Sally Rooney Explains Why She's Boycotting Israel and Not Other Nations

Sally Rooney's decision not to allow an Israeli company to translate her new book into Hebrew has caused controversy today. The renowned Irish author has decided to support calls to boycott Israeli companies over the state's policies towards the Palestinians.

Rooney released a statement to the media explaining her decision and clarified that she would be "honored" to have her latest novel Beautiful World, Where Are You translated into Hebrew by a company that shares her stance on the "BDS movement's institutional boycott guidelines."

The BDS, or Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement, is a campaign to "end international support for Israel's oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law."

Rooney's two previous novels, Conversations With Friends and Normal People had been translated into Hebrew by Israel-based publisher Modan, but the writer has declined their request to do the same with her latest work.

"Firstly, I was very proud to have my previous two novels translated into Hebrew by Katyah Benovits. I would like to thank everyone involved in the publication of those books for supporting my work. Likewise, it would be an honour for me to have my latest novel translated into Hebrew and available to Hebrew-language readers.

"But for the moment, I have chosen not to sell these translation rights to an Israeli-based publishing house," Rooney said in her statement, per The Independent.

But why has Rooney chosen to boycott Israel and not other states who, by the same logic, could be deemed to have been complicit in human rights abuses? The simple answer is that solidarity with the Palestinians is a cause close to Rooney's heart.

The 30-year-old addressed this in her statement, acknowledging that she is aware of other global human rights abuses but that this decision is a direct response to calls from Palestinians.

"Of course, many states other than Israel are guilty of grievous human rights abuses," she said. 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."

Sally Rooney
Sally Rooney, novelist, at the Hay Festival on May 28, 2017 in Hay on Wye, United Kingdom. David Levenson/Getty Images

Earlier this year, Rooney was one of more than 16,000 artists to sign a letter in solidarity with the Palestinians.

Titled "A Letter Against Apartheid," the movement called for "an immediate and unconditional cessation of Israeli violence against Palestinians."

It is also worth noting that Rooney's stance is connected to Ireland's enduring support for Palestinians as many Irish people believe that both countries share a common struggle against colonialism and oppression.

Ireland was the first EU country to declare that Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories amount to de facto annexation, with the country's parliament (The Dáil) voting unanimously in May 2021.

Rooney said she could not "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 author ended her statement to say that the Hebrew-language translation rights to her new novel are still available.

"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," she added. "In the meantime I would like to express once again my solidarity with the Palestinian people in their struggle for freedom, justice and equality. Thank you."