Author Sally Rooney is blocking Israeli publishers from translating her latest book into Hebrew to show her support for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.
Rooney stipulated in her statement that she was not against a Hebrew-language version of her book coming out, but the publisher could not be Israeli without first issuing a public condemnation of Israel’s Palestinian policies. She also stated that while many countries across engage in some form of human rights abuse, she was specifically reacting to “the call from Palestinian civil society” to support the BDS movement.
“I understand that not everyone will agree with my decision, but I simply do not feel it would be right for me under the present circumstances to 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,” Rooney said in her statement.
“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. In the meantime I would like to express once again my solidarity with the Palestinian people in their struggle for freedom, justice and equality,” she concluded.
The BDS movement is widely considered to be antisemitic. Dozens of U.S. states have passed or enacted legislation discouraging boycotts against Israel or condemning the BDS movement. The Anti-Defamation League, a progressive group, has said that movements such as BDS “frequently [result] in antisemitism and discrimination against Jews.”
Israel is the only country in the world that has adopted Hebrew as its national language, and the Hebrew publishing industry is centered there, according to the Jewish Telegraph Agency. Whether another publishing house could take Rooney’s manuscript and translate it into Hebrew is unclear.
Hebrew is deeply intertwined with Israel. The Jewish linguist Eliezer Ben-Yehuda revived the language, which had remained unspoken for centuries, in the late 1800s after coming to Israel. As Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs explains:
A hundred and fifty years ago, Hebrew was not a spoken language. It was literally nobody’s mother tongue. Today, more than 9 million people speak Hebrew and, for the majority of them, it’s their native tongue. …
Eliezer Ben Yehuda was the driving force behind the revival of the ancient language and its transformation into its modern form. This visionary linguist, who was born in Lithuania in 1858, came to Israel in 1881 with a dream to transform Hebrew into a modern language and to make it the language spoken in every home in Israel. He settled in Jerusalem and dedicated his life to the realization of his dream.
Ben Yehuda campaigned to make Hebrew the language of instruction in Israeli schools, worked on expanding the Hebrew vocabulary so it could meet the demands of modern Israeli society, created the first modern Hebrew dictionary and edited the first Hebrew-language daily newspapers. His son, Itamar Ben-Avi, was the first child in modern times to grow up with Hebrew as his mother tongue.
Ben-Yehuda fashioned out of the ancient Hebrew structures over 300 new Hebrew words. Since then, more than 15,000 new words have been added, and we’re still counting.