Media Summary

Author Sally Rooney comes under criticism for Israeli boycott


In the UK media the BBC, The Times, The Telegraph, the Guardian, The Spectator, Sky News cover Irish author Sally Rooney’s announcement yesterday that she is refusing to allow her new book to be translated into Hebrew by an Israeli company. The acclaimed writer said it was in support of calls to boycott Israel over its policies towards the Palestinians. Rooney said it would “be an honour” to have Beautiful World, Where Are You translated into Hebrew by a company that is “compliant with the BDS movement’s institutional boycott guidelines”. Israel’s Diaspora Minister Nachman Shai said: “The cultural boycott of Israel, anti-Semitism in a new guise, is a certificate of poor conduct for her and others who behave like her.” The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel said Palestinians “warmly welcomed” her decision, while others said she had been misrepresented.

In The Spectator, Julie Burchill writes: “In the interests of consistency, I do hope that Miss Rooney will be forgoing the massive Chinese market by refusing to be translated by a regime which sterilises and enslaves its minorities; and that she will also boycott an Arabic translation, considering how many Arab countries treat women as a cross between children and chattels and enjoy executing homosexuals. The problem may be partly down to the fact that Rooney comes from Ireland.”

The Times publishes its view on the matter. It says: “The two problems with her decision are where she is boycotting and that she is boycotting at all. Will Miss Rooney’s new book now be published in only 45 languages? If so, is a Russian translation off the cards, thanks to the occupation of Ukraine and the persecution and murder of political dissidents? Arabic will be a problem, what with Saudi Arabia’s denial of basic freedoms to women. Turkish little better, what with the Kurds. Perhaps she will also object to a Hindu translation, thanks to India’s treatment of Kashmir, and also an Urdu one, thanks to Pakistan’s.”

Sam Leith, literary editor of The Spectator, argues in UnHerd: “What does Rooney intend to achieve? She’s a bestseller, sure; but not to the extent, I imagine, that missing out on her new paperback will damage the Israeli economy. The publishing house is a private rather than a state concern. There’s no soft-power blow that withdrawing her book strikes to the prestige of the Israeli regime, either. As I say, they couldn’t give a toss which of their citizens get to read about the tangled love-lives and troubled consciences of Rooney’s protagonists.”

In The Telegraph, Jake Wallis Simons writes that Rooney’s decision is nothing but a futile millennial gesture. Allison Pearson argues also in the paper that Sally Rooney’s ‘cultural boycott’ is a betrayal of literature itself. She says that in deciding to block the Israeli publication of her new novel, Rooney risks stereotyping an entire people. She adds: “Besides, a cultural boycott is such an ugly notion. Art is universal or it is nothing. Why choose to exclude a group of readers on grounds of nationality? The Israelis who came to my readings adored books and were a highly literate, discriminating audience. Does Rooney refuse to be translated into Mandarin because of Chinese repression in Hong Kong and genocide against the Uyghurs?”

Christopher Hart in the Daily Mail writes: “Many on the hard Left in Britain have applauded her [Rooney’s] supposedly noble stance: they approve entirely of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement that Rooney espouses, which seeks to damage Israel economically. A storm in a literary teacup? Perhaps. Yet it is also highly revealing of the mindset of a particular kind of hard-Left thinker.”

The BBC reports that Shia Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has claimed victory for his nationalist Saeroun movement in Iraq’s election. Sadr, who wants to end US and Iranian influence over Iraq’s internal affairs, promised to form a government free from foreign interference. Partial results showed Saeroun winning 73 of the 329 seats in parliament and Sunni Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi’s Taqaddum coalition second with 38. The pro-Iranian Fatah alliance suffered a surprise setback, getting only 14. It is likely to take many weeks of negotiations to build a new governing coalition, which Sadr cannot lead because he did not stand as a candidate.

Meanwhile, the Financial Times says Fatah has rejected preliminary results in Iraq’s parliamentary elections after it lost more than half of its seats in a result that underlined Iraqis’ frustration with armed factions that have stoked fear and instability across the country.

The Times writes that Microsoft has detected Iranian hackers trying to infiltrate American, European and Israeli defence companies and shipping firms that operate in the Middle East. The American tech giant said a group of hackers it had codenamed “DEV-0343” had carried out “extensive password spraying” against more than 250 companies who used its Office 365 software in recent months.

The Telegraph reports that thousands of Afghans are trying to flee the Taliban takeover and escape into neighbouring Iran each day, in an exodus joined by many former government officials and civil servants. Researchers have seen an exponential rise in the number of people trying to get out via the southwestern province of Nimroz and video shared on social media has shown long queues of vehicles in traffic jams through the desert.

The Independent reports how gas has become a geostrategic bargaining chip in the energy crisis in the Middle East.

