JK Rowling responds to fans using her Harry Potter characters to make points about Israeli cultural boycott
|JK Rowling and Palestinian music teacher Mia Oudeh|
the letter this week from 150 people, including JK Rowling and 13 Tory MPs
calling for ‘cultural co-existence’ i.e. breaking the Cultural Boycott of
Israel, Miah Oudeh, a Palestinian fan of JK Rowling penned an open letter to
her taking issue with the letter she signed. JK Rowling has responded to Miah who
has followed up with a second open letter.
|Dumbledore’s relationship with Severus Snape is used as metaphor for opposing BDS|
people were very disappointed with J K Rowling for having signed the original
letter, a letter alongside a large number of outright bigots, racists and
Israel Firsters, J K Rowling herself does not share these politics, belonging
to the social democratic part of the political spectrum. Her signing of the
original Zionist letter has provoked mass fury amongst her many fans, hence her
people were disappointed with J K Rowling for having signed the original
letter, what has transpired since is very positive because JK Rowling has
accepted as a given the fact that,
Palestinian community has suffered untold injustice and brutality.’ She went on to say that ‘I want to see the
Israeli government held to account for that injustice and brutality. Boycotting
Israel on every possible front has its allure. It satisfies the human urge to
do something, anything, in the face of horrific human suffering.’
are pretty clear and explicit damnations of what Israel has done. They don’t of
course go to the root of the problem, the nature of the Israeli state as a
settler colonial state. What Rowling
disagrees with is the tactic of Boycott but she is on weak ground when she says
sits uncomfortably with me is that severing contact with Israel’s cultural and
academic community means refusing to engage with some of the Israelis who are
most pro-Palestinian, and most critical of Israel’s government. Those are
voices I’d like to hear amplified, not silenced. A cultural boycott places
immovable barriers between artists and academics who want to talk to each
other, understand each other and work side-by-side for peace.’
fact she is wrong. The Boycott explicitly doesn’t prevent communication with
pro-Palestinian Israeli activists, quite the contrary. Many of those activists
support the Boycott from Within movement, knowing of course the inherent
contradictions in such a position.
the debate is an extremely positive one.
A music teacher from Dunfermline has crafted a Facebook post to one of her
favourite authors, JK Rowling, calling her out over her support of
the Guardian’s “Culture for Coexistence” letter.
Seeing the news on her Facebook of Rowling’s support, 25-year-old Mia
was shocked and upset, and posted her reaction on social
The open letter was written in the hope of JK Rowling spotting it and
responding to her long-term fan.
J. K. Rowling,
I am an avid fan of yours, and have continuously read your Harry Potter books
non-stop since the age of 11. My whole house is splattered with memorabilia,
and I have just returned from visiting Harry Potter World which was one of the
most amazing trips of my life. I’m 100% obsessed with your books, and
frequently dream about them – in particular, the Battle of Hogwarts, where my
sub-conscious always brings in my own personal battle, but a battle in which I
think everyone should be taking part.
I am writing to you in response to your public support for Israeli-Palestinian
dialogue and opposition to the BDS movement in the Guardian’s “Culture for
Coexistence” letter. As a Palestinian, I have to say that I was completely
disappointed when I read about this, because your books have been the very
source of all the hope I have for peace and justice in my homeland someday. You
see, my Battle of Hogwarts dreams have always had the death eaters as Zionists,
and Harry and his peers as Palestinians. Knowing that the idea for your epic
novels was from World War II and the Nazis, I naturally drew parallels between
the books and Zionist Israel and Palestine. I am therefore entirely confused
and heart broken at your support for this letter, because to me, as a
Palestinian Potterhead, it does not quite make sense.
The letter in question states,
“Cultural boycotts singling out Israel are divisive and discriminatory and
will not further peace … Open dialogue and interaction promote greater
understanding and mutual acceptance … Cultural engagement builds bridges,
nurtures freedom and positive movement for change. We wholly endorse
encouraging such a powerful tool for change rather than boycotting its use.”
I feel that this letter has not contextualised the grim reality of
Israel/Palestine, and is paradoxical in its nature. In this response to your
support of the letter, I will be drawing parallels between the Harry Potter
world and the Palestinian world in order to demonstrate my confusion.
