Leading writers support Sally Rooney decision to refuse publication in Israel

Photo: David Levenson

For immediate release:

Seventy prominent writers, poets and playwrights from several continents, have signed a letter endorsing Sally Rooney’s decision to turn down an offer with an Israel publishing house, describing it as

“an exemplary response to the mounting injustices inflicted on Palestinians”. 

Among the signatories are award-winning Irish authors Niamh Campbell and Kevin Barry; Rachel Kushner, Eileen Myles and Eliot Weinburger from the US; Monica Ali, Caryl Churchill, China Miéville and Kamila Shamsie from the UK. 

The writers say that in May this year Rooney was one of more than 16,000 artists who

“… condemned Israel’s crimes in ‘A Letter Against Apartheid’. Israeli apartheid, they said, is ‘sustained by international complicity; it is our collective responsibility to redress this harm’. ”

Despite reports that that two bookshop chains with outlets both in Israel and in settlements in the occupied West Bank say they are pulling Rooney’s novels from their shops in retaliation, the signatories – including publishers Alexandra Pringle, Jacques Testard and Carmen Callil – affirmed their commitment to the Palestinian people, saying:

“Like her [Rooney], we will continue to respond to the Palestinian call for effective solidarity, just as millions supported the campaign against apartheid in South Africa.”

——–

Notes to editors

  1. The letter in full:

As fellow writers, we wish to express our support for the novelist Sally Rooney.

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. Sally Rooney’s refusal to sign a contract with a mainstream Israeli publisher — which markets the work of the Israeli Ministry of Defence — is therefore an exemplary response to the mounting injustices inflicted on Palestinians. 

It is less than a year since Human Rights Watch concluded that Israel had ‘dispossessed, confined, forcibly separated, and subjugated Palestinians’, amounting to the ‘crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution’. It is only a few months since the last bombing of Gaza, since the most recent incursion into the Al-Aqsa mosque and the new round of expulsion orders in occupied East Jerusalem. 

This is the context of Sally Rooney’s decision. In making it, she is not alone.  In May, she was one of more than 16,000 artists who condemned Israel’s crimes in ‘A Letter Against Apartheid’. Israeli apartheid, they said, is ‘sustained by international complicity; it is our collective responsibility to redress this harm’. 

In supporting Sally Rooney, we reassert that responsibility. 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. We will continue to support the nonviolent Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality. 

2. Full list of 70 signatories:

Maan Abu Taleb    writer

Hanan Al-Shaykh    writer

Tariq Ali    writer, broadcaster

Monica Ali    writer

Suad Amiry    writer

Kevin Barry    writer

Ronan Bennet    writer, screenwriter

Nicholas Blincoe    writer

Season Butler    writer, artist

Carmen Callil    writer, publisher, critic

Niamh Campbell    writer

Caryl Churchill    playwright

Sarah Clancy    poet

Isabel Coixet    screenwriter

Robert Coover    writer

Molly Crabapple    writer, artist

Selma  Dabbagh    writer

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz   writer

Geoff Dyer    writer

Ben Ehrenreich      writer, journalist

Inua Ellams  writer, artist

Lynn Gaspard    publisher

Francisco Goldman    writer

David Harsent    poet

Seán Hewitt poet, critic

Rita Ann Higgins    poet

Rachel Holmes    writer

Brigid Keenan    writer

Hannah Khalil    playwright 

Nancy  Kricorian    writer

Rachel Kushner    writer

Paul Laverty    screenwriter

Ed Luker    poet

Sabrina Mahfouz    poet, playwright

Emer Martin    writer

Ahmed Masoud    writer

Tessa McWatt    writer

Pauline Melville    writer

Lina Meruane    writer

China Miéville    writer

Dana Naomy   Mills    writer

Pankaj Mishra    writer

Michel S Moushabeck    publisher

Eileen Myles    poet

Karthika  Nair    poet

Courttia Newland    writer, screenwriter

Andrew O’Hagan    writer

John Oakes    publisher

Nii Ayikwei Parkes    writer, editor, curator

Vijay Prashad    historian, editor

Alexandra Pringle    publisher

Keith Ridgway    writer

David Riker    screenwriter

Bruce Robbins    writer, scholar

Colin Robinson    publisher

Andrew  Ross    writer

Joe Sacco    cartoonist, journalist 

Sapphire    writer

James Schamus    screenwriter

Kamila Shamsie    writer

Jack Shenker    writer

Rick Simonson    bookseller

Gillian Slovo    writer

Ahdaf Soueif    writer

Jacques Testard    publisher

 V    playwright, performer

William Wall    writer

Naomi Wallace    playwright, screenwriter

Eliot Weinberger    writer

Penny Woolcock    screenwriter, director

Alia Trabucco Zerán, writer

3. Human Rights Watch report (April 2021):
A Threshold Crossed: Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecutionhttps://www.hrw.org/report/2021/04/27/threshold-crossed/israeli-authorities-and-crimes-apartheid-and-persecution

