Sally Rooney books removed from Israeli shops after translation boycott

Retailers’ move follows author’s decision not to have latest novel translated by an Israeli publisher

Books by Sally Rooney will no longer be sold in two Israeli bookshop chains, after the acclaimed writer's decision not to sell translation rights for her most recent novel to an Israeli publisher.

Rooney’s novels were previously available from Steimatzky and Tzomet Sefarim, but the books have now been removed from their websites, and will be pulled from physical shops too. The retailers have more than 200 branches between them.

Rooney received both praise and criticism last month when it came to light that she had turned down an offer from the Israeli publisher Modan to translate her book Beautiful World, Where Are You into Hebrew.

In a statement, she explained that while she was "very proud" to have had her previous novels translated into Hebrew, she would not sell translation rights to an Israeli-based publishing house for now, in order to support the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement (BDS), a campaign that works to "end international support for Israel's oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law".


A representative from Steimatzky gave The Guardian the following statement:

“The Steimatzky chain is a literary stage and a warm and embracing home for any literary work with a love of the written word. From the moment the subject was brought to our attention, as an immediate step, we removed the books from the site.”

The Guardian has approached Tzomet Sefarim, which is said to have put out a statement of a similar kind, but has not yet had a response.

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, which runs BDS, tweeted in October that it warmly welcomed Rooney’s decision. The organisation has now reiterated its support, tweeting a statement that expressed gratitude for “the impressive growth of worldwide endorsement of the cultural boycott of apartheid Israel”.

Modan, the company that translated Rooney’s previous novels Conversations With Friends and Normal People, owns shares in one of the booksellers that are no longer selling Rooney’s work, Tzomet Sefarim.

Yoseph Haddad, CEO of Together – Vouch for Each Other, a social activist organisation, has been leading a campaign this week to encourage Israeli booksellers to boycott Rooney’s books. He has been encouraging Israelis to contact the two chains and ask them to stop selling Rooney’s books, due to her decision to turn down Modan’s offer.

“I’m very pleased that this pressure made the two largest bookstore chains in Israel take action,” he said. - The Guardian