Firstly, “boycotts singling out Israel are divisive and
discriminatory,” is a ridiculous sentence in itself. I’m not sure whether
you know the history of Israel, but it did not exist before 1948. It is a
settler-colonial state which operates on the apartheid of an indigenous people
and has broken international law and UN resolutions every single day since its
existence. The practices Israel enforces in its culture and every day
functioning are in themselves divisive and discriminatory. No cultural
engagement between Palestinians and Israelis will ever build bridges, because
rather than the “two sides are to blame” argument the letter you
signed endorses, there are no two sides.
When the death eaters take over the Ministry of Magic and begin to run the
magical world, would you have placed them in an equal side to the Potter trio?
I definitely would not; the death eaters ran a ministry of oppression – from
the “Magic is Might” statue of the naked muggles being used to
support the robed wizard, to the brutal treatment of muggle born students at
Hogwarts. Additionally, the death eaters had the advantage of fighting together
using the Unforgivable Curses, having an army of brutal magical creatures
including giants and dementors, having magical spells to track the Potter
trio’s movements and having full control of the magical world through their
position of power.
In contrast, Harry was working in isolation with the support of his two
friends. His “side” were terrorised families who could not step one
foot out of line in fear of being tortured and/or killed, or who were in hiding
and on the run. It was a completely uneven distribution of power and most
definitely not two sides. It was a case of the oppressor and the oppressed.
Now let’s consider this in the Israel/Palestine context. How can we, as
Palestinians, sit and conduct peaceful dialogue with Israelis, as equal sides,
both to blame for a “conflict”, when there is also an uneven
distribution of power?
Israel has the fourth largest army in the world and receives $10.2 million in
military aid daily from the U.S.. Palestine has no army and receives no money
for military aid. When you look at news articles and pictures of the so-called
“conflict”, you can see the Israeli Defence Forces kitted out in
uniform, armed with guns and helmets and tanks and illegal chemical weapons and
f16s and drones. In contrast, you see Palestinians with rocks and handmade
weapons, if they are lucky enough. You can see the damage made with something
like drones or white phosphorous in contrast to the damage of “Hamas
rockets” (the media’s favourite phrase). This very example shows the
uneven distribution of power, and sets the base for why it is argued that
Israel and Palestine are not two sides, but the oppressor and the oppressed.
In the magical world, the muggles and muggle borns were completely exploited
and ridiculed by the death eaters. Muggle borns were named the derogatory name
“Mudblood” and were accused of “stealing magic” if they
could not provide proof of magical relatives. Muggle-born students were singled
out in Hogwarts when the death eaters started teaching there, and some muggle
borns had to go on the run and were often rounded up by Snatchers. The death
eaters’ hatred and discriminatory practices against the muggle borns were not a
secret; they were plain for everyone to see, much like the treatment of the
Palestinians by Israel.
How can we talk about cultural bridges when Israelis live in illegal
settlements (under international law) with unlimited supplies of running water
and electricity, whilst meters away Palestinian villages have one of the worst
droughts in the world? As one of my dear friends so aptly put, will these
bridges of peace bridge the Palestinians who are literally fenced into ghetto
villages by an 8m concrete wall, checkpoints and watch towers (which eerily
look like the watch towers of Nazi concentration camps) to the land they have
been cut off from, which Israelis can access at any time? Will our
cultural bridge of peace bridge Shuhada street in Hebron, where Palestinians
literally have to use a specific walkway separate to Israelis (much like the
bus services around the country)? Shall we invite the Israelis, who are
off-duty from their military tasks in for a cup of tea before they return to
bombing us with one of the world’s most advanced armies? Maybe when they come
over they can wear their t-shirts depicting pregnant Palestinian women, saying
“1 shot 2 kills” and talk about how distressed they feel as their
leaders are celebrating their regime saying “we are the masters”.
Have you ever even looked at the type of Zionist statements made against
Palestinians? For example, just two weeks ago 13 year old Ahmad Salih Manasra
was shot and a video taken of the scene documented Israeli onlookers shouting,
“Die, son of a whore!” and ordering police to “Give him one in
the head” whilst he lay bleeding and struggling to breathe on the floor .
Perhaps Ahmad would like to have those onlookers as visitors at the hospital
he’s now recovering in – they can bring in flowers, see how he’s doing and he
can listen to how threatened they felt watching him be attacked.
