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Wednesday 13 October 2021

Sally Rooney And No Anti-Semitism

The third novel from Irish author Sally Rooney, Beautiful World, Where Are You, was published in the USA, the UK, and Ireland last month. This was an uncontroversial event. But when she declined to have an Israeli publisher translate the work into Hebrew, as part of her support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, all hell broke loose.

Sally Rooney

This was despite her stressing that “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”. But the heavy artillery of the anti-BDS brigade was already being summoned.

That may have had something to do with her adding “In the meantime I would like to express once again my solidarity with the Palestinian people in their struggle for freedom, justice and equality”, and also “many states other than Israel are guilty of grievous human rights abuses...in this case I am responding to the call from Palestinian civil society, including all major Palestinian trade unions and writers’ unions”.

So who would care to go off the end of the pier in no style at all? Ben Judah certainly would. “Depressing and unpleasant that Sally Rooney won’t allow her new novel to be translated into Hebrew … Hebrew is an integral and ancient part of Jewish culture worldwide. It’s taught where ever there are Jews … Boycotting Hebrew - not the Israeli state, army or occupation - is boycotting Jews”. So it’s, you know, hint hint.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews also weighed in. “Sally Rooney’s statement that she is happy to have her book published in Hebrew as long as it complies with the guidelines of the [BDS movement] is a masterclass in disingenuity. The leaders of BDS have made it clear that the intended end result of their campaign is the destruction of Israel”. That’s not how many observers read BDS’ objectives. Who may not be won over by that bullying.

It’s true that Ben Judah later “clarified” his stance after seeing Ms Rooney’s statement, adding “Well if she could have said that yesterday it would have saved us all a lot of trouble”. But thus far, he’s not acted on James Foster’s prompting him “So you'll be posting a retraction & deleting your tweets, right?” Other Jewish voices backed Ms Rooney.

Andrew Feinstein mused “Congratulations to Sally Rooney on her principled position on Palestinian rights. BDS was crucial to ending apartheid in South Africa and it will be again in Israel & the [Occupied Palestinian Territories]". Shaun Lawson added “When the world boycotted apartheid South Africa, I can't remember anyone saying ‘but what about X? Or Y? Or Z? Why are you picking on South Africa?’ Why was that? Could it be because the principle spoke for itself? Solidarity with Sally Rooney. Brickbats to apartheid apologists”.

And Dana Naomy Mills reminded the world “As an anti occupation israeli activist let me tell you if people would be as upset about daily horrors of the occupation as they are about boycotts we wouldn’t need boycotts”. The continuing nudge-nudgery - suggesting that support for the Palestinian people equals anti-Semitism, while not actually saying so, along with the heavy-handed denunciation of those such as Ms Rooney, is not making it.

Instead, the bullying and browbeating is alienating an increasing number of people who might otherwise have been supportive of the state of Israel. Not a good look.

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Rosie said...

Very good piece. I see grotesque ideologue and bigot-in-chief Brendan O'Denial has weighed in attacking Rooney for her "bigotry" on Spiked Online. So undemocratic is Spiked, that it only allows comment by supporters who pay Spiked money, thus reinforcing their self-gratifying, world-view-in-a-vaccuum approach to political discourse.

Anonymous said...

Judaism has had to resist two millennia of ostracism, persecution and the second most heinous industrialised mass murder in human history. Given human nature, an extreme reaction was inevitable. Hence the criminal lunacy of Zionism and its "logical" creation of a repulsive apartheid theocratic state apparatus - which is opposed by a healthy number of Jews who wish for nothing more than a peaceful life.

Inevitably, the reactionary element in Judaism has ignited a similar reaction in mindless anti-Semitic bigots. But of all the peoples in this world it is Judaism which should most realise ghettos, separatism and elitism (of any kind) simply don't work in the long run.

The fact is the present Israel is a tragic failed state doomed to perpetual paranoid self isolation. It cannot survive the lessons of history.

Sooner or later the tragedy will have to be resolved by creation of a binational state free of religious intolerance, apartheid and ghettoisation.

If Israel continues on its present path it merely ensures its own demise. That is the real tragedy.

Johnspartacusanonymous said...

Spiked are certainly a bunch of self-gratifiers.

Rosie said...

I agree absolutely with the long view which you painfully and articulately lay out Anonymous. Completely understand the feeling of an existential threat felt by some of Israel's Jews where the memory of the Holocaust and centuries of pogroms can and should never be erased. But to tread the road some have done in Israel with bullying and lies and cruelty, and within the PLP here, with similar bullying , cruel lies and purges, will not work and will ultimately boost the very anti-Semitism all good people loathe. There are mindless anti-Semitic bigots -but they are not in the right left or middle of the Labour party and nor are they exemplified by the courageous Sally Rooney, whose book I shall now buy.