EXCLUSIVE: Boris’ biographer says Sally Rooney’s stance is ‘pretty antisemitic’

Writer Tom Bower slams Israeli cultural boycott


Boris Johnson’s biographer has waded into the debate over Sally Rooney’s boycott of an Israeli publisher, calling her stance “pretty antisemitic”.

Writer Tom Bower, who previously shared a publisher with Ms Rooney, told the JC: “I would like to think she’s ignorant about Israel, I would like to think she’s not prejudiced against Israel, but a cultural boycott against Israel alone shows a prejudice against Jews.”

Ms Rooney sparked controversy after she refused to allow her Israeli publisher to translate her latest book into Hebrew because she opposes the Jewish state’s “system of racial domination”.

In a statement, the bestselling author, a self-declared Marxist, said she would be “proud” to support a Hebrew language translation of Beautiful World, Where Are You? as long as it complied with institutional Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign guidelines.

Ms Rooney second novel, Normal People, was dramatised on BBC3 and translated into 46 languages. Commentators have noted the positive references to the Soviet Union and Marxism in her works.

David Mendoza-Wolfson, Vice President of the Board of Deputies, said that Ms Rooney’s statement was “a masterclass in disingenuity”.

“The leaders of BDS have made it clear that the intended end-result of their campaign is the destruction of Israel,” he said.

“By saying that she will not allow her latest work to be published in Hebrew, the language of the Jewish people, unless it is permitted by those who advocate for the destruction of the world’s only Jewish state, Ms Rooney is effectively ruling out its publication in this language, as she must know.”

Labour MP Zarah Sultana expressed her sympathy for Ms Rooney on social media, tweeting her name with a love heart next to it.

Euan Philipps, spokesperson for Labour Against Antisemitism, said: “It is unsurprising that Labour MP Zarah Sultana, with her track record..... is supporting a campaign to boycott the only Jewish state - a campaign led by people whose stated aim in reality would destroy Israel."

The Irish author said that while she was “very proud” to have had previous work published in Hebrew, she had “chosen not to sell these translation rights to an Israeli-based publishing house” that does not “publicly distance itself from apartheid and support the UN-stipulated rights of the Palestinian people”.

Referencing Human Rights Watch’s recent report on Israel, she said “Israel’s system of racial domination and segregation against Palestinians meets the definition of apartheid under international law.” The JC contacted Ms Rooney’s agent for comment.



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