The suggestion of dialogue is as absurd as an oblivious muggle who has no
awareness or willingness to understand of the context between a death eater and
muggle born. It’s like Vernon Dursley shaking his head, saying that we’re all
being foolish and peace will come if only Dean Thomas, whose father was killed
because he refused to serve the death eaters, and Antonin Dolohov sat together
and “talked it out”. Of course, that would never happen because
Dolohov was outwardly for the expulsion of anyone against Voldemort, and could
have been the very person who plotted and killed Dean’s dad. How could Dean
ever contemplate sitting with someone who’s colleagues killed his father, who
was actively seeking out his peers from school, and who was torturing and
maiming people for their identity?
How about, when the death eaters storm and wreck Xenophilius Lovegood’s house
looking for Harry in false exchange for Luna, they all pause their
“conflict” and talk to each other about how all of this is making
them feel. Because, the death eaters’ feelings are just as valid as Xenophilius’.
Because there are two sides to every story.
Just like Palestinians when they face daily military incursions, house arrests
and house demolitions. I’m sure the families in Sheikh Jarrah (East Jerusalem)
would love to talk to the Israelis who made them homeless by illegally kicking
them out of their houses so that they can use them as holiday accommodation,
and who force them to pay for their water, gas and electricity bills even
though they don’t have access to them. Or perhaps my friends in Susiya
village, who have had their homes and temporary tent shelters demolished time
and time again, would love to invite the illegal Israeli settlers who stole
their farm and the Israeli soldiers responsible for their demolitions over for
some dinner. Because the illegal holiday making settlers who thieved their
homes and farms, and the Israeli soldiers who order house demolitions on tent
shelters have feelings just as valid as the families whom they stole their
homes from. Two “sides” to every story.
I have a feeling, with all due respect, that you have never spoken to a
Palestinian before. Your signature on this letter seems to be made from a
judgement purely based on privilege and monetary benefits. I therefore welcome
you to come visit me and talk to my family about whether they would like to
have some dialogue with Israelis and build a cultural bridge of peace.
Maybe you could ask my father, who lived through three wars before the age of
25; who grew up with drones flying over his head during his early childhood;
who lost contact with his parents, siblings and family whilst he was at
university because Israel expelled them from their home; and who was banned
from returning to his home because he “willingly left” to go study in
Egypt and could therefore not return to search for his family. Or you could ask
my mother, who has not been allowed to even visit her birth city in over 40
How about talking to all 6 million Palestinian refugees who are dispersed all
over the world, waiting with their keys from when they left their homes in 1948
to go back to their still-intact houses; waiting for the promise of their
return (granted by the British) to be acted upon at last; waiting for Israel to
comply to UN resolution 194 (III) which states “that the refugees wishing
to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be
permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation
should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of
or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in
equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities
responsible”; waiting for the international community to stop preaching about “two
sides” and “dialogue” and to recognise that the state of Israel
has been guilty of consistently breaking international law from its
Sure, they would love to talk to every Zionist out there who is actively
contributing to their displacement. I for one just love to read about American
Jews who have no genetic ties to Israel but want to move there because they
just love it there, meanwhile if I try to visit I am strip searched,
interrogated and shot at even though my parents were born there. Yeah, let’s
have some dialogue – it’ll solve everything!
The letter you signed is a prime example of the “good, unbiased Westerner
approach” which actively ignores international law violations, dehumanises
the indigenous Palestinians, and lazily sweeps Western responsibility under the
carpet. The elephant in the room that we all need to talk about is: none of
this would be happening if it weren’t for Britain who gave the land to Israel
in the first place, with no consultation from the indigenous population.
No, let’s ignore history and statistics and daily reports of atrocities
and say, “you both need to calm down, let’s all sit at a table like we’ve
been doing for the past 60 years and talk about your feelings and find some
shared experiences from perspectives.” How dare anyone, who has not picked
up a book or watched a documentary on the subject, who has never even spoken to
a Palestinian about their life tell them what to do when they have no idea how
it feels to be oppressed; to be cut off from your homeland whilst international
settlers take up camp there; how it feels to see pixelated images of your
friends’ dead, mutilated bodies appear on your computer screen through a news
report whilst people tell you to “stay calm”; how it feels to stay up
all night worrying for 8 months straight whilst the love of your life has been
subjected to torture methods in solitary confinement and administrative
detention without trial or charge?