4. “This Is Apartheid”: Kara Walker, Nan Goldin, and 16,000+ Artists Voice Solidarity With Palestine
https://hyperallergic.com/652347/kara-walker-nan-goldin-and-16000-artists-voice-solidarity-with-palestine/

5.  Sally Rooney novels pulled from Israeli bookstores following translation boycott, (The Guardian, November 2021)
https://www.theguardian.com/books/2021/nov/05/sally-rooney-novels-pulled-from-israeli-bookstores-after-translation-boycott

6. The retailers said to be pulling Sally Rooney’s novels operate in Israeli settlements.
i) Steimatzky bookstore’s branch in Ma’ale Adumim, one of the largest settlement blocks on occupied Palestinian land

https://www.google.com/search?output=search&q=Steimatzky&ludocid=11685552611159258141&gsas=1&lsig=AB86z5WPxcsB8lWy3JYVRC0s5mvt&kgs=84a00d24d3dbbf44&shndl=-1&source=sh/x/kp/local/2&entrypoint=sh/x/kp/local

ii) Tzomet bookstore’s branch  located on Faran street, in Ramat Eshkol settlement.
https://www.booknet.co.il/סניפים/38/רמת-אשכול

Susan Sarandon, Claire Foy, Mark Ruffalo, Eric Cantona call for an immediate end to Israeli attacks on Palestinian human rights groups

More than 100 public figures urge the international community to protect Palestinian human rights defenders.

For immediate release: Wednesday Nov 17th 2021

Musicians Laurie Anderson, David Byrne, Jarvis Cocker and Massive Attack, film directors Laura Poitras, Jim Jarmusch, Costa Gravas and Apichatpong Weerasethakul, actors Mark Rylance, Tilda Swinton, Simon Pegg, Richard Gere, authors Philip Pullman, Naomi Klein, Irvine Welsh, Colm Tóibín and Monica Ali — are among dozens of high profile figures who have signed a statement [1] criticising the Israeli government for launching what they say is:

“An unprecedented and blanket attack on Palestinian human rights defenders beginning with the designation […] of six leading Palestinian human rights organizations as “terrorist” groups.” 

The statement goes on to warn that the Israeli military order that outlaws six “most eminent” Palestinian organizations in the occupied West Bank:

“…puts at risk not just the organizations themselves, but the entire Palestinian civil society and the tens of thousands of Palestinians they serve everyday.”

The artists urge:

“We call on all persons of conscience across the globe to stand with us. We call on the international community to #StandWithThe6 and protect Palestinian human rights defenders.”

Further to the joint statement, musician Peter Gabriel said:

“The Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, which was adopted in 1998 by the UN General Assembly, makes clear that an occupying power with a true commitment to human rights would “protect and encourage” human rights defenders, and “not ostracize, harass or silence them”. Those brave enough and committed to guard our human rights, as these six organisations are, especially in difficult and dangerous situations, must be defended.”

Music producer Brian Eno commented on the situation:

“This is beyond cruelty. It’s savagery, barbarism. Israel stands bathed in shame.”

Author and former Greek Minister of Finance Yanis Varoufakis urged for sanctions: 

“The decades-long failure of governments to hold Israel to account for its repression of the Palestinians has led to this situation. The international community must speak out and sanction Israel, now.”

Ken Loach cited a statement by Amnesty International and called for accountability:

“Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are right when they say that this is ‘an attack by Israel on the international human rights movement’.  When will the Israeli government be held to account for its crimes? Political leaders cannot claim to support the rule of law and then do deals with Israel when its racist oppression of Palestinians is plain for all to see. ”

Screenwriter Paul Laverty (I, Daniel Blake, Looking For Eric) said:

“Once Governments start shutting down human rights organisations two simple questions ring in our ears… What are they hiding? What are they scared of? The answers are always revealing.”

