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Sally Rooney novels snapped up by Palestinian readers amid row over cultural boycott

We’re not getting them in fast enough,’ says East Jerusalem bookshop owner

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Writer Sally Rooney said she could not partner with a publisher which would not “publicly distance itself from apartheid and support the UN-stipulated rights of the Palestinian people.

Writer Sally Rooney said she could not partner with a publisher which would not “publicly distance itself from apartheid and support the UN-stipulated rights of the Palestinian people.

Writer Sally Rooney said she could not partner with a publisher which would not “publicly distance itself from apartheid and support the UN-stipulated rights of the Palestinian people.

Sally Rooney’s books have seen a surge of interest among Palestinians since the Irish author declined to sell the translation rights of her latest book, Beautiful World, Where Are You to an Israeli publishing house to support a cultural boycott of the country.

Ms Rooney (30) said last month she could not partner with a publisher which would not “publicly distance itself from apartheid and support the UN-stipulated rights of the Palestinian people”, in solidarity with the pro-Palestine Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

“We have had a lot of demand since Sally Rooney made the announcement,” said Ahmad Muna, manager of the Educational Bookshop in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem.

“We have stocked her books before but there was really limited demand since our bookshop primarily stocks books on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, people were just not that interested.

“After she made the announcement that she would not translate the book into Hebrew, we have had a huge demand.

"Almost every day someone comes in wanting to buy the book,” he said.

“The problem is we’re not getting them in as fast as we’d like to,” added Mr Muna, saying the bookstore had just put in an order for fresh stock due to the demand.

Ms Rooney’s comments prompted fury in Israel, with two major bookstore chains in Israel, which collectively have over 200 branches across the country, last week announcing they would stop carrying the author’s books.

However, the Israeli Modan Publishing House, which has translated her previous works, told AFP yesterday that it would keep selling Rooney’s books despite her stance towards Israel.

“We do not support a cultural boycott, and therefore we will continue to sell Sally Rooney’s works as usual,” said Tali Thelet, a company spokesman.

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The row has heightened interest among Palestinians who were not previously familiar with her work.

“When she insisted the book not be translated to Hebrew, I thought I must read this,” said one 61-year-old Palestinian female reader who asked to remain anonymous.

“Also I just love the Irish.

“I have never heard of a young woman doing such a thing. I decided I must read her work because she stood up for something and was rebellious for us,” added the woman, who bought her copy from the Educational Bookshop.

“I think some of my friends will read it too, now that I have a copy.

"It’s hard to find in Jerusalem,” she added.

Israeli and international groups, including Human Rights Watch, have accused Israel of crimes of apartheid against the Palestinians, but the Israeli government and many citizens reject that charge.

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2021]


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