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Sally Rooney’s boycott of Israel for publication of new book will only backfire

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ACRE, Israel – Sally Rooney is a 30-year-old Irish writer of immense talent and insight whose novels, reviewers and readers accurately describe the complicated lives of her own generation. Global success has provided him with a huge platform, making his voice a voice that people listen to.

Punishing us in this way makes the Israelis stubborn, and the realization of peace is moving further and further away, on all sides crouching behind thick layers of armor and stones.

So when Rooney blocked the sale of the translation rights to his third novel, “Beautiful World, Where Are You?” to the same Israeli publishing house that had published its two previous novels in Hebrew, the message was clear: the liberal Western intelligentsia, represented here as part of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement to “end support international to Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law, ”must punish Israel, depriving Israelis of the status of other human beings by withholding the costs of enlightened civilization, this time in the form of a novel that every enlightened citizen of the Western world prepares. read.

The BDS movement was started in 2005 by a coalition of Palestinian civil society organizations, but many Western activists who have joined them since remind me of the smokers who quit smoking and who are now its most vocal and vocal opponents. more intolerant. After all, until recently, Western countries colonized, enslaved, plundered, plundered, and generally altered the course of vast swathes of the world’s lands and peoples, stripping them of their language, culture, and resources. and their dignity.

As a liberal Israeli Jew, it annoys me to make this argument, because in my eyes the State of Israel is wrong in occupying the Palestinian territories, wrong in its treatment of Palestinians inside Israel. and in its territories, is wrong to cause the Jewish population to behave like colonizers. The Jewish people, after millennia of being unwelcome hosts of other nations, should truly be a light to nations when it comes to treating non-Jewish citizens and neighbors fairly.

But singling out ourselves for ostracism is both morally questionable and totally counterproductive.

Others have done and continue to argue better than I do what it means to ban academics, athletes and artists from international events; on other countries with human rights violations not subject to BDS or even called to account in any way; on the anti-Semitism which may be behind the BDS movement and which underlies its program; and the difficulty for Israel to find meaningful partners at the negotiating table who are truly capable of bringing about change.

But acts like Rooney’s also mean we’re missing some of the voices we most need to hear, like Caryl Churchill’s. After watching a performance of her amazing play “Far Away” in London just before the pandemic, I walked out of the theater with the intention of directing it in Israel – only to learn that the playwright refused to have her work performed there. . A tense masterpiece about the absurdity of war and the effects it has on human beings, this was precisely the piece Israelis need to see, process and discuss, a possible way of ‘explore the real horror of our current situation and why we have to get out of it. To face a disaster, you have to be ready to face it; the BDS movement anticipates this confrontation, makes it impossible.

In particular, BDS policies play into the hands of politicians like former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who are brimming with indignation and justification: See, see, they hate us! They treat us with different and stricter standards! This confirms the Israeli public’s worst fears of being hated – globally, irrationally, an extension of pogroms, indecent assault and defamation that are all too familiar to anyone who has read or even experienced it. a bit of Jewish history.

So instead of helping a just cause – “The struggle of the Palestinian people for freedom, justice and equality” as stated on the BDS website – punishing us in this way drives the Israelis away. take from others, and the realization of peace further and further receded, all sides crouched behind thick layers of armor and stones.

Israeli Jewish guests who walk through the door of the hotel and artist’s residence that my son and I own in the old city of Acre, of which nearly 5,000 residents are 95% Muslim, often arrive skeptical and full. questions about relations with our neighbors. They listen to our stories. They meet our neighbors, our staff, our friends. They note the ease and pleasure in our interactions. They eat the excellent local cuisine, wander the alleys and, more often than not, leave after a day or two with a slightly altered perception of what life could be like if all the people of the country got along like us. let’s do it.

It is quiet diplomacy, soft coercion for example, an open door that has a different reality behind it. It is a slow process of creating desire – the image of a happy and peaceful Israel and Palestine at your fingertips – and the trust, that the other side wants the same and is ready to make similar sacrifices to get there. How can our current dismal policy towards Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza ever improve if all doors are closed? People like Sally Rooney, with a voice and the power to use it, should open those doors and invite everyone to take the plunge.