The Israeli newspaper Haaretz previously reported that Modan had been informed by Rooney’s agent that the author was not interested in a Hebrew translation because she was participating in a boycott. But Tchelet said that Modan was not given an explanation for the author’s reluctance to release her latest book in Israel.
“The Hebrew-language translation rights to my new novel are still available, and 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,” Rooney said in a statement. “... Many states other than Israel are guilty of grievous human rights abuses. ... In this particular case, I am responding to the call from Palestinian civil society.”
Rooney, who has been called the first great millennial novelist, was nominated for an Emmy for her work on the television adaptation of “Normal People.” “Beautiful World, Where Are You” was released last month and has become a global bestseller. In a review, The Washington Post called it an “extraordinarily lucid, gorgeous and nuanced work about coming of age in what is indeed a broken world.”
Rooney’s previous books were not bestsellers in Israel, but “we consider her among our finest authors in translation,” Tchelet said in an email.
In Rooney’s latest novel, characters repeatedly muse about whether it is possible to live ethically in contemporary capitalist societies. The 30-year-old writer, who is a Marxist, has been open about her opposition to Israeli government policies. She was one of scores of creative professionals who signed an open letter accusing Israel of practicing apartheid, a message issued after the violence in Israel and the Gaza Strip earlier this year.
The letter called for an “immediate and unconditional cessation of Israeli violence against Palestinians” and an “end to the support provided by global powers to Israel and its military; especially the United States.”
The BDS campaign aims to change Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians by encouraging boycotts, stock divestiture and sanctions against Israeli and international companies that operate on land that Palestinians consider theirs. Land that Palestinians consider theirs encompasses the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Ireland has a robust BDS movement, and, in May, Irish lawmakers declared the construction of Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory to be de facto annexation. That move drew a sharp response from Israel, which called Dublin’s policy “blatantly one-sided and simplistic,” the Irish Times reported.
The movement is contentious, and a range of legislation worldwide — some symbolic — has aimed to clip its wings. A particular flash point has been academic boycotts of Israeli universities, which raise questions about free expression and open intellectual exchange.
Critics of the movement say the policy changes it advocates would effectively end Israel’s identity as a Jewish homeland. They also characterize the campaign as inherently antisemitic — a charge that was echoed by the Donald Trump administration.
More than 9 million people worldwide speak Hebrew, and most live in Israel, where it is an official language. But a number of Twitter users asked why the author would single out Hebrew, and not other languages, although it appears possible that Rooney’s book still could be translated into Hebrew by a different publisher. Others have praised Rooney for her support of Palestinians.
“The very essence of literature, its power to bring a sense of coherence and order to the world, is negated by Rooney’s choice to exclude a group of readers because of their national identity,” wrote political scientist Gitit Levy-Paz, in an article published Monday on the Jewish news website the Forward and circulated widely. “… Given the rise of antisemitism in recent years, especially in Europe, the timing of her choice is dangerous.”
Rooney isn’t the first author to refuse publication of an Israeli edition of a work. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker in 2012 cited “apartheid and persecution of the Palestinian people” in turning down a request to publish “The Color Purple” in Hebrew, the Guardian newspaper reported at the time. A Hebrew edition of the award-winning novel about a poor Black girl in the deep American South was published in the 1980s.
Miriam Berger, Steven Zeitchik and Shira Rubin contributed to this report.
Correction: A previous version of this story said that Palestinians claim the Golan Heights. Syria does. The error has been corrected.