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.”

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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