This post is also available in: العربية
Leading authors have come out in support of Irish writer Sally Rooney’s decision not to allow her third novel to be published by a company “that does not publicly distance itself from apartheid and support the UN-stipulated rights of the Palestinian people”. The publisher in question is Modan, which publishes Rooney’s first two novels and also markets the works of the Israeli Ministry of Defence.
Among those who have signed a letter of support are writers Kamila Shamsie, Monica Ali, China Mieville, Ronan Bennet, Philip Pullman, Caryl Churchill, Naomi Klein and Andrew O’Hagan, as well as Alexandra Pringle of Bloomsbury and the founder of Virago Press, Carmen Calill.
Rooney has clearly had a change of mind, given that her first two books were published in Israel. She has said that she supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) which works to “end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law”. BDS says that many high profile artists have cancelled events in Israel, or declined to perform there, among them Elvis Costello, Roger Waters, Gil Scott-Heron, Lauryn Hill, Faithless, Marianah, U2, Bjork, Zakir Hussain, Jean-Luc Godard, Snoop Dogg, Cat Power, and Vanessa Paradis.
But critics point out that Rooney is published by a state-owned publishing house in China. They ask why she doesn’t refuse to be published in a country widely accused of human rights abuses, notably its mass detention and ‘re-education’ programmes for Uighur Muslims and other minorities in the Xinjiang region.
Two Israeli bookshop chains – Steimatzky and Tzomet – have stopped selling all Rooney’s books, though it seems likely that some English language imports do make their way into the country.
The row is set to re-emerge when the TV dramatisation of Rooney’s first novel, Conversations with Friends, is aired sometime in the New Year.