Former Justice Minister Alan Shatter has criticised Sally Rooney’s decision to not sell translation rights to her latest novel to an Israeli-based publishing house, stating that there is “a complete lack of understanding” of the complexity of the situation.
Acclaimed Irish author Sally Rooney revealed in a statement earlier this week that she would not sell the translation rights to her new book Beautiful World, Where Are You to an Israeli-based publishing house.
She said that she does not feel it would be right for her 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”.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne, former Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said while Ms Rooney is entitled to make her own decision on her work, he said there is “a complete lack of understanding of the complexity” of the Israeli-Palestine conflict and a “total lack of understanding of the history”.
“Total lack of understanding of what is needed to bring about conflict resolution. That’s particularly tragic coming from this country where we went through 30 years of conflict,” he added.
We’ve learned lessons that we’re ignoring and what we are trying to do is contribute to the escalation, rather than the resolution of conflict.”
In her statement, Sally Rooney referenced the Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) movement which is led by Palestinians.
She described it as a Palestinian-led, anti-racist and nonviolent grassroots campaign calling for an economic and cultural boycott of complicit Israeli companies and institutions in response to “the apartheid system”.
Mr Shatter questioned the author’s knowledge of the BDS campaign.
“I just think it’s very sad that an individual like Sally Rooney who writes with such insight about human relationships has gone down what is basically a rabbit hole dug by the BDS campaign,” he said.
He said he does not know how much the author knows about “the ultimate objectives”.
Independent Senator Frances Black praised Rooney for her stance, describing it as being “extremely principled, courageous and brave”.
She has taken a principled stand knowing the abuse she would face. I think she should be applauded.
“The bottom line here is what is happening in Israel and Palestine is apartheid.”
She said understands why she has now taken the stance, having had her previous novels published in Hebrew by the company.
Ms Black encouraged people to look to the Human Rights Watch Report on Palestine which she said is “truly shocking” and “heart-breaking”.
In her statement, Rooney said that the Hebrew-language translation rights to her new novel are still available, and if she can find a way to sell these rights that is compliant with the BDS movement’s institutional boycott guidelines, she 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 said.