JK Rowling blasts Israel for brutal treatment of Palestinians

JK Rowling blasts Israel for brutal treatment of Palestinians
The British Harry Potter author has strongly criticised the Israeli government, but defended her decision to oppose a boycott.
4 min read
29 October, 2015
Many fans responded to JK Rowling's opposition to boycott using Harry Potter references [Getty]

JK Rowling, the world-renowned British novelist, took to Twitter to strongly criticise the Israeli government for its brutal and unjust treatment of Palestinian people - just days after her fans expressed their disappointment over her opposition to boycott the occupying country.

"The Palestinian community has suffered untold justice and brutality. I want to see the Israeli government held to account for that injustice and brutality," Rowling said in her TwitLonger post.

But the Harry Potter author also took the opportunity to explain why she had opposed a wider cultural boycott of Israel, saying that it placed "immovable barriers between artists and academics who want to talk to each other, understand each other and work side-by-side for peace".

Rowling signed an open letter on October 22, after a number of UK artists in February announced their intention to culturally boycott Israel.

In response, October's letter claimed that "cultural boycotts singling out Israel are divisive and discriminatory and will not further peace", instead citing that "cultural engagement builds bridges, nurtures freedom and positive movement for change". 

Rowling's decision to refrain from the boycott comes as clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces continue to escalate in the occupied Palestinian territories, as well as inside Israel.

The violence has led to fears of a third intifada. Since the start of October, 62 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire, with thousands more reportedly injured.

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," Rowling said in her post.

"What sits uncomfortably with me is that severing contacts 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," Rowling added.

Potter fans speak out

More and more individuals, artists and celebrities, as well as groups and institutions around the world are signing up to a movement calling for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel.

The BDS movement seeks to end Israel's occupation of territories captured in the 1967 Middle East war, to end discrimination suffered by citizens and to promote the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to family properties lost in the war surrounding Israel's creation in 1948.

And so, many Harry Potter fans were dismayed after hearing about Rowling's decision to sign a letter opposing a boycott. 

Using characters from the globally famed book series, fans attempted to get their points across about the boycott, comparing the "Wizarding war" with the wars of the Middle East.

In 2014, Israel launched a 51-day war in the Gaza Strip, killing more than 2,000 Palestinians, including more than 500 children. Around 10,000 were left wounded and 100,000 were left homeless.


One Twitter user said: "JK Rowling sides with the Voldemort of the Middle East."

"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," Rowling said regarding the comparisons.

"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," she added.

Palestinian Potterhead

Mia Oudeh, a young Palestinian fan, calling herself Palestinian Potterhead, also took to social media to illustrate Israel's violations against Palestinians using references from Harry Potter.

"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," Mia wrote in her Facebook post.

She then used the literary example to express the Palestinian cause.

"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?" Mia said.

Rowling acknowledged the references.

"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," she said.

"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 killer."

But again Potter's "loss" was compared with the losses borne by thousands of Palestinians.

"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," Mia concluded.