Can you imagine someone sitting Hermione and Bellatrix down, after Bellatrix
has tortured Hermione, to talk things out? Perhaps Neville could join them, and
report back to his deranged parents the success of their dialogue.
Intergenerational trauma is one of the most prevalent mental illnesses in the
Palestinian community, with PTSD being the most common disorder in Palestinian
children. Every family living in Palestine has had at least one member of
their family arrested under administrative detention and tortured by soldiers
for information. Why should a Palestinian who has been subjected to
extreme means of psychological and physical torture sit across from an
Israeli to hear their perspective? That’s like a cancer patient listening to
someone who is completely healthy complaining about a bruise on their leg.
“Ah,” I can hear you say, “But what about the Israelis
suffering?”, and in response to that I would say please study the
published statistics on those killed in the “conflict” and recognise
that you cannot even begin to compare the number of deaths of Israelis to
Palestinians. Millions have been massacred and murdered, thousands incarcerated
in jails without trial or charge. For you, you hear the words
“Israel” and “Palestine” maybe once or twice a year, but I
hear them every day when my friends tell me of the news coming from there.
Additionally, Israel does not limit its atrocities to Palestinians; in this
month alone there have already been reports of a British man, Rabbi and
Israeli being attacked by Israeli soldiers.
Like the propaganda created to argue that muggle borns stole magic, propaganda
is dispersed everywhere to paint Palestinians as terrorists, and Israelis as
victims. Harry was depicted as dangerous and mad, like a terrorist, to the
wizarding community – much like the Palestinians you will see flickering on
your tv screen. But, as Hermione might suggest, sources mean everything, and I
only hope that you have not taken your information from the Zionists’ version
of the Daily Prophet, but rather the Palestinians’ version of Potterwatch.
Because just like your novels show, the best way to get information is to go
straight to the source instead of a mass media production site. Rita Skeeter
herself demonstrated the dangers of reporting and spreading biased and
exaggerated news articles, and although I’m extremely certain nobody would trap
you in a jar as a beetle, I’m sure that one day you will have to backtrack your
I honestly think you are one of the most creatively intelligent writers we
have, and up until now you have inspired me beyond belief. I would hate to
think that you knew all of this previously before signing that letter, because
by signing it you have automatically signed up to Netanyahu’s inner circle of
supporters – the same man who regularly denied that Palestine ever existed and
referred to Palestinians as “Arabs” to strip them of their racial identity
who has just said that the genocide of the Jews in World War II wasn’t actually
from the Nazis but from the Palestinians themselves (yes, he used the ‘P’ word
showing that his consistent denial of Palestine was a political tactic).
To the Palestinians, many of whom rely on Harry Potter as a means of
inspiration and escapism, you have outed yourself as a sympathiser of today’s
present-day Nazis who are conducting ethnic cleansing as we speak. I only hope
that now I’ve highlighted my concerns that you might withdraw your signature
and realise that a peaceful, practical approach to fighting apartheid is to
endorse BDS until Israel complies with international law. It worked with South
African apartheid, which I’m sure you never supported, and it will work with
Israeli apartheid too.
So many intellectual academics, scholars, musicians, artists, novelists,
scientists and performers have spoken out for their support of BDS. It is the
only logical way that this madness will stop. We have spoken until our tongues
have dried out – dialogue is a method that has gone stale. We need action and
that action is BDS until Israel recognises international law, like every
country on this planet should.
The letter you signed uses the word “coexistence” in its title – but
“coexistence” will never be reached until the lives of every single
person is treated with dignity and respect. Somehow, I don’t think sitting down
and talking is going to teach the IDF or Israeli settlers to start respecting
Palestinian life, because they are so indoctrinated into a culture of brain
washed military life. For example, they have been recorded watching the bombing
of Gaza as though it were a movie at the cinema. Coexistence will happen
once this culture is torn down, and I am so sure that if Harry could defeat
Voldemort, Neville could behead Nagini, and Snape could be good, that Palestine
will be free and we will all live as one people on this Earth.
I hope that this letter is shared as widely as possible so that you may see it,
and that I can hear your reply.”
