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Leading writers, poets support Irish author’s decision to refuse publication in Israel

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Irish novelist Sally Rooney speaks onstage during the Hulu Panel at Winter TCA 2020 at The Langham Huntington, Pasadena, on January 17, 2020 in Pasadena, California. (file photo)

Dozens of prominent writers and poets have voiced their support for a bestselling Irish novelist’s decision to reject a contractual offer with an Israeli publisher over the regime’s decades-long acts of aggression and injustice against Palestinians.

Seventy outstanding authors, poets and playwrights in a letter on Monday backed Sally Rooney’s decision not to sell translation rights to an Israeli publisher, describing it as an “exemplary response to the mounting injustices inflicted on Palestinians.”

Last month, Rooney turned down an offer to sell Hebrew translation rights of her new novel — Beautiful World, Where Are You — to the Israeli publisher Modan, which had published her previous two books, over her stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The bestselling Irish novelist said at the time that she supported the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, and that she opposed collaboration with an Israeli company “that does not publicly distance itself from apartheid" and supported the UN-stipulated rights of the Palestinian people.

The BDS is a transnational, Palestinian-led organization that works to end international support for the Israeli regime’s oppression of Palestinians and pressures Tel Aviv to comply with the international law. 

In the letter organized by Artists for Palestine, a UK-based cultural network supporting Palestinian rights, such distinguished names as Kamila Shamsie, Monica Ali, Kevin Barry, Rachel Kushner, Geoff Dyer, Pankaj Mishra, Carmen Callil and Ahdaf Soueif are seen.

“Palestinian artists have asked their international colleagues to end complicity in Israel’s violations of their human rights, and this for many of us is a clear ethical obligation,” the authors wrote. “Sally Rooney’s refusal to sign a contract with a mainstream Israeli publisher... is therefore an exemplary response to the mounting injustices inflicted on Palestinians.”

The letter also pointed to Human Rights Watch’s conclusion in April that Israel is committing the crimes of apartheid and persecution against Palestinians.

The letter highlighted the fact that Rooney was one of more than 16,000 signatories to "A Letter Against Apartheid" in May, calling for “an immediate and unconditional cessation of Israeli violence against Palestinians.”

Two bookshop chains with outlets both in Israel and in illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank said at the time that they were pulling Rooney’s novels from their shops in retaliation.

“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,” the writers concluded, adding, “We will continue to support the nonviolent Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality.”

More than 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the West Bank and East al-Quds.

All Israeli settlements are illegal under international law as they are built on occupied land. The United Nations Security Council has condemned Israel’s settlement activities in the occupied territories in several resolutions.

Palestinians want the West Bank as part of a future independent Palestinian state with East al-Quds as its capital.

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