Award-winning novelist Kamila Shamsie called on others to listen to Palestinian voices:

“For many years now, Palestinian writers, thinkers, and human rights campaigners have been calling for meaningful solidarity from people around the world. The least we can do is listen, amplify their voices, and above all, refuse to be complicit with the system that so cruelly oppresses them.

I #StandWithThe6 and all human rights defenders.”

Tunde Adebimpe of the Brooklyn-based band TV on the Radio, commented:

“Criminalising unions and human rights organisations are actions akin to those of a totalitarian regime.  This really is intolerable – for Palestinians as it would be for any of us.”

NOTES TO EDITORS

  1. The statement in full:

Over the past two weeks, Israel has launched an unprecedented and blanket attack on Palestinian human rights defenders beginning with the designation, on 19 October 2021, of six leading Palestinian human rights organizations as “terrorist” groups. The organizations include: Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, Al-Haq Law in the Service of Man (Al-Haq), Bisan Center for Research and Development, Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCI-P), the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), and the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees (UPWC). Still, despite international condemnation by the UN, international human rights groups, and government officials, the Israeli occupation has doubled down in their crackdown and issued a military order that outlaws, entirely, the six Palestinian organizations in the West Bank. 

The designations target six of the most eminent Palestinian human rights defenders engaged in critical human rights work and cover all aspects of civil society in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). Addameer serves as one of the biggest organizations providing direct legal support to Palestinian political prisoners. Al-Haq, the oldest human rights organization both in Palestine and Middle East,extensively documents international humanitarian law and international human rights law violations in the occupied territory, specialising in individual and corporate accountability. Bisan Center produces extensive research and development reports in support of the poor and marginalized communities. DCI-P is a local affiliate of an international human rights organization that works to protect the rights of Palestinian children. The UAWC supports thousands of Palestinian farmers and their families amid the encroachment and violence of illegal Israeli settlements. The UPWC is a feminist, progressive, and grassroots organization that aims to empower Palestinian women. The vital work of these six organizations to protect and empower Palestinians and hold Israel accountable for its gross human rights violations and apartheid regime of institutionalized racial discriminationis precisely the work that Israel is trying to end.

Israel’s designation of these six Palestinian organizations as “terrorist” groups, and the military order that outlaws them places the safety of the organizations and their staff at imminent risk. The military order allows for Israeli occupation forces to raid their offices, forcibly shut them down, arbitrarily arrest their staff to be tried under Israeli military courts, and institute other reprisals including travel bans and residency revocations against their members. The threat of retaliation is real, and puts at risk not just the organizations themselves, but the entire Palestinian civil society and the tens of thousands of Palestinians they serve everyday.

To this end, we call on all persons of conscience across the globe to stand with us. We call on the international community to #StandWithThe6 and protect Palestinian human rights defenders, and demand that Israel rescind the terrorist designations immediately.

Full list of 124 signatories:  