JK Rowling Replies:
received a lot of messages over the past few days that use my fictional characters
to make points about the Israeli cultural boycott. This isn’t a complaint:
those characters belong to the readers as well as to me, and each has their own
life in the heads of those who have read them. Sometimes the inner lives of
characters as imagined by readers are not what I imagined for them, but the joy
of books is that we all make our own mental cast. I’ve always enjoyed hearing
about versions of Potter characters that exist in heads other than mine.
Many of the messages I’ve received in the last few days have included
variations on the theme ‘talking wouldn’t stop the Wizarding War’ and as far as
that goes, it’s true. Talking alone would not have stopped the Wizarding War
and talking alone didn’t. Voldemort believed that non-wizards were subhuman, so
it’s valid to draw comparisons between Voldemort and any real human being who
regards other races, religions or sexualities as inferior. It would indeed have
been a fool’s errand to try and talk Voldemort or Bellatrix Lestrange into
laying down their wands for love of their fellow humans. They have no love of
humanity and they wanted domination, not peace.
I said above, and I stand by it, that every reader has the right to his or her
own version of my characters. However, there is one central point about the
Potter stories that is not negotiable: we can’t pretend that it isn’t there, or
that it doesn’t matter, when it is the crux of the books and in many ways the
key to the story. It is also a point that to my knowledge (I get a lot of
messages, so I cannot swear to it) has been lost in the many comparisons of
Israel to Death Eaters.
In the final book, Deathly Hallows, when many hidden things come to the
surface, there is a scene on a windy hilltop. Dumbledore has been summoned by a
Death Eater, Severus Snape. At that point, Snape is a subscriber to the inhuman
philosophy of Voldemort. He is probably a killer, certainly a betrayer of two
of the people Dumbledore loved most, and the man who had sent Voldemort after
an innocent child in the knowledge that Voldemort would kill him.
Again, to my knowledge (my memory isn’t infallible, so forgive me if you did),
nobody has ever asked me: why did Dumbledore go when Snape asked him to go, and
why didn’t he kill him on sight when he got there?
I think readers assume that Dumbledore is wise enough, knowledgeable enough and
compassionate enough to sense that Snape, though he has led a despicable adult
life, has something human left inside him, something that can be redeemed.
Nevertheless, wise and prescient as Dumbledore is, he is not a Seer. At the
moment when he answers Snape’s call, he cannot know that Snape isn’t going to
try and kill him. He can’t know that Snape will have the moral or physical
courage to change course, let alone help defeat Voldemort. Yet still,
Dumbledore goes to the hilltop.
I’m going to digress very slightly here, but there is a related point that
bears making. Among the messages drawing parallels between the Potter books and
Israel have been quite a few saying that ‘Harry would be disappointed’ or
‘Harry wouldn’t understand’ my position. Those people are right, but only up to
a clearly defined point. The Harry of six and a half books might not
understand. Harry is reckless and angry for a considerable portion of those six
and a half books and he has my whole-hearted sympathy. He has lost his family,
he has had burdens put upon him that he never wanted, and he has been
stigmatised all through his adolescence for carrying a scar left on him by a
There comes a moment in the final book, though, when Harry, whose natural
inclination is to fight, to rush to action, to lead from the front, is forced
to stop and consider the cryptic message the dead Dumbledore has left him.
Unfortunately, this message runs against counter to everything that Harry
believes is necessary to win the war. He wants to race Voldemort to a deadly
weapon, but Dumbledore has arranged things so that, while Harry will know that
the weapon exists, he will also suspect that taking the weapon is the wrong
thing to do. Harry cannot understand why using that weapon would be harmful,
yet – grudgingly – he decides to act against his own instinct, and according to
what he believes are Dumbledore’s wishes. The decision sits uncomfortably with
him. He remains doubtful about it almost up to the point where he comes
face-to-face with Voldemort for their final encounter.
Unlike Harry, Dumbledore was not acting against his own nature when he chose to
meet Snape on the hilltop. Dumbledore, remember, is not a politician; the
Ministry is weak and corrupt, it enabled Voldemort’s rise and is now doing a
poor job of fighting him. Dumbledore is an academic and he believes that
certain channels of communication should always remain open. It was true in the
Potter books and it is true in life that talking will not change wilfully
closed minds. However, the course of my fictional war was forever changed when
Snape chose to abandon the course on which he was set, and Dumbledore helped
him do it. Theirs was a partnership without which Harry’s willingness to fight
would have been pointless.
