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Citing apartheid, international authors back Sally Rooney's boycott of Israel

Sally Rooney attends the 2019 Costa Book Awards held at Quaglino's on January 29, 2019 in London, England [Tristan Fewings/Getty Images]
Sally Rooney attends the 2019 Costa Book Awards held at Quaglino's on January 29, 2019 in London, England [Tristan Fewings/Getty Images]

Seventy prominent writers, poets, and playwrights from several continents have signed a letter endorsing Sally Rooney's boycott of Israel describing it as "an exemplary response to the mounting injustices inflicted on Palestinians".

Major authors including award-winning Irish authors Niamh Campbell and Kevin Barry; Rachel Kushner, Eileen Myles and Eliot Weinburger from the US; Monica Ali, Caryl Churchill, Pankaj Mishra, China Miéville, and Kamila Shamsie from the UK, are amongst the signatories to the letter.

"Sally Rooney's refusal to sign a contract with a mainstream Israeli publisher — which markets the work of the Israeli Ministry of Defence — is, therefore, an exemplary response to the mounting injustices inflicted on Palestinians," said the letter, which went on to highlight the call by Palestinian artists to their international colleagues "to end complicity in Israel's violations of their human rights."

Last month the award-winning Irish novelist turned down an offer from an Israeli publisher to translate her book into Hebrew. Her decision sparked a heated debate around the boycott of Israel. Pro-Israel groups accused Roony of anti-Semitism. They falsely painted the 30-year-old's boycott of Israel as a boycott of Hebrew. This however was not the case. Rooney urged non-Israeli publishers to translate her work into Hebrew.

Turning down the offer, Rooney said last month that she supported the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement (BDS), which works to "end international support for Israel's oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law", and that she did not feel it would be right to collaborate with an Israeli company "that does not publicly distance itself from the apartheid and support the UN-stipulated rights of the Palestinian people".

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Describing the context for Rooney's boycott of Israel, the letter pointed to April's landmark report by Human Rights Watch which accused the occupation state of practicing apartheid, and Israel's 11-day onslaught on the besieged Gaza Strip. "It is less than a year since Human Rights Watch concluded that Israel had 'dispossessed, confined, forcibly separated, and subjugated Palestinians', amounting to the 'crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution'," said the letter. "It is only a few months since the last bombing of Gaza since the most recent incursion into the Al-Aqsa mosque and the new round of expulsion orders in occupied East Jerusalem."

"This is the context of Sally Rooney's decision," explained the letter, adding that "In making it, she is not alone." The signatories mentioned that in May, Rooney was one of more than 16,000 artists who condemned Israel's crimes in what they described as "A Letter Against Apartheid". Israeli apartheid, they said, is "sustained by international complicity; it is our collective responsibility to redress this harm."

"In supporting Sally Rooney, we reassert that responsibility," said the letter. "Like her, we will continue to respond to the Palestinian call for effective solidarity, just as millions supported the campaign against apartheid in South Africa. We will continue to support the nonviolent Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice, and equality."

Award-winning Irish novelist refuses to allow Israel publisher to translate work to Hebrew - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

Award-winning Irish novelist refuses to allow Israel publisher to translate work to Hebrew – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

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