Sally Rooney and the BDS Movement: The Book Boycott

Sally Rooney and the BDS Movement: The Book Boycott

Friendship, love, critique of capitalism – Sally Rooney’s novels revolve around these themes. The 30-year-old Irish woman is a star in the literary world, with three of her books being bestsellers that have been filmed and are being filmed as series. Rooney, who calls himself a Marxist, is considered the voice of Millennials.

However, your readers in Israel may not hear this voice for a while. The author prevented his new novel “Shaun Welt, Vo Sindh Do” from being translated into Hebrew by the Israeli publisher Modan. Reason: Israel’s Palestine Policy.

Rooney calls the keyword “apartheid”

He was very proud that his first two novels were translated into Hebrew, Rooney wrote in a statement that is available to the Guardian, among others. He will be honored if his third book is also translated into Hebrew. “For the time being, however, I have decided not to sell the translation rights to an Israel-based publishing house,” the author says.

As a reason, she cites a report by the human rights organization “Human Rights Watch”, which was published this year and states that the system in Israel complies with apartheid norms under international law.

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She also mentions the BDS movement: You know there are human rights violations in other countries, so Rooney. However, in this particular case, it will respond to the appeal of the Palestinian people.

The movement is particularly popular in Great Britain.

BDS, short for “boycott, divide, sanction”, has existed since 2005, when about 170 Palestinian organizations called for a boycott against Israel. The campaign follows the tradition of South Africa’s struggle against apartheid and calls for a broad cultural and economic boycott of Israel. The movement is particularly strong in the left-wing scene in Great Britain and Ireland.

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Several artists support him, including writer Laurie Penny, rapper: Kay Tempest, director Ken Loach and Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters. There was a scandal surrounding Scottish hip-hop band Young Fathers when they canceled their participation in the 2017 pop-culture festival in Berlin because it was allegedly co-financed by Israel.

Bundestag passed a resolution

In 2019, after a contentious debate, the Bundestag voted for a resolution titled “Resolve the BDS Movement – Anti-Semitic Fight”. It states that the movement’s logic patterns and methods are anti-Semitic, as the call for a radical boycott is “holistically branding Israeli citizens of the Jewish faith”. Campaigns or groups pursuing campaign goals should be denied financial support or premises.

Sally Rooney’s opinion on the BDS campaign is no secret. This year she signed an open “Letter Against Apartheid” with thousands of international artists. She expressed her solidarity with Pakistani-British writer Kamila Shamsi two years ago after the Nellie Sachs Award was withdrawn because of her sympathies with the BDS.

Alice Walker also stopped translation

Shamsi tweeted on Tuesday that the writers are not interested in boycotting any language. “Our action honors calls by the Palestinian civilian population to boycott institutions associated with the State of Israel,” the author said.

Pulitzer Prize winner Alice Walker also blocked her novel “The Color Purple” from being translated into Hebrew in 2012, citing “apartheid and oppression of Palestinians”.

So Rooney isn’t the first writer to take this step. Because of his immense popularity and his status as the voice of a generation, however, his judgment is particularly overwhelming – and has sparked a debate about the meaning and nonsense of translation boycotts.

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Rune is translated into Chinese and Russian

Rooney’s novels have been translated into many languages, including Chinese and Russian. In China, Uighur minorities are systematically persecuted, while homosexuals are tortured and killed in Chechnya. Should Russian- or Chinese-speaking readers be refused an examination of Rooney’s literature?

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Ulstein-Verlag defends Rooney

Ulstein-Verlag, who published Rooney’s novel in Germany, defended the author in a statement. Because of the history, criticism of Israeli politics is viewed “with particular sensitivity” in Germany. The statement said that the BDS movement was rated as anti-Semitic by the Bundestag, with the Irish parliament officially condemning Israel’s compromising policy.

The publisher places different viewpoints, but anti-Semitism is clearly not one of them. Rooney’s novel is “a thoughtful, multi-layered and politically cautious book about the present” by a globally respected author.

Which publisher complies with BDS rules?

Sally Rooney herself emphasized in her statement that she was not ruling out a translation of her new novel into Hebrew, provided that a publisher was found that was compatible with the boycott rules of the BDS movement. However, what exactly would have to be included in this is not clear.

With the stance that one wants to boycott Israeli institutions rather than language, Rooney and his colleagues are taking it a little easier for themselves anyway – and stoking a discourse that the novel really should spark. Great literature opens borders, invites readers into new worlds. An exclusion excludes them.

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