The Palestinian community has suffered untold injustice and brutality. I want
to see the Israeli government held to account for that injustice and brutality.
Boycotting Israel on every possible front has its allure. It satisfies the
human urge to do something, anything, in the face of horrific human suffering.
What sits uncomfortably with me is that severing contact with Israel’s cultural
and academic community means refusing to engage with some of the Israelis who
are most pro-Palestinian, and most critical of Israel’s government. Those are
voices I’d like to hear amplified, not silenced. A cultural boycott places
immovable barriers between artists and academics who want to talk to each
other, understand each other and work side-by-side for peace. I believe in the
power of projects like this http://ow.ly/TSYCp and
this http://ow.ly/TSZYx and this. I think it is a
tragedy when medical research like this is
I genuinely don’t take it in ill part when you send me counterarguments framed
in terms of the Potter books. All books dealing with morality can be picked
apart for those lines and themes that best suit the arguer’s perspective. I can
only say that a full discussion of morality within the series is impossible
without examining Dumbledore’s actions, because he is the moral heart of the
books. He did not consider all weapons equal and he was prepared, always, to go
to the hilltop.
followed up from on her original viral letter to famous author
25-year-old Mia’s orginal letter,
which The Herald published on Tuesday, challenged JK Rowling’s stance on
Israel using plots from the Harry Potter series.
The viral letter promoted a response
from JK Rowling, and Mia has responded to the letter on her Facebook page.
Thank you so much to everyone who shared my letter – whether you are a
social media user, journalist reporter or just through word of mouth! If
you haven’t heard already, we have a reply! Thank you for taking your time
to write back to us, J K Rowling.
A lot of you have been asking me what I think of the reply, and as promised,
here are my thoughts …
Initially, I was so happy to hear that she had replied – because it proved
that, as ever, Rowling is committed to her fans. But, as I read what was
written, I began to wonder if she fully understood anything I’d addressed. I
have no doubt that J K Rowling wants justice for the Palestinians – especially
as she wrote in her reply,
community has suffered untold injustice and brutality. I want to see the
Israeli government held to account for that injustice and brutality…”
But, in the rest of her response, she never acknowledged the argument that
dialogue with the Israeli state is a non-effective method. Instead, she focused
on her rejection of BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions), and reading what
she has said, I don’t think she comprehends what BDS actually is. Additionally,
although she has spoken against the Israeli government, the signature on her
letter suggests otherwise.
The ‘Culture for Coexistence’ letter Rowling signed was partly organised by
Neil Blair, Rowling’s literary agent who is on the board of the UK Friends of
the Abraham Fund. This is a normalisation group which is sponsored by the
Israeli bank ‘Hapoalim’ which funds the construction of illegal Israeli
settlements in the West Bank (thus breaking UN resolution 446 and the Fourth
Geneva Convention, article 49). So even though Rowling has spoken out against
the Israeli government, and discusses why she thinks dialogue would promote
peace, she has signed a document proposed by someone who is sponsored by a
group involved with breaking international law and the occupation.
It’s a no-brainer why this letter opposes BDS when it was put forward by
Zionist sympathisers. Why does it oppose BDS? Because BDS is a legitimate
threat to the ambitions of the Zionist state. By signing this letter but
publicly criticising Israel, J K Rowling has yet again shown the dangers of
passing judgement and making conclusions without proper research.
Whilst, as a Palestinian, I fully appreciate Rowling voicing that she wants
the Israeli government to be held accountable for their war crimes, I think I
speak for Palestinians worldwide when I say that we are tired of people
passively making statements. If writing sentences like, “I want to see the
Israeli government held to account for that injustice and brutality,”
worked, then we wouldn’t have an on-going occupation and ethnic cleansing
program of 67 years and counting.
As Palestinians, an oppressed people, we do not need empty words. We need
action and we are calling for BDS, the most effective, non-violent tool we have
to fight apartheid. But instead of listening to us, we have an author, who is
respected by millions throughout the world, telling us that our method is wrong
and thus, undermining our intellect and our movement. Again, I echo what I
wrote in my previous letter,
“How dare anyone, who has not picked up a book or watched a documentary
on the subject, who has never even spoken to a Palestinian about their life
tell them what to do…”
This is a case of the ‘good, unbiased Westerner’ author telling us that
*even* our non-violent resistance is not good enough, but where there is no
alternative solution offered.
