antisemitic – opinion

Rooney’s moral stance, it seems, does not extend to preventing her works from being published in Communist China, which, among other things, has been accused of human rights abuses, including operating internment camps for Uyghur Muslims.

By Rachel O’Donoghue, The Algemeiner

Sally Rooney is undoubtedly one of the biggest names in the literary scene right now.

The 30-year-old Irish author’s 2017 debut novel, “Conversations With Friends,” was an international success and is currently being turned into a TV series that will air on the BBC and the streaming platform Hulu.

Her second book, “Normal People,” debuted at number 3 on The New York Times bestseller list; it was also long-listed for the prestigious Man Booker Prize, and its 2020 television adaptation received critical acclaim.

Rooney’s first two novels sold more than one million copies in the United States alone.

Her latest offering — “Beautiful World, Where Are You?” — was released in September, and promptly became one of this year’s best-selling novels.

But if Israelis were hoping to read it in their native language, and printed at home, they will be sorely disappointed, if not angered.

Modan Publishing House, which released Rooney’s first two novels in Hebrew, revealed that she will not allow her third book to be published there, because she advocates a boycott of the Jewish state.

The decision by Rooney, who is publicly supportive of the racist BDS movement and signed an open letter alongside other artists this year that denounced Israel as an “apartheid” state and claimed “unarmed and unprotected Palestinians” were being lynched — has been widely reported in the UK press (see herehere and here).

Such news reports have characterized her position as a boycott of Israel. However, it is more than that. And little has been said about the sheer hypocrisy of the move.

Rooney’s moral stance, it seems, does not extend to preventing her works from being published in Communist China, which, among other things, has been accused of human rights abuses, including operating internment camps for Uyghur Muslims.

Chinese language versions of “Conversations With Friends” and “Normal People” have both been released by the Shanghai Translation Publishing House, but her agent has yet to announce that she will boycott this lucrative market in protest against the actions of Xi Jinping’s government.

In Russia, a translation of her latest novel is already in the pipeline; Moscow-based Sindbad publishers distributed her earlier works. Again, Rooney appears not to mind her books being released in a country that illegally annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in 2014 and has been accused by Amnesty International of persecuting religious and sexual minorities, along with other human rights abuses.

In a statement released by Rooney on Tuesday, after details of her boycott had already been widely disseminated, she acknowledged this double-standard:

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.

She also claimed that when she can find a BDS-compliant way to publish in Hebrew, she will be “pleased and proud to do so.”

However, whether Rooney admits it or not, her decision not to publish in Israel is antisemitic. There is no other explanation — because she singles out the Jewish state and holds it to a standard of behavior that is not expected of any other nation.

And her promises that she will release her novel in Hebrew — once she has found a publisher that satisfies “the BDS movement’s institutional boycott guidelines” — ring hollow.

It would be surprising if any Hebrew-language publisher would ever be BDS-compliant, because — to its core — the movement is antisemitic and Hebrew is the language of the Jewish people.

The author is a contributor to HonestReporting, a Jerusalem-based media watchdog with a focus on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias — where a version of this article first appeared.