This article appears in Lay of the Land: https://layoftheland.online/2021/10/24/normal-people-dont-boycott-israel/
Best-selling Irish author, Sally Rooney, exposes her prejudice – and gross hypocrisy by supporting boycotts against Israel.
Normal people don’t boycott Israel. At least, any normal person who would like to see a genuine, lasting peace between Israel and her Palestinian neighbours. The latest brouhaha over what is now seen as leftie, cause-du-jour, is best-selling Irish author, Sally Rooney’s decision to “not allow her books to be published in Hebrew”. After a global outcry, Rooney has decided she will allow her books to be published in Hebrew in Israel – as long as the publisher is BDS-endorsed Israel. Who wants to tell Sally Rooney that is the shortest list? Ever!
Sally Rooney is the author of the best-selling missive, Normal People, which was adapted into a highly successful TV show of the same name and various other novels which appeal to millennials. Over the years, Rooney has made no secret of her support for the Palestinian cause. In her books, characters have attended pro-Palestinian rallies and activities.
The latest storm revolves around her refusal to publish her latest novel in Hebrew which is not only one of Israel’s national languages alongside Arabic; but is sacred to the Jewish people.
Rooney tried to rationalize her decision by accusing Israel of practicing Apartheid and trotting out justification for her decision by quoting BDS (whose stated end goal is the destruction of the State of Israel; Human Rights Watch (whose founder wrote an article for the New York Times citing his concerns that the once venerated organization has a decidedly antisemitic agenda) and Israeli NGO, B’tselem (who have been exposed as receiving funding based on as many anti-Israel stories they can drum up – true or not).
What Rooney fails to understand is that Israel is a robust democracy, where a variety of opinions and views about our ongoing conflict with the Palestinians exist. We are also a country with a healthy respect for the arts. Art is supposed to bring people together, it is supposed to inspire conversation. It is supposed to provoke. By excluding one group of people or one nationality from enjoying (or not!) her art, she could do more to bring people together rather than drive bigger chasms which is of course, what BDS and their supporters want.
They do not want conversation, discourse and cooperation – they want Israel, the national representation of the Jewish people branded a pariah and excluded and use the charge of “human rights violations” as the proverbial stick to beat the horse.
Israel is not an Apartheid state. We are not without our many problems but we are certainly not an Apartheid state. The BDS movement are well aware that the word Apartheid is provocative and emotive and that people invariably understand little about what it means. All BDS does is exploits the suffering of the true victims of Apartheid to push their own racist, exclusionary and antisemitic agenda.
What I find glaringly hypocritical is that Rooney is more than happy to be published in China, Russia, Iran and other human rights violation hotspots around the world. Could it be that it is easier to advocate boycotting the tiny, Hebrew speaking market because it won’t have that much of an impact on potential profits from sales of the books? Jews are very much the people of the book – but I guess not any of Sally Rooney’s!
We cannot pretend that this does not pose a problem. Decisions of this kind only serve to give a tailwind to those who want to propagate more anti-Israel division. This week, posters were put up on bus stops in London with the words “Normal people boycott Israel”. This was a play on Rooney’s successful novel – and endorsing her decision. London transport authorities denounced this as vandalism but the message was out there for everyone to see – without the benefit of history, context and nuance.
The conflict between Israel and her Palestinian neighbours is complex and won’t be solved through boycotts and demonization but rather through negotiation and compromise.
Several days ago, the former US Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Colin Powell passed away. He had this to say about the conflict, “The quest for peace, however difficult, must not be abandoned. Israel needs to live in peace and security. The Palestinians need the same, as does the region.”
Peace, he added, “can only be attained by the parties themselves. The pursuit is not helped by international actions and resolutions singling out Israel for economic attacks, or human rights allegations while ignoring despotic nations far more deserving of condemnation. That is not justice and that is not acceptable.”
Rooney and her ilk should heed his wise words.
To borrow from the title of Rooney’s best-seller, Normal People, I would leave her with a few kernels of truth. Normal people want peace. Normal people pursue dialogue and inclusion. Normal people don’t discriminate. Normal people do not sow division and hate. Normal people look for solutions instead of propagating conflict.
This gross kind of antisemitism, practiced by people like Rooney should never be something that normal people do. I hope it is not too late.