Kevin Macdonald, film director, UK

Peter Gabriel, musician, founder, Womad Festival, UK

Mike Leigh, film director, UK

Jodie Evans, film producer, USA

Robert Wyatt, musician, UK

Alfreda Benge, artist, UK

Aki Kaurismaki, film director, Finland

Liam Cunningham, actor, Ireland

Susan Sarandon, actor, USA

Ece Temelkuran, author, Turkey 

Tilda Swinton, actor, UK

Jim Jarmusch, film director, USA

Laura Poitras, film director, USA 

Simon Fisher Turner, musician, UK 

Iciar Bollain, film director, Spain 

Kleber Mendonça Filho, film director, Brasil 

Julie Christie, actor, UK 

V (formerly known as Eve Ensler), Playwright, USA 

Mark Ruffalo, actor, USA

Philip Pullman, author, UK

Stephen Dillane, actor, UK

Brian Eno, artist, UK

Roger Waters, musician, UK

Ken Loach, film director, UK

Paul Laverty, writer, UK

Yann Martel, author, Canada

AL Kennedy, author, UK 

Naomi Klein, author, Canada

Robert Guediguian, film director, France

Asif Kapadia, film director, UK

Juliet Stevenson, actor, UK

Yanis Varoufakis, author, Greece

Peter Kosminsky, screenwriter and director, UK

Titi Robin, musician, France

Etienne Balibar, philosopher, France 

Harriet Walter, actor, UK

Apichatpong Weerasethakul, film director, Thailand

Bella Freud, artist, UK

David Michôd, film director, Australia

Claire Foy, actor, UK

Mark Rylance, actor, UK

Alfonso Cuaron, film director, Mexico

Thurston Moore, musician, USA

Jeremy Deller, artist, UK 

Kamila Shamsie, author, UK

Monica Ali, author, UK

Eric Cantona, actor, France 

Phil Manzanera, musician, UK 

Laurie Anderson, artist, USA

Michèle Gavras, producer, France

Annemarie Jacir, film director, Palestine 

Costa Gavras, film director, Greece 

Juan Diego Botto, actor and playwright, Spain 

Alberto San Juan, actor and playwright, Spain 

Carlos Bardem, actor and writer, Spain

Residente (René Pérez), singer, artist, writer, film director, Puerto Rico

Irvine Welsh, author, UK 

Tunde Adebimpe, musician, USA

David Byrne, musician, USA

Ohal Grietzer, musician, Israel

Tai Shani, visual artist, UK

Hany Abu-Assad, film director, Palestine 

Simon Pegg, actor, UK 

David Mitchell, author, UK 

Mira Nair, film director, India

Jarvis Cocker, musician, UK 

Fisher Stevens, director, USA 

Leopoldo Gout, artist, USA 

Julio Pérez del Campo, film director, Spain 

Alain Damasio, author, France

Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, choreographer, Belgium 

Joe Sacco, comic book artist, journalist, USA 

Mercè Sampietro, actor, Spain 

Ian McEwan, author, UK

Colm Tóibín, author, Ireland

Elaine Mokhtefi, translator, USA

Madeleine Thien, author, Canada

Eliot Weinberger, author, USA

Sabrina Mahfouz, playwright and poet, UK

Joel Beinin, professor, USA

Omar Robert Hamilton, author, UK

John Oakes, publisher, USA

Mary Jane Nealon, poet, USA

Rachel Kushner, author, USA

Lina Meruane, author, Chile

Naomi Wallace, playwright, USA

Rashid Khalidi, author, Palestine

Ben Ehrenreich, author, USA

Adam Shatz, Writer, London Review of Books, USA

Farid Matuk, poet, USA

Michel Moushabeck, publisher, USA

Eileen Myles, poet, USA

Lila Abu-Lughod, Professor, USA

Natalie Diaz, poet, USA

Andrew Ross, New York University, USA

Zeina Azzam, poet, USA

Bernardine Dohrn, human rights advocate, USA

Molly Crabapple, author, USA

Jeffrey Sachs, University Professor at Columbia University, USA

Bruce Robbins, author, USA

Shuchi Saraswat, author, USA

James Schamus, screenwriter and producer, USA

Nancy Kricorian, writer, USA

Jacqueline Rose, author, UK

Andrew O’Hagan, author, UK

Hannah Khalil, playwright, Ireland 

Ritu Menon, publisher, India

Janne Teller, author, Denmark 

Nicholas Blincoe, author, UK

Rick Simonson, Bookseller, USA 

Brigid Keenan, author, UK

Massive Attack, band, UK

Chipo Chung, actor, UK

Richard Gere, actor, USA

Fredwreck, music producer, USA

Naomi Shihab Nye, poet, USA

Karthika Naïr, poet and librettist, France

Omar el-Khairy, playwright, UK

Edward Koren, writer, USA

Curtis Koren, cartoonist, USA

John McCarthy, writer, UK

Clive Oppenheimer, filmmaker, UK

John Burnside, writer, UK

Eberhard Kienle, writer, France

Kamila Shamsie: Why I signed the artists’ pledge for Palestine

On Saturday 14 February, a 600 word piece was published in the Guardian Saturday Review by novelist and pledge signatory, Kamila Shamsie, which we reproduce in full here:

Kamila Shamsie 14.02.15It doesn’t take long in the West Bank and Jerusalem to work out that ‘apartheid’ is the only word that will do. It is present in the extensive infrastructure of military might, 3G phone coverage (not allowed to Palestinian mobile providers), and no-Arabs-permitted bus routes that cater to settlers in the West Bank whose presence there is illegal. It is present in the implementation of laws that make it virtually impossible for Palestinian residents of Jerusalem to acquire residence permits for their spouses from the West Bank and Gaza. It is present in the security checkpoint in the middle of a once-busy market street in Hebron where Israeli guards inspect your paperwork to make sure you aren’t Palestinian – absolutely everyone else is allowed through. It is present, most starkly, in the Separation Wall. Continue reading