Every other action available for the international community to get involved
with has failed – how many petitions and letters to politicians have we sent?
How many demonstrations have we held? What else is there that we, as an
international community, can do to help?
To explain BDS in a different way, for people who do not understand what it
is (J K Rowling included), I am going to make a final Harry Potter analogy.
In the Harry Potter world, Voldemort and his death eaters would frequently
use the Unforgivable curses without a bat of an eye or anyone holding them
accountable for their actions. Instead of retaliating and using the curses
back, Harry sticks to his favourite disarming spell as his weapon. And although
Harry used the curses a few times, it was Expelliarmus which ultimately brought
down Voldemort and, consequently, his death eater followers.
Now let’s compare this to Israel/Palestine. The methods of apartheid and
ethnic cleansing Israel uses is most definitely the real equivalent to the
Unforgivable curses. Examples such as wiping out over 400 entire villages
and families, military invasions on refugee camps and the Dahiya
Doctrine strategy (a system using disproportionate force against civilians to
inflict mass casualties), are just some of the illegal acts Israel imposes –
which we can call the Unforgivable curses of Zionism. The Palestinians, in
response, have called for BDS – a non-violent response to the occupation, in
which we financially isolate Israel until it gives way to global pressure and
complies with international law and UN regulations. It is our version of
disarming Israel of its apartheid weapons. By endorsing BDS, we are brandishing
our wands, shouting “Expelliarmous” and disarming one of the most
brutal, racist states in the world.
But what is BDS – in particular the cultural boycott which J K is so
Well, let’s firstly consider how Israel validates its existence as
“just another, normal country” – at how its violations of
international law and war crimes have been consistently ignored by so many.
The Israeli government deliberately employs and funds artists and academics
to take part in a normalisation project called the Brand Israel Campaign. An
example of this is the Batsheva dance group who collaborate with the Israeli
Government and this campaign. This program is used as a whitewashing,
normalising prop in order to say, “Hey, we’re just another country
existing on this planet and yes we may be actively oppressing people based on
their ethnic background and constantly breaking international law BUUUUT look
at our talent, we are people too!”
When we talk of an academic and cultural boycott of Israel, these are the
kind of things we are challenging. Israel is intentionally employing academics
and artists for acceptance by the international community, and is exploiting
their art for its own political gain. Why should we have agents of the Israeli
government, who are complicit in war crimes, come along and distract us from
their apartheid, ethnic cleansing and occupation with pirouettes and paint
J K Rowling says, “some of the Israelis who are most pro-Palestinian,
and most critical of Israel’s government.,” and talks about Snape as an
individual who was a death eater. But, BDS and cultural boycott are not about
ignoring individuals – there is absolutely nowhere that states this. It is
about isolating the state of Israel. The argument Rowling presents in her
letter suggests that she has not fully understood what BDS means.
It must be a common misconception that BDS is a purely Palestinian movement.
But, in actual fact, there are Israelis who are for BDS – the Boycott from
Within group is a great example of this. There is also an article by the
Washington Post, which shows even self-proclaimed Zionists are for BDS too. So,
not only is the Palestinian call for BDS being debased, but the Israeli one is
too. If BDS was about isolating the Snapes of Israel, then why are Israelis
backing the movement also?
Of course we support the Snapes of Israel. These Israelis have denounced
their government, and have thus been imprisoned for refusing to serve in the
IDF, are disowned by their family and friends, and have left the country
because they refuse to contribute to their state anymore. And yes, when these
people are artists who aren’t employed by Israel then of course they should
absolutely be celebrated – but only when they explicitly state that they are
challenging their government and are opposed to the ethnic cleansing of the
Palestinians. Great examples of these are the Activestills collective and
Israeli film maker Lia Tarachansky. Also, purely on a side note, Alan Rickman
(the actor who played Snape) directed the West End production of ‘My Name is Rachel
Corrie’ so even our ‘real’ Snape has acted out against Israeli apartheid.
So, yes, Dumbledore as an academic would absolutely meet Snape on the
hilltop. But he would also understand the legitimacy of the BDS movement – he
was a part of the Order of the Phoenix, and was therefore a part of the
movement against the oppressors of the wizarding world.
