Oscar-nominated director Lenny Abrahamson has defended Sally Rooney in the wake of the controversy over her decision not to sell the translation rights to her new book to an Israeli-based publishing house.
Abrahamson, who co-directed Rooney’s monster hit Normal People, said it has been “dismaying” to read some of the criticism of her stance not to publish Beautiful World, Where Are You with an Israeli publisher.
The acclaimed director is of Jewish descent and this is the first time he has spoken out about the controversy as he hit back at claims of anti-Semitism.
Rooney is a vocal supporter for the Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) movement, a Palestinian-led movement promoting boycotts, divestments, and economic sanctions against Israel.
“While I don’t agree with all aspects of the BDS movement, support for it is a principled and defensible position motivated in the majority of people by genuine concern for human rights,” he said.
He also defended her on a personal level in a tweet that he described as “some thoughts on the recent coverage of Rooney’s position on Israel”.
“I know Sally to be someone of great insight and moral courage and I admire her using her platform to support causes she believes in,” he said.
“Above all, I completely reject the suggestion that those who take her view or who strongly criticise Israel must harbour some deep-rooted anti-semetic animus.”
In news that made headlines globally, Rooney has defended her decision not to sell the translation rights to her new book to an Israeli-based publishing house.
She said she wants to express her solidarity with the “Palestinian people in their struggle for freedom, justice and equality”.
In a statement, she said she felt unable to work with Modan, describing it as a company “that does not publicly distance itself from apartheid and support the UN-stipulated rights of the Palestinian people”.
She said she was “very proud” to have had her previous two novels translated into Hebrew, but for now she had “chosen not to sell these translation rights to an Israeli-based publishing house”.
“Of course, many states other than Israel are guilty of grievous human rights abuses. This was also true of South Africa during the campaign against apartheid there.
“In this particular case, I am responding to the call from Palestinian civil society, including all major Palestinian trade unions and writers’ unions,” she said.
She said she knew not everyone will agree with her decision.
“I do not feel it would be right for me 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,” she said.
“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.”