In The Times, Richard Spencer argues that Iran is exploiting US apathy in crippled Lebanon, as Beirut becomes the fourth capital to fall under Tehran’s control. He writes: “America acts as if it is a neutral observer, but it is not. The US and the UK are allies of, or at least aligned towards, Israel and the Gulf states, against Iran and its proxies. Lebanon, divided between its Christian, Sunni and Shia populations, has always been up for grabs. The less interest the West takes, the more Iran sees an opportunity.”

In the Israeli media, Israel Hayom reports that a new Palestinian neighbourhood is planned for construction in northern East Jerusalem by Massar International, a corporation owned by the Palestinian al-Masri family. According to the report, Israeli authorities have already issued permits to build 92 housing units, and the plan is to have 400 of the total number of housing units built within Jerusalem city limits. An unspecified number of additional housing units are planned to be built in the West Bank, beyond Jerusalem’s border. It will also include a modern shopping centre, green belts and schools. The new neighbourhood will be governed and maintained, and security provided, by a private company created especially for providing advanced services to residents. Israeli right-wing politicians and activists responded angrily to the planned new Palestinian neighbourhood.

According to a Channel 12 News poll that was published yesterday evening, 86 per cent of Likud voters said they would vote for Netanyahu in a future party primary, as opposed to only 6 per cent who said they would vote for Yuli Edelstein, following his announced decision to run for the party leadership earlier this week. The poll found that the Likud would win 14 seats fewer under Edelstein than it would under Netanyahu — seats that are picked up by the Religious Zionist Party, Shas, Yamina and Yesh Atid. However, the poll also found that the Likud would not be able to form a religious-right-wing coalition under Netanyahu, falling five seats short of a 61-seat majority — on the assumption that none of the parties in the current coalition would agree to serve in a Netanyahu-led government. Edelstein yesterday wrote on Twitter that the “Channel 12 poll that was published this evening clearly proves what I argued last night — the Likud under my leadership can form a fully right-wing government as soon as tomorrow morning. It’s either Lapid or me. If we don’t do what’s necessary now, the Likud will remain on the outside.” If elections were held today, the Likud would win 34 seats, followed by Yesh Atid with 18, Shas with 9, Blue and White with 8, UTJ with 7, Labour with 7, Yamina with 7, Arab Joint List with 6, The Religious Zionist Party with 6, Yisrael Beiteinu with 5, Meretz with 5, New Hope with 4, and the United Arab List with 4.

All the media reports that Intelligence Minister Elazar Stern has withdrawn from the race to lead the Jewish Agency after he admitted ignoring harassment complaints while heading the manpower directorate in the military. “In the current atmosphere, I find it wrong to put myself forward for a job to head the Jewish Agency,” Stern wrote in a Facebook post. “I do this with clean hands and a full heart and know that all my years, my past and my actions are evidence of my path”. Stern came under controversy following allegations that a soldier who served under Stern in the army in 1995 lodged a complaint regarding sexual harassment by a colleague, of which Stern threatened her and told her to drop it. On Sunday, Stern told Army Radio that “the shredder worked very quickly,” referring to anonymous letters alleging harassment by soldiers or officers when Stern led the army’s Manpower Directorate from 2004 to 2008. He later denied the shredding of such complaints but admitted that his comments could have been interpreted as such.

The Jerusalem Post focuses on speeches and talks during its annual conference held this week. Former Mossad director Yossi Cohen said Tuesday that there is greater opposition to Iran’s nuclear programme than in the past.  “I think that Iran, to this day, is not even close to acquiring a nuclear weapon … this is due to longstanding efforts by some forces in the world,” he said in response to a question by Jerusalem Post reporter Yonah Jeremy Bob, which included references to Israeli covert actions in the Islamic Republic. Meanwhile, former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said an Israeli last-resort military action against Iran is a risk of American appeasement and emboldens the Islamic Republic. Military action is “not in the best interests of anyone,” he told Jerusalem Post editor-in-chief Yaakov Katz. Justice Minister Gideon Saar clarified that Israel would remain opposed to Washington’s plan to reopen a US consulate in Jerusalem that has traditionally been a base for diplomatic outreach to the Palestinians even if political trends change.

Walla notes that the Lebanese judge leading the investigation into last year’s explosion at the port of Beirut was forced yesterday to stop the proceedings for the second time in a few weeks, shortly after issuing an arrest warrant against a former finance minister and member of the Amal party that is close to Hezbollah. Justice Tarek Bitar, who was appointed to the post in February after his predecessor was ousted due to summoning senior officials for questioning, has also been criticised by prominent figures in Lebanon. One of them is Hezbollah secretary general Hassan Nasrallah, who on Monday demanded the appointment of an “honest and transparent” judge in place of Bitar, whom he accused of being a biased factor with political ambitions.