The other perspective of a cultural boycott is challenging international
artists who visit Israel. Take for example, Enrique Iglesias who is due to play
in Tel Aviv later this year. What is surreal about this concert, is that not
only is it taking place on a city built upon colonisation, but also that whilst
he’s jamming out on stage, just a few kilometers away there is an entire
population blockaded into Gaza who are denied basic human rights such as
freedom of movement and medical supplies; where only one home out of the
thousands destroyed from last year’s “Operation Protective Edge” has
been fully restored, whilst the rest of the 13,167 refugee families remain displaced,
with their homes still in rubble.
So whilst Enrique is partying with his audience (some of whom undoubtedly
will be serving in the IDF, and therefore may well be those who bombed those
homes and wiped out at least 89 families completely , or people who work in the
government or Zionist media), there are still people fighting for freedom and
basic human rights a short distance away. Additionally, there are still a
Palestinian diaspora around the world who are denied to go home, or to even
visit their homeland on a tourist visa, waiting for UN resolution 194 (III) the
“Right of Return” – many of whom would be returning to what is now
called Tel Aviv. In other words, Enrique will be entertaining an audience who
live a life of privilege, and may be complicit in war crimes, whilst the
indigenous people are either refused their right to go home or boxed into tiny
open-air ghetto prisons. Somehow, that does not seem ethical to me.
I don’t think I’ve ever met a person who has opposed the concept of world
peace. It’s something that everyone prays and wishes for. It is very easy to
condemn war in countries, the use of weapons and the oppression of people by
account of race, sexuality, gender etc. But, how do we engage in movements
towards world peace, and secondly, actually partake in critically analysing the
best step forward to achieving world peace?
When the Israeli president calls BDS a “strategic threat” in an
“emergency” meeting about academic boycott, you can tell that BDS is
as much a stressor to the Zionists, as Dumbledore’s Army and the Order of the
Phoenix were to the death eaters. J K Rowling’s criticism of BDS is criticising
the movement of the DA, the Order and Harry’s choice in the disarming spell.
She is telling the Palestinians, “don’t use your last non-violent
alternative, just talk to the perpetrators of your oppression and hope for a
solution.” Although, as I’ve analysed her reply and investigated her
political alliances further, it is becoming more and more apparent that despite
Rowling wanting peace, she does not appear to understand or know much about
BDS. If you want to hold the Israeli government accountable for its atrocities,
then why not research what they are worried about, and use it against them?
Many people are angry at J K Rowling for her support on the ‘Culture for
Coexistence’ letter. Whilst we speculate whether this is an incredibly
misunderstood act or not, I don’t agree with anyone arguing to
“boycott” Harry Potter and future Rowling projects; it’s not going to
solve anything. I spoke to my friend earlier in the week about this, and we
discussed how even though her arguments are endorsing the oppression of myself
and my people, the hope and comfort that the Harry Potter series give me will
never be taken away. Those of you who are commenting on my posts who are saying
that you will be boycotting J K Rowling, please redirect your focus and energy
to what we really need to be doing as a global movement: BDS.
I really hope that my letter was not another 3-day internet sensation like
the ice water bucket challenge or bare face challenge. This is real life –
it is happening, and we need everyone to engage. If we can do it with South
African apartheid, we can absolutely do it with Israeli apartheid. When Israeli
politicians (the very people in the government J K Rowling wants to be held
accountable) are fearing the progress of BDS, you know that it is working and
that it will dismantle Zionism all together.
By endorsing BDS, we are taking part in the final Potter-Voldemort duel;
sending out that red spark from our wand and holding it against Zionism’s green
flash of light, creating ‘Priori Incantatem’ until the Zionism wand succumbs
and the illegal state of war crimes ceases to exist. Then we can live in one
country, all together, with no labels, no stigma, no discrimination. We can go
home, and live freely, at last.
To J K Rowling and anyone else, I hope that this has cleared up any
confusion about the BDS movement. To my favourite author, J K Rowling, now that
I’ve clarified what BDS is, and how it can confront the Israeli government on
its crimes, would you support your statement of holding the Israeli government
accountable by withdrawing your signature from the letter? To everyone else,
let’s show our support for J K Rowling to do this by signing this petition:
In the last 30 days, 68 Palestinians have been killed, demonstrating how
urgent and current this issue really is. I truly believe that we all have the
power to save lives – let’s use it.”