Photo: The Cut
Irish novelist Sally Rooney has turned down a deal from an Israeli publisher to translate her latest book, Beautiful World, Where Are You, into Hebrew, over concerns for the Palestinian people and human rights violations.
In a statement released through her agent, Rooney wrote that she did not feel it was right “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.”
The publishing house that Rooney turned down, Modan, published two previous books by the author in Hebrew.
Rooney cited a report by Human Rights Watch as part of the reason she decided to turn down a new contract from Modan. The report, issued in April, details ways in which Israeli authorities “methodically privilege Jewish Israelis and discriminate against Palestinians,” taking actions that, according to Human Rights Watch, amount to apartheid and persecution under international law.
There is precedent for Rooney’s decision. Alice Walker in 2012 said she wouldn’t let an Israeli publisher release a new edition of The Color Purple in Hebrew, while British author Kamila Shamsie did the same with two of her books in 2018.
When Shamsie declined Hebrew translations of her works a few years back, she wrote in an email at the time she was concerned that there is “no Israeli publisher who is completely unentangled from the state.”
Rooney said she recognized that “many states other than Israel are guilty of grievous human rights abuses,” but that this was a specific response to a call from Palestinian civil society, including trade and writers’ unions.
Ronan Burtenshaw, editor of Tribune Magazine, said Rooney’s decision showed she recognized the “moral urgency of solidarity